If you’re not interested in reading, you can watch the video essay I put up on my channel instead.
Where to even start? Whilst I haven’t played the other games in the God of War series, I largely expected the game to be centred around combat. Senseless violent combat. You know… The stuff that Kratos is actually very good at. What I got instead is 30 hours of a Kratos who is out of his depth parenting.
I saw the reviews when the game came out back in 2018, and I knew it was largely a game about parenting but I didn’t expect the game to be about that to the degree that it actually is.
At the onset of the game, Kratos has just lost his wife, and his son Atreus has lost his mother. The game makes it very clear that Kratos and Atreus aren’t exactly the best of friends. The father hardly understands his son & vice-versa. Given a choice both wouldn’t be left alone in a room together. Unfortunately for them, the deceased’s last wish was that father & son journey together to spread her ashes at the highest peak in all realms. Yuhp Kratos and Atreus have to confront the tension.
The story of a father & son…
Throughout the game, Kratos is a guy who’s struggling with the demands of fatherhood. His dad was never around and then when he had his first family he killed them by mistake. He later also killed his dad and a couple of his half-brothers in a quest for vengeance. The game clearly depicts Kratos as being out of his depth when he is required to be a family man.
Because the player is in more control of Kratos, they can see why he would rather not be journeying with his son. His son is weak and curious — a combination that was pretty irritating because Atreus’ curiosity means he starts fights he cannot finish — fights that Kratos has to finish. But of course, he is a kid — your kid and God of War is very good at making you feel what Kratos feels for Atreus. When the “boy” was in trouble with enemies, I found myself not caring about Kratos’ immediate situation and went to free him.
The team behind God of War did an exceptional job of making sure that regardless of the ups and downs between the two main characters, you always look out for Atreus as a sensible father would his son. At one point Kratos actually goes as far as Hel in order to save his son.
Most of the time I spent playing this game, I was fully immersed in the story — so much so that I felt the combat and puzzles were just vehicles to help players experience this story. Santa Monica Studios did a great job ensuring that the narrative took centre stage.
Kratos feels extremely powerful but again the combat shined brightest when Atreus is getting stronger and becoming more useful. There’s a sense of pride I had when I saw the boy getting better and making fights easier and easier as the game progresses. All this is not to say the combat is weak. It’s just that it wasn’t the most interesting thing about the game for me. I think this is also because the game features a restrained Kratos who is hell bent on hiding the monster that he is or at least the monster that he was from his only son.
It’s also pretty endearing to see Atreus get into fits of rage… His rage manifests itself mainly because of the loss of his mother and him feeling like his dad doesn’t want him but those fits of rage also remind players that this is actually a small Kratos after all.
The difficulty for Kratos is that his only goal as a father is ensuring that his son doesn’t become Kratos 2.0 and so every time he sees an enraged Atreus he’s not entirely sure what he should do. The issue of parents not wanting their children to repeat their life-altering mistakes is quite relatable for many people and so it’s easy to understand Kratos’ worry.
To make matters worse, because of his past there are many times in the game where it feels like Kratos also doesn’t feel like the guy who can scold or tell Atreus what is right or wrong when he himself made more serious mistakes.
You see Kratos’ past in the lessons that he imparts to his son. The easy lessons for Kratos to teach are those to do with fighting, discipline and strategising. Easy lessons for Kratos to teach because that is largely where he has put in his 10 000 hours. Most of this would have been enough if Atreus’ mother were still alive but because that is no longer the case, Kratos has to be more than a warrior.
This is extremely difficult for Kratos. This is the same guy who basically brought the world to its knees in a vengeful quest against greek Gods including his own father and throughout the game you can see that Kratos has a hard time forgiving himself for his previous actions.
The story basically explores a facet of parenthood that is very difficult for many people to fully come to grips with- letting go of the past and empathy. Throughout the game you see Kratos grow into a competent single parent who understands, trusts and respects his son. Same with Atreus. He no longer just sees his dad as a guy who wasn’t there or doesn’t want to spend time with him. Instead, Atreus understands that things aren’t always black and white — a valuable lesson that anyone is better off learning sooner rather than later.
Graphics & Worldbuilding
The graphics in God of War are great but if we are keeping it real, 9/10 games in the 8th generation of consoles look great. What is special about God of War is the world-building. Because Kratos & Atreus are constantly travelling between realms the game continues to feel fresh for most of its runtime. All the realms have enemies and environments unique to them and that means the game doesn’t get repetitive or old as quickly as it would have if you put the same game in one world.
God of War felt a bit too long for me. At some points when you feel close to the finish — the game then sets you back by introducing a new obstacle that takes another hour or two to solve. If it wasn’t for the fantastic story and the different worlds you get to experience, these moments would have been more irritating than they actually are.
The length is my only gripe with the game and I would 100% recommend anyone to experience it. God of War is so good in fact, I was sad I only got round to playing it this year.
This is the only dad simulator I’ve played and so automatically it becomes the best dad simulator. Beyond the jokes, God of War is an amazing game that forces players to think about relationships in a way that few games do & I can’t wait for the sequel to see how the story of the Kratos and Atreus evolves.