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“God of War Ragnarok” reminds us what makes games so unique

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Seeing as this will be my last column of the semester, I thought I’d start things off by being upfront; the end of the year isn’t being too kind to me. And for the first time since the inception of this column, my problem isn’t related to grades. 

I’ve recently had to deal with some medical issues, making the last couple of weeks particularly tough as I navigated changing prescriptions and frequent visits to clinics. Because of that, I had to put a lot of things on hold, as I generally wasn’t feeling well enough to do much. Sadly, this column was one of the casualties, and if you are a careful reader, you probably already noticed that my absence lasted longer than the usual weekly period. I thank the kind editorial staff of the Daily Trojan for accommodating my necessities even though it certainly caused them a great deal of trouble. 

Thankfully, I’m feeling a lot better, and I’m ready to face finals with a newfound vigor, born only out of sheer dedication and the relief of not having to take dozens of pills daily. 

Still, this column isn’t about the slow and gruesome process of my recovery. Rather, it is about something that helped me power through as I spent my days feeling horrible in my apartment. Of course, I am talking about “God of War Ragnarök.” 

For those of you that don’t know, “God of War Ragnrarök” is the sequel to the highly acclaimed 2018 game “God of War”, which itself was already the fourth main installment in the long-running “God of War” series. In the series, we follow Kratos, a spartan soldier with a desire for vengeance against the Greek gods, as he systematically slaughters his way to the top of Olympus to catastrophic consequences. And while the first three games of the franchise were well known and loved by many for their puzzles, combat and most of all gore (seriously, don’t look them up if you have a weak stomach), the fourth installment featured a sort of “soft reboot”, as the game switched gameplay styles completely, with Kratos himself becoming a more mature character facing the hardships of parenthood in the new land of Norway

This new approach to the characters and the storyline yielded the 2018 game innumerable acclaim and awards, leaving fans desperate for the conclusion of its story. I too was one of these fans, who couldn’t wait to see what came next. And, almost as if on cue, its long-awaited sequel finally came out when I needed comfort the most. 

I’m happy to say, it didn’t disappoint. 

I won’t delve too deeply into the story, not only because there isn’t enough space to talk about everything, but also because I highly suggest you pick the game up for yourself. In general, it manages to pay off everything it set up in the previous game, and although there are a couple of kinks when it comes to some plot beats and characterizations, it still hones into what made the 2018 game amazing in the first place, focusing deeply on Kratos and his son Atreus’ relationship from every angle imaginable. 

The relationship is so well developed that after over 30 hours with these characters and a great resolution to the entire storyline, I am still left wanting more. Of course, this is not the first time that I’ve been attached so deeply to video game characters. But perhaps because I played it when I did, “God of War Ragnarök” has surpassed the level of normal well-crafted video game stories and become something more special to me: a reminder of why video games are great in the first place. 

This sort of reflection isn’t new for this column. I have previously used the final articles of the semester to talk about games that have impacted my understanding of the medium in general. But for “God of War Ragnarök,” there was no new knowledge gained nor a different perspective considered. What it did was reignite a passion for games that, after playing mediocre titles time and time again, was dwindling. By combining the very best elements of gameplay and utilizing video games’ unique ability to immerse the audience into a world, “God of War Ragnarök” etched itself into my heart like very few stories ever have, and certainly in a way unique to itself. 

Or at least I thought it was.

After speaking to my friends, I realized that, if you’ve been playing video games for a long time, you will come across titles that serve as encapsulations of a particular time and feeling in your life. In other words, you’ll find games that are more than just your “favorite games,” but rather hold a more sentimental value to you. And through recognizing the importance of these titles, you (hopefully) begin to understand a little bit about who you are as a person. Because, even if these games vary wildly in genres or formats, their one connecting thread is that something about the experience of playing them touched you deep down as a person, whether it is the well-crafted story or the hours of matches you’ve played with a group of friends.

So, as finals approach us, take the time to go back to these titles and draw on the comfort that they gave you. It certainly will not be the same as you remember, but if they truly have managed to leave an impact on you, you may find yourself gaining new experiences from them. And perhaps, as this new “God of War” has shown me, knowing that there are still new experiences like that is all the comfort you need.

Guilherme Guerreiro is a senior writing about esports. His column “Press Play to Start” runs every other Monday. 

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