I normally don’t write one of these until I have completed a game, however, with God Of War, it was simply too irresistible to ignore. Folks, I am in love with this game, and I must tell you all about it as soon as possible. Most of you may know by now, a game really has to pack a punch and grab me in a way that will hold my attention long enough to play more than thirty minutes and then shelve it. Let’s just say I’ve played a lot more than thirty minutes of this masterful game. Well, without further ado, I am going to try and express why God Of War is shaping up to be one, cool game.
Now, before we jump into the 2018 release that I am currently in the midst of experiencing, you may remember, or know, God Of War to be the massive, half naked brute of a man, Kratos, to be swinging his dual chained sword/cleaver things around, and a bunch of Greek mythology. Colossal bosses and large statues, grim faces and super-human powers galore. Well, that was God Of War, and some of that is still present with the 2018 release. However, what Cory Barlog, the director, and the rest of Santa Monica Studios pulled off with the newest title, is nothing short of remarkable. A fresh outlook on the series came to life with a true, more familiar, third person camera perspective on Kratos, an epic craft brewery go-er beard, a barbaric axe, Norse mythology replacing Greek mythology, and an unbreakable bond between Kratos and his son, Atreus.
Cue a frigid landscape set in ancient Norway, and we find our new beard bearing, axe wielding Kratos, with his very young son Atreus, in close company. After a tragic death in the family, Kratos and Atreus set forth on a dangerous journey to take care of some sensitive, sentimental, family business. Axe in hand and Atreus with his trusty bow, you begin your ancient Nordic adventure into the unknown. Let’s slow things down here for a moment. I want to be clear about the relationship between Kratos and his son. Atreus is roughly around ten years old, and knows very little about real combat. He hunted rarely with his mother, but outside of being able to fire off a basic arrow, he’s quite vulnerable. Kratos on the other hand, harnesses truly god-like powers and strength. Atreus is not aware of everything he is capable of. This dynamic is interesting and engaging because not only is this a risky journey for both of them, but Kratos is also having to learn how to be a father for the first time. Well, perhaps a better, less emotionally guarded father.
From a gameplay perspective, I haven’t played a game this tight and polished in some time. Basic movement feels natural and un-stiff. When you press a button or move the analog stick, Kratos responds exactly how you would expect. Very early on, you can tell Santa Monica put a serious amount of polish on gameplay. Combat feels wonderful and satisfying. Learning how to wield Kratos’ axe doesn’t take long, and this also includes dodging, blocking, and other valuable maneuvers. You also have the ability to control Atreus, to a limited degree. For example, you can tap square and have Atreus fire off a few arrows into a boss or enemy you are engaging with, and it can be very useful. So much so that he has saved my life countless times when my health was on the brink. Everywhere you go, Atreus goes. You’re both in this journey together, and if anything, the bond between them, and your observation of their bond, grows stronger every moment that passes in your journey together.
There is an enormous amount of combat techniques and skills to purchase and learn. Your axe is capable of storing “runes” that enable you to perform god-like moves that are very useful in staving off foes. There are shield techniques that would have King Leonidas nodding in respect. Taking the fist-a-cuffs route? No problem for Kratos. Bash your enemies up with powerful ground blows and “Spartan Rage”, which might be my favorite power-up, so far. Spartan Rage perhaps takes a few notes from the beloved Asura’s Wrath, and Kratos is infused with anger and rage powerful enough to shake the heavens, and rumble the worst of hell’s nightmares. There was a very memorable moment the other night while playing, where Atreus was captured briefly by the enemy, and upon fighting that enemy, I saw a prompt on the screen saying Spartan Rage available. What did you think I did when my son is danger? Activate! I unleashed the kind of rage and fury only a father could imagine if their child was whisked away by flying Dark Elves. I felt anger and emotion, as I fought off the elves with my fiery fists, and shouts of desperation. Give. Me. Back. My. SON! I yelled internally. It was a powerful moment to say the least.
God Of War also puts up a nice, fair, challenge for even the most well rounded gamers. I was humbled quite quickly when charging the first troll encounter. Trolls seems to be fairly common, and some seem to be more of a mini boss, but a strategy must be used here. This isn’t just a run up and attack sort of approach. You must use Atreus to your advantage, and study the bosses move set before you can just go guns blazing. I died often in the beginning from sheer carelessness and ego driven “I played Dark Souls” ways. Once putting that mentality to rest, I realized how limited your health bar is, and how damage is pretty damn significant, even for a “God”. Dodging is crucial, as well as sprinting, which helped a ton. There are often waves or small groups of enemies that will keep you on your toes when in battle. I really had to be conscious of blocking and dodging and using Atreus, AND recalling my axe when needed, all at once. A juggle affair if you will, but one that’s rewarding and feels necessary. Once your foes are settled with, you go around stomping power ups like health and hack silver (currency), because why bend over and pick it up like some human. You’re a God Of War. You’re not civilized!
Visually, God Of War is spectacular. This is prime example of a Playstation exclusive that is optimized to max out the console’s performance capabilities. I have never seen a character model look this good until now. It is exceptional what Santa Monica has accomplished with how Kratos moves and looks. He honestly just looks real most of the time, especially in cutscenes and when panning the camera around him. What’s even crazier, is I am playing on a non hdr, non 4k tv, and on a launch PS4. I cannot even imagine how it would look on a 4K hdr ps4 pro setup. It already just looks so wonderful. Not only does the game run so smoothly with no pop in, but the world seems to get more and more beautiful as your journey together, progresses.
Sound and music wise, there is only music when necessary. What I mean by this is when you are traveling around, there is no music most of the time. It really only kicks in when you are fighting a boss or a wave of enemies. This is typical, I suppose, as most games of this nature aren’t filling up silence with background music, the way Skyrim would, for example. I honestly just haven’t played enough of the game to comment much more on the soundtrack, however, a colleague had me listen to a popular track the other day, and it reminded me of a Viking ship barreling into shore. It was kind of terrifying, but it fit the bill with the overall premise of the game.
God Of War is a stunning achievement in gaming, and should not be overlooked as just another title in the series. This is a very, very special game that should be played by all gamers. I truly feel like there’s a place for it in every gamers library. With little dialogue and a simple premise, with a strong focus on quality gameplay, it’s hard not to be fully engaged with the offering. It’s games like this that make you feel content with owning a Playstation 4, because console exclusives like this are truly unmatched in quality and delivery. Find a way to play this game, folks. Trade in some crappy games and get your Spartan Rage on already. Your fictional son needs you.
Until next time, keep your games cool.