I’ve been playing God of War (2018) for exactly 20 hours, 30 minutes a day and man is it boring.

It’s QTE after QTE, without any real investment in the outcome, except if you fail to press the button fast enough, sometimes you die.

I am honestly wondering why this game is so lauded. I don’t get it. The disconnect between the story and the gameplay is full of cognitive dissonance – teaching Kratos’s son that killing is wrong while ripping enemies in two is not really convincing me that Kratos is doing a good job. Having Atreus swinging wildly from “let’s help everyone” to “let’s kill everyone on a whim” isn’t really doing it either. In fact, what it is doing is making me feel gaslit by the game. Here Kratos is, ripping a draugr apart one minute and then berating his kid the next moment, acting as if he never stomped on the head of anyone, which in fact he did not three minutes ago.

There is a gap between the mechanics and the story, as in so many other games, because the mechanics are only capable of conflict. In fact, as far as I can tell, being violent and killing stuff is the main selling point for God of War, since this is the only aspect where I am allowed to make choices for myself.

Narrative games like God of War and The Order 1886 are tricky in more than one sense. Having a story where the player has no real input is a challenge, because it requires the designers to know exactly which audience they’re looking to address with the game. Kratos doesn’t allow me to be anything except the lump of toxic masculinity that he is. Galahad on the other hand is as far away from toxic as you can get, but it still won’t give me an active choice. It probably helps my opinion of The Order 1886 that it isn’t quite as overwhelmingly male as God of War. So far there are eight named men in the game and two women, one of which is dead. In God of War that is. The women in The Order 1886 are alive at least, and in positions of power.

It is also depressing that the only enemy that is a woman is a witch, the revenants, so malignant that they are completely permeable. They laugh and poison.

Someone asked me why I played the game, knowing I’d dislike it, and also why I expected something different from a narrative game. I honestly don’t think either The Order 1886 or God of War are very good as games, or rather that they lack the element of autonomy. They could just as well have been movies or TV-series. Games that are narrative heavy often have these issues. The need to tell the designer’s story rather than the story of the player.

The issue is of course that for something like a game to be interactive you actually need to have some control over it as a player. God of War does not allow that kind of story.