Having played all the installments in this 13 year old franchise, I still hold the original God of War as the best. When I first saw it at the game store, there was no hype or buzz surrounding this new franchise and being a fan of Greek mythology, I decided to give this game a shot. I mean, the title itself was pretty cool. God of War. It would be really cool to play as a god in an action adventure game, I thought to myself as I bought the game with impulse, while my friends were dissing my game choice since there were other more popular titles out at that particular time. They were so wrong to diss it because the following week, the game was sold out from all game stores.
I must admit, I was tremendously excited when I saw the first trailer for the brand new God of War during the E3 announcements. However, one thing that bothered me was the gameplay. Gone are the furious fast paced action sequences which involve Kratos wildly swinging his blades of Chaos as his enemies fell before him in a pile of sundered ash. Instead, the trailer showcased tactical combat that required strategy and planning during combat. I was not sold on this new God of War even though I pre ordered it. Until I played the game, that is.
After collecting my copy during the local midnight launch, I immediately popped the disc into my PS4 as I needed to prove myself wrong and scratch an 8 year-long itch since God of War III came out. The first thing I realized was the graphics was off the charts. Astonishingly beautiful sceneries of snowy mountainous regions, lively and colourful forests, stunning river canals and breathtaking buildings and structures filled my screen within a few hours.
The realism depicted this time around is very gritty and adds a whole new depth to the pacing as well as the narrative of the game. Each realm has an distinctive feel to it, such as an ethereal feeling to the more magical realms and a more grounded one in Midgard. This is greatly aided by the coloration used and the facial mapping as well as motion capture has been utilized to its maximum capacity, reflecting the ever evolving game engine.
Speaking of game engines, the brand new off the shoulder camera view helps define the epic size of the game, showcasing the commanding size of some of the enemies you face in game. There are no more loading screens between stages, which makes transitions smoother and combat more fluid. Make no mistake, the blood, gore and brutality is still there as that is what make this franchise tick. The animation sequences for finishing moves are great and unique to each enemy. It is also very satisfying to execute and watch your enemies perish in ablaze of ruthlessness.
Music and Sound Effects
Music during combat is filled with suspense and adrenaline, spurring your inner rage to lay waste to your foes. In direct contrast to this, you will be accompanied by soothing, thematic music that is inspired by Norse mythology throughout your journey and as the pace picks up, so does the music. Sound effects such as the bones of your enemies snapping and the sound of your axe returning to your hand are spot on. Check our the soundtrack down below!
The crème de la crème here is the voice acting of all the characters. From Atreus’s not so confident, eager and whiny tone to Kratos’s more mature, gruff and angry voice to The Stranger’s cocky, calm and self-assured voice acting, the emotions portrayed through the voices alone is enough to sell the game. The syncing of the actions and the dialogue is scarily accurate, almost as if though you are watching an interactive movie.
Gameplay and Controls
Resource gathering, inventory management, upgrading skills and side questing are all RPG elements that have been seamlessly incorporated into the game without it being out of place. For almost any other action based game, this merger of genres would have been jarringly distasteful, but God of War does it with panache. Elements of an open world have been integrated smoothly into the overall narrative and pace of the game. You can now equip armor for both Kratos and his son, as well as socket runes into your weapons that possesses special attacks that can turn the tide of battle in your favour quickly.
You can no longer close your eyes and spam the square and triangle buttons, effectively executing a variation of the Rage of Tartarus combo to annihilate the mobs you face. Combat has become extremely tactical as Kratos trades his favourite blades for a new cool weapon, the Leviathan Axe, which can be thrown and recalled at will.
The interactions in combat is a welcome addition as you throw you axe at your enemy and freeze them as you use your bare fists to pummel another oncoming enemy. You can also block using your shield and slam into foes with it to stun them. The possibilities are exciting but failure to plan will result in a quick death, even against thrash mobs. Like previous installments, some camera angles can get very tricky and hinders you from executing certain actions or combos in combat.
This can escalate into slightly frustrating moments that may affect your game progression as you can be stuck solving a simple puzzle due to the rotation and limit of the camera angle.
Storyline and Script
I have played the game for roughly 25 hours and there is more story and connection in this edition than the entire previous saga of God of War combined. Entwining Greek and Norse mythology has never been done better and I feel that this is one of the strongest aspect of the game. It feels very real despite it being a fantasy based setting.
The other strong aspect here is the bond that Kratos and Atreus share. Kratos has been given a second chance at life, living with his growing son, who surprisingly does not know much about his father’s storied past. The beginning of the game deals with the journey that they both have to embark upon to scatter the ash of Faye, Kratos’s wife, on the top of the mountain. Along the way, however, multiple incidents pull Kratos back like a magnet, forcing him to face his past in order to secure his future in the form of Atreus.
The themes of redemption and familial growth is ever present, as Atreus learns from Kratos and vice versa, the two forming a dynamic that is very relatable and heartwarming. Kratos struggles to show his affection as he has led a life of violence and betrayal at every turn, while Atreus scuffles with the expectations that his father has for him. Throughout the entire game, their relationship continues to evolve and it is the best part of this game, hands down. The replayability factor is also imminent from the get go as there are certain areas cleverly marked off for post-game content and some of them look pretty epic.
Looking back at how far God of War has come, it truly is amazing and unthinkable that Santa Monica Studios would make such a bold move to overhaul the entire game concept, narrative and gameplay of such an established franchise. I believe no such franchise has done such a drastic move in style after creating a branding image for itself in the early 2000’s. This truly showcases the creativity rampant in the gaming industry, as there are no limits to the evolution of a game in today’s modern era.
I can’t wait to finish this game. Buy it the minute you see this gem.
Till then, stay gold.
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