"Santa Monica Studios has released another hit from the God of War series."
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Call in sick, grab snacks from the kitchen because you’re about to embark on one of the best PlayStation 4 games ever made and play one of the baddest antiheroes to ever exist in gaming. Santa Monica Studios has released another hit from the God of War series. I might even be so bold to say best game in series history in many aspects.
So many expectations came to mind when first hearing God of War was coming to PS4. Who is Kratos mad at this time? How many gods do we get to kill? Where will the adventure take place? We learn early on that Kratos has started a new life and family and is far far away from Sparta. So far in fact he jumped from Greek mythology on over to Norse mythology. God of War never explains why Kratos chose to leave Sparta and the world of Greek gods but I would think the killings of almost every god would lead to a pretty peaceful life in Athens and Mount Olympus.
The story begins on a heavy emotional note in Midgard where Kratos has called home for what appears to be a decade or more. A loved ones last request sends Kratos and his son Atreus away from home. This request remained the core plot of the entire adventure and helped grow Kratos and Atreus’s relationship over time. As a parent I found my self disapproving Kratos parenting skills throughout every turn or plot point in the story until the end. I’d call his style of parenting “at arms length.” He never wanted to see Atreus in harms way but never went out of way for hugs. “Boy, over here. Boy, pick that up. Boy, read this.” The adventure felt more focused on Atreus and discovering who he was. The moment he discovers a secret about his father about half way through the game he becomes such an arrogant brat. I couldn’t stand him at this point; however, overtime time Kratos and a companion or two along the adventure correct Atreus’s own internal view of himself. The biggest father son connecting moments where between big events as Kratos told stories or lessons while they traveled by canoe or on foot.
My biggest gripe of God of War’s story was its lack of Norse gods in it. The lack of A-lister Norse mythology characters from beginning to end was disappointing. When I first began playing I couldn’t wait to have that very first encounter. Through out the game you literally battle less than three known Norse gods whom I won’t spoil. Outside of those gods there where never any more Norse gods to interact with or fight except the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie weren’t even part of the main story but rather a side quest which leads to weapon and armor upgrades.
Outside of the changing mythos for story the combat system has received its biggest evolution in the God of War series. Combat feels more weighted, visceral and fantastic. Gone is combo counting and the numb feeling of basic weapon attacks. Every enemy contact is felt which made me feel more engrossed in the experience. You have light and heavy attacks. Special attacks you can assign to Kratos by holding the shield button down before hitting light or heavy attacks to activiate. There are even combo attacks to unlock. Speaking of weapons Kratos has an axe now. It swings big and heavy and impacts enemies from all distances. The axe reinvents Kratos combat style and slows things down a bit. Like John wick he stored his blades of fury for a special occasion or when he’s just angry at current events. The slowness of his axe compliments the speed of his blades and is focused on frost damage.
Another new item to the God of War series is Kratos AI co-op partner Atreus. Kratos no longer walks alone as his son Atreus helps him along the journey. Once Atreus’s bow was fully upgraded I could instruct him to take out everything on screen while I dodged monsters when I was low on health. Atreus doesn't have a health meter so using him as a tank was very beneficial. I never felt like Atreus got in the way of battle either. He always remained within 20 to 30 meters of me. No worries of Resident Evil 5 partner death flash backs.
While the game does limit itself to three weapons; axe, blades and bow. The axe and blades can be upgraded via menu upgrading sytems. For example you can upgrade and change out the handle of the axe for different perks. Each part has a limited amount of slots for enchantments that can help win certain battles. For example one of the trials forces you to face 100 monsters as an objective and during this there are no health drops. In order to win I assigned all my health regenerating perks which made it much easier. As for the story I played through two thirds of the game on medium difficulty without upgrading my characters much. It wasn’t till some mini bosses after fighting a dragon that I needed to turn the difficulty down one notch to “here for the story.” I will admit “here for the story” difficulty was a little too easy.
In prior God of War games once you killed an enemy red or green orbs flew into your body. In this new edition items fell on the ground and required Kratos to manually pick them up which I thought was irritating. It felt like an in unnatural additional step. The only time drops came to Kratos was during the opening of chests. I found my self opening a lot of chests.
Another expectation I had in the game was the ability to visit all realms since early on I was given access to travel between realms. Somehow Odin prevents travel to two realms I was never allowed to visit. I suppose I should have expected this and it wasn’t a deal breaker but I bet that’s were all the gods were hanging out. Why tease us Santa Monica Studios?
One of my favorite aspects of God of War was its open world. I wish prior God of War games had this now. To shorten the distance of travel Kratos can use canoes or teleport using gate doors which can be discovered while traveling to and from story objectives. The only negative of the open world is that Midgard is so huge that pacing slows in the first third of the game as major plot points don’t come for some time.
God of War is for those that have played many of the prior installments and can’t get enough of Kratos. For people that want to explore some of the nine realms. Those that like to solve fairly simple platform puzzles. God of War is not for those expecting lots of big cinematic boss battles as there were very few compared to prior games. Not for those squeamish to gore or profanity. If you have a PS4 this should be on your play list.
About 20 hours if you’re just cruising through the story and taking in sights. If you’re going for 100% then this game has many hours of gameplay.