God of War (2018)
Creative Director – Cory Barlog
Starring – Christopher Judge, Sunny Suljic, Danielle Bisutti, Jeremy Davies
Rating – M
Genre – Action/Adventure Video Game
A reboot of sorts, God of War (2018), directed by Cory Barlog, changes the typical God of War narrative in more ways than one. First, we’re no longer in ancient Greece, but the frozen Scandinavian North. Where once we had Ares, Zeus, and Athena to deal with,we now contend with a different pantheon: we hear tales of Thor, Odin, and other formidable foes. The largest change, however, is with the protagonist Kratos himself. No longer a rage-filled revenge seeker killing every deity he can find, Kratos has grown up; and now he has a new challenge: being a good father to his son, Atreus.
This is what God of War (2018) does so well: it tells a story about a father and son. Beset by tragedy, Kratos and Atreus begin a journey together to the mythical realms to complete Atreus’ mother’s dying wish. The scale of this game is absolutely enormous, and the world expansive. There are moments in the game that took my breath away, as I was reminded how huge the world and its inhabitants were, coming face to face with Norse myth; and yet, the moments that stuck with me were instead the quiet moments shared by Kratos and his son, as they fight together, argue with one another, and bond over the course of the journey. The game perfectly balances telling an intimate story of father and son, while also giving you a vast world to experience, rich with stories and mystical characters that are genuine and stick with you. There are no wasted moments, and no useless detours.
Video games tell their stories best when they tell them through gameplay, not cutscenes. God of War (2018) succeeds here in a couple of ways. Most immediately, one might notice there are no loading screens or cutscenes, allowing the player a unique experience. Amazingly, the entirety of the roughly 20 hour campaign is a single tracking shot following Kratos. Fully immersed into the game, Kratos’ struggles, and even his frustrations and concerns with his son, become mine. Second, the implementation of Atreus as a companion character is masterful. Early in the game, he is weak and inexperienced, therefore not especially useful. However, as the game progresses, he attains new skills, becomes more experienced, and by the end of the story you and Atreus are fighting enemies in perfect tandem.
God of War (2018) succeeds because it uses all the tools afforded by its medium to tell its story. Whether by changing how we experience loading screens and cutscenes, or using game mechanics to serve the story, Cory Barlog presents this story confidently as one that could only be told this well through a video game. Likewise, despite its fantastic and mythical setting, God of War (2018) tells a story of loss and family that is deeply relatable and memorable.
Author: Joshua Johnson