Greetings! The Hyperactive Coffee Mage here on TWRM with my good buddy, fellow mage and master of the shadow arts – The Mail-Order Ninja Mage, to talk in spoiler-ific detail about our potential choice for Game Of The Year: God of War!
Released for the PS4 back in late April, this game is ridiculously good. However it’s neither just the jaw-dropping visuals nor the tight combat controls and freedom to explore Midgard and several other realms in the Norse Mythology that makes this game spectacular. Nay, it’s the story about Kratos and his son, Atreus, growing together through their journey to perform the last rites of Kratos’ second wife, coupled with the startling amount of attention to detail to the Norse Mythology, that makes it so fantastic and memorable. Kudos goes to director Cory Balrog for bringing Kratos back to relevance and reinventing him for the next generation, having being inspired by his own personal story of fatherhood.
So, pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and join us as Ninja and I delve deep into the game’s story, the mythos behind it, our favourite moments and comparisons to our own experiences in parenthood and our predictions on what will happen next. Not in that order, of course. *Grins*
Also, as if it wasn’t totally obvious: spoilers. You’ve been warned!
OK, so without further ado, let’s start this! And what better way to start a spoiler filled discussion than to talk about the ending. And that ending… Man, that sent shivers down my spine!
Atreus is Loki. The same Loki who would be instrumental in starting Ragnarok.
Throughout the game, we as players knew that Atreus had some importance, but to be the guy that will end it all for Odin and his gang, that’s heavy.
I think my favorite thing about the ending was how it was a nonchalant side thing, just ‘Oh hey, what was this whole different name thing about, weird.’
But obviously the characters don’t know the impact, so they explain it like it isn’t a big deal, but as people who know Norse mythology we are freaking out.
Indeed, I’m freaking out myself, especially after I read Neil Gaiman’s take on Norse Mythology. Practically everything that happened in game had, in a way, occured in the Mythology. What the current game doesn’t do is tell what will happen next, considering that a whole bunch of crazy stuff occurs after Balder’s death.
One thing I’m curious about is how Jormungandr fits into all of this, considering in the Mythology, he is Loki’s son.
The interesting thing about the World Serpent is how he refers to Atreus in the game, saying he looks familiar. It was a clear nod to knowing his father in some way I think and, considering Jomungandr comes from the future, it is going to be exciting to see how that relationship pans out.
Indeed. But it also makes you wonder about Loki’s other children: that of Hela and Fenrir. How will they factor into the storyline, considering that Ragnarok is all but starting at game’s end?
They’ve certainly set up an amazing set of questions for the future of the franchise, something I personally cannot wait to see.
In any case let us get back to the ending. As Kratos explains, his wife Faye, or Laufey as noted in the mythology, had foreseen their entire journey. Once Atreus leaves the chamber and heads towards the summit, we see Kratos watching a mural of him in Atreus’s arms, seemingly dead. Does this mean that his wife also foresaw his death?
And also, that mural is hard to interpret: it could be that Kratos is dead, or dying or something else that would be revealed in the next installment… It’s incredibly mysterious.
It would have to mean that, of course we don’t know it is his death right? It is heavily implied, and the odd ghost snakes going from Atreus’ mouth to Kratos’ mouth are intriguing to say the least. Is he taking his father’s life? Is he attempting to save his life?
I think there is definitely a path there set up to Atreus eventually killing Kratos, because a large thematic thing we keep seeing throughout the game is children killing their parents in mythology, and about Atreus being concerned that would ever happen to them. He even asks Kratos at one point if he would die by Atreus hands like Freya was going to do for Baldur, and Kratos said “Of course, if it meant you lived.”
That’s true. However the same could be said about the opposite happening: that the son would die so that the father may live. I think back to when Kratos revealed his past, including how he killed his own father, Zeus. That revelation clearly shook up Atreus. Kratos follows up though by saying “We must be better.” It’s a line he repeats often throughout the story.
I think that sticks with Atreus and will lead him not to kill his father but save him instead.
Do you foresee them turning Atreus into the villain that Loki typically is in Norse mythology? I think that could be a fascinating transition, although I would hate every moment of it.
We saw snippets of that after the events in Tyr’s temple, so it seems inevitable that the transition may happen, given that that the game loosely follows the mythology. And yes I’d hate every moment of that as well. I detested his change of character after the temple events never mind.
Ugh, don’t remind me. I really don’t want to see angsty Atreus again, but the thematic idea of struggling with the power of a God is just too fascinating not to address.
Thinking on it now the amount of places they can take the inevitable sequel is extremely exciting. There are so many threads they could pick up, and so much conflict baked expertly into the situation that they could tell a really epic, moving story.
You have the conflict of Atreus coming to terms with his power as an adolescent, juxtaposed against his father who is trying to change from someone who abused that power himself for his own gains in the past and trying to keep his son from doing the same. That idea is central to the theme of the game, to fatherhood itself really, and it has such depth to it that I can only see them expanding on it in the sequel.
That is very true! As we are fathers, I can see this storyline resonating heavily with the both of us.
Also, if Cory Balrog is reading this now, hire us. Seriously.
After seeing that ending I’m not sure he needs our help.
Before we stray too far from the ending of the game, I have to say that everyone talks about the Loki bomb, or the mural, but for me the best part of the ending was when Kratos tells Atreus the story of his namesake.
Oh yes! I loved that story!
I felt it was a sheer master stroke of storytelling, and brought the humanization of Kratos to a head in a way that honestly choked me up.
I agree. To me, it represents the complete transformation from Kratos, the God of War to Kratos, the Dad of War. All joking aside, it’s here that we see him shed his barriers and embrace fatherhood for what it is. He even called Atreus “Son” instead of “Boy,” something that we were completely used to hearing throughout the game. I thought that moment was incredibly poignant.
For the record, I address my son as “Boy” quite often. It’s hilarious!
Ever since playing God of War I use the Kratos voice anytime I have to tell my son to do anything.
I think the most fascinating thing about it was that, even as far gone as Kratos was at the time he still chose hope, and that is why he names Atreus after the Spartan soldier that made them think they could be more than just killing machines, that they were still human. The way that ties back into the theme we were talking about earlier, about balancing the power of a God while still retaining your humanity, is just so incredibly well done.
I agree wholeheartedly!
OK next, let’s talk out our favourite supporting character (who’s VA definitely deserves some sort of award), Mimir! My God, that guy is hilarious. And informative!
Well you clearly stole mine, I don’t think that anyone can argue that Mimir is possibly the best character in the entire game. Both of the dwarves were great, and Freya puts on a chilling performance in the end when she is giving that speech to Kratos. However, Mimir and his stories take this entire game to a whole new level.
I think what makes Mimir such a wonderful addition (besides some of the best voice over ever) is that he is so many things at once to the plot. He is comedic relief, a way to share exposition if the player is so inclined, and a third party to observe and remark on the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. I don’t think the story would have been near as good without that third party to interact with on the bulk of their journey.
On the subject of his stories, I’ve examined Mimir’s tales against Gaiman’s Norse Mythology book and I’ve noticed that Mimir paints the Giants in a very sympathetic light, while projecting the Aesir gods as the villians. In Gaiman’s work, adapted from the original Prose Edda, it’s the complete opposite; the Giants portrayed as incompetent buffoons while the Aesir are revered as a benevolent, powerful and fun-loving bunch. What I’m getting at is that the audience’s perception of who is good and evil depends on who tells the tales. Do you believe the Giants were good, peaceful folk as described in God of War or a warmongering race getting in the way of the Aesir as noted in the original Prose?
I think the narrative is molded to fit the side you are coming from, like you are suggesting. Especially in God of War and the story they are wanting to tell about the corruption of power the Gods generally have to be the bad guys. If you look at the other five God of War games the Gods for the most part are horribly immoral, which tracks with much of Greek mythology. I don’t know Norse mythology as well as Greek, but from what I’ve read these beings are usually seen as more heroic. I find the tilt towards the giants being more sympathetic to be more intriguing in the case of the new mythology they are setting up here.
Most definitely. On that note, I highly urge anyone interested to pick up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. It sounds like I’m shilling for him, but it really does make for an interesting read, especially if you enjoyed playing this game.
OK, here’s a big question: what do you make of the secret scene at the end of the game? I speak of when Kratos and Atreus return home to rest and the game to jump ahead three years, where they are approached by Thor.
I think that was such a fantastic way to do the actual ending, because once you see that scene the credits finally roll. It took me a while to get that scene, because I instantly started cleaning up side quests. Then I remembered that Kratos said they should go home, so I stopped by and got the dream from Atreus which was clearly a vision of the future. I think it was very clever to show what is unarguably the most recognizable God in the Norse pantheon as the game came to a close.
I sense that there will be an epic, climactic battle to start the next game off. Or that the game will start in media res (halfway through for those not in the know), with Kratos recounting the events leading up to his current situation.
Yes, I could definitely see us opening somewhere in the middle of the story though, and having to figure out what is going on.
Alright Coffee, let’s keep going: One of my favorite things about the game is the way that every sidequest and character interaction adds to the development of the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Whether it is the relationship that Freya and Baldur have as a mother and son, or the fantastic sidequest about a thief lord and the son that kills him, everything is a lesson for the two on their journey.
In a lot of the games I’ve played you see so much content jammed in there just to say we have this huge open world, but narrowing that focus and making everything really count on a personal level for the characters is what makes this game so special.
As a father of a son heading into puberty, the focus on that bond between them really struck me personally as well. It really is a story as much about the challenges of raising a child as it is the Norse gods.
I agree. For me, the sidequests were some of the best parts of the game, simply due to the interactions between Kratos and Atreus. They help set the scene for how the two interact with one another.
One of my favourites was the one where the two had to find Andvari’s ring for Brok. They venture into the mines where they encounter a Soul Eater that has the item in question. Initially, Atreus is fearful of the monster thanks to the stories from his mother, but Kratos turns this into a teachable moment when he forces Atreus to face his fears about the beast. I found it to be an honest, albeit an extreme, depiction of how fathers try to get their children to get out of their comfort zones, face and eventually overcome their fears of things.
Speaking of favorite side quests, there’s the one where they promise Atreus to let him talk to Faye. Ack, I can’t think of the names of the people involved though.
Hmm… We’ll look it up on Wikipedia? *Grins* But yes I remember that one. It’s where the two are tasked to find the bones of this witch.
Initially Kratos is against the notion of helping, simply because he knows his wife is dead. He goes along with it because Atreus is not him, he hasn’t experienced death like he had and so retains most of his innocence. As the quest continues, we see Kratos starting to get his hopes up, only for them to be shot down when they have to kill the Seider Witch.
While Kratos is mildly satisfied that he was right the whole time, underneath it all, he really wanted to talk with Faye as well.
Right, they both basically get a lesson.
While we’re on the subject of the two, what are your thoughts about Atreus’ sudden personality change after Kratos reveals his godhood? I personally disliked that about face on his character, but I also realize that at Atreus’ age, he’s entering that defiant phase most adolescents go through. Still, I found the transition jarring.
I didn’t like Atreus’ turn at all during the game, and honestly I didn’t feel like it was earned. It is probably one of my only gripes about the game, is that his sudden change of heart didn’t feel true to the character. I seem to recall reading an article stating that there was a large part cut out there, and it makes sense, because it feels like there should have been more build-up. That being said, I agree that it might be more realistic to how a child on the cusp of becoming an adult might act. Originally, he knows he is different from Kratos in some way, but when he finds out he is a God it makes them peers. He is mimicking Kratos’ gruffness in a way, but without any of his restraint.
Yeah, I wish there was more build up with that as well, but alas we have what we have. Not to mention, going back to the Mythology, that this is supposedly par for the course with Loki, especially when he drinks. His tongue gets him into a lot of trouble in the tales, so perhaps this was the reason why the sudden change of character happened, to keep Atreus/Loki in character?
You know, I find that it’s quite common to see children try to emulate their parents as they are the role models they look to throughout life. However, children also learn that some behaviours are less desirable than others. Take for instance Atreus’ attitude sobering up when they were accidentally sent to Hel. Prior to that, the boy was brash, unruly and defiant, believing that his father can teach him nothing more. After the events following the destruction of the gate to Jotunheim on the top of the Midgard’s highest peak, Kratos and Atreus travel through Hel, where Atreus sees first hand how he was behaving. Not many children get a chance to see how their actions affect the people around them, so Atreus seeing that, along with ghosts of Kratos’ past, may have been the reason why his character shifted back to normal. What say you?
I think that Hel absolutely is what made him realize how he was behaving. We don’t often get to see our actions played out from another perspective, so that impacted him deeply. There was also a feeling in my perspective of that feeling that you get when you know you’ve pushed Dad enough, and now you are past the point of his patience. It is like he knows he is on thin ice, and especially seeing the Zeus and Kratos scene played out in front of him, it makes him introspective. In that sense I think him knocking that stuff off is a earned moment, but his whole mood shift makes me worry about his future.
Also, I really like Atreus and I don’t want to see him turn into a villain, but maybe that is the whole point.
Speaking of villains, Baldur as the main bad guy was an absolutely fascinating choice. In mythology, Baldur was beloved by pretty much everyone, so to see his invulnerability twisted a different way was really cool to me. How did you feel about the choice of Baldur as the main villain?
I had no idea who Baldur was until playing this game and then subsequently reading Norse Mythology. After learning about it more, I realize that he was a great antagonist for the game both from a physical standpoint as well as from a parent-child standpoint as well. Here we see the results of Freya’s machinations in order to protect her beloved child: Baldur is shown as a resentful and angry individual, who uses that to hunt down Giants on behalf of Odin. He’s desperate to be able to feel again and is seemingly gullible enough to be manipulated by Odin with the promise that he could break the spell. The portrayals of both Baldur and Freya are a stark contrast to Kratos and Atreus. In Atreus’ case, Baldur represents the resentment and bitterness he would have felt if Kratos continued to withhold the truth about his godhood and Freya represents the risks Kratos faced in keeping his son safe, away from his bloody past as a god-killer who committed patricide.
Baldur is a sympathetic character in a way, because he can’t feel pain, but he can’t feel anything else either. It seems from the conversations he has in the game that he was once a good individual, but that this desire to feel anything had driven him to hate and a little madness. It also is another challenge as a parent you always face right? You want to keep your child safe from harm, but you also need to let them live their live and make mistakes first hand. If you push too hard in protecting them then you run the risk of alienating them, or shielding them from too much. As a parent it feels like a constant tightrope you are walking. In Freya’s case she just wanted her son to be safe, and didn’t consider how it would affect him. I think that is a powerful narrative, and like you stated, it further backs up the underlying narrative with Kratos and Atreus.
Exactly. Freya herself is an interesting case. As Mimir said after the final battle against Baldur, “Sometimes good parents make terrible choices,” and that is true, as you mentioned before.
OK, so let’s wrap this up: favourite moments in the game, start!
*Laughs* Alright, so no discussion of God of War is complete without my personal favorite moment of the game: The Blades of Chaos. This moment took me absolutely by surprise, I had no idea it was coming. The Leviathan Axe was such a huge focal point of the game that I never would have imagined we would get another weapon, let alone the weapon most iconic to the franchise. As a long time God of War fan this moment was amazing for me, and the slow buildup to the moment that was filled with emotional resonance was so incredibly effective. The developers letting you loose with them in a huge fight just after was sheer brilliance, and I had a smile on my face the whole time.
I was even more surprised to find it was so fully fleshed out. It had its own crafting, new runic abilities, and an entire skill tree dedicated to it. To see something so integral to the franchise’s history come in with such a bang–and never see it coming– was such an incredible treat. It goes back to how fantastic this team did at creating something wholly new, while also anchoring it to the history of the IP. Even more impressive was the fact that this new weapon actually changes the way you play the game, as you find yourself alternating back and forth from blades to axe. Just when you think you have it figured out they introduce an entirely new fold of strategy into the mix.
Yes! The Blades of Chaos! The most unexpected yet expected moment in the game. Expected because it’s not God of War without the Blades of Chaos, but unexpected because up until you get them, it wasn’t obvious that they were needed. Truth to be told, when Kratos said to Freya that he needed to dig up a past long forgotten I didn’t put two and two together until I saw Athena in the boat ride and I thought “Oh no they didn’t!?” The scenes leading up to the big reveal of the blades was also very suspenseful and timed well; they didn’t rush to show the blades and they showed the anguish on Kratos’ face when he realized he had to dig up his old, bloody past. And finally, the moment the God of War main theme starts playing as you try out the blades against the Hel-Walkers, it’s just so powerful. The steady drum beats and the deep vocals only play up the epicness of the blades, it was just a marvelous reintroduction for the iconic weapons. Absolutely masterful.
I have two other scenes that I greatly enjoyed. Both of them occur after Kratos obtains the Blades. The first is when Kratos tells Atreus the truth about his godhood. What I enjoyed about it is the sheer innocence Atreus expresses when he discovers the truth; he asks if he could transform into an animal, which is something many kids would wish they had the power to do. This also has a hidden message towards Atreus’ identity as Loki, since in the mythology, Loki shapeshifts into various animals as part of his many schemes.
Kratos’ face when he decides to reveal his secret is one of enlightenment and relief. The former realizing that he can shape the boy to be better than he was when he learned of his godhood and the latter because holding secrets in as a parent, regardless of who you are, is incredibly stressful, in my honest opinion.
As soon as Kratos reveals his secret, he starts to open up. As he does so, he slowly reveals more to his son until he fully divulges his past after he killed Balder, which is the second scene that I enjoyed. The lead up to it was also fantastic, as Balder, furious at his mother, Freya’s, unwanted interventions to keep her son alive, attempts to kill her. Kratos, realizing that the cycle of the child killing the parent is a reoccurring and perpetual one, decides to take matters into his own hands and kill Balder himself, which leaves Freya livid and vowing revenge. It is here that Kratos reveals his ultimate secret: that he killed his own father, Zeus, and that he ultimately wants Atreus to be better than he ever was. That, to me, was one of the most powerful scenes in the game, at least in my point of view as a parent. As parents, we all want our children to be better than we ever were and we can only hope that through guidance that the message sticks. I believe that Kratos must have had the same thought.
In general, I think that the way the relationship develops between Kratos and Atreus is certainly the best part of the game. Whether you are a parent or not, the themes that reverberate throughout the entire game are strong, relatable ones. Most people can identify with that transition from the sheltered youth, to a peer of sorts with their parents, and to see Atreus go through that was a really impactful moment, like you stated.
Phew, that about wraps it up I guess, eh Ninja?
*Suddenly, a kunai with a letter attached strikes the table we’re sitting at. It says ‘MON’ on it.*
Oh, what do you know, I got some new Intel. *Unwraps the note and reads it before his eyebrows shoot straight up.* There’s a novelization of the game, written by the director’s father. And there’s an audiobook voiced by Mimir himself!
Hyper, it’s like they went into my brain and made my fantasy a reality.
*Drains coffee cup and slams it on the table.* You know what this means Ninja? *Stands up dramatically* We’re getting this book and starting a book club.
*Also stands.* Alright then. Let’s do this.
*Points dramatically to nowhere in particular.* TO THE INTERNET!
Engineer by day, adult-responsibility juggler and caffeinated gamer dad by night, the Hyperactive Coffee Mage is a coffee-fueled writing machine and expert gaming historian. Check out his cool beans at gameswithcoffee.com.
The Mail-Order Ninja Mage loves video games across every console: an assassin of fanboy nonsense. He also really loves martial arts and pizza, though that is of no consequence here. To read more of his random word soup, or to view daily(ish) photo mode screenshots from his favorite games, visit him at Home Button.
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