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God of War Ragnarök is a rough go for animal lovers

Big warning for animal cruelty

Atreus sits by a fireside looking thoughtful in God of War Ragnarök Image: Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon
Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Did you start watching Prey and then, almost immediately, hit the pause button so you could look up whether or not the heroine’s pet dog survives the movie? Do you put on Marley and Me whenever you need a good cry? Sounds like you might want a warning for one of the very first scenes in God of War Ragnarök.

[Warning: The rest of this article contains spoilers for the first 2-3 hours of God of War Ragnarök.]

Atreus cuddles his pet wolf Fenrir in God of War Ragnarök Image: SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

God of War Ragnarök begins with Kratos and Atreus in Midgard, now beset by snow and ice thanks to the onset of Fimbulwinter. To traverse the blizzard-ridden conditions, the father-son duo drive a sled pulled by trained wolves. As they journey home together, Atreus and his father talk about a wolf who isn’t present for the ride — Fenrir, who’s back at the camp, sick and refusing his food.

Kratos tells his son to prepare for the worst, but Atreus won’t hear of it. When the two get back to camp and check on Fenrir, though, Atreus finds his pet in terrible condition. This scene ends in Fenrir’s death.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only example of animal death that happens during the first couple hours of this game. The scene that immediately follows this one culminates in the death of a mother bear; Kratos and Atreus find her two young cubs crying next to their mother’s body. The game’s protagonists don’t help the baby bears; Kratos instead elects to let nature take its course. (I assume the baby bears then get adopted by another bear family. I don’t know if that’s a thing bears do — it’s just what I choose to believe.)

An hour or so after that, there’s a side quest that involves rescuing a trapped whale-like creature. This is the least intense of the three scenes, although it’s certainly still sad; the creature appears to be quite elderly, having lived most of its life in captivity, weighed down by heavy chains that restrict its movement. Its rescue is bittersweet, because although it’s still alive and now free, it doesn’t seem to care much about its own fate anymore.

One of the major themes in God of War Ragnarök is the acceptance of death, and these three opening scenes lay the groundwork for that. This game will remind you to be thankful for the time you’ve got. While you’re at it, please be thankful for this warning about one of the saddest openings for a video game I’ve ever seen.

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