God of War is a phenomenal game.
Those who have played it know this, and those who haven’t are in for a real treat.
The true triumph of this game doesn’t lie in the story, nor the expertly crafted world or gameplay, but within its ability to really grow Kratos as a character and develop him into someone you actually care about.
Upon reaching the end of this epic journey I was left with a real sense of connection with this character, and to be honest, I was stunned at just how genuine he has become.
Here is a character that could quite literally rip the head off a god, but rather than simply cash in on this concept and release the same old testosterone-trip as before, the team at Sony Santa Monica have crafted something more nuanced and focused on the one thing we all crave as people – growth.
(And no, I don’t mean in height).
I won’t go into spoilers, but the essence of what makes God of War so great is how it doubles down on the personal growth and real moments of change in its characters, particularly Kratos himself.
Maybe it was the common ground I could enjoy with him having just become a dad myself, but I really could appreciate the way in how the developer masterfully signalled his internal struggle to be more for his son.
This message is at the heart of the game.
We have all done stupid things in our past we regret, and becoming a parent amplifies this to no end as you would be mortified at the thought of your child repeating those mistakes.
As a father, Kratos spends a lot of his time in the game trying to hide his past misdemeanors from Atreus.
But as we, and he, comes to learn is that those blemishes on our past can in fact strengthen a bond between a parent and child.
Atreus also deserves a massive portion of the credit, as he gives Kratos a perfect foil and constantly forces him to engage and emote.
Without the boy the player has no insight into Kratos throughout the journey (it’s usually irritation) and is a major player in coaxing him out of his previous comfort zone.
Atreus is more than a simple tag-a-long, he is the embodiment of a much needed third dimension for the Greek god.
No spoilers, but when Kratos finally reveals to his son that they are gods, you feel the gravity of this moment because it is earned.
Not through bloodthirsty actions but through the little moments we see throughout the game that have been deliberately placed to give us insight into how this beast of a man is actually feeling.
Who didn’t want Kratos to just put his arm around his son and give a little bit of comfort during the deer hunt?
I know I did. In fact it almost became frustrating how reluctant Kratos was to showing any sign of weakness in letting his rough exterior slip for a moment.
So when he eventually does let that guard of his down, it is meaningful, real and reinforces one thing I thought impossible.
I actually cared about Kratos.
God of War showcases the best of video gaming and it’s ability to tell a great story and add interesting new layers to one dimensional characters.
It is grown up storytelling at its best. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this father and son duo next.