God of War Review
Outside of Telltale titles were the story is king and gameplay is secondary, there are few games available today that blend both well, at the same time. God of War has done this, has blown my mind, and is definitely an early candidate for Game of the Year. With characters you will care about, a story that is interesting throughout, and a combat system – although it takes time to master – that is a lot of fun, there is little bad to say about this years best video game experience.
Free of Spoilers: The Story
In previous God of War games, players have witnessed Kratos take on a host of mighty Greek gods. In a story of needs, betrayals, and revenge, the focus was on Greek mythology, and on little else. Kratos – a demigod himself – has powers like the gods, most notably supreme strength. His wrath and anger drive him, for good or for bad.
God of War on PS4 is a reboot for the franchise, but doesn’t ignore the past. That being said, coming in blind won’t necessarily ruin the experience for you, although you might have questions about Kratos’ character, how he interacts with those around him, and why. Numerous videos can provide you context, which I would strongly encourage. The focus this time around is not actually on Greek mythology, but rather, Norse mythology, which gives the game a different flavour than past experiences in the franchise. As Norse mythology is equally as entertaining as Greek mythology, I don’t think fans of the franchise will mind the change in narrative and aesthetic direction. That isn’t to say the Greek influences are completely removed, but we won’t talk about that too much here to avoid extreme spoilers.
You’ll explore the world alongside your son, Atreus, and his presence doesn’t hinder the experience, but rather enhances it. While I initially thought the developers would have a hard time working Atreus into the gameplay in a meaningful way, I was thankfully mistaken as the game proves time and time again that having him around enhances – rather than detracts – from the overall experience.
Father and Son: Learning from Each Other
Both Kratos and his son Atreus have unique perspectives on the world around them. Kratos’, based on previous experiences, is closed off to people around him. He doesn’t trust anyone, and refuses to be sidetracked by the wants and needs of others, unless there is something in it for him. Kratos is hard, and the early game interactions between him and his son were borderline uncomfortable to play through. The growth of Kratos as a character as you play through God of War, however, is phenomenal, and a driving force behind hours and hours of game play sessions.
Atreus, on the other hand, is inquisitive and naïve, and drives his father insane more often than not. Early on, Atreus is timid and obedient, but as their journey unfolds, his demeanour changes, as does Kratos’. This, amongst other things, is a driving force that will keep you pushing forward. Like Kratos, Atreus has defining moments of his own, and although he isn’t technically fully playable, you’ll care about his journey into manhood, as much as you are invested in the journey of Kratos. In God of War, you cannot have one without the other, and it is the combination of the two that makes this the best story and characters I’ve seen from a video game in a long, long time.
God of War has a fantastic balance of combat sequences, environments puzzles, and epic boss fights. None of these ever overstay their welcome, and are balanced and varied enough to feel fresh throughout our 30 hour experience.
Basing your impressions of the combat on the first few hours of the game would be a big mistake. The earliest combat sequences are ultimately the most frustrating, but as you upgrade the weapons of both Kratos and Atreus, as well as the abilities that Kratos can use in battle, things get much better, and the lack of a ‘lock on’ feature quickly becomes an unnecessary feature.
Using Atreus in battle will go a long way in enjoying your combat experience. A timely shot from Atreus on both regular enemies and bosses could stop them dead in their tracks, allowing Kratos to move in for a powerful blow. Being able to upgrade both Kratos and Atreus (armour and weapons) is a great feature, and brings in some ‘lite’ RPG elements into the mix. Not too much to complicate the game and draw away from the story and journey, but enough to allow players to tailor their combat approach: strength, speed, or heath? Your call.
Everyone will play as Kratos, but how your Kratos plays will be completely up to you! It’s a great way to invest in an establish character, without changing too much of what that character is all about.
On top of this customization, there is a small but important skill tree that can lend new abilities to both Kratos and Atreus. Focusing on these skill improvements will be paramount to moving through the game, and slowly but effectively add new combat mechanics. When taking down larger bosses as you progress deeper into the game, you’ll appreciate the new skills even more.
If you’ve played previous games in the series, or are familiar with Uncharted titles, you’ll have a great understanding of how Sony might implement environmental puzzles. Using the characters weapons to trigger switches, solving a variety of puzzles to open chests, and more make each and every turn in God of War and fantastic one. Further to this, after 18 hours of playing, I’m still not tired of figuring out and solving these numerous environments challengers.
Aesthetics – Best Looking PS4 Game Ever?
Although the majority of my play through exepriencew as on the PS4, I did take the game for a spin over the weekend on the PS4 Pro, and can safely say there is no better looking game on the console as of right now. Santa Monica Studios wasted no resources in creating the most visually appealing God of War game ever, and their dedication to doing that is incredibly evident.
The environments are beautifully detailed, and created in such a way that as Kratos, you will know which path you are suppose to travel down. In other linear experiences, I’m often baffled by areas I feel I should be able to reach, but cannot for some reason. God of War teaches you early on what cues in the world you should look for, in order to move fluidly through the world. Throughout the main hub world of Midgard, and the numerous realms you will unlock and explore, everything is given that extra level of detail that really immerses players in the story. It’s the little things that put video games over the top – moving a title from a 9.5 to a 10 for instance -and in this experience, they can be found around every corner.
A lot has changed in God of War, that is true. The camera will move in ways you are unfamiliar with (if a long time fan of the franchise), and the lack of a jump button is sure to throw off fans of any grand expansive action adventure experience. But somehow, despite these perceived setbacks, Sony Santa Monica manages to create and experience unlike anything else I have played. From the combat that rewards players who put time into the skill tree to the ability to upgrade your weapons and armour, the new take on God of War combat works really well, even if it takes a few hours to fully appreciate.
We received PS4 code from the publisher for purposes of review.