God of War Review: The Alpha of the Omega

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The God of War returns with a son, an axe, and a whole lot of greatness.

Developer     : SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher       : Sony Interactive Entertainment
Formats         : PS4

Played On     : PS4

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a bit here, God of War as a franchise has never been the most sophisticated of titles out there. For all its grandiose set pieces and hype-fuelled orchestrated tones, the series really just boils down to beating every blood cell out of your opponents as you take control of a demigod who really, REALLY wants vengeance. The demigod in question himself, Kratos, is himself rather simple; personified mostly by his ceaseless rage whilst we’re occasionally reminded that he does have ‘some’ sympathetic elements to his character.

This isn’t bad in itself of course, for God of War has never touted itself to be above these things and the games themselves are undeniably a lot of fun. I mention this however, because when news of 2018’s God of War surfaced, it was announced to be reinventing the series somewhat in an attempt to breathe new life into the franchise.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what was to come; because God of War 2018 elevates the series to heights few games can even hope to reach.

Immediately upon starting the game, veterans of the series may find themselves a bit lost as this new God of War isn’t a hack and slash like previous entries, but rather an action RPG where tactical attacks and positioning is even more important than before. There are skill trees to unlock, perks to upgrade, stats to consider, elemental weakness and resistances; really just a boatload of mechanics lifted from other RPGs, though executed tactfully enough that it doesn’t really require a high learning curve.

Helping you out as well is Kratos’ son Atreus, who is invincible (thankfully) like Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. Unlike Elizabeth however, Atreus actively participates in combat and as the game progresses, only becomes increasingly helpful. Learning how to synergize attacks and skills between the father-son duo adds to the immense satisfaction the combat in this game provides as you tear through any and all who stand in your path.

The gore and gratuitous violence seen in previous games has definitely taken a bit of a back seat this time, though make no mistake, it is still in this game and some of the finishers Kratos pulls off still make me wince. It doesn’t help (or does it?) that the game is graphically detailed to jaw dropping levels so you’ll be able to see everything from colourful and gorgeous vistas to shiny, blood-soaked entrails in immaculate, pristine clarity.

The general flow of gameplay in God of War however, will still be fairly familiar to those who’ve played the previous games. You walk around mostly linear paths, encounter some enemies, solve some puzzles and provide the beatdown on a boss. The puzzles this time, like the combat, do require more brainwork this time round, though still not nearly as much as something like Portal.

What is a dissappointment unfortunately (one of the only ones), is the lack of enemy variety, especially when it comes to mini-bosses. This is mostly forgivable as the enemies all put up a decent fight with varying attacks, but it’s a true shame that even at the game’s midway point, almost every enemy from that point on is a reskin. You fight more trolls as bosses than you do anything else in this game and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel even a bit letdown. Mechanics –wise though, these guys are still very fun to fight and you can’t let your guard down on any one of them.

Let’s get on to the REAL star of the show however, that being the story and writing. I’d gush, honestly I would and could, because what God of War does in terms of writing is truly something to behold. While past games have a few memorable characters at best, the new God of War puts forth a cast of truly charming and endearing characters that both support and oppose Kratos and his boy. Kratos himself has gone from being a brute to a mellowed yet still serious older man who struggles to be both a mentor and father to his son.

The writers cut no slack for Atreus either, as it’s absolutely gut wrenching to watch a poor child deal with a father who obviously loves him, but does not know how to show it. This results in some truly great drama as honestly, not many in this new realm are strictly “bad guys”, but just horrible victims of circumstance.

The main plot presented this time is intense and emotionally gripping, arousing questions that the player really looks forward to seeing answered; the lore and history of this world blends parts of our own as well as those of the game’s fiction that enthralls and surprises constantly. I would certainly recommend you NOT Google anything regarding this game’s plot because there are many forums out there now filled to the brim with speculation and excitement regarding where this series will go. The writers have somehow made it seem that being set in Norse mythology was almost the natural course of action for Kratos’ present and future adventures.

I’d go on, really I would, but this review’s gone on long enough as it is. I’d tell you about the amazing voice acting, the banter between characters, the twists and turns through the story, the secrets that make you feel like a kid in Hogwarts; there’s so much that’s great in the new God of War that it’s unbelievable it started out as a gorefest hack and slash.

While not as perfect as many claim, God of War 2018 is still a masterpiece, a clear example of how years of focused work can produce a product of impeccable quality that rises head and shoulders above its competition. Get it if you haven’t already because this series is likely going to be at the forefront of PlayStation flagships for the foreseeable future, and a testament to the greatness of single player games for years to come.

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