The God of War returns

Sony’s E3 show back in 2016 was one of their best in recent memory, a slew of solid games announced with no time wasting and they kicked it off with a new God of War. That moment Kratos walked out from the dark was one of the best moments of any E3 for me and I was so hyped to see what this new game was going to bring. God of War had always been a favorite series of mine, but we’d not seen a mainstream title since God of War back in 2010. Sure there was Ascension, but it was a very mediocre title, and everyone was waiting to see what became of Kratos after his battle with the Olympian Gods, and finally we know how his story continues.

Welcome to Midgard

This review will be spoiler free as I feel it’s extremely important to fully enjoy this game, especially for long term fans.

God of War 2018 is a direct sequel to the 2010 God of War III, and follows Kratos years later and his new life in the Nordic Realms. Giving up the life of a God, he lives a simple life in the woods with his son Atreus, who he teaches to hunt and fend for himself in the dangerous world outside. What starts out as a basic journey soon evolves into something much bigger, but both keep determined to finish their quest, even with outside forces making it difficult, and Kratoses own past haunting him. As the story goes on the dynamic between the 2 characters unfolds, as Kratos fears that his son will discover his past and resent him but wants the best for him, while Atreus seeks approval from his father, who is constantly berating him for his mistakes and honestly, is a bit harsh on him sometimes. It’s difficult to truly go into the depths of the story of the game without giving too much away. What I can say is that the story is a real change up from what we’re used to in God of War, the plot is more character focused and centers around the characters and their personal quest, instead of the overall epic story that was the games before it, and it works to amazing effect.

Dad of War

What’s also changed is the combat, and for the better. Kratos now wields the Leviathan Axe, a heavy hitting frost weapon that’s far from his Blades of Chaos used before. Because of the change of weapon the combat is a less chaotic and it made me realize that the older style of combat in the older games is very dated. God of War has switched to a much more methodical way of combat similar to Dark Souls and Witcher 3. While you can more most part just button bash and hope for the best, it might not work in all circumstances and especially in certain areas you really have to take note of what’s attacking you and dodge and block accordingly. What’s further is the axe can be thrown at enemies, which then switches Kratos to unarmed attacks, which I always thought was a risky idea when it was first shown in the trailer, but it adds to what makes the combat so satisfying. For example a basic fight will have Kratos face off a few enemies, he can start attacking a few, then throw his axe at the legs of some coming towards him tripping them up, Kratos can then beat them with his fists for a bit, grabbing one and ripping it in half while killing a few others, then some more come in the room to fight, so I need my axe back right? Pressing triangle returns the axe straight to Kratos and while it sounds super simple I cannot stress how satisfying it is. The axe has a certain weight and noise to it and the combat allows you to link together so many ideas and combos that aren’t easy enough you can do it by accident, but just on the edge of complicated enough to make it feel great. Atreus also plays a part in the combat acting as a ranged player with his bow, once again simple but honestly I couldn’t have got by without him. He rarely gets caught and can fend for himself and can get some quick shots in to slow an enemy if he’s getting close. As the game progresses you unlock more skills that switch up the combat even more which I think gives God of War the best combat experience I’ve ever had.

You’ll go to a lot of strange places on your quest

The linear-esque paths of the older games are also gone. What we have now is essentially an open world game with paths to different areas filled with different quests that can be explored at the players leisure. There’s a main story to complete, but once you reach the main area of the game you’re free to explore and find new upgrades and armor for Kratos, which is also a new concept for God of War. Kratos can now obtain different armor for himself, and it’s pretty simple. It can be found or crafted by the various shops around Midgard providing you have the right stuff. It’s not as expansive as something like The Witcher but it doesn’t need to be as the game only has minor RPG elements that work for what the game is first, an adventure game. This also means there’s a mass of exploring to do during and after the game. I completed the game a few days ago yet I’m still finding new places and collectibles that keep me putting hours into the game.

But with all this, it needs to be an interesting place to explore right? Well luckily God of War is a technical achievement and looks amazing. The art direction of the characters and area design fits the Norse world perfectly. For a chunk of the game you’ll find yourself rowing in a boat place to place and it’s just so pretty to look at. Character animations have realism and you can see the emotions in their faces which means a lot in a game about a father and sons quest and the issues they come across. Voice acting is another area of achievement. Kratos has a new voice actor, a lot deeper and grizzlier than before, but also has real depth to his voice when he gets angry, or when he tries to talk to Atreus who himself, acts and sounds as a boy his age would. Through the journey you meet a fair few characters and none of them are bad characters at all, I can rarely say I cannot criticize a single character in a game, but in this I really can’t. the dialogue between the characters is real and with the lighter parts of the game are actually pretty funny. Characters will tell stories of Norse gods and fables when you’re rowing place to place but will say they’ll tell the story later when you pull up on shore, but this had me just sitting in my boat waiting to hear the end as I really wanted to hear how each story ended, and how it added to the Nordic world.

The heavily story driven plot is God of Wars best yet

Over the last few days I’ve had a hard time thinking of issues with God of War, and yes there are some. But I must point out that these issues are so minor, that you wouldn’t really notice if they weren’t mentioned. To make it short and sweet, the enemies don’t have much variety, and there’s not many ‘epic’ moments that other games have, and honestly that’s it. That been said there are 2 moments in particular that had me messaging all my other friends who were ahead of me in absolute awe of what had just happened, those moments alone make up for it and I really cannot fault the game for reasons so minor.

Once I complete the game I did feel very hollow however, and not because of the game, but because of how excited I was for it over the last 2 years or so, and how it was over. It really made me start to think of what God of War had achieved and what this game really is without getting too preachy.

“Can we kill something that big?”

God of War will no doubt be my personal game of the year and one of the best games I’ve ever played. Kratos as a character has changed a lot since his rage driven days in Greece to the calmer more methodical man he is now. The dynamic with him and his son was a major worry for me, as how could The Ghost of Sparta become a caring Dad? and they pulled it off and blew away any negative worries I had about the game. The interactions of Atreus and Kratos between them are real, the worries that Kratos has about his past haunt him constantly and as the game goes on you see it really starting to take effect on him and Atreus also. He’s a changed man, but he’s still the same Kratos and you truly feel for the horrors of his past and burden he holds. Because of the burden, it makes it even more satisfying to complete the journey for the father and son and the bond they share. Again I can’t talk about the ending, but it had me calling a friend at 2am because I what I just witnessed.

I could go on for hours about how good this game really is, the issues it has are so minor that they’re not even worth mentioning, but it makes me excited for what’s to come in the series of the games. The combat is refined, the gameplay and mechanics have all been improved, but not so far that it’s not God of War anymore. The story and characters have real progression with what they go through and how it builds them as a character. God of War is a perfect example of how to do a sequel and what a video game is, an evolution of what you had before without losing what you had before. An amazingly fun adventure that has you caring for the characters and the journey they go through, God of War is just that good.