What does it mean to be a father when you're already a god? What does it take to teach your child how to be a man, when your definition of "man," is merely rage, volatility, and combustion?
That's what the new God of War tries to answer. The long-running franchise has always relied on Kratos as the anti-hero, the rage-fueled Greek god out for revenge. In the latest entry, it's not only about Kratos anymore — it's about his son too. The older and wiser Kratos must find a way to insulate his child from the easy allure of rage and hostility. In other words, to let him grow up not like him.
What Does It Mean To Be A Man?
Whereas the past God of War entries were excellent illustrations of a man whose nearest identifying trait is brutality, this new one is about trying to shed it off. Most of the reviews highlight the game's narrative as one of its strongest points, which come peppered with more emotional oomph that the past games had ever offered.
The new God of War is an exploration of masculinity. How Kratos passes it down is the story, but how he refines it, reimagines it for his child, is his purpose. Here's what the critics are saying:
God Of War Review Roundup
VentureBeat: "This God of War is slower, less gory, and less angry. Kratos is no longer a one-dimensional machine of rage and vengeance. He's a father trying to understand and train a young son," begins VentureBeat's 90/100 review.
"Kratos's child is with him through most of their journey. They often talk to each other as they work on their troubled relationship. It's a dynamic that's not unlike the one between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. The connection between these two stars gives us an investment in their world and story beyond the beasts, monsters, and people they're killing."
IGN: "I expected great action from God of War, and it delivers that handily. But I didn't expect it to be a thrilling journey in which every aspect of it complements the others to form what is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a game in which Kratos, a previously one-note character, becomes a complex father, warrior, and monster, embattled both on the field and within his own heart about how to treat his son; one in which the world opens up and shifts, offering rewards in both gameplay and knowledge of its lore that I treasured with each accomplishment. The obvious care that went into crafting its world, characters, and gameplay delivers by far the most stirring and memorable game in the series."
Polygon: "God of War is, in a single word, holistic. Every aspect is excellent on its own, but more importantly, it all serves and accentuates the larger vision."
The Verge: "The relationship between Kratos and Atreus is the crux of the game. It isn't just a part of the story, it's woven into virtually every aspect of God of War. The two are almost never apart."
"One of the most remarkable aspects of the game is how this story, and the relationship between father and son, are so tightly interwoven with the gameplay. Everything feels like it's there for a reason. As Atreus gains confidence and continues to learn from watching his father, he naturally becomes more proficient in battle."
"This isn't the Kratos you remember — and that's what makes it work so well."
BGR: "Though he may not know quite how to show it, he cares deeply for Atreus and will do everything in his power to keep the young boy safe. Watching Kratos, who has been a one-note character for much of his existence, grow and evolve over the course of the game, both as a parent and a "person" (even though, yes, he is still a god), is genuinely stirring. Somehow, the studio has turned Kratos into a sympathetic character without erasing his past. The story stands up on its own, but those who have kept up with the series will really feel its impact."
The Guardian: "[Kratos and Atreus's] dynamic changes shape more than once over the course of the story, and their relationship involves a lot more demon blood and magical artefacts than the typical parent-child relationship, but Kratos is still a distant, emotionally remote father trying clumsily to reach out to a son who feels unwanted."
God of War comes out April 20 for the Playstation 4.