For the last month or so, I’ve been obsessed with the new God of War game for PS4. I’ve always been a fan of the franchise, and when I saw they were rebooting it/giving it a new chapter, I was all in. But I was skeptical. The game looked massively different than the previous games so I was nervous. I’ve always considered Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us my favorite game of all time, however, God of War toppled it without even breaking a sweat, coming in at 1st place until further notice.
I was oddly impacted by the emotion that the game presented since other God of War games were about body count and how many trolls you could decapitate.. At the opening scene you are shown a pensive Kratos, the main character, holding an ominous axe as you’re prompted by the game to cut down the final tree that will be used to burn the body of his recently deceased wife. It’s not long after this where you are introduced to Atreus, also known as “Boy,” which Kratos repeatedly calls him throughout the game.
The relationship between Kratos and Atreus is one that is tangible and relatable. At this point in his story, Kratos is a god with a tortured past that he has chosen to keep a secret from Atreus. And now, with the passing of his wife, Kratos is wondering how on earth he will keep a curious boy from discovering the truth. Atreus' inquisitiveness is revealed throughout the game as you see him repeatedly ask his father direct questions, only to have Kratos respond with silence or a succinct grunt at best.
This tree will prove quite "handy"...
To me, this God of War story is less about decapitations, especially since this is the least violent GoW game yet, and more about discovering the meaning of the parent-to-child, child-to-parent relationship. It's no secret by now, we've all seen the memes where Kratos is "forgetting" Atreus' name and simply calling him "Boy" over and over again. This is something that at first may seem strange, but upon further contemplation, it's easy to see that Kratos simply doesn't know how to relate to Atreus, and even has a hard time respecting him. Atreus obviously responds by trying to continually live up to the impossible standards of his god father, not knowing that he himself is part god. Kratos continues to disregard Atreus' thirst for knowledge, even seemingly using him to satisfy his own need for answers without disclosing the whole truth.
Understandably, Atreus becomes frustrated when he realizes that his father is not telling him everything. It's not until one scene in particular where Atreus saves Kratos' life where Kratos begins to see how neglectful he's been of his boy, and realizes how much his boy has grown since the journey began. The relationship between Kratos and Atreus is all-too-familiar for some of us; a parent who made mistakes, doesn't know how to affectionately love their child, yet still wants them to be better than they were in life. This is spelled out very clearly in GoW during a moment where Athena appears to Kratos and says, "You will always be a monster" and Kratos simply replies, "I know." It's in these moments, when Kratos is alone with his haunted mind, that we truly see that this once violent, barbaric god slayer has a very human heart.
How many fingers am I holding up, Boy?
It's not until much later in the game where Kratos very noticeably calls Atreus "Son" for the first and only time to his face. This could not have been so apparent had he not been referred to as "Boy" the entire time. To me, this beautifully illustrates that Kratos has come full circle. He's confessed his sins, he's faced his demons, and he's allowed himself to be a vulnerable father in the eyes of his son. Letting Atreus bear the truth and giving him the opportunity to help his father carry the burden is indeed a occasion that will tug on your heartstrings . It's in that moment that they both rekindle a mutual respect for one another and the player realizes that lessons can always be learned, regardless of your role as a parent, or your god-like status.