Initial Thoughts on “Dad of Boy 2: Dad and Teen” (AKA God of War: Ragnarok)

Spoilers for the first two or three (depending on how quickly you play, I suppose) hours of God of War: Ragnarok. There’s nothing in the paragraph below this one, but most of the post dicusses the events of the intro to the game and what happens immediately afterwards. Honestly, if you’ve seen through the opening credits of the game, then you’re probably good to keep reading. If you don’t care about spoilers, then carry on regardless. There’s enough information in the post below that you won’t need to have played the game to get it.

Yesterday, God of War: Ragnarok came out. I spent most of the day avoiding bright lights and discovering that it’s possible to cut your finger open on one of those rolls of double-sided tape you use when putting plastic over your windows if you run the tape out fast enough. I did get enough time to go pick up my copy of the game and play a couple hours of it. Mostly, you know, by staying up way too late since the game took over an hour to install. You see, I popped the disc in for updates and then went to troubleshoot my Cyberpunk 2077 files since the latest update left the game unlaunchable for me. It did not occur to me that part of the process might involve the internet. At least, that’s the only reason I can think it would have taken so long since it shouldn’t take my relatively recent PS4 over an hour to install 40ish GB of data. Regardless, I didn’t start playing until about 10 and stayed up until 1230 to play it. Which isn’t THAT late, but it’s still pretty late considering how rubbish I’ve been at going to bed on time this week.

Anyway. Dad of Boy 2 starts off well, with easy access to a bunch of important accessibility settings (and the option to skip them if you don’t feel like you need them), the option to be reminded of what happened in the last game, and then an introduction to the on-going tension that rules the lives of Dad (Kratos) and Boy (Atreus) through a relatively simple sled-riding sequence where you’re being attacked by a character from the first game. After that, the stage is quickly set, the stakes of the present as firmly established, and the current relationship tension is displayed as the game shows you that you’re actually playing Dad and Teen this time. Still, even as I poke fun at the sort of stereotypical drama of a parent and child coming into conflict as the child attempts to become their own person and more fully (and accurately) question the wisdom of their parent, it is handled incredibly well.

Thanks to the talking head, Mimir, the often-labeled “Smartest Man Alive,” we quickly see that the stern, tough display that Kratos wears like armor is one he is attempting to escape as he tries to do better by Atreus than was done by him. The game does an excellent job in the first two hours of play of showing the deep wounds Kratos bears not through full exposure or exposition but by showing us shadows. Even if you didn’t play any of the games earlier in the franchise and know nothing about our gruff Dad of Teen, you can see the anger he struggles to control and how he works to set aside his first response to what is happening in order to provide Teen of Dad with what he needs as Kratos works to help him become his own person.

The prequel to this game (just titled “God of War”), is notable for the way that it shows a giant beefy man struggling to deal with his emotions and to cross the divide between himself and his son, a divide he helped create because he is worried about his son learning the truth of his past and deepened by the loss of the one thing that bridged the gap before: Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother, Faye. This game takes the next logical step, following the events of the last game where the two bonded and managed to mostly close the gap between them. Kratos is now learning to give up the control he’d exercised before when his child needed discipline and order to survive and to live alongside someone becoming their own person who no longer needs as much help but now needs room and space to grow on his own. Kratos proves quickly that he’s willing to provide the support Atreus needs even if he feels betrayed by Atreus who has, admittedly, been lying to him (Maybe only by omission? But I was super tired and might have missed a moment where Atreus admitted to an explicit lie) about something that wound up endangering them both.

All of this plays out in the first two hours of the game. Most of it before the opening credits even play. There’s a lot of room for the things I’ve said above to develop in positive or negative ways and I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game, so I’m excited to get back to playing more of it. Not just because the combat is super fun (love to use trees like baseball bats in crowded, difficult fights) or because it’s exciting to return to a world I enjoyed so much in the previous game, but because I’m interested to see how the family relationships play out. Because that’s what this game is about. The reason people joke about the first game being “Dad of Boy” is because their relationship and the way they interact with each other is the central tension of the game. There’s plenty of enemies to battle, challenges to overcome, and stories to experience, but the first game started and ended with the relationship between the two of them as the central focus and all the major beats of it involved their relationship. So far, this one seems to be doing something similar and I am ready to see how it plays out.

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