”Who I was is not who you will be” are words a father tells his son in hopes he doesn’t follow the same destructive path of his own past. The father, of course, is Kratos now older and wiser but the sentiment could also be applied to the evolution of God Of War as a whole. I’ve been a fan of the series from the start, in fact, God Of War 2 is one of my all-time favorites but as epic as the games are, they weren’t evolving or growing. Many people thought that after the lackluster sales and response to Ascension, it was time to retire the franchise. Cory Barlog and Santa Monica Studios knew there was still some life in our hero but in order to survive, he would need to change as a person and move from Greek to Norse mythology.
One of the most notable changes to God Of War is the combat. Now I know it’s hard to imagine Kratos without his trusty Blades Of Chaos, but the Leviathan axe almost immediately becomes intuitive and so much fun. The axe works as both a close-range melee weapon as well as a ranged weapon that freezes enemies and can be double deadly by inflicting another hit when you call it back to you. Admittedly, early in the game, I kept forgetting to call the axe back but once you get the hang of it, you will love experimenting with the various upgrades and Runic attacks. Runic Attacks come in two varieties, heavy and light and enhance physical and elemental damage.
Another big change in combat is the inclusion of Atreus. I normally find forced A.I. partners to be annoying or unnecessary, but it works really well here. Atreus wields a bow that has two types of arrows that provide different elemental damage to enemies and open pathways that are unavailable without his magic arrows. Atreus and his Talon bow are also upgradeable and once you master and customize Kratos and Atreus the results are devastating and some of the most fun I’ve had in a game.
I’ve always been a fan of mythology, and I’m especially fluent in the Greek variety which was one of the things that initially attracted me to God Of War. I love how the game wrote itself into that history, it made for a compelling story but it wasn’t exactly offering any kind of emotional experience. Not that that’s a necessary element to a great game but it’s nice to see a character grow, especially one that we’ve invested over ten years in. Given who Kratos was, you wouldn’t want him to become too evolved too quickly and Sony Santa Monica nailed it. In many ways, Kratos is still a ruthless monster, but he’s trying.
The heart of God Of War is Faye (Kratos’s second wife and mother of Atreus), a character we only know in death but probably the most important to Kratos’s personal growth. Some may disagree with me on that and insist it is Atreus that is making Kratos strive to be a better person, but it took Faye’s death for him to realise that he was once again failing as a father and person. The story of God Of War centres around Kratos and Atreus’s journey of fulfilling Faye’s final wish to have her ashes scattered on the highest peak of the nine realms. It’s painfully obvious that father and son have had a strained if not non-existent relationship. Atreus has no idea of his father’s past life as Ghost of Sparta, but a series of events force the secret life of a god to be revealed and the tone shifts from Kratos hiding his past to teaching Atreus how to be a good god.
I don’t want to spoil anything but the story is full of so much wow and the ending will have your jaw on the floor. The Norse setting couldn’t have been a better choice for the new and improved God Of War, and once again the game effortlessly rewrites history and ties the two mythologies together in a way that makes perfect sense.
While the story is linear, the game allows for an open world experience with side missions and the ability to explore and backtrack. I did a lot of exploring, in fact, I put in several hours/days of unadulterated playing before I realized I wasn’t even halfway through the main story. I’m going for the platinum trophy with this one but even if you just want to breeze through the main story, the game will offer you a good amount of hours of play.
I played God Of War on a 65” 4K Sony Bravia TV and a PS4 Pro, the graphics are insanely good. For my fellow Pro gamers, God Of War offers two options, Favor Resolution, or Favor Performance. The game is rendered in a checkerboard 2160p image (4096 x 2160 pixels). I chose the Favor Resolution option and I recommend you do the same, it was stunning! God Of War also supports HDR.
The voice acting is superb and the supporting characters could all star in their own games. Brok is the comic relief God Of War needed, trust me, he’s going to be your new favourite supporting character in a video game. Bear McCreary’s soundtrack perfectly complements the game’s action sequences and tender moments, so much so that it almost becomes a character itself.
I don’t know exactly how many hours I’ve spent playing God Of War, but it’s a lot and I’m nowhere near being done. Once you complete the main story you are free to roam around the realms and tie up loose ends or find all the various collectables you missed. Muspelheim is an optional region that features challenge arenas similar to Challenge Of The Gods from previous games. The game has plenty of replay value, and if you are brave enough be sure to check out the Give Me God Of War difficulty as it offers a challenging experience that changes the gameplay considerably.
I went into God Of War with expectations that were through the roof and the end result exceeded my expectations. The game instantly won a spot in my heart and the top of my all-time favourite games.
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Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.