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God of War has an imperfect weapon that’s a perfect metaphor

God of War - Kratos and Atreus meet Jormungandr, the World Serpent

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Recently, behind the scenes at Polygon, a bunch of us were discussing God of War, in a usual newsroom brainstorming of ideas sort of way. It was all fun and video games (and quite spoilery) until someone mentioned one of the game’s weapons.

Suddenly, we all had a strong opinion on the subject — most of them negative, or at least disappointed. “Sucks.” “Feels cheap.” “Less tactile.” “Easy. Temptingly easy.”

But all that negativity might be the point. It might, in fact, go hand in hand with the rest of God of War’s masterful storytelling.

[Warning: The rest of this post contains pretty big spoilers for God of War.]

God of War - Kratos and Atreus meet Jormungandr, the World Serpent

Image: Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

OK, we’re past the spoiler warning: We weren’t talking about Leviathan Axe, which we all agreed is a totally fun and engaging weapon, mechanically.

We were talking about the Blades of Chaos, the traditional weapons of the God of War series, which Kratos hid in his basement — only to reluctantly retrieve them part way through 2018’s God of War, in a time of dire need. To a man steadfastly determined to put his bloody past behind him, they’re a reminder of a time when he was reduced to merely the weapon of a god, and of times when he allowed his power and rage to claim undeserving lives without pause.

But in God of War, compared to the Leviathan Axe, the Blades of Chaos felt like a letdown. So I asked my coworkers to elaborate.

“I think the Blades of Chaos feel like a fun alternative to the Leviathan Axe,” Chelsea Stark told me, “but I often found myself switching back to the ax if the situation didn’t require a specific weapon. While the blades [are the] better option for crowd control, I felt like I had more precision for challenging enemies when using the ax.”

“First, they were great to use,” Ross Miller recalled. “I didn’t realize just how many specific attack motions would trigger some feeling of nostalgia. And then 15 minutes passed, and so did the fondness of that nostalgia. There’s something about how the game doesn’t give you the same register when the blades hit — it’s smooth, the feedback minimal. With the ax, I know I’m hitting something. I can ‘feel’ it.”

But maybe that’s the point

Kratos’ past still looms large in his mind, but God of War tells a story about how those memories have soured, and he returns to the Blades of Chaos only when his new future is threatened. The more I thought about our problems with the Blades of Chaos’ sudden appearance in God of War, the more I liked it.

The Blades of Chaos should sit on your back as a nagging presence reminding you of a less complicated time — or game. They should spark a feeling of nostalgia. They should represent a way to end a fight that seems faster and more destructive, but isn’t necessarily. A weapon that hurts more people in a single swing. A weapon that literally allows you to maintain a greater distance between yourself and the results of your actions, and, more than that, makes the player feel like they’re at a remove from their enemies.

That’s what the Blades of Chaos represent for Kratos, so why shouldn’t they represent that for the player as well?

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