I have dabbled in the God of War franchise since the PlayStation 2 days. Back then, I treated the game as a mindless, gory hack and slash game, but always appreciated the tons of content and interesting story. (Mind you, I was just a young teen back then.) The first three entries to the franchise (not including the PSP games) were a solid bunch of games, but this iteration on the PlayStation 4 takes so many leaps that it is almost unrecognisable to those entries. For everyone, it’s totally worth the leap.
This time, the creators at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio decided to ditch the numbers and named this entry ‘God of War’. It is definitely a warranted change. This game can be a standalone title. Even if you haven’t played the earlier entries in the franchise, God of War will ease you into the lore and its background. It does this in a compelling way. You will learn to love this epic.
You play as Kratos, a former demi-god of Greek origins, who is a total bad ass. Part of his badassery is that he speaks only when needed and sometimes ends a conversation with his axe in the head of his speaking pal. In this iteration, he has discarded his spartan relics and decided to live his life as a recluse with his son, named ‘Boy’, I mean Atreus. (Kratos calls his son ‘boy’ a lot early on in the adventure.) The relationship between Kratos and his son starts off weak and wanting, but as the story progresses it becomes deep and meaningful and the connection between the two grows as the story reaches its climax.
The journey in the game is fun and interesting. The story progression is well executed. There is a level of natural growth between Kratos and Arteus. In some ways, you as a gamer will grow, because you learn about the perspectives of these characters. You may even be able to relate to them. For example, things unravel when you learn that Kratos is concerned about revealing his divine heritage to his son, while Atreus is constantly seeking his father’s affection and approval. These desires often cause a rift between father and son. The resolutions to these rifts can be surprising and endearing, those moments keep the story both engaging and riveting.
The story starts with a simply enough premise. To fulfil a dying wish, Kratos wants to take his son on a journey to travel to the highest peak in Midgard to deliver his wife’s ashes. To reach their goal, they face several obstacles and enemies, all inspired by Norse mythology. (If you know your Norse mythology, names and words like Thor, Odin, Ragnarok, etc should all be familiar to you.)
Both Kratos and Atreus come across various companions and allies along their journey that add weight and some interesting dialogue (since Kratos isn’t much of a speaker. He mainly speaks through his axe.). They meet the friendly World Serpent, Jörmungandr, Mímir, the talking head, and Freya, the Witch of the Woods. When you get to it, Mímir is such a welcome addition to the party, since he will non-stop talk about interesting tidbits.
The game looks gorgeous. The backgrounds are epic. There are so many different areas, from cold frosty tundra to rocky areas to a massive underground mine shaft. Plus there are heaps of interesting vistas and hidden gems. There is plenty of eye candy. For many of the vistas, you can actually visit them up close since you are afforded the freedom to get around the realm.
The gameplay controls are fluid. It is a hack and slash, but don’t go mindless with the buttons, because it will punish those players that don’t time their actions. Each time I died and I died many times, I never felt cheated. I knew that I was just either plain bad or just impatient. There are some bosses, particularly the optional bosses, that do not have set choreographed moves. These battles will really test your patience, but reward those that are skillful. It’s a positive trait. The throwable axe and cleave-set are fantastic weapons and didn’t feel stale given the many ways to upgrade them.
The main story is long and worthwhile. You have the choice to follow the main scenario quest line, but the game allows you some freedom to explore and complete side content at almost any moment. Once you finish the game, the side content really opens up. There are heaps of unlockables and optional bosses to take down. At the end of the main scenario, I found myself wanting to get into these optional content and managed to uncover some by accident (and some I managed to beat by the skin of my teeth). I was in awe with some of the end game content, from slaying dragons, solving puzzles to ripping the wings off Valkyries.
God of War is now a PlayStation Hit and can often be found on sale for around $AUD17.99 at various brick and mortar retailers from JB Hi Fi, EB Games, Big W and Target. This is a polished triple AAA game and should be in your PlayStation catalogue. There is no downloadable content or extra content you need to buy. It’s all on one blu-ray disc. Also, if you finish it completely, you will be ready for its sequel on the PlayStation 5.