The big reveal of God of War Ragnarok had it all: monsters, gods, Kratos being grumpy, and Atreus being a brat. But under all the incredible spectacle there was one very subtle but massively meaningful cue that could suggest a very dark path ahead for father and son.
The God of War Ragnarok trailer opens with Kratos inside a cave, bathed in the warm orange glow of a fire, as Atreus comes in from the cold, blue tinged light of the outside. It's a simple enough beat until you realize it's a direct flip of how the two were first introduced in 2018's God of War: Atreus, still mourning his mother, is lit by the orange light of her funeral candles, while Kratos comes in from the cold light outside. It was a very deliberate decision in the last game, as explained in this blog post from Dori Arazi, then director of photography: "I decided to use the blue, cold, harsh tones of the 'outside' to represent Kratos [...] and the dangerous journey they have ahead of them," Arazi explained at the time. "We then chose the soft warmth of the indoors to define the rare safety the mother provided, using that to portray the softer emotions."
Light the way
The fact that Sony Santa Monica decided to open this new look at God of War Ragnarok by deliberately contrasting this hidden messaging from the previous game feels like a clue – a hint toward the shifting relationship dynamic in the story ahead. In the original God of War, the orange represented comfort, belonging, and a sense of peace that came from the mother's influence. Arazi even makes the point that Kratos, while introduced in cold blue light, isn't immune to the mother's effect in a lighting transition as Kratos picks up her body, briefly becoming bathed in the orange light of the candles, "Kratos is wiped from cold blue to warm orange. The emotion of the moment registers with him, but he is still the hard warrior, resisting giving in," he explains.
To build such a clear language of what the blue and orange light means in the previous game has a huge implication for God of War Ragnarok. Kratos is now introduced in warmth, while Atreus strides in from the cold, dispassionately dumping a dead deer on the ground – the same animal whose death brought him to tears before. There's a definite shift in the balance here that's mirrored elsewhere in the trailer. Atreus seems desperate for confrontation, even telling Kratos at one point to stop thinking like a father and think like a general. In response we get to see 'old' Kratos' wrath. In a post revealing Ragnarok, Sony talks about how Kratos is "bearing the knowledge of his past mistakes [and] wants to spare Atreus the bloody lessons he learned from his conflict with gods. He wants to keep his son safe, above all, and their confrontation with Baldur has vindicated the belief that only tragedy will come from further entanglements with the Aesir."
Kratos' path to being a better man has been rocky, and the battle with Balder – along with Faye's wrath following his death – seems to have only strengthened his growing pacifist resolve. That's something that is clearly grating against Atreus' youthful desire to prove himself now that he knows he's a god facing a viking apocalypse. There is an extra layer of symbolism to this in the opening scene as well, with Kratos preparing arrows for Atreus with one of the knives he made for them both. They were part of a hugely important scene in the 2018 game where Kratos explains the knives were made of metal from Greece and Scandinavia, and he'd give it to Atreus when 'he was ready'. When Atreus asks if he's a man now, Kratos responds "No, we are not men, we are more than that. The responsibility is far greater. And you must be better than me."
One of the biggest themes in 2018's God of War was the idea of a parent trying to pass on their better parts, and ensure their children learned from their mistakes without committing them themselves. Unfortunately, Atreus' behavior in the trailer suggests that he's becoming exactly like his father, not better, and chasing conflict as an answer rather than avoiding it. Unfortunately, that could end very badly for them both if the closing of God of War 2018 comes to pass. When Kratos and Atreus find the giant's mural near the story's conclusion, predicting everything they'd done, it reveals an image of Atreus apparently holding Kratos' fallen body on the floor. When Atreus, who missed the drawing, says they must be near the end Kratos mutters, 'closer then you think' as he looks at it. One translation of the runes surrounding the image point to the word “svik” which translates to “betrayal.”
So the last game closed by suggesting that Atreus would one day kill his father - which is peak classical mythology - and the reveal for God of War Ragnarok could be setting that up. (Especially with Atreus showing of some substantial new powers in the trailer.) The possibility of a Kratos vs Atreus boss fight, as their differing views come to a head, is not impossible. For all Kratos' efforts to try and divert Atreus away from making the same mistakes, he is clearly his father's son. And Kratos, for all his wisdom now, is who he is now thanks to a journey paved with blood. Some lessons can only be learned, not passed on, and everything Kratos has learned has come at a cost that Atreus may be destined to pay, no matter how hard his father tries to avoid it.