God of War (2018): How to reinvent a beloved series without ruining what works

Enlarge / "It really has been a meaningful journey full of mutual understanding, hasn't it son?" / "Dad, let go, I want to go play with my friends!"

Hey, remember Kratos? You know, Kratos... the bloodthirsty Greek god in the God of War series who slaughtered thousands upon thousands of victims, both mortal and immortal, with an icy cold heart largely devoid of mercy?

Well... get this. What if Kratos had a kid sidekick? And what if that kid was a sickly, sensitive weakling? Wouldn't that just be crazy?

This concept drives the new God of War reboot for the PS4, and at the start it plays out a lot like the cringe-worthy, sitcom-level twist you'd expect from such a pitch. Kratos is now bearded, slightly more aged, and relocated to the cold and unfamiliar climes of Scandinavia. He's paying his final respects to a wife we don't get to see. Left behind with Kratos is a son, the small and frail Atreus, who is over-eager to accompany his dad on a quest to spread his mom's ashes from "the highest peak in all the realms." (That's a welcome respite from the usual "save/destroy the world" impetus driving most action games, at least.)

After a slow and somewhat annoying start, though, Atreus proves to be just the shot in the arm this series needed for a new generation of consoles and players. The addition of a child to play off adds much-needed depth and development to the remorseless revenge machine featured in previous God of War games.

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