If there is anything that can be beyond phenomenal, it has to be God of War on the PlayStation 4. God of War is so astounding, so fresh, and so captivating that a game of this magnitude will easily hold up as one of the greatest games of all time. From the beginning till the end, the developers at Santa Monica Studios have made sure they put every drop of sweat to good use in God of War without filler or unnecessary mechanics, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly powerful experience you’ll partake in. God of War is a giant among the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Uncharted 4; and it’s undeniable that those games’ best elements were pieced together into God of War with such precision and finesse, that all other third-person action/adventure/hack-and-slash games will be judged by its merit for years to come.
Built around the Norse Mythology, Kratos has moved beyond his lust for revenge and on to the far away land of Midgard, started a family of his own and left his unquenchable rage buried in the past. Upon the death of his wife, Kratos and his son Atreus prepare for a long journey to spread his wife’s ashes, as per her last wish. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to go deep into the narrative, but after completing the game I had rather mixed reactions for the same. The story is perhaps the weakest part of the entire game, without the real urgency which was found in the previous games in the series.
"The characters in the game, just like its predecessors, are filled with personality."
The characters in the game, just like its predecessors, are filled with personality. The God of War series has always been filled with interesting and intriguing characters, and the latest entry is no exception. In his younger days, Kratos was a man of acerbity and hardened with a warrior’s spirit from the inside out. In God of War, he changes his role from a vengeance monger to a survivalist. It becomes immediately obvious that Kratos wants to be that father figure to his son that he himself never had, and his journey on how he handles the rights and wrongs, and how he tries to hide his deadly past from his son, is worthy of acclaim.
Atreus, on the other hand, is a loving and nurturing child who doesn’t indulge in death and destruction as a means to an end, like his father once did during his Greek days. His high spirit and love for natural life is inspiring and brings the sort of levity that only a young child could bring to the seriousness of the world these characters inhabit.
How these two disparate characters interact with each other is the true essence of the story, and their journey as father and son therein. Moments of Atreus’ folly leveled out by Kratos’ determination to inset solemnness and the utmost serious of mind before and through every situation is the life of the entire experience.
Mechanically speaking, God of War feels nearly flawless and magnificently crafted. For a series that relishes on theatricality, Kratos and company have taken a surprising step back to a more grounded reality. The story is set to a more somber theme of personal loss, and at the same time, survival, and that shift in tone is reflected in the way the game plays as well.
That means the game begins really slow, but it ramps up as you progress further and acquire new items and abilities. For the most part, God of War has a very linear feel to its environments, despite being open ended in nature. It still has that process of going from Point A to Point B, but the level design gives off a much tighter and more controlled feel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And yes, Kratos cannot jump- but it doesn’t matter. Because about an hour into the game, you’ll have completely forgotten about not being able to jump all over the place like a maniac and will be exploring the breathtaking world at display.
"Mechanically speaking, God of War feels nearly flawless and magnificently crafted."
The land of Midgard is spellbindingly brilliant. Where the original trilogy was carpeted in the bleakness of death and draped in crimson blood, Midgard is rich in colors, and dare I say full of life, with evergreen forests teeming with wild animals, flowers and butterflies. It’s true, God of War doesn’t appear to be a sequel in a series dealing in the realms of a nightmarish hell, at least initially, instead, it gives the player a breather and something new and totally unexpected with a world of lively beauty. There are still some locations that look and feel similar to those that fans of the series would be more familiar with, but they are fewer and farther between.
Instead, you get a world that feels lived-in, as though people were actually here, and they cared about this place as their home. What parts of Midgard are open lead to hidden alcoves or secret paths, or even the introduction of new fetch-style side quests that are always dying to be explored for more gruesome fights, treasures, collectibles or coins. These kind of quests, although quite generic in nature at times can result in interesting possibilities, such as optional boss fights. There are a bunch of these scattered around the world and can easily increase your play time by another 5 to 6 hours, and if anything, these helped the pacing of the game immensely. These quests aren’t the epitome of story-telling by any means but some of them made me chuckle so I guess there’s that. Overall, I found them to be a nice distraction from the hard-hitting campaign quests that Kratos undertakes with his son.
Kratos and Atreus aren’t your average video game duo. The herculean man wields the power of the Leviathan Axe, and his son a bow and arrow set. For those who’ve played the God of War series in the past, you’ll get that immediate feel the battle system has to offer. But you’ll also notice that it’s more well-rounded and more refined than ever before.
God of War does away with the combo counter. You won’t be adding combination counts for each successful hit you land- instead you’ll gain follow-up attacks that become more vicious the further your combined attacks connect. Kratos’ newest weapon, the Leviathan Axe, has the ability to be hurled at enemies and summoned back into his hands with the push of a button. Like his other weapons in past games, the Leviathan Axe is an admirable addition to the series as a whole and feels unlike anything he’s ever carried before. Kratos also wields a shield that has its own unlockable skill set and will be vital during your adventure. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a God of War game if Kratos didn’t have his trademark Rage ability, which is back and just as deadly as ever.
"The land of Midgard is spellbindingly brilliant."
Atreus is a child, but also a character you have some level of control over, and ultimately heavily come to rely on for his skills throughout the game. Atreus’s bow and arrow allows him to take shots at enemies whenever you need. Able to move freely on his own, Atreus’s attacks are at your disposal and can be controlled solely by the square button. Atreus manually attacks the enemy you are targeting or the closest one. I found his rapid bow firing abilities, especially when leveled up, to be ferocious and almost mandatory in defeating the larger enemies. Where my skills sometimes failed me, I could simply use Atreus and his varied skills to get me out of a tight spot or just button mash his bow ability to defeat enemies whole. Unlike other games with A.I. characters, Atreus is never in the way- he never has to be waited on to get to a location with you, and he never needs healing or dies.
As mentioned before, Kratos and Atreus have a series of skills on a sprawling skill tree that is easily unlocked with experience you earn by defeating enemies, collecting items and completing side missions. These skills can range from Kratos’s Close Combat and Rage Combat, to Atreus’s Magic Combat. Unlocking these skills allow the duo to deliver even more brutal and hard-hitting moves. Combine Kratos’ revamped combat skills and Atreus’ superb ability with his bow and arrow, and what you have is an extremely satisfying and intriguing combat system. If you have any doubts that the change in camera would have made the combat jarring, then you should lay your concerns to rest.
Crafting is also introduced into the series and its core system is extremely well implemented. With tons of items to find, you can upgrade existing equipment or create new items that appear at the workshops throughout the game. Kratos now has the ability to attach different armors to his body to help boost his stats, as well. Chest armor, wrist and waist armors boost one of several stats that include Strength, Defense, Runes and Cooldown. Each piece of armor has different advantages that play into certain stats.
"Kratos now has the ability to attach different armors to his body to help boost his stats, as well. Chest armor, wrist and waist armors boost one of several stats that include Strength, Defense, Runes and Cooldown. Each piece of armor has different advantages that play into certain stats."
Runes are also a new addition to the series that enhance combat drastically. Runes can be added to sockets on certain gear for Kratos, and have different abilities that can boost elemental defense, or add magical attacks. Atreus also has Runes but those are centered on specialized summons, such as animal attacks that come in very handy. Of course, your play style will determine what Runes work best for you, but just as it is with Kratos himself, the variety of options on offer is impressive. The system generated so much curiosity for me that I found myself consistently returning back to the workshop to check what items can be crafted. It’s that good!
Taking a more grounded approach to the world and its elements, enemies within God of War are uniquely different, yet still spectacularly diverse. With so many enemies throughout Midgard, attacks very from beast to beast. Most enemies have three different approaches: regular attacks, blockable and unblockable attacks. Enemies also have different difficulties based on colored bars above their heads that will help you determine if the fight is going to be worth that little treasure chest behind its back… and believe me, it’s always worth it.
Of course, there are more than just your average run-of-the-mill-type enemies. It wouldn’t be a God of War game without massive boss battles taking place on larger-than-life landscapes that spread out farther than your television can display. Boss battles are just as exhilarating as ever, and each feels completely different than the last. This game easily is right up there for featuring the best boss battles in the series.
"Graphically, the game is definitely one of the best looking games of this generation and its symbolism of Nordic Mythology runs deep."
Graphically, the game is definitely one of the best looking games of this generation and its symbolism of Nordic Mythology runs deep. From the stellar cinematography to the one-shot, no-cuts approach of the entire game from start to finish, there’s a lot to be impressed by here. Exploring the world, Kratos will venture through ancient ruins towering past the clouds, or unforgiving mountains where only the strongest survive. There won’t be a moment where there isn’t something that makes your eyes pop out in excitement or awe.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for an epic music score, and God of War does not disappoint. From the subtleties of venturing through a seemingly calm forest to a stimulatingly large battle sequence, the music in God of War is better than just great- it’s authentic. From hearing the whispers of cavern music played through what sounds like an ancient Norse instrument, to that familiar heavy bass where you know Kratos is about to do something badass, the musical score sets the mood for what’s coming around the next bend in just the perfect way.
Overall, God of War is an absolutely must-play title for nearly everyone. It not only delivers a journey that feels complete and satisfying, but also offers new combat styles and locations to a familiar franchise, breathing new life into an already amazing series. I have no qualms in saying that God of War is a title that will likely be remembered for generations to come.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Excellent combat, RPG mechanics are well implemented, exceptional boss fights, long campaign, tons of things to do, collect and side quests to complete, phenomenal graphics, excellent characterization.
Story is not satisfying.