Before we get started: In case you missed my repeated announcements across every form of media I have access to, I’ve started a Patreon. There’s already a brand new story, WARRIOR JAYASHREE AND THE ROC, up for Patrons at any level. Join for early access to new work, microfictions, signed & personalized books, and more! I’ve got three Patrons after the first day– you don’t want them to be the only cool kids, do you?
Also, yes, I’ve been writing a lot of reviews lately. There are probably two more coming soon, since I haven’t written about DEADPOOL 2 yet and I have my tickets for SOLO already. Gimme a break; I’ve been encountering a lot of media worth talking about lately. 🙂
I beat God of War last Friday after spending probably 40-50 hours on it. There’s still some stuff to do, and weirdly I haven’t touched the game since I beat it– probably because the ending was so flawless. My days off are Thursday and Friday, and since my son is at school and my wife is at work, I spend most of those days by myself. I do not exaggerate when I say I probably spent 80-90% of those hours over the last several weeks playing this game. In my defense, I don’t get a lot of time to game when everybody is home, particularly playing something as violent as God of War.
I’d picked it up mostly because I’d gotten bored with Super Mario Odyssey and going back for another hundred hours with Nioh wasn’t quite catching my attention. I’d never played a previous GoW game, so all the talk about how the series was having a soft reboot and would play completely differently meant it was right up my alley.
And then the game caught me completely by surprise and I ended up loving it mostly for the story. Don’t get me wrong– the gameplay is great, and killing things with any of Kratos’ available weapons never gets old. But it’s watching Kratos’ relationship with his son Atreus evolve over the course of the game that elevates it from a quality hack-and-slash to one of the best games, if not the best game (the only real competition, for me, is Nioh) of this generation, and the third for which “buy a PS4 to play this” seems reasonable. But it’s true: I haven’t had a game’s story hit me as hard as this one did since The Last of Us, and for many of the same reasons.
The plot is pretty simple: at the very beginning of the game, Kratos’ wife, the mother of his only child, has passed away. Her last wish is for her ashes to be scattered from the highest mountain in the realms. The whole game is Kratos and Atreus trying to reach that peak. There are some complications along the way, of course. But that’s the plot. Let’s go fulfill Mom’s last wishes.
Kratos is not a good father at the beginning of the story. He is, at best, a marginal father by the end of it. But you get the feeling quickly that Mom sent them on this quest as a way to force them together rather than a desire to be scattered off of something really, really tall, and while there are definitely some other moments that show she had other motives in mind– I won’t spoil anything, you deserve to hit them unaware– the growing relationship between Kratos and Atreus is the heart of the story. Fathers need to play this game, and fathers of sons in particular need to play it.
On a technical level, the way they’ve integrated Atreus into the story is phenomenal. Most games with sidekicks have at least a few moments where you’re cursing the sidekick’s existence; they keep getting in your way, they die at ridiculous times, they get caught on some inconsequential piece of geometry and you can’t move on until they fix it. Atreus has none of that, and ends up being an integral part of your strategy in battle; he’s never in the way and is constantly useful. The decision to make him impossible to kill isn’t the most immersion-worthy idea ever, but hell if it doesn’t make the game better.
God of War is action-packed, touching, at times hilariously funny, wonderfully acted, and– not for nothing– has one of the greatest endings to any game I’ve ever played. Actually, this much I’ll spoil: the Big Battle with the Bad Guy is well before the actual ending of the game, where Kratos and Atreus scatter the ashes– and the entire ascent to the summit is played without action, and with another big story revelation, and the credits play silently afterwards as you and Atreus walk back down the mountain. It’s phenomenal.
Go check it out.