I have been lurking here for a bit, but wanted to create an account to say how great this piece was. I really enjoyed my time with God of War as a game, but the writing post-play has really helped with some of the odd feelings I had regarding Freya’s character. I have nothing much else to add but thanks Dia for this amazing piece!
Thrud, daughter of Thor, goddess of power, could have been a very good character in this game but the devs clearly had no interest in using her since as far as I can tell she’s not even mentioned once even tho we meet his sons.
I’m definitely coming back to this after playing the game myself, it looks really interesting, but my spoiler-sensitive self has to hold off for now. I read enough to know that I’m definitely am going to seek out more of Dia’s work in the meantime, though.
One quick off-topic production note: there’s no “God of War” tag on the article, is there possible to do something about that? Being able to just click the tag for a game and find everything Waypoint has written (or said) about it is such an invaluable tool, especially given how the algorithmical vagaries of search engines can make less-linked articles fall through the cracks.
I see the usual crowd is funneling in for the usual reasons.
Anyways, great piece, yada yada. The most interesting thing to me about this game is that the writers clearly seem to be trying to subvert and examine a lot of GoW’s old toxic masculinity, but it doesn’t go far enough and so we’re left with an entire part of the equation missing. Like, I get the idea with the two mother characters and I see some of what their endgame is aiming to be, but they don’t challenge Kratos’ character enough. He accepts he’s a monster now, but he isn’t trying to change, and that’s probably going to be core to the later tragedy. However, it doesn’t work on its own here because he’s still the only real influence in his son’s life now, and that’s kind of terrifying if the best advice he can give is “don’t be me.”
The game doesn’t cement its stance strong enough, and I think ambiguity was the wrong way to take this subject matter.
And the only mention of Sif is Brok talking about how great her boobs are.
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Here’s the thing: there are parts of the thesis here that I disagree with. But I’ll be goddamned if that matters even one bit, because holy crap is this a beautiful, powerful piece of writing. As far as I’m concerned, the thesis could be “Atreus represents the peaceful Moon Martians who have been steering our society for the last 50 years” and this would still be a masterpiece.
The reactions to this article simultaneously make me sad that I haven’t played the game yet (so that I can read it for myself) and make me think maybe I should just spoil the game for myself so I can read this an enjoy it. But I also think it might be more impactful if I actually play the game. Hopefully I’ll get to do that soon!
I love how supportive the Waypoint community is. I really look forward to coming back to this article once I’ve played the game.
This piece is fantastic and touching. However, I might challenge the assertion that the game views or portrays Freya as a “monster”. The only characters who ever imply such are Baldur and Atreus. Atreus is an unstable child and Baldur is a manic immortal with a very skewed perspective. I might argue that the game is quite sympathetic to Freya, considering that Kratos admits he might have done the same thing in Freya’s place.
Anyway, thank you very much for bringing a new and dynamic perspective to a game that I like.
The problem here is that the game doesn’t really think Kratos is right either. A lot of the game is about examining what a dickbag he is, and even he admits it himself - and doesn’t really change. So what even is the intent? Is anyone in this narrative right? The intent then seems to be that everyone is a mess trying to do the right thing and failing, but the game doesn’t really run with this angle enough to make it work, especially with all the other norse gods being monsters without some sort of pandora’s box pulled from the butt plot twist to explain it.
It’s like they raise a bunch of interesting idea, but don’t commit to them.
This is a beautiful piece.
The narrative definitely has problems, and it is extremely hard to find a satisfactory takeaway from the game. I might chalk that up to the creators admitting that the game will have direct sequels, so maybe we are looking at an incomplete story. That being said, I think Freya might be the most sympathetic character in the game and I have a very hard time seeing her as a monster of any sort. Maybe I’m just biased since Freya looks a lot like my mom or something.
That swing right at the end bothered me the most. Freya’s given no agency. She wants to sacrifice herself so her son lives. Rather than let her make that choice, Kratos decides to finish him off. Moments later he’s telling Atreus that he’d have made the same choice Freya did. The mental whiplash that caused makes me wonder if they can do anything for the setup of the next game that will make me want to play it… and I loved the gameplay in this new God of War.
I didn’t play this game, I didn’t buy this game, I basically hated it the second I saw it and have actively avoided it as much as possible until I found obviously critical feedback for it and not just praise. My only regret is, that this piece would’ve definitely hit me harder if I had played the game. That being said, this is probably the best piece of writing Waypoint has published so far, for me at least.
I think Mimir is the only character the game expects you to accept as “right.” (This just now occurred to me, but he’s basically early-books Hermione.) If I’m not mistaken, his reaction to Freya is basically “everything she’s done is justifiable, but she’ll come around to our side eventually.” Which, yeah. Not exactly a hard commit to any particular perspective.
I always find myself erring on the side of things that says, as much of a nerve or as meaningful an impact any given piece of fiction/media has on a person, often the amazing revelation or stark pain that arises from it is very, very personal. Something that can speak too how a given piece of media resonates with a single individual’s unique story, often profoundly.
My gut makes me want to categorize this piece in that context. The critique of the game is legit, the story is heart wrenching and warming at the same time, very real very personal. I just am not sure I’m ready/willing to say “Because one person had a very real and major reaction like this, the intent of the authors were to cause such a reaction”.
Not that I see any reason to defend GoW, its pretty much as far from inclusive as gaming gets. I am just not sure the message “Mom’s come last” is one the developers intended too give, nor one that if someone played the game and didn’t come away thinking it, they would be wrong not to have seen.
Its there, very clearly it is. I just hedge on the side of it being one way to interpret the game, instead of the absolute truth about it.
I’d love to hear this article read out then discussed on Waypoint Radio like they’ve been doing with game reviews.
Just because the developers didn’t intend this read doesn’t make the read less valid and in the cases where there’s glaring problems with how a particular marginalized group is presented, one that’s systemically mishandled in this way, it’s fairly common. It’s also okay if people didn’t come away with this but people often miss things that aren’t germane to their experiences and are blind to? But this sounds like being scared of having the “wrong” opinion, which shouldn’t preclude someone writing about it or talking about it. This is the fundamentals of criticism. It sounds like you’re trying to stick up for the developers.
this piece is absolutely amazing! thank you so much for writing it, Dia.
this is exactly the kind of work that highlights how homogeneous the pallete of creative voices in mainstream game development is, and how much benefit there would be in having people with diverse perspectives and personal histories on projects like this.