The one-shot take has been a core tenet of God of War since the last game in 2018, drawing you deeper into the story with an almost unmatched level of immersion. This has continued in God of War Ragnarok, and while we have seen many iconic and evocative shots in both games, there is one particular beat in Ragnarok that is the most immersive moment I have ever experienced in a game.
Before we go on though, let me make this clear: there are spoilers ahead, particularly for the end of the game. So, if you haven’t finished the story yet, you might want to stop reading now. The clip and section is also included below in a video.
As Kratos, I have spent two whole games effectively raising Atreus, watching him grow and become his own person. But once you reach Ragnarok’s conclusion, Atreus says he’s ready to venture on his own journey now to find the remaining giants in the world and that he needs to do it on his own. At this point, Kratos and Atreus share a final hug and he says goodbye to Angrboda.
Here, Kratos mulls over the fact his boy is finally all grown up, and he is letting go of his responsibilities to protect him at all costs. The camera slowly pans behind Kratos’ shoulder and it gets as close as it can to watching Atreus leave through Kratos’ eyes, without shifting to an actual first-person perspective.
The emotional beauty of this shot is unlike anything I have seen any developer do in any other videogame. The camera doesn’t dart around, zoom in or out, or even pan as it does throughout the rest of the game’s cinematic moments. It simply sits there as the music swells, and I experienced everything Kratos was feeling myself. So many emotions swirled inside me. I was sad because this meant Atreus wouldn’t be by my side any longer, but I was also incredibly proud. I felt like I had spent time fostering a relationship with Atreus over the course of these two games and all of that paid off by allowing him to go off into the world with all the life lessons I have taught him.
As a 22-year-old without any children or the desire to have them, these brief ten seconds showed me for the first time what it means to be a parent and why, ultimately, it is worth it.
For a 20-second beat of a videogame to open up such feelings is incredible. I have never had a game invoke that kind of emotion and connection before. So many games these days make you feel like a fly on the wall, l observing something rather than living it. Even God of War Ragnarok does this most of the time. This final scene however does the complete opposite.
It’s a masterful deployment of a cinematic device that, in my view, should be taught in game design courses for years to come. The incredible decision-making here to elevate the sense of immersion and the restraint not to overdo the moment or go overboard when it comes to camera movement is commendable.
The God of War franchise will be remembered for a lot of things over the years, but that single 20-second shot has to be up there with the best in this long and storied Norse tale.