One of the major reveals from Sony's E3 conference Monday night was a new trailer for God of War 4, in which the perpetually scowling Spartan Kratos and his son travel around frozen wastes that we can assume to be some kind of gestalt fantasy Scandinavia.
In the trailer, Kratos and his boy make friends with some unusual characters: a seeress who tries to impart some parenting advice to Kratos, an armored dwarf who's not down with any of Kratos' sullen bullcrap and needs to be silenced with the threat of physical harm and — most unusually — the World Serpent, a giant snake who needs to be translated by Kratos' son Atreus.
If you saw the trailer and were unsure how to parse this particular reveal, don't worry. We've got you covered with a short history lesson and what it could mean for the game.
God of War 4 World Serpent: The Norse legend of Jörmungandr, explained
In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr — or just Jormungand, if you're umlaut-averse — is a serpent who lives in the ocean surrounding Midgard, which is essentially (but not technically) just the world of men.
Jormungand is so big he circles around the entire world, hence the name "World Serpent." He chomps down on his own tail and normally keeps to himself.
However, during Ragnarok — the prophesied end of the world in Norse mythology — Jormungand and everyone's favorite hammer-wielding god/Marvel superhero, Thor, are destined to slay each other. This part of Ragnarok is so well-known that Thor's friend Hymir cuts Jormungand loose after Thor angles him up from the sea, out of fear that the god will bring about the end of the world.
God of War 4 World Serpent: What could Jormungand's inclusion mean for the game?
It's no secret that the God of War series loves its giant boss battles, especially at the beginning of its games. God of War began by having Kratos fight the Hydra, God of War 2 had him facing off against the Colossus of Rhodes and God of War 3 starts off with Kratos slapping Poseidon around something fierce.
The World Serpent would be an obvious choice for the new game's opening-setpiece boss, so it's surprising that the trailer used that reveal to let the Serpent speak and offer to throw his lot in with Kratos. Of course, this could be an extremely temporary alliance — Kratos' alliance with the titan Gaia literally ends with him grinding through one of her arms in an extremely gross sequence — and Kratos' alliances tend to end badly for everyone except him.
Regardless of whether or not siding with the World Serpent goes the way it always seems to with Kratos, the trailer and the World Serpent's inclusion bring up several interesting questions for the game. Will it take place during Ragnarok? Chances are good, given Kratos' history of god-killing and the fact that Ragnarok translates to "The Doom of the Gods," but it's still a little soon to say.
Additionally, why can Kratos' son understand what the World Serpent says in the trailer, but Kratos can't? Every other character they meet — even the sassy dwarf — talks so that Kratos (and by extension the player) can understand them. So if Kratos' son has to translate for an immense mythical serpent, we wonder what else he'll need the boy for.
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Check out the latest from Mic, like this essay about the sinister, subtle evils lurking in rural America that Far Cry 5 shouldn’t ignore. Also, be sure to read our review of Tekken 7, an article about D.Va’s influence on one Overwatch player’s ideas about femininity and an analysis of gaming’s racist habit of darkening villains’ skin tones.