God of War has always been one of PlayStation’s flagship titles ever since it first released on PlayStation 2 way back in 2005. A lot has changed since then, which is no more evident than in Studio Santa Monica’s latest game in the franchise for PS4, a game which, as you’ll find out, is an experience not to be missed.
Described as a “reimagining” for the franchise, God of War brings big changes. Kratos is now joined by his son Atreus, he has an axe in place of the Blades of Athena and to add to this, there is now a one continuous camera shot which flits between the brilliant story and the over the shoulder action, meaning you’ll be immersed from start to finish in the new Norse mythology-inspired setting without a load screen in sight (well unless Kratos is killed *disclaimer* he’ll be killed a lot).
Kratos and Atreus seem to only have one thing in common at the beginning of the game and that’s to reach the tallest point in all the realms to scatter the ashes of their wife and mother. Kratos has always been a bit of a hardass, so parenthood doesn’t exactly come easily to him, which doesn’t always make for a fun day out in the mountains for Atreus. On the bright side, Kratos’ guide to patenting does have its upsides, seeing Atreus grow in confidence and a bond form between the two. This likely wouldn’t have been the case should they have reached the top of the mountain and came back down again within an hour, however as you’d expect, what should have been a simple task doesn’t exactly go to plan, instead seeing a simple morning out to scatter ashes turn into an epic adventure on a grand scale.
Kratos is different these days, he has a bloodied past after his adventures in Ancient Greece, but now, after the loss of his wife, he finds himself in the strange position of being a lone father. It’s not easy for him but over the course of the game he starts to open up a little towards his son and it’s the way this story is played out which has a part in making God of War one of the best games out there.
What’s fantastic about God of War is that it’s not just a tale of two characters, in many ways it’s a story of the whole world and it’s one Kratos and Atreus just happen to find themselves caught in the middle of, while at the same time shaping their relationship into what it becomes.
The little details are what really stand out for me, such as the accurate Scottish slang from voice actor Alistair Duncan, who plays Norse God ‘Mirmir’, a character which you’ll keep close to you throughout most of your journey. It’s an excellent performance, although he’s hardly alone as each member of the cast seems to have brought their ‘A’ game to the recording studio.
When it comes to the action you needn’t worry about a more story focused adventure taking away from what God of War is famous for. Things have changed thanks to the new over the shoulder view, although if anything this just makes things even more intense, giving you a close-up view of the action. To aid you a new threat meter warns of any danger coming from behind and thanks to a quick turn button you can sweep around to take care of it.
Kratos can make use of light and heavy attacks to take care of the enemy, while he also has a shield with which to parry and counter. As his weapon evolves Kratos can really go to town on the enemy, thanks to the ability to upgrade his skills in a way which suits your style. Atreus is also no slouch, assisting you with arrow strikes on command, although once again, as his skills evolve, he can perform even more devastating attacks, making you glad to have him along for the journey.
The combat is just incredible really. There are times when it feels like the enemies will never stop coming. With Kratos cutting through creature after creature and when he’s in full flow it really is a sight to behold. It’s not just about bashing a button to kill either, as there is so much depth here thanks to the ability to upgrade weapons, unlock new armour and even improve this very same equipment with enchantments. Even then, you’ll need to decide which are best for you. Some armour, for instance, will increase your strength, while others may focus on defence or vitality. It’s quite a complex system, especially since you’ll find yourself with so much choice when it comes to upgrades, but it’s well worthwhile spending time with it as it’ll only benefit you throughout your adventure.
The action is epic on a grand scale, I can’t emphasise this enough. You’ll meet all manner of creatures, big and small and each of them will challenge you and most likely kill you if you’re not careful. The boss fights are out this world and will require strategy and the use of many of Kratos’ extra abilities such as his rage, which can be activated using the L3 and R3 buttons once the meter is full.
It’s great to see old stables such as the Rage and Health meters being included in the game, as well as the ability to increase these meters via hidden chests. The difference here is these same chests are now complex puzzles, it’s not just a case of finding them and opening, now you’ll have to figure out ways to do so. Sometimes this will simply mean smashing the runes which are represented on the chest, while at other times you’ll have a much more difficult task on your hands.
God of War is a huge and beautiful game, making it all too easy for you to lose yourself in a world steeped in Norse mythology. Exploration plays a massive part, often solving one of the games many puzzles will open up areas you never really knew existed and even though you’ll likely have a set goal in mind, it’s likely the lure of an unexplored path will draw you in. The same can be said when out in the open world. There are so many areas with unexplored secrets, so even though you’ll likely want to finish the game at one point, you probably won’t be able to help yourself from having a look, which in turn will take you down a path you never knew existed. Even when the game is complete you’ll unlock new secrets, meaning you’ll still be able to spend time in this wonderful world.
There’s no doubt God of War is one of the most beautiful games you’ll ever play. Each area has its own charm. Some cold and wintery or dark and desperate, while others are bright and colourful. One thing each area does have in common is that they are all epic in scale, stretching as far as the eye can see and often the furthest away point is your destination. It’d be easy to just sit back and admire the beauty of it all and often you will. There’s no doubt an incredible amount of work which has gone into this game and it shows.
God of War is a wonderful, immersive game which has everything. The story is powerful and touching, the action is fast paced, the world complex and the presentation is truly stunning. God of War is one of the best games I have ever played. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
*Reviewed using a copy of the game paid for by ourselves/copy from publisher had not arrived in time for review*