Atreus and Angrboda Are The Emotional Core of God of War Ragnarok

Yaks seem pretty cool. Every piece of media I’ve seen them in the creatures always appear chill, helpful, and down for a good time. You can also ride them through hostile swamps and across treacherous bridges without a care in the world. These hairy little dudes have some incredible vibes, and saying goodbye to them in God of War Ragnarok was bittersweet.

Sony Santa Monica’s latest narrative epic is rather slow when it comes to fleshing out its characters and advancing the main narrative, but this isn’t always a bad thing. At times it places you in environments where it’s best to take it easy and allow conversations to wash over you with no complaints. Atreus’ brief respite with Angrboda is exactly that, an escape from the bigger stakes and bigger battles for a solid hour amidst the giant wilderness.

Roughly ten hours into the game – maybe I’ve kinda lost track – Atreus falls asleep and awakens in The Lost Sanctuary. It’s a realm that the giants once called home before Odin came knocking, and now they hide away in fear of their potential destruction. Angrboda remains, painting murals that describe the fates of multiple gods and goddesses until her role in the prophecy finally comes to pass. Her entire arc is bittersweet, described by her family as little more than a footnote in a story she must sit back and watch play out.

Yet she remains upbeat, joyously bringing Atreus along for her usual chores of gathering fruits and roots to keep her animals alive. She only refers to him as Loki, likely excited that after all this time her destiny has wandered right into her home searching for a similar goal. I recently lambasted Ragnarok for spending much too long on side quests before providing us with a narrative hook, but the slowness explored here allows the game’s writing to shine as a hesitant intimacy unfolds between characters who are unwilling prisoners to a destiny with a foregone conclusion. Angrboda feels resigned to it, so when Atreus begins to make decisions that will soon rock the boat she is cautiously excited, throwing herself into things and betraying entrenched family dynamics because she deserves to be her own person. Whether that will lead anywhere remains to be seen, but Ragnarok giving us the space to peer into that narrative ourselves and root around was so fun. Drama aside, this entire section is undeniably chill, tinged with the slightest bit of sombre melancholy.

I’ve seen a few people complaining about this section on social media, complaining that it brings the pace to a crawl and takes us away from the action for much too long. The game was slow as fuck anyway, I’m not sure if this really shifts the needle much. Atreus also needed this character development, an environment far removed from Kratos where he can figure out his new powers and what exactly will be expected of him when Ragnarok comes. Sunny Suljic’s performance as Atreus is often rather wooden, but the brightness of Angrboda alongside the clear chemistry between them gives Suljic so much more to work with. For the first time I felt invested in his plight instead of gawking at monotone delivery, and that this boy wants to save his father no matter what. His father has defied fate before, so why not do it again?

Away from the story though, there was a beautiful mundanity to trawling through boggy swamps in search of fruity treasures, so much so that I almost rolled my eyes when the combat suddenly returned to ensure my attention remained held. I was fine walking about the place and learning about these characters, and the weird placement of enemies made this apparent sanctuary feel like a falsehood. Give me an experience where I can tend to a dwindling farm and defy fate from the comfort of a place untouched by the gods, while also fearing their inevitable retribution to come in the future. That’s far more interesting than the predictable formula I’ve been working through so far with Ragnarok, and who knew it would be more exciting than preparing for the Norse apocalypse. Just let me take in the Yak vibes.

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