God of War is well known as one of the best franchises in the gaming world and one of Sony’s flagship exclusives. This makes it a difficult task to release an updated version of this classic game to please die-hard fans, casual new comers and critics alike. Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Santa Monica studio smashed these expectations delivering an instant hit with the new God of War.
A More Contemporary Kratos
Not a line I ever thought I would write when referring to the massive and violent former Greek god of war. It is however entirely accurate. The current pop culture landscape is reshaped with far more diversity than ever before bringing previously obscured topics and talent into the limelight – with great commercial success (Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Tomb Raider, Overwatch to name a few). The stage was set for a new take on Kratos and Santa Monica Studios managed to reinvent him by bringing a softer more human character to light. Introducing his son Atreus was a masterstroke that allowed us to identify and ultimately resonate with Kratos without the loss of any of the action, violence, and displays of power that helped establish the series.
As a father myself, seeing the short gruff comments from early on in the game definitely made me empathize with the young Atreus trying to find his feet after the death of his mother. Seeing this tough love grow to shape Atreus over the course of the 20+ hour story really pulled me into the narrative.
A Dash Of The Fantastic
With a game centered around Norse mythology, you expect some fantasy elements and God of War delivers really well with interesting enemies, creatures, and landscapes. There is a moment with a giant tortoise in the forest that steps up to reveal a house underneath that really shifted the game world into a truly amazing experience for me. These visual treats are peppered in throughout the game providing scale and texture at every turn.
The story is wrapped up in beautiful layers of visuals that really do push the current gen consoles to their maximum. The lighting, draw distances and textures really stand out in forest areas and illuminated caverns. This does come at a price with a 30 FPS framerate limit with performance dipping when using the PS4 Pro 4K settings. It very rarely has an effect on gameplay and I felt the overall sacrifice was a fair one to make.
Swinging And Flinging
The gameplay is undoubtedly true to form for a God of War game, with quick combos that feel natural but powerful. The best element for me is the ability to throw the Leviathan Axe at unsuspecting foes and calling it back with an epic sounding whooosh-thud. I enjoyed that feeling every single time and used the throw mechanic at every possible chance. The game can be downright brutal at times (especially at the higher difficulty level) punishing you for bad timing on not blocking. Keeping your shield up and footwork is paramount to taking down some of the games mid-level and top-level bosses.
The ability to upgrade individual armour pieces and weapons across you and Atreus added depth without over complicating anything. Keeping your equipment up to spec requires a considered looting effort that is rewarded with tangible increases in power and skills. Finding and unlocking chests provide a stream of subtle mini-puzzles for you to tackle. I particularly liked the runic chests that required you to find each of the runes in the surrounding area to unlock, the completionist in me refused to back down from the challenge and resulted in a great level of satisfaction once unlocked.
Our God Of War Verdict
This God of War is an excellent iteration of the series bringing more feeling this time around without sacrificing the gameplay. It’s a truly epic game that should be played by everyone that has a Playstation. Do what you can to beg, borrow and steal to play this one – it’s a fantastic bit of mythic escapism wrapped in layers of action.