It's interesting to note that, as the average age of gamers creeps up, there are more games being made which are specifically about parenthood. Pretty much, I think that's why I connected so unexpectedly with The Last of Us. Indeed, when The Last of Us was released in 2013 I'd been hit hard with Empty Nest Syndrome. I related to Joel losing his daughter, and wanting to protect Ellie. I related to how that can often feel like a thankless, desperate, task.
They slip through your fingers, and have to go their own way, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
My kids were all adults, suddenly, and I felt as if my purpose - my entire reason for existing - had been taken away from me. It's probably no coincidence that I started this site the following year; I needed to rediscover who I was away from being a parent. Heck, the first couple of years of this site were full of self-reflective blog posts, which were essentially a case of me working some of that out.
I always figured I'd love it when my kids grew up, and I got some of my freedom back, but really... it was rubbish, and the transition from being a dad of children to being a dad of adults was harder than I'd expected. I'm over it now, mostly, but - just between us - I'm counting the days down until I'm a grandfather.
Anyway. What does any of this have to do with this new God of War reboot? Well, it's all about being a dad, see. Also: a god with a bad case of regret and guilt and stuff.
So, all about being a dad then...
This new God of War is not a great deal like the old God of War. Pretty much everything I loved about God of War has been removed, or changed beyond recognition. For starters, if you're a big fan of Greek mythology, you'll be disappointed to hear that this time you'll be dealing with the Norse gods. It's a superficial change, but setting the game in Midgard - here on Earth, effectively - informs the approach overall.
The pace of the combat - which previously had been fluid and over-the-top - has been given greater weight. Everything feels heavy; your movement, your weapon - even the story is portentous and none-more-solemn.
Whereas previously you were equipped with a pair of ridiculous blades-on-chains, now you're given a massive axe. Yes, you can throw it and recall it Thor-style - and you can upgrade it for some beautifully devastating magical effects - but the combat feels, at a fundamental level, more realistic.
You're also equipped with a shield, and when weapon and defence are used together, there's a rhythm to the battles which is much more considered and strategic than the series has been known for. It's more focused on timing than the previous games' cartoonish violence.
Those moments where the camera pulls back, depicting Kratos as a tiny figure in an enormous landscape, dwarfed by monsters the size of tower blocks? Well, now the camera pretty much stays at shoulder level throughout. Yes, the locations are still epic in scope, some of the monsters are still massive, but how that is shown is - like the combat - quite literally grounded.
The other big changes are more obvious. After an initial, linear opening - that lasts a good few hours - the game suddenly opens up. It's the first open-world God of War, and initially it's bewildering. If you're used to the series funnelling you through the adventure, be prepared for a shock.
Secondly, gone is the series' over-the-top tale of revenge. Gone are the dubious sexxus mini games. In their place is a quieter, more thoughtful story about a grieving husband, and his relationship with his son.
Indeed, Kratos's relationship with his boy ("BOY!!"), Atreus, is more than just a narrative device; you can also issue orders to him during combat (he's armed with a bow, and his abilities can also be upgraded). Plus he helps in the solving of puzzles and accessing different areas... Indeed, it's all a bit The Last Of Us-y, but with slightly less likeable and relatable characters.
So, here's the thing. This new God of War is a really good game. It plays like a more forgiving Dark Souls, it boasts some beautiful production design, a ton of content, and it's almost flawless in what it sets out to do.
The upgrade system is a confusing faff. The open world - and some of the puzzles within it - often left me feeling like I'd missed something. And really... I have to be honest and say that I missed the old style.
The thing I loved about God of War is that it was an arcade game. This wants to be something different. Everything about it screams that it wants to be taken seriously. It wants to be epic, but grown-up. It wants to be realistic and grounded - as grounded as a game about a god fighting massive monsters can be anyway.
In striving for depth I actually found it quite off-putting; the chilly relationship between Kratos and Atreus never really got beneath my skin, and some of the battles were just a chore. By swapping out over-the-top fluidity for slower and more considered combat, boss fights and mowing through wave after wave of enemies can become a grind. There are even moments where the game takes control away from you for a cinematic cut-scene mid-ruck, which just underscores that you're not really in control.
It all works, and you'll get your money's worth... it just isn't really the same series that I used to love. For me, God of War was always a silly romp. Now they seem to be trying too hard to be taken seriously, and I'm irritated by the way in which people seem to be bending over themselves to applaud this. Introspective characters does not necessarily equate to good characters. Too often it makes them remote and dull.
"Oooh, yes. Aren't video games all sophisticated and that these days?! Aren't WE all mature now?"
Oh, grow up.
SCORE: 6,712 particles of enjoyment out of 10,000