I wasn’t originally intending on playing God of War. I’d barely paid any attention to it. But as reviews came in, and critics who I liked said it was a different kind of God of War game, ie, not the Ozzfest dude-bro of the past, I decided to give it a shot.
I did not like this game. And actually, it quickly reminded me that this style of character-driven adventure game–the Uncharted, Last of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, Tomb Raider, even Witcher (someday I will unpack what about the Witcher I don’t like, because it very much should be in my wheelhouse, but for some reason I really didn’t enjoy it at all)–style, is very much not my thing (okay I’ve enjoyed Uncharted, but that’s it, and even then by the fourth one I was pretty over it). God of War is set in a fascinating, amazing world, and all I wanted to do while playing this game was explore it and live in it as anyone other than Kratos. Kratos is now at least more than one-dimension, as he’s got a kid and doesn’t always kill everything he sees. He’s still a tool though. The actual story here fell flat for me anyway, as it’s almost a satire on video games storytelling. You’re nearing the end! jk you actually have to go do this other thing. OKAY NOW YOU’RE AT THE END. jk go do this instead. Over and over and over. It’s too bad, because I love Norse mythology.
The characters have these emotional arcs that are massive–if this was a TV show it’d be two seasons long–but it happens in the span of one or two quests. One day your kid is a dummy, then he’s a toolbag like you, then he eventually grows up a little. It’s silly, and it’s something we’ve seen time and again in other mediums, if not games. Kratos trades in the violent bachelor persona for an aloof dad, but that’s nearly as unlikable. I don’t really think this is the new “adult stories” people keep talking about, which I assume is just because he has a kid and Kratos is just 70% dingus instead of a full 100%. But whatever, people seem to enjoy it, so it’s clearly not for me.
But really I’m wondering why I don’t like these types of games. They seem up my alley, like they’re made for me, the story-lover, right? When it comes to big AAA action/adventure/RPGs, I gravitate to complex systems, character-choices, or environmental exploration. I don’t go to watch cut scenes. I like to escape into a world that bends to my will, not play through a series of linear scenarios. There are exceptions, of course, and I’m not always internally consistent. I enjoyed Bayonetta quite a bit. Nier too. Breath of the Wild was one of my favorite games of the decade. Those are arguably more action-driven, or with Nier especially, they’re just really weird. In the case of Zelda, it’s almost a systems-based adventure game, where physics are as important as discovery. I absolutely zoned out during the majority of Bayonetta’s cut scenes, but the game’s still enjoyable without them. I can ignore all of this sometimes too, with titles like Doom (though arguably there is so little focus on narrative in Doom that it falls more in the arcade-action-y world).
God of War really wants you to pay more attention to it, and I just couldn’t do it. I should really stop buying these games because I clearly don’t like them.