The God of War series makes its first appearance on the PlayStation 4 aside from the HD remaster we saw a few years ago. Find out what we thought about the latest game in the series in our God of War (2018) Review!
|Release Date||April 20, 2018|
|Developer||SIE Santa Monica|
I’ve had the pleasure of playing through most of the previous games in the God of War series. I had a great time with them and felt like they were some of the best action-adventure games on the PlayStation family of consoles. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical when a new game in the series was announced for PlayStation 4. I wondered if there was any life left in the series after God of War: Ascension failed to innovate. God of War (2018) brings the series to a new generation of gamers in ways that I never even expected.
God of War (2018) brings the series to a new mythological world and once-again stars a reimagined Kratos. The game is framed by one continuous camera shot which sounds awful if you sit there and think about it, but it’s a beautiful thing to see in action as you see the relationship develop between Kratos and his son, Atreus. The plot is simple, yet satisfying. Kratos and Atreus start their story going through the death of Kratos’ wife and begin a journey to fulfill her final wishes. The heart of the story consistently remains Kratos’ relationship with Atreus and it’s an interesting evolution to witness.
If you’re like me, you’ve played many of the previous games in the God of War series and you know that Kratos has had a long life of triumph and tragedy as he’s battled his way through ancient Greece. The Kratos that is introduced to us in God of War (2018) is true to the character we remember, but with much more substance. This is a character who has started a new chapter in his life, one with love and family. Heck, he even has a big beard. It’s the vulnerability of this new Kratos that is so striking. He has to rely on a son that he barely knows and connects with to navigate his way through the world. It’s so different to see someone as cold and stoic as Kratos rely on someone else and start to have a connection with other people.
The relationship between Atreus and Kratos and how it evolves through the story is easily one of the most compelling parts of God of War (2018). These two characters contrast so magnificently with Atreus being an innocent child while Kratos is a grizzled warrior. Both of them find common ground in grieving the only woman in their lives. Kratos is very unaffectionate when talking to his son at the beginning of the story referring to him as “Boy” and being disappointed in his lack of combat skills and killer instinct. It’s sad to see how difficult it is for Kratos to relate to his son that he’s trying to turn into a survivor, but it serves as a big reason to keep playing on.
This story is so relatable to me. I think many of us have had relationships with family members who we love, but we just don’t connect with for whatever reason. I’ve been in Atreus’ shoes many times before just looking for the approval of people in my family but finding it very difficult to live up to those expectations. It’s that type of realistic interaction between these characters that make this story so easy to get lost in. I can’t remember another father-son relationship in a video game that was as wonderfully crafted as this one is. It also helps that Kratos is now voiced by Stargate SG-1’s Christopher Judge who’s thunderous voice really adds new dimensions to what was a fairly one-dimensional character.
As I mentioned earlier, God of War (2018)’s single camera shot style never cuts from the beginning of the game to the end unless you die. I didn’t understand why this was such a big deal until I really started getting into the game. Having this type of camera style really allowed me to understand the magnitude of fighting an enemy 10 times the size of Kratos. You never leave Kratos’ side during some of the most intense moments. Sometimes you’ll just sit there in silence with him, other times anguish. It really evokes emotion that just can’t be felt as effectively through traditional camera styles.
Atreus becomes an integral part of your battles. He is, after all, your son so he does listen to your commands and gives you an extra weapon in your arsenal. Atreus is equipped with a bow and unlimited arrows (although he can only fire a few at a time before recharging). He’ll shoot arrows at enemies or jump on them to stun them. He even has his own skill tree that can be upgraded which is a nice touch. Kratos has his own skill tree that can be upgraded as well. While he is only killing to survive now, the way he goes about that still has that brutal touch that we’ve come to expect from the God of War series. The stun kills, in particular, are not unlike a Mortal Kombat fatality hearing crunching bones and seeing a body ripped apart. They do become repetitive, but it’s nice to know that this game stays true to the roots of the series.
Kratos’ main weapon in this game is the Leviathan Ax. I didn’t think much of it when I first saw it, but it has quickly become one of my favourite weapons. You start out with simple light and heavy attacks, but it can be upgraded over time. My favourite feature of this weapon is that when you throw it you can call it back by pressing the triangle button in a way that mimics Thor’s Mjlonir. It damages all foes on the way back to your hand like a boomerang. If you don’t call it back and leave it lodged in an enemy, it will freeze them in place allowing you to focus on other enemies with your fists. It’s a satisfying feeling to watch the destruction you can cause with one little weapon.
The combat itself can be pretty complex in God of War (2018). You have to balance Atreus, parrying with your shield, slicing, and tossing with your ax all at once to find the right combination to defeat your foes. There are even special attacks that can be unlocked like an ice bean that shoots from the ax. I’m not particularly good with games that force you to change up your battle plans on a minute by minute basis, but I never felt overwhelmed throughout my campaign. If I failed a battle, I kept mixing up my strategies until I could complete it. The game forces you to do this in some ways by mixing in enemies with different immunities and vulnerabilities. Early on there was an enemy who was immune to ax attacks which forced me to use Atreus’ bow and my fists to take him out.
There are upgrades which can help you take down enemies more easily, but even the returning Rage of the Gods ability (which gives you a temporary boost of damage) didn’t make battles a cakewalk. There’s a challenge in this game until the very end. Armor for both Atreus and Kratos can make a big difference in the way you play the game. You can tweak stats for things like strength to runic magic and attack cooldown rate by modifying your armor. You can even slot pieces of equipment with runes that will provide your character with advantages like defense against certain enemies or accentuating your pre-existing abilities. Of course, you can just choose the coolest looking armor pieces if you’re inclined to do so and I may have done that a few times as well, although you’ll need all the help you can get for some of the big boss battles like the troll that swats at you with a gigantic bat.
God of War (2018) initially feels pretty linear, but it opens up after the first few hours. I had a lot of fun exploring and solving the many puzzles and the game encourages you to do just that. Occasionally you’ll even stumble upon one of the more difficult opponents that are anointed with a purple health bar. These battles proved to be quite a test as these enemies can normally take you down in one or two hits. The game never is truly open-world, it’s kind of herds you into the areas you’re ready for by gating certain areas behind story elements and milestones. You’ll even find yourself thinking you have a solution to move on to an area you haven’t been to before only to find yourself needing to acquire a collectible or something of that nature. It all integrates into the story in a really fluid way and I found it really hard to put down the controller because of that.
The world itself is a sight to be seen. It’s one of the most beautiful and realistic video game worlds I’ve ever seen. Everything from the blades of grass in the wind to the light glistening through the clouds and foliage to the very detailed enemy models and Kratos himself are perfectly captured and it almost feels like I’m playing through a movie. Everything moves so naturally and looks so natural, it’s really incredible to see, especially on a console. The expense of all this is that it runs at 30 FPS which didn’t really bother me other than the occasional dropped frame here and there.
God of War (2018) breathes new life into a series I expected to be on the decline. All the moving parts in this game work together to make it a true masterpiece and one that will keep you busy long after you complete the 25+ hour campaign. The supporting cast of characters is strong, the boss battles are truly amazing, the exploration is fun and interesting, and the story is captivating. It is one of the best games available on the PlayStation 4 and I’d recommend this game to everyone.
*A copy of this game was provided by PlayStation to FYIG for review purposes*