God of War – Review

God of War is one of Sony’s biggest franchises and for good reason. The God of War games are always filled with a lot intense and visceral action with brutal over the top violence. The basis of this new God of War title is no different but there have definitely been some other changes to this popular franchise. For starters, this is on the PlayStation 4 and as such, it is the best-looking title in the God of War franchise. Kratos especially has a lot of really nice detail, as does his son Atreus. You can tell Kratos has aged a bit since we last saw him and his son is at that age where he really isn’t ready for what he is about to face but Kratos has no choice but to bring his son along on their quest, for reasons I will not spoil. Along the way Kratos tries to mentor his son with some tough love, scolding him when he screws up while giving him the occasional compliment as well. As anyone who has played this franchise knows Kratos is a gruff individual. He is trying to get his son ready for what is ahead but as I was going through the game I could sense an internal struggle within Kratos. I am not going to go into the reasons why as that would be spoiling part of the story but I enjoyed the added depth that Sony Santa Monica added to Kratos for this new title.

The action in the God of War titles has always been fast and fluid and it is largely the same here. I think it is a tad slower in this new title but that is due to the new camera system that has been used. I have seen some concerns online regarding the combat in this game but let me assure you that you will still be fighting big monsters and be finishing them off in excruciating fashion. You can still get up close and personal with melee combat or you can hang back a little and engage in some ranged combat. This includes throwing your ax at an enemy or having your son use his bow and fire arrows at the enemy before they can get to you. Obviously, as you progress in the game you will acquire new skills and both you and Atreus will get stronger. As you upgrade your weapons and your gear new skills will become available to you that you can unlock using XP that you have earned by either dispatching enemies or interacting with the environment.

In my opinion, this new God of War is not as linear as the previous titles but it also isn’t really an open world title. Once I got to the Lake of the Nine, for example, I had a boat and I was able to explore that area and do some favors. There were different boat docks that I could visit and there was usually something different to do. There were a few instances where I had to light some braziers and then fight a group of enemies and defeat them so that some wayward spirits could find peace. There was another one where I came across a merchant who sent us to look for his friend that he had not seen in a really long time. These are optional side quests and you can completely ignore them if you so choose but, in my opinion, you are going to want to do as many of these as you can. You will want to explore the environments in this game as much as possible. Go off the beaten path to find chests that might have money for you to spend in a shop or an item that you can use to craft something that can help you on your journey. There are also chests that are magically sealed and they require you solve a small puzzle before you can open them. The rewards for these chests are definitely worth solving the puzzles. You might get something that will increase your maximum health bar or something that will increase your Rage (not that Kratos needs any more rage) or something else altogether.

There are a variety of different environments in God of War that offer a nice variety of scenery. There are times when you are trying to get to the summit of a mountain and as such, there is a bunch of ice and snow around, along with an assortment of enemies, crystals to shoot (as long as you have the power associated with that crystal) and more. The audio is also fantastic in the game whether it is the banter between Kratos and Atreus or the sound of the snow crunching beneath my feet. Some other environments include the aforementioned lake, a house where an ally lives that is bright and colorful with red flowers, orange flowers, green moss and trees and a blue sky. Then you have darker areas such as caves, temples and a variety of other locales. They did a great job with the variety and thanks to Sony Santa Monica obviously being very familiar with the PS4, they were able to make everything look pristine, especially if you have a PlayStation 4 Pro and a 4K television.

As I progressed through the game I would earn experience points for a variety of actions. These points would allow me to upgrade my skills so that I can take on tougher enemies. There are three different things that you can upgrade with those being the Leviathan Axe that Kratos uses, the shield Kratos uses and the Talon Bow that is Arteus’s main weapon. Each one of these has a skill tree so you will have to prioritize what you think is the most important and the order in which you want to upgrade your weapons. For me personally, I used Atreus a lot in battle for ranged support and so when I had enough points for an upgrade I would tend to upgrade his bow before a lot of other things. By doing this he was able to inflict more damage on enemies, drastically reduce the cooldown time of him needing to stock up on more arrows once he ran out (he has an endless supply but once his quiver is empty it takes a few moments to refill it), being able to increase his fire rate, being able to chain attacks between multiple enemies and more. If you choose to upgrade the weaponry Kratos uses before Atreus you will gain access to different maneuvers like a leap attack, being able to switch stance for a ranged attack, being able to throw your axe and target multiple enemies at once and more. As I write this review I have most of the skills unlocked for both individuals so I am becoming quite powerful and my son and I can cause a good amount of damage and wipe out normal enemies without too much work. Of course, this will also depend on the difficulty that you chose when you first started the game. I’m on the default setting personally and while there have definitely been some challenging enemies I haven’t felt overwhelmed or anything like you might feel if you choose to go the route that has the highest difficulty setting.

While you make your way through this new adventure, you will come across a plethora of collectibles as well as areas that will have words in an ancient language chiseled into them. Arteus can read a lot of these languages and they help to expand the lore of this new universe. I say new universe because this God of War deals with Norse Mythology whereas the previous titles in this franchise were in Ancient Greece. There are of course references and things like that to previous titles for those who have been with this franchise since the beginning. When you find these markings in the game Atreus will write them down in his journal and you can look at the expanded lore at any time. I really enjoyed this as it helped me connect with the world more than I probably would have. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying there though. The world in this new God of War is very immersive and it is easy to get lost in it. I personally just like the extra touches that can further immerse me in the surroundings. In addition to that expanded lore, there are also treasure maps that you will find and then using the clue you are given you will have to find the buried treasure. There are different labors for you to work on such as fully upgrading the weapon that Kratos uses as well as finding all of the hidden chambers in the world, trying to find all of the shrines and then some standard kill X number of enemies to earn experience points. I mentioned the Favors up above so I won’t go into that again and then, of course, you have the main part of the story that you need to work through. Once something is completed it will give you some objective information that kind of sums up the part you just went through which I really appreciate because it helps distill some of the finer points they want you to know and you have been away from the game for a while it can serve as a great reminder as well.

Sticking with the main story I think the development team at Sony Santa Monica hit a home run with Kratos and Atreus in this game. To me, the God of War games have always been fun to play but Kratos seemed to be a bit one-dimensional. That is no longer the case here. There is a good amount of depth to Kratos now as he struggles with recent events and how to handle them. He has never really gotten along all that well with his son Atreus and Atreus didn’t seem to like Kratos much either. As you go through the game it is interesting to see the relationship between these two and how the dynamic changes with each new challenge that is put in front of them. Kratos can seem like a bit of a cold individual but the internal struggle he is battling is real as he juggles the responsibility of completing his mission and trying to watch after his son in the process. Of course, his journey turns out to be a lot more complicated than he was expecting which results in both of them needing each other, even if they don’t always get along. Atreus is a child who is naturally curious and has a bunch of questions. He has that young enthusiasm that a lot of kids have but it sometimes gets him into trouble. You can see there are times when Kratos might scold him but then potentially regret being that rough with Atreus. It seems like he wants to try and console his son but doesn’t really know how so he kind of puts up this wall and tries to stay focused solely on the task at hand. Atreus is much more open with his feelings and wants to help those who are in trouble whereas Kratos keeps telling Atreus to essentially only bother with matters that concern the journey they are on. Basically, Kratos considers everyone and everything expendable. The juxtaposition of these two personalities is really well done and as the journey goes on Atreus isn’t the only one learning some valuable lessons.

What more can I really say about God of War? It is an amazing journey that tests the relationship between father and son while still delivering everything people love about the God of War franchise. The combat is still visceral and violent and you will still get a chance to fight monsters that are at least 10 times your size. There is also something strangely satisfying about throwing your axe at an enemy and then immediately getting it back with the push of a button. The audio cues with the thud you hear when the axe strikes its target and then when it lands back in your hand give the whole thing a bit more substance. The new combat mechanics that are introduced with Atreus are a welcome addition and it provides a great one-two punch, especially if you are getting overrun with enemies. The world is beautifully realized with a really nice variety of environments so you won’t get tired looking at the same old thing. The audio is well done whether it is the continual conversations between Kratos and Atreus, a conversation with a character you just met, the sound of your axe breaking through some wood, the roar of an epic beast or the howl of the wind as you are climbing a mountain. If you are interested in the lore it is really easy to read all about it as you find ancient script throughout the game or if you don’t care you can skip it, for the most part. This new God of War is something everyone should play. God of War fans should thoroughly enjoy this new experience. If this franchise hasn’t been your thing in the past I urge you to give this one a try. It might have just fixed whatever you didn’t like in previous entries and then you will get to experience the latest opus from Sony Santa Monica.

Score: 10/10
Originally posted on Gaming Target

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