Video Game Review: God of War

God of War has taken over the PlayStation community by storm. At first, I was skeptical. I have never played any of the previous games, so I have zero experience and expectations. I am blown away by how phenomenal this game is. I am saying it now that this might be game of the year. The massive amount of hype is not just hype; it is the truth.

The story takes place with Kratos in a new world. He has left Sparta to find peace with his life by starting a family. The new world takes place in the Norse mythology which is awesome. I love the new setting. The game takes place with the cremation of Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother. Her last wish was for her husband and son to take her ashes to the tallest mountain in the area. On this journey, Kratos must teach his son to survive, battle a variety of enemies, become a better father, and tackle his troubled past. The trip is mostly centered around Kratos and his son as their relationship develops.

The game has several supporting characters and antagonists who will either help or try to stop Kratos and Atreus on their adventure. Each character is fully developed and has a unique personality. Nothing in this game is gone to waste, especially the characters. Everyone feels like they belong and are real. The development of everyone is organic and comes to life naturally. On the adventure, Kratos and Atreus will change as individuals and within their relationship. The dialog is excellently written with fantastic voice acting that is on a whole new level unlike almost any game out there. Pacing for this type of development of characters needs to be done right. The pacing is flawlessly done to make for a compelling story with great characters. I always heard people had mix feelings about Kratos, but he manages to be more fleshed out to be more sympathetic and complex. This well-established series has managed to take their iconic protagonist and give him a new identity that works perfectly.

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The combat is some of the best I have played in years. Satisfying combos and move sets that will not get old even 40 or more hours played. The game has an organic way that introduces new mechanics, mainly to combat.  Throwing your ax and catching it feels phenomenal every time. When enemies are stunned, you can do brutal takedowns such as ripping enemies in half or slamming them into the ground. Each enemy type has a unique takedown that Kratos can do, but I wish there were more variety to this. Seeing the game takedown can get a little dull. Atreus helps during combat. He acts on his own, but you can command him to make certain moves too. As the game progresses, he becomes more reliable. Atreaus’ power grows, and his skills increase. He gets stronger by upgrades and new armor, but naturally, as a character, he grows too. It makes for a unique way to develop a character by making them naturally gaining skills while having typical upgrades makes for something I have not seen before in a game. Games such as The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite have an AI partner, but never on this level of helpfulness. When fighting, enemies are all unique with different strengths and weaknesses. You must adopt different strategies depending on the enemy. The difficulty is perfect. I played on normal difficulty. Moments were incredibly hard, but others were easy. Playing on the harder difficulties will give players a worthy challenge to their skills.

Like any game, certain tropes are there. However, every trope found here is flipped on its head to make for a unique experience. The game introduces there dwarves characters who are the game’s shopkeepers. This way feels organic within the world that I did not think of this being a typical interaction. These characters you can have conversations with and be given side missions. So much is done to provide the most realistic experience to make this world as immersive as possible.

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Enemies give experience, money, and other resources. All of this can be found in chests or by selling items to the shopkeepers. Currency and resources are used to buy upgrades, new gear, enchantments, and runes. Runes and enchantments are additional upgrades for armor and weapons. Everything has unique stats with pros and cons depending on what type of character you want to build. Side missions are limited, but fleshed out to be fun and have a purpose. Side missions will also give you plenty of rewards that make your time worth it. Exploring for equipment and resources is very rewarding. Collectibles and other items in the area can provide additional lore and other information. Atreus writes in the journal that can give extra information. Reading his descriptions of enemies or the history of the world feels like he wrote it.

The game centers around fighting enemies and puzzles. The puzzles are a variety of difficulty. Nothing is too hard, but it will take time. Once you solve it, then you get that aha moment for completing the puzzle. The variety of puzzles build off of what you have learned previously. Gaining specific key equipment items from the main story will unlock ways to solve other side puzzles. You can not do everything in the game until late game or until completing the main story.

Leveling up is quite simple. Earning experience for missions and combat is like any other game. Skill trees for Atreus and Kratos are small but useful. Every skill makes you feel stronger than before. I think many games give me useless skills, but everything here I can use if I want. Various new combat moves along with traditional upgrades such as making weapons stronger are some of the skills within the tree. A simple and effective mechanic that gives more power with no filler.

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The hub world is on a giant lake that has many areas to explore. The game is not open world but manages a balance between linear and open. Along with this extensive area are a variety of realms to explore. These are much more linear with some split paths that allow for exploration. Not a single inch of this game is filler. Everything is utilized correctly for some practical reason to both gameplay, main story, or giving some additional background to make the world seem more realistic. Everything is beautiful. Seriously, this might be the best looking console game ever made. The colors are vibrant with an emphasis on its blues. Everything pops and has an incredible amount of detail. The level of detail to every aspect of the game is the key as to why this game is so phenomenal.

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Besides a change is combat style, the new RPG elements, and various other changes to this entry in the series, but the camera is different too. The game has a cinematic focus with everything being one shot. There are little to no loading screens to keep you at the moment. Seamless transitions from cut scenes to gameplay make for an immersive experience. I have been confused when I am playing or watching a cutscene, and I loved that.

So, are there any issues in the game? I have tried so hard to come up with some criticism. A few moments in which the frame rate dropped, but that happened maybe two or three times. A few moments of Atreus running into a wall, but other than that the AI is stable and consistent.

God of War is a masterpiece. Before this game, the only game to have a story that pulled at my heartstrings was The Last of Us. The development of the characters, the detailed world, the excellent gameplay, and the incredible writing delivers one of the most innovative and compelling video games of all time. If you own a PS4, then you must play this game. If you have never played the series, then you must. Players with zero experience like myself will not be lost in the story. Some connection the old game is there, but not enough to make newcomers lost. Hardcore fans who are willing to accept that the game has taken a new turn should enjoy themselves as much. It is a disservice not to play this masterpiece of a game.


Images via Santa Monic Studios and in-game shots

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