P.S. Heavy Spoilers for God Of War ahead.
P.P.S. Written by an absolute God Of War Fan-Boi.
So we had the Video Game Awards this past week. 2018 was a great year for video games, and it showed in the Game Of The Year department with nominations like Red Dead Redemption 2, Celeste, Spiderman, Monster Hunter World and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. All bonafide game of the year in their own rights. But it was God Of War that took home the trophy.
As is normal after such events, the gaming community was rife with discussions on whether God Of War deserved that honour. Obviously, everyone agreed that God Of War was great, but was it as good as Red Dead Redemption 2? Its closest competitor in almost every category (be it music, graphics, gameplay). I was part of a similar discussion on Facebook, and someone asked if the story in God Of War stood up to the absolute epic that was Red Dead Redemption 2. I pondered over that statement and replied.
“You cannot possibly spoil the narrative of God Of War even if you told someone what happened in the game start to finish.”
Hours later, the more I think about it, the more I feel as if I have had an epiphany. The beauty of God Of War’s narrative is not in how the tapestry is threaded, but the quality of the threads. In more movie-making terms, it’s not the script but the screenplay which makes God Of War a masterpiece when it comes to storytelling.
“God Of War follows Kratos, as he sets upon a journey to fulfill the last wishes of his wife along with his son, Atreus. Along the way, he encounters and battles many mythical creatures from the Norse mythology like Baldur, Freya, Valkyries, and Jogmunder. God Of War also explores the meaning of being a father and how a father-son relationship transforms from time to time.”
Now everyone who has played God Of War would know that the above synopsis is more or less accurate. And yet they would also know that this not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story of God Of War.
Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, rely on twists and turns and double crosses which will keep you on the edge of your seats because you don’t know or can’t predict what’s going to happen next. This is not to say, that God Of War doesn’t have a twist too. But the reveal of Atreus as Loki adds nothing to the narrative brilliance of the game.
What God Of War does is that it creates a relatable situation (a father-son dynamic) in a fantastic setting and then explores it. Layer by layer.
What does it mean being a father for Kratos, who has committed patricide himself?
How does someone who has been consumed with anger teach his son self-control?
Is their redemption for someone with that much blood on his hand?
Kratos may be a god killer, but he is also a father now. His sole goal is not to kill, but to protect his son now (memes incoming). And like many fathers today, Kratos hides the flaws in him from his son, keeping him ignorant of the sins of his past. He would have acted and responded way differently if Atreus was not around. Something I believe would be immediately relatable by young fathers around the world.
And then there is Atreus, playing out all the phases a son goes through. He is scared of his father at first, then wants to prove himself, then becomes rebellious and proud, and finally learns to respect his father. As someone who grew up idolizing his father, and then becoming a father quite recently there were moments in the game’s cutscene where I could see me and my father having a similar conversation. It’s almost insulting to reduce the interactions between Kratos and Atreus into 2 lines, but once again it’s a testament to how good the game is at translating simple situations into beautiful heart touching scenes.
In God Of War, Kratos is a catalyst just because he exists. He is not on a quest to kill the pantheon, he does not want revenge. He has abandoned his blades and the darkness, but they haven’t abandoned him. And in all of this is Atreus, observing, judging and questioning how Kratos responds to all of this stimuli. He doesn’t know what the fuss is all about until he sees what his father truly is.
It didn’t matter whether they were climbing a mountain, or slashing trolls, or navigating a boat in the stomach of a giant snake. The conversation between Kratos and Atreus were independent of their surroundings and universal in their appeal.
Of course, there is more to God Of War than just this one-dimensional translation by a fanboy. There is the Freya-Baldur relationship which explores a mother and son. There is also the friendship between Mimir and Odin, as told by Mimir. The entire game is full of personal relationship explored and interpreted. Our review explores most of that in a more quantified manner (also written by a fanboy). But there is a certain intangible feel in God Of War that cannot be explained by telling but by showing. Something which you can’t achieve in stories which rely on the plot.
It’s like the classic love stories. Everyone knows what’s going to happen, but they still pull at your chords. Only, in this case, the love story is full of gods, giants, trolls, dragons, ghouls and involves a lot of killing, blood and gore.