God of War (PS4), released earlier this year, is creeping back into conversations amongst gamers; As part of the annual tradition of arguing about which game each individual thinks is the Game of The Year (GOTY). We all enjoy a bit of (mostly) friendly discussion based on our experiences of the games we’ve managed to play over the course of the year. God of War is certainly considered, widely, as one of the best in 2018. It’s there on merit with it’s excellent visuals and game mechanics allied to a story many people really connected with. Just last night it won 3 Awards at The Game Awards 2018, Game of The Year, Best Action/Adventure Game & Best Game Direction. I’m confident more awards will come its way as well.
When we start up the game, we find ourselves on a journey; a journey of Father & Son coming to terms with the loss of their Wife/Mother whilst trying to fulfill her final wish. On this journey Kratos struggles to learn how to be the Father that his son now needs. Kratos who, in the past, has been a textbook example “toxic masculinity” can no longer hide behind his rage and bury his empathy and emotions under it. He has to be better than that, for his son; Atreus. Atreus too has to learn to cope without the warmth & reassurance of his Mother’s love and gentle guidance. Instead all he has now is his Father who is distant, gruff, difficult to please and even more difficult to read. The journey, then, is a complex one, with emotional depth and fascinating characters and settings at its heart.
Generally speaking, in the past, the stories in Video Games haven’t had that depth to them. The depth that would allow for them to stand on their own without the gameplay; especially in the big budget AAA games sphere of which God of War belongs. Things have been improving over the last 10 years and God of War is a product of that improvement; A story that can stand on its own, separated from the hack & slash action and gorgeous visuals. Despite gameplay & graphic fidelity being king in many respects, so important they are to success for a AAA title, God of War manages to be as captivating without those things as it is with them. Which is why, in this article, I’m recommending you get the audiobook and not the game.
I played the game many months ago when it came out, I enjoyed it immensely and while I didn’t hunt through every nook & cranny of the world I spent a significant amount of time there before finishing the story. Only recently, however, have I listened to the Audiobook through to completion but I’m so glad I did. It’s been long enough now that while I remembered the story well from when I played, hearing it was still refreshing. I enjoyed it so much that even if you’ve finished the game or, if for any reason you did not play or finish the game – i.e. if you only have an Xbox One or didn’t like the game mechanics – you should still listen to the Audiobook.
Novelisations of games have been around for a long time but it’s not something I’ve ever really bothered with – why read what is, in essence, someone else’s playthrough of a game I’ve already enjoyed in my own way? I know that is quite a broad and sweeping dismissal of it, that’s just my honest rationale for my attitude to them. More often than not, that’ll be the case for me personally; I’m not into Let’s Plays on YouTube or Twitch for the same reason. I’d rather enjoy it myself. None of that mattered to me with this. The journey of the God of War and his son really felt like it was about them. Hearing how that story plays out without me getting them lost, delaying them for loot or getting their butts kicked by a particularly troublesome enemy encounter appealed to me greatly. The authors J. M. & Cory Barlog have done a fantastic job of weaving together the story in a way that is visceral, engaging and intense. It’s descriptive, conveys the emotion and tension of various scenes expertly and gets the heart going when our protagonist Father/Son team finds themselves in danger.
The excellent writing is complemented by having an excellent narrator who enhances the entire experience Who narrates the Audiobook? Is it Stephen Fry? Or David Attenborough? No; there was only ever one man for the job, Alastair Duncan – The voice of Mimir. Mimir is a character that appears in the story and the game; without giving too much away he joins Kratos & Atreus on their journey and spends much of it telling stories and passing on helpful bits of information. It’s a fantastic device used in the game to deliver background lore and other useful information to the player, in a way that feels natural; rather than burying it within game menus. Alastair Duncan provides Mimir with a soft Scottish accent – smooth and gentle – that is perfect for a storyteller. As narrator of the Audiobook he has space to shine and he shows the breadth of his voice acting talent in bringing each scene and character to life.
If you ask me, more games need a Mimir type character/plot device and Alastair Duncan type Voice Actors in them who can then go on to narrate the audiobook. As a fellow Scotsman with a voice that many people, not just my mother (honest), find appealing – my DMs are open if anyone wants to hire me: @adamthomas1994 on Twitter & in the OOLs Discord Server.
The God of War Audiobook by J. M. Barlog, Cory Barlog & narrated by Alastair Duncan is available at www.Audible.com