God Of War Review
Is it even fair to write a review about this game? It’s obviously going to be a review that favors it. I’ve played all of the God Of War games and have been looking forward to getting my hands on this one for ages since it has been announced. This one follows Kratos *SPOILERS* post-destruction of Olympus and the Greek Pantheon in the new lands of Midgard. He’s older now, but it doesn’t mess with his strength and capability, and has a son who is learning the ropes in terms of becoming a warrior. While Kratos tries to bury his past he must guide his son, Atreus, in gaining strength in order to complete their task of bringing the ashes of Atreus’ dead mother to the summit of the highest mountain in all the realms. The gameplay is significantly different from previous GOW games and features a more “new Tomb Raider meets Dark Souls” kind of feel to it; and, believe me, it’s very welcome opposed to the constant similar hack ‘n’ slashes the older games were!
Amazingly told story and well-put together characters – Like Master Chief in Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, we finally get to see a personality to Kratos that’s not just killing and moving on to the next task. He’s not hellbent on revenge anymore and he’s learned to forgive himself for his past sins of killing his previous family. In this story he’s learning to focus on Atreus and the child’s growth into a strong individual, both mentally and physically. Kratos feels like he belongs in Midgard yet he is still clueless to many aspects of it, it’s very interesting to see him learn from Atreus as the boy is very knowledgeable thanks to being home-schooled by his mother. Also, like any other teenager, he goes through various phases throughout the journey of understanding, rebellion, and maturation. Other characters included are Mimir, a story-telling head that accompanies you that throws down tons of exposition and hilarious humor; Baldur, a god who attempts to impede Kratos and Atreus’ path from an order by Odin; the Witch of the forest, who has deeper secrets and beautiful magical abilities; and other gods who attempt to get in the heroes’ way that feel organic and fleshed out.
Gorgeous looking game – Suffice to say, the game is a marvel of its time. If you have a 4k HDR television you’re in for a treat because any player would stunned at the sheer realism throughout the in-game world (even without the HDR feature it still looks amazing). From Alfheim to the Witch’s forest you’ll be stunned at the visual beauty and detail put into it. This may seem like I’m just pumping it up because it is a favored game of mine but it’s no joke that the graphics are simply the best in the business today. Kratos and Atreus look like real people plopped into this amazing land, the creatures and enemies scattered throughout the realms have unique designs according to their region, the landscapes are breathtaking to behold, and the layout of everything is perfect and makes sense with the story. The first time you see Jormungandr coming down to greet you it will make your jaw drop in awe at the sheer size and spectacle of it.
Axe-throwing, archery, magic and “old friends” – This version of Kratos wields the mighty Leviathan Axe, one of the coolest weapons you’ll come across in any game. It utilizes powerful ice magic and can perform a number of different moves, can be upgraded, performs Light and Heavy Runic Attacks that cause massive damage and/or the ability to stun and freeze, and the neatest Avengers Thor-like move of recalling the thrown axe. Atreus uses a bow that can later be imbued with light and electricity powers, each with their own kind of stunning effects. Throughout gameplay players will get used to calling upon Atreus to assist Kratos in tight spots and combining their moves and powers in order to create massive area damage to handle hordes of enemies. The button map layout is perfect for utilizing all of the various moves and feels natural after only a short time. Complexity definitely comes into play if you’re looking to tackle higher difficulties and it all works so well together when taking on the tougher enemies like trolls, Ancients, or the Valkyries. Upgrading equipment and skills is done by spending Hacksilver with materials and Experience points, respectively, to add a whole bunch of different combinations for players and their play-styles. What’s even greater about it is that different armors actually look significantly different and sometimes unique to specific realms rather than just color-palette swaps like most games do. The conclusion that I’m still getting to is, there were no shortcuts or cheap compromises when they were developing this spectacle of a game.
A world thrown together from tales and myth – The team at Santa Monica did something that is seemingly impossible and that’s to build a world that fits and makes sense according to the weird mythology from centuries ago. The world of Midgard and the various realms are so breathtaking to behold and explore that you deeply wish to be able to go to all of them just to see the contrast from the last. The Lake of Nine is almost like a central world hub that leads you to various outposts, islands, and other areas on the Midgard map to explore and perform various tasks in order to increase the duo’s experience and upgrade their armor. The very center gives you a room that represents the world tree — Yggdrasil — that transports you to other realms including: Alfheim, Niflheim, Muspelheim, Helheim, and, eventually, Jotunheim. There are still many that you can’t visit like Svartalfheim, Vanaheim, and Asgard but I’m sure they’ll be explored in the coming sequels, or maybe DLC!
Well thought out ways to navigate – Bridging back to navigating this well-put together map, auto travel is replaced with something that feels logical to this world of myth and magic in the form of Mystic Gateways and the Realm Between Realms that you walk through and acts as a natural loading screen before the door pops up to the desired area. This is not only a great way to not break immersion, but also add more to the lore of the game as the Realm Between Realms is integral to the plot later on. The boat is also a very commonly used mode of transport as most everything is accessible by water only (hence “Lake of Nine”) and gives the crew opportunity to trade tales and history of the world. It’s very much a treat to hop into the boat and row around listening to stories they have to tell each other. As you progress more areas of the Lake become accessible as Jormungandr shifts and empties water, adding a more linear direction to the open world but only opening more avenues of exploration to satisfy the player steadily.
Perfect voicework and mo-cap – Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic are two spectacular actors who not only lend their talents in the voice acting aspect of the game but also through the work on the motion capture for Kratos and Atreus’ facial and body movements, respectively. Expressions that they make and the motion of their bodies seem so eerily natural that it feels like you can be watching a movie! Even the talented Alastair Duncan, who’s worked as Celebrimbor in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, lends his beautiful and whimsical voice to bring Mimir to life as not only their trusted guide but also as hilarious comic relief for many tense moments. Couple this with the rest of the cast that really brought a more humanistic take on Norse mythological deities and beings and you have an amazing game that immerses the player in its world and lore.
The score was just magical – When I say nearly everything behind this game is nigh-on perfect, it’s the majestic soundtrack behind the duo’s journey that really wraps everything together and makes that statement true. Composed by Bear McCreary (Outlander, The Walking Dead, Da Vinci’s Demons), the mood and atmosphere are perfectly captured with the epic orchestra and intense hounding of your senses by the woodwind and string instruments. Your adrenaline spikes when you enter into a battle with a Valkyrie not only because of their sheer presence but also due to the intense battle song that plays. Softer moments between Atreus and his father are punctuated by soothing melodies in the background. These are also coupled with the outstanding sound effects that go into the monsters, battles, environment, and other ambient sounds that absorb the player even more.
Lack of different death scenes for similar enemies – I needed to think really hard about any kind of Downsides because there’s barely any, in my opinion; this point dives into the nitpicky area of gaming and it was even hard to think of this. There’s only a few times throughout the game that I really wished there was multiple death scenes when killing similar enemies like the all-powerful Valkyries that you encounter. At the end when you press R3 to finish them off you’ll only just rip off their wings every time, wish gets pretty redundant. It would have been cool to have a unique way of taking down each one that was both visually pleasing and corresponded to their unique abilities such as the Valkyrie from Niflheim that utilized ice powers in which you could have stabbed her body with a giant icicle she tries desperately to conjure to impale Kratos with. Again, nitpicky but definitely would have added to the experience.
More intricate QTE events – This was a staple of GOW games and, although it was included, they felt like they were lacking in being complex as you only need to mash the O button or press R3 to kill a weakened enemy. This simplifies that aspect of the game but would have been very welcome for higher difficulties to change up the paradigm and increase the already hardened gameplay for those veterans out there who seek out even more difficult challenges.
This review for God Of War may feel like yet another love letter to the developers at Santa Monica Studios for doing such a perfect job, and lost in the other reviews out there that glorify the game, but hopefully (if you stuck it out to the end of the review) you appreciate the opinion of an intense God Of War series fan who’s been there since the start of Kratos’ journey. Though playing previous GOW games will definitely help in adding tons of nostalgic feeling for those players out there, it doesn’t feel like it’s needed as the game does a good job at reiterating the important aspects of Kratos’ past while still focusing on the adventure at hand. It’s a perfect game in almost every way and I can’t wait for the next sequel to come out and how they’re going to continue it! Well worth the buy right away.
God Of War was developed by Santa Monica Studios and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released for PlayStation 4 [reviewed] on April 20th, 2018. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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