In 2005 David Jaffe and Sony Santa Monica released God of War on the PS2. Fast forward thirteen years and we’re getting another game with an identical name from the same studio although under the leadership of a new director; Cory Barlog.
In the original trilogy, the main character Kratos had many adventures through Greek Mythology and involving the entire Pantheon. This newest release has shifted focus to Norse Mythology and a whole new setting. The series was already critically acclaimed, hailed for being one of the best action and hack and slash titles ever made. Again the newest release shifts focus, opting for a new style of combat and a higher focus on story telling. Does this gamble pay off? Read on to find out.
Release Date: 20th April 2018
Size: 46.08 GB
Genre: Action RPG
Developed By: Sony Santa Monica
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
The story begins with the death of Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother Faye. The death has really taken its toll on both characters. It is immediately obvious that Kratos and his son do not have a strong relationship or bond, if any relationship whatsoever. The game then places its entire focus on the exploration of this bond and how it evolves and grows as the characters are faced with numerous challenges.
The pair set off on an adventure through a variety of locations in order to fulfill Faye’s dying wish. The script of this game is truly marvelous, every line has emotional weight and every scene feels vital to the larger story in play. The cast of characters is equally marvelous. From the main antagonist and their motivations to a pair of friendly Dwarves who fulfill your crafting needs, each character feels unique and important to the world. A highlight is a character you meet mid game who’s purpose is to fill out the lore of the world. He is an absolutely delightful addition to the cast and he will be fondly remembered by players long after they finish this game for his stories and one-liners.
The game features a large number of optional content and side quests. The majority of these have their own stories which again contribute to the wider lore of the world. Everything you do in this game feels important because the themes of the game are so well foreshadowed in every piece of content, no matter how small or hidden. However, despite the magnificent world building on display throughout the game, the story is always focused on the two main characters.
Kratos is finally given the depth that this character desperately needed. He may have killed the entire Greek Pantheon in the past, but how can he rise to the challenge of lone parenthood? Atreus’ challenge lies in trying to connect with a father who always has something to distract him and has plenty of secrets hidden away. The conversations between the two aren’t just the highlight of the game, they’re some of the best, most emotionally impactful scenes in any form of media.
One conversation about three quarters of the way through the main story is particularly gut wrenching, every word out of the character’s mouths feels more powerful than any punch Kratos has ever thrown.
Combat in this game is wonderful. A beautifully choreographed dream to play.
The game uses an upgrade tree to ensure that combat never grows stale, every time a battle feels similar to the last there is a new upgrade available for you to change up your techniques in the next battle. Runes hidden throughout the world unlock powerful special attacks that add further variety.
Kratos begins with three weapons, the Leviathan Axe, his shield and his fists. The Leviathan Axe steals the show. Throwing the Axe into the head of an enemy, then having it return to your hand with a simple button push never stops feeling epic. It is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in a video game. At times I went through full battles, throwing the Axe into one enemy, summoning it back, throwing it into the next and repeat, just so I could marvel at the way it zips straight back to Kratos’ palm no matter where it is.
Punching enemies feels the way it should, each blow feels like it actually makes an impact and Kratos really feels like a God as you move from enemy to enemy tearing them apart.
Atreus also comes into play during combat. He can use his bow to shoot and distract enemies to help crowd control. As you progress through the game he is also fully upgradeable; this leads to him becoming much more prominent in fights and in some tough encounters, your son will be the difference between life and death.
This bodes well when you consider that the game is essentially a massive twenty hour long escort mission. Atreus will be by your side for the majority of the gameplay, yet he never feels like a burden. He’ll never slow you down or get in your way during combat, much the opposite in fact.
Sony Santa Monica avoided a trap that caused many other great games, such as Resident Evil 4, multiple setbacks. The little conversations after fights where Kratos often critiques Atreus’ are brilliant, adding just a little more depth to the motivation of both characters.
After a few hours of story the game really opens up. You are introduced to a large world full of interesting places to explore and interesting things to do. These range from encounters with Dragons to exploring long abandoned Dwarven strongholds.
These side quests have as much story to them as full games and they really are a wonderful addition that double the length of this otherwise linear title. In fact calling it a linear title is factually wrong, the game literally has an open world that connects brilliantly, much like the original Dark Souls game. Albeit with even more openness.
It’s this blend of multiple ideas that really makes God of War’s gameplay stand out. Never in my first 25 hours did I get bored or even feel like I needed a break. The game cleverly employs RPG mechanics to really take advantage of the open world. This doesn’t just include the unlock able skills mentioned already but expands to craftable armor and upgradeable armor meaning that every optional activity has a result that will impact the main story.
By exploring you can unlock cool new perks or twists to gameplay thanks to new armor and ruins. Going beyond this the game has many collectables. Again each of these feel important as they really contribute to the world building, so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed back tracking to collect as much as possible as I earn new abilities through the main story that allow me to unlock previously gated content.
The final piece of additional optional content is two combat challenge areas. These are both totally unique in design and incredibly fun with excellent rewards that impact the main story.
God of War has been a totally incredible experience gameplay wise, never before have I played a game that tried to incorporate so many ideas and managed to pull each one off successfully. I’ll say it one more time, throwing and catching the Leviathan Axe is just so incredibly entertaining that the gameplay would be satisfying just on that aspect alone.
Minor Spoiler: During the final boss fight I shouted ‘Fuck Yeah’ at one point in a scripted section of the fight. That’s how downright epic it was. I’ve never done that before in a scripted moment in any video game.
Graphics and Sound
Finally we reach the part I’ve been desperate to talk about. No it isn’t the unbelievably perfect voice acting. It isn’t the jaw dropping environments or beautiful game world. It’s the camera. From start to finish, unless you die, there is not a single loading screen in this game. It is one long, continuous camera shot.
In a six hour linear game this would be incredible, a massive technical achievement. In an over twenty hour long open game with huge environments it is absolutely breathtaking. This is the most immersed I have ever felt in a game. By never taking me away from the moment to moment gameplay, I felt totally involved in everything that was going on, Kratos and Atreus’ story was completely my story. Every conversation they had, I had. Every kill was mine, every scare I shared and every gorgeous environment we all discovered together.
It has to be seen to be experienced, but this is a feature that absolutely cements God of War’s place as the most technically impressive game of all time. It helps that the graphics are stunning as well. Each character looks real and alive, every enemy stands out exceptionally and the detail that has went into their creation is as clear as day.
The voice acting is another highlight of this package. Christopher Judge puts in a marvelous performance as Kratos, adding the aforementioned depth to the character with only the tone of his voice. You’re going to hear the word ‘Boy’ a lot playing this game, it is testament to the power of the vocal performance that every time you hear it you can feel the meaning of the word. Whether it is a desperate attempt from Kratos to emotionally connect with Atreus or an angry bark after a mistake.
Likewise Sunny Suljic puts in a brilliantly emotional performance as Atreus. The rest of the cast is fantastic, but the final shout out is to Alastair Duncan. I won’t name the character but his role is incredible and he brings it to life magnificently. This character really needed a unique voice and Duncan hits the nail perfectly on the head. In terms of music and sound the game continues to excel.
The score swells for the epic moments, demanding the player’s full attention and fades away perfectly to allow the character’s to take the spotlight in the more intimate scenarios. The creatures’ noises all feel unique, you can sense their desire to destroy whatever lies in their path. All in all this game’s production value shines incredibly bright. If you are ever asked for the definition of what a Triple A video game is, point the asker to God of War, it’s the only answer they’ll ever need.
God of War is the game that will define this entire generation. It takes great ideas from multiple games and doesn’t just improve on them, it brings a unique twist to make those ideas shine brighter than they ever had. The story has epic moments of brutal, stylish combat like any God of War game should have, these are tempered by emotional moments that Oscar winning movies can’t compete with. The world and characters are brought to life in a way that no other video game has matched, Midgard truly feels real as you are totally immersed in the journey.
To call God of War the Game of the Year in 2018 is really not doing the title any justice, there are very few games that have ever been made that stand close to this game’s brilliance. Sony Santa Monica have crafted something totally unique here and deserve every single sliver of praise that players have to throw their way. If I could condense this two thousand word review into three words they would be: Play This Game.