The Moment Ends
by Nadia Wendt
There is a bridge troll in the most recent God of War.
Not the first troll in the game, probably not the first troll on a bridge in the game. But, perhaps the first troll in the game to specifically evoke a feeling of vulnerability in Kratos' bulky, ultra-masculine frame. Throughout the game, the player and Kratos eviscerate countless enemies, crack open jaws and ribcages, tear through bodies like threadbare strips of cloth, and this extends no less to the large trolls and their larger slabs of enchanted stonework. It is nothing for Kratos to bring the troll's own pillar down upon its horned skull in a gesture of total obliteration.
For all the difference in bulk and size, he seems at least as large.
And yet there is a moment, when everything, it seems, has gone wrong. Without his son, in the blue light and drifting winds of Helheim, Kratos finds himself seeking the Bridge Keeper, Mattugr Helson—seeking his physical heart as a salve to certain death. Once more, Kratos faces a towering, obelisk-wielding, horned troll, and once more, seems to be its equal and match.
There is a moment of resistance. And then... Kratos stabs the Bridge Keeper, and he is dead on the ground.
There is a certain breezy silence uncharacteristic of the bulk of the game—normally Atreus accompanies his father with endlessly precocious, stubborn, child-like curiosity. A babble of facts, wonderings, and questions. But he is not in this space. It is devoid of his brightness. And in this place, Kratos is out of breath, he is hurt, he is worn, he is bloodied, and his face shows more emotion than it has in most previous sections of the game. Up until this point, it has all been dull anger, seriousness, a somber glare. But now, it is feeling. As he climbs the dead body of this Mattugr Helson and sits on his chest with a strange kind of slow, drawn-out intimacy often reserved for lovers, he is small, and in the midst of his tragedy, emotionally exposed.
Something in his heaving chest and the physicality of his placement just below the Bridge Keeper's heart, combined with the delicate brandishing of his trauma-laden blades, so bound to him with scars and memories, seeps an almost homoerotic vulnerability. Perhaps it is the way he so quietly raises his weapon, the unusual thoughtfulness of slowed motion and knees against ribs. No hurricane of fire and spinning brutality, here. For a brief second, one imagines he might reach out, tenderly, no longer a roaring force of nature so much as a man, alone.
For once, he is shadowed by scale, and somehow, this comes in the form of a corpse dispatched by his own hands, a solid weight straddled beneath his battered body.
And then the moment ends. ◒