When God of War’s journey came to a close it was clear the main stars, Kratos and Atreus, changed drastically. From the first shot of a somber and quiet Kratos cutting down a loved one's tree and a son who doesn’t know how to fit into his father’s life, the game expands both emotionally and with its gameplay. God of War breaks itself from its predecessors by shaping the story around identity instead of vengeance. For Kratos, he doesn’t know what his identity is — and that’s the real quest hidden.
Struggling from his revenge-filled past full of wrongful deaths and mistakes that only left emptiness in his heart, Kratos wants to right his wrongdoings, but, more importantly, become a role model for his son, Atreus. Atreus’ identity is as important for Kratos to find as well. He wants to make sure his son doesn’t repeat his past and live a life of misery and revenge. That is what God of War does best for its characters — exploring the complex layers of a character whose been overlooked for a decade. For Kratos to be finally explored in an emotional way along with his son is truly gratifying for players who’ve been fans of the series right from the start. It's those rewarding and heartfelt moments that make God of War a game to be remembered for a lifetime.
The goal of the game is simple: bring the ashes of Atreus’s mother to the highest peak in all the lands. But like all missions, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Along the journey the duo meets travelers that help and halt their journey. It’s those cast of characters that make God of War an immersive experience. It’s hard to stay focused on side-lined characters with a duo-centric game, but God of War gives the players a story to care about. Each character develops throughout, becoming an entirely different person at the end. What happens in Kratos and Atreus’ journey affects the world and characters. That shows the story is a-well crafted machine, making sure that every piece works in perfect harmony leading into the next.
Norse mythology leads the way to distinct areas to visit each with their own beauties and destructions. The bright trees and colors of the Witch’s Woods couldn’t be any different from the dark blues of Hel’s landscape. No two areas feel the same in God of War, giving the world a sense of identity just like the characters themselves. Players won’t have to worry about not being able to visit areas after they finish the main story. The game encourages exploration which will lead to fun activities just like in the main story. There’s a lot to see in Midgard and it shows how much love and attention detail developer Sony’s Santa Monica Studio put into their world. There’s context thrown into the areas Kratos and Atreus’ will visit too. Runes, tablets, and puzzles each tell a story in the deserted lands long forgotten. Tragedy flows through the land, but it’s the main characters that bring life back into the dead lands, which shows how strong the characters are in their own right.
Combat in God of War was drastically changed from its predecessors because it takes away the button-mashy nature of the previous installments for a more methodical approach. Kratos’ new weapon of choice is the Leviathan Axe, which is a welcome addition to the series. Having a vast range of options like throwing, swinging, charging or calling the axe back are all exciting. Throughout the game the axe will get stronger along with Atreus, who is a valuable help in combat. He’s able to warn Kratos if enemies are about to attack him from behind, rain down suppressive fire with his bow and arrow and give Kratos health too. With every encounter Atreus becomes a stronger warrior and son for Kratos.
The two mix beautifully together by adding context to the combat and how it influences the story. If it’s Atreus’ first time killing a human, that’ll have effects throughout the game and in combat. Kratos might have to face some enemies on his own either because he doesn’t think his son is ready or doesn’t want him to die. This allows God of War to achieve a level of combat not seen before in previous installments: empathy in combat.
Video games continue to amaze gamers around the world and God of War doesn’t plan on stopping that trend. It proves that video games can create emotions that simply cannot be found in any other form of entertainment. God of War is a leading example of how stories should be told through this medium. It’s just not a story about a father and son adventure; it’s a reminder that games like this can only be made once in a while, and they should be cherished to the fullest amount just like family.