One of the best games of the current generation has arrived in God of War. Does the much anticipated release live up to the hype of a beloved franchise taking up a new direction?
Yes. It does.
With the newly released game, the team at Santa Monica Studio struck out on a new path to give players a new experience. Where rage and violence fuels Kratos’ previous adventures, here we see a journey based on familial bonds. The result is a brutal, heartwarming and at time heart wrenching story. No one should miss this game.
Premise and plot
One of the biggest draws for the original God of War series was its unique setting. Players took up the mantle of Kratos, an angry Spartan warrior who was betrayed by Ares, the god of war from the Greek pantheon. the first three games are bound by Kratos’ rage and desire for revenge against the gods of the pantheon.
In 2018’s God of War, Kratos has relocated to the Norse realm. His wife has passed away. Kratos and his son, Atreus, are about to embark on a long journey to scatter her ashes from the highest point in all of the realms.
This is an immediate departure from the bloodlust which drives the previous games. We get an immediate look at Kratos as a father and Atreus as a son. The intimacy of the story is a true breath of fresh air in the world of God of War.
The plot progresses at a steady pace. There was not a single moment where I found myself wishing for the plot to progress faster or slower. The pace was perfect, aside from one or two singular fights towards the end of the game.
It is hard to discuss the merits of God of War’s plot without spoiling specific story beats. Instead, I will say that having an understanding of Norse Mythology enhanced my enjoyment of the game but was in no way necessary. It is incredible to see characters come to life in this stylized version of the myth, even if many liberties are taken to facilitate Kratos’ story.
The story is heartfelt and stirring. In saying something I never thought I would say, I cannot wait to see where the God of War story goes from here.
Gameplay fit for a god
The gameplay gave a lot of people pause when they saw the changes in store for the fourth main installment of the God of War franchise.
Instead of a top down arcade-y hack and slash, players are presented with a more deliberate over the shoulder view of combat. In addition, Kratos’ signature weapons, the Blades of Chaos, are gone. They are replaced with the Leviathan Axe. The axe is Mjolnir’s (Thor’s hammer -ed) sister weapon. Imbued with frost magic, the blade returns to Kratos’ hand after a throw. The axe can freeze enemies and Kratos is able to perform hand to hand combat if the axe is unavailable.
The axe feels incredible during throws and recalls. Combat feels weighty and consequential.
One big addition that left many players wary was the inclusion of a child character who fights with Kratos. Atreus uses his bow to attack, stun and distract enemies, making it easier for Kratos to finish the job.
Atreus follows in steps similar to other popular children characters in recent years. Like Ellie in The Last of Us, Atreus only ever contributes positively to combat. There was never a moment where Atreus’ involvement annoyed or upset me.
Exploration, world navigation and every other type of traversal feels incredible. Whether players are boating on the Lake of the Nine or running through an optional dungeon, every action feels satisfying.
In terms of optional content, there is an absolute ton. Players get access to labors, fetch quests, favors for spirits, dwarfs and more. These optional quests never feel forced and are always worthwhile. When I was playing, I needed to remind myself to continue the main questline because the side content was so compelling.
There is one fault I have with the gameplay in God of War however.
Reavers are a witchlike enemy. They dodge every Kratos attack unless Atreus stuns them first. These enemies are extremely annoying to deal with and do not feel like they are adding anything worthwhile to the game. Whereas other enemies are tough and fair, Reavers just feel tough with no fairness evident. Players also fight lots of trolls for bosses, which all have similar movesets. This isn’t bad, but it would have been nice to see some more variation.
The presentation in God of War sets a new bar for all other games.
The game is gorgeous. Character models are stellar, the environment is stellar and the sound design is stellar. Everything is incredible on this front.
One of the coolest pieces of the design comes from the sound department. When on the boat, Kratos and Atreus will chat. These conversations often lead to Kratos telling stories to Atreus. The cool part here comes when players get on and off the boat. Kratos and Atereus seemlessly pick conversations back up after a break. I have never seen this done before, but it serves to pull the player in to God of War’s new world in a stunningly deep way.
The music and tone of God of War is also incredible. This is one of the most immersive games I have played in a long time.
God of War is a masterpiece. It is hard to imagine how the team at Santa Monica Studio will follow this up.
Everything from character interactions to the writing to the environments and world are extremely compelling. While playing through this game, I didn’t do much in my spare time aside from playing through it.
If you are someone who has even a passing interest in God of War, you are doing yourself a disservice by not playing this. It is easily accessible to newcomers and series veterans alike.
God of War
Release Date: April 20, 2018
Platform: Playstation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio