God of War’s combat, story, and world all came together for me towards the end of its sloggy introduction. I was roughly 3 hours in with a couple bosses under my belt and taken on no more than a handful of enemies at once. Out of nowhere you’ve got a mini boss and roughly 6-7 other enemies. Stare down ensues, Kratos barks at Atreus, “Boy, Prepare yourself”. You pull your axe out and you can feel the adrenaline and anticipation brewing in this tense moment between Kratos’s line, the enemies hungrily encircling you, Atreus readying his bow, and the thought that this might be the last thing a parent said to their child. I was staring at these enemies thinking to myself I am fucked, Atreus even more fucked. This line struck a cord with me emotionally, you’re staring death in the eye along with your son. This situation is just as dangerous for you as your son. You know you’ll be there with your son taking this challenge on together but instead of the deep end of the pool you’re throwing him into the middle of an ocean. You might as well be an ocean apart, sink or swim. These are the experiences that makes God of War the game of a generation.
A Spoiler free preview/impressions of God of War. I took it easy on my screen shots to avoid spoilers, so they’re kind of bland.
Anyone, the game is violent though, probably not good for young children or being played in a household with young children present.
I am playing it on a PS4 Pro on a 55 inch 4K Sony television, no HDR. God of War is only available for the Playstation console. All screen shots were taken on my PS4 with me playing it.
I’m roughly 20 hours into it, I feel like there is plenty of game left.
God of War has had multiple releases, 3 main numbered releases as well as a number of PSP/Vita releases. There have also been remasters, collections, etc. David Jaffe came up with the original GOW way back on the PS2, his original release became a sleeper hit and ended up being highly regarded and praised. I personally passed on most of the GOW series. I’ve dabbled in all of the mainline releases, bought and beat GOW 3 for the PS3. The series never grabbed me, I always told myself I should like GOW more than I actually did. Fast forward to 2018 and Sony has released their reboot, God of War. In the numbered series it would technically be the 4th, and I believe the 7th overall game. Are the old games worth going back and playing? Couldn’t tell you, I know that after playing God of War (4) I doubt I could ever go back and play any of the original GOW. Do you need to play them for continuity in the series? No, the original trilogy wasn’t really known for having engaging story lines, despite the main protagonist, Kratos, being the same they’ve essentially remade him into more than just a character with an intense case of little man syndrome hell bent on revenge.
I’ve been interested in God of War since Sony showed off their first teaser trailer at E3. I thought it looked different enough, like God of War might possibly be taking a page from the Souls series. It wasn’t fever pitch hype, I will admit I am a sucker for big releases from Sony’s first party studios. Over the past couple years Sony has done a great job drip feeding us trailers, interviews, etc. to build hype up for God of War. My biggest concern before release was the game might be too easy (it isn’t, more later) and that the story wouldn’t be a driving force (it is, my biggest surprise). Sony did a great job not over hyping God of War, unlike they did with No Man’s Sky.
God of War’s story centers around Kratos and Atreus. This is a father son coming of age male bonding mashup. I won’t go into any story details but Sony Santa Monica has taken plenty of cues from Naughty Dog on how to tell a story on screen with two characters interacting with each other. The writing in God of War is better than recent Naughty Dog releases. I find myself interested in every other line of dialogue in a typical Naughty Dog game, in God of War I want to hear everything, sometimes I will let Kratos stand still so that I don’t interrupt his conversation with Atreus. You can feel some of the heavy emotion in the game as Kratos goes about his way of teaching his son to grow up. I don’t have kids, I do have two younger brothers that sometimes certainly makes it feel like I have kids. I can imagine many fathers and mothers being able to draw a deep personal connection to Kratos as he interacts with his son on this dangerous adventure. I can directly relate to some parts of dialogue where Kratos is directing Atreus, the doubt and fear combined with bit of confidence, imagine throwing your kid or younger sibling into the deep end of the pool for the first time. You will find plenty of these moments sprinkled through out God of War. Atreus might be the hidden star of the game, I thought he would be an annoying little turd but he develops at a much faster rate than Kratos to the point where I feel like he is an essential part of the game. Usually AI controlled sidekicks are annoying or border on being worthless, Atreus more than pulls his weight. Besides being used in combat Atreus also offers Kratos plenty of information about the world you are exploring. Kratos can’t read or speak the native language which helps add another dimension to Atreus, watching Kratos lean on Atreus in certain situations that require communicating with the locals or reading directions. Oh, yeah, and the game takes places in the land of Midgard which is based around Norse Mythology. Cool.
God of War is two parts Zelda, one part Souls, 1/2 part The Last of Us, 1/2 part Tomb Raider. God of War has taken the best parts of all these games/series and churned out one complete package that is lacking nothing. The exploration, world building, and sense of adventure from a Legend of Zelda game minus the charm. The combat borrows heavily from the Souls series, not nearly as much customization though in terms of weapon type. The variety of enemies and difficulty level are also reminiscent of a Souls style game. The type of story and presentation is very similar to The Last of Us or other Naughty Dog titles. The presentation is similar to the rebooted Tomb Raider series with great visuals and sound. There are also some light puzzles akin to the Tombs in Tomb Raider, however not on the level of a Zelda style puzzle or dungeon.
“This isn’t a mindless open world, or a true one, but every location, nook or cranny has a purpose.”
God of War starts off really slow, almost to the point where I wondered why everyone was going crazy. Surprisingly God of War is the 2nd game to take over my PSN friends list this year, the first being Monster Hunter World. God of War draws you slowly into its world, quietly building the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, introducing the many layers of combat (8 hours in they were still dropping new parts of combat on me). Kratos is very customizable, there is a large move set in your arsenal but you are only allowed to have a few equipped at a time, it helps in letting you create your own version of Kratos. There is plenty of gear to get or craft that buff different stats on Kratos, GOW surprisingly offers a lot of customization. This helps in building the world for GOW, it makes you want to complete side activities. After the sloggy intro and a few boss fights the world unexpectedly opens up for you and Atreus. This isn’t a mindless open world, or a true one, but every location, nook or cranny has a purpose. I find myself with a severe case of open world fatigue this generation. I don’t need every game I play to let me do whatever, whenever, however I want. I don’t need a game that has tons of kilometers of gameplay area that I’ll never do anything meaningful in. I don’t want the most bang for my dollar, I want the most value.
Once God of War opened up I explored a little bit, the game is beautiful by the way, but happened to find myself with an optional side quest. I found my way to the quest location and noticed that there were two enemies that were extremely higher level than me. I got out on the beach to fight them, boom, one hit I’m dead. I spent the next hour trying to beat these two enemies. I finally prevailed and was rewarded with very good items, so good that after the next 5 hours of gameplay I have yet to find pieces that would replace them. I love this, they gave me a real challenge and I felt I was rewarded accordingly. My hand wasn’t held and the quest wasn’t stashed away till later in the game. The customization and giant loot pool helps in giving you an incredible incentive to explore the world of Midgard. Loot has different tiers of rarity with more rare pieces giving you unique passively activated abilities. You can tell the progression system, loot pool, and open world are all well connected.
The combat might be my least favorite part of God of War. Let me be clear, the combat is not bad in anyway. When I look at the whole package for God of War combat just happens to be the last thing that comes to mind when I think of everything that makes God of War amazing. They got rid of the combo system. You have a light and a heavy swing with your axe, you can also throw it and recall it at will. You get the ability to equip two additional moves that you pick up as items through out the game. These range from ground pounds to stun attacks, there is a lot of variety. When the axe is thrown you can then use your fists to pummel enemies as well as a retractable shield that you can you use to block. Enemies have a health bar and a stun meter, your fists don’t do as much damage as the axe but they build up the stun meter (along with Atreus arrows), when you fill the stun meter up it allows you to do a finisher move on the enemy. Speaking about Atreus, I can’t think of a single other game that has added this useful of an AI companion. In the history of video games Atreus is the hands down the perfect AI companion. You can command Atreus to fire arrows at enemies you target, he has three at a time that can be fired, arrows recharge themselves. The arrows are extremely useful, at first not so much but as I get deeper into God of War I find myself relying on Atreus to get me out of tricky situations. Atreus doesn’t get downed, you don’t have to rush to revive him when he gets in trouble. He scampers around the battlefield firing arrows and shouting out friendly reminders when enemies are closing in on you.
The enemies are varied in more ways than I thought possible, 15-20 hours in I’m still getting new types of enemies thrown at me. They aren’t just re-skins, they have their own unique move sets and strategies for beating them. They’re fairly well balanced in terms of difficulty, some enemies give me more problems than others most likely a result of my gameplay style. God of War throws different combinations of enemies at you helping keep each encounter feeling different. I can happily say my biggest fear of the game being too easy is a non issue. I am playing the game on the 3rd hardest difficulty, there are 4 in total. I tried the 4th at first, it doesn’t let you change the difficulty level if you pick the hardest option. It was way too hard, even for a challenge junkie. I had to restart my game and set it to the 3rd hardest difficulty.
Much has been said about the camera, single shot over the shoulder the entire game. It’s cool, it might be what makes this game so special. I can’t really tell because the whole package for GOW is so damn impressive. What I will say is that the camera does not hinder the gameplay. Some people might complain about it for combat, I actually think the camera enhances the combat more than anything. You can’t see enemies coming up behind you, I think it makes each encounter more exciting, each victory more rewarding and thrilling. The camera certainly lends itself to the story telling as well but while technically impressive I think the talk about the camera angle is a bit exaggerated
God of War is a true gem and gaming spectacle. In this generation of remasters, reboots, and fewer new franchises God of War stands out. This feels nothing like the old games in the series and I think that is for the better. The praise God of War has been receiving is real and well deserved. I can’t believe I took time away from playing God of War to write this piece but I felt like I had to, especially for those of you that are still unsure. It is a little late coming, I was on vacation last week and didn’t get back till late Sunday evening. I’ve also had a busy work week so even less time to put into God of War. It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited to get back to playing a game in-between sessions. I can see myself jumping back in and replaying God of War for years to come, I haven’t finished this game yet but I know that it wont be spending anytime in my backlog.
I enjoy writing for TAY and have dabbled in making different types of gaming and lifestyle content. I like playing games and interacting with gaming communities to wind down. You can find me here!
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