A Smashing Masterpiece Revitalizing the Franchise with a New Tale
There are many playstyles that one can spec towards to and it all feels extremely rewarding in battle. Whether you are throwing your weapon or hacking away at your enemy, it always feels pretty impactful. Smashing mythical monsters with your fists and axe never got old. The best part of combat is when you click in both analog sticks unleashing Kratos’ Spartan Rage, flurry of blows will auto target your enemies.
I played the game through the normal difficulty and while it wasn't gamebreaking hard, there were some difficulty spikes that made me grit my teeth. Some of the enemies and bosses provided an unexpected challenge. The game’s enemy behavior taught me that button mashing was not the best way to engage them. The game forces you to change how you play when it pits you against different monster arrangements. These different encounters prevent the game feeling repetitive and helps the player avoid being one dimensional.
Overcoming level obstacles felt engaging. Cleverly scattered throughout the game are puzzles that can unlock the next stage of the level or hidden lore and collectibles. Most of the solutions involve timing your axe throws or arrows to hit the point of interest to open a platform. Throughout the game, the player will learn new mechanics and skills that they can combine to complete new challenges. Each puzzle never feels too hard and some provide “a-ha” moments when you succeed.
The crafting and RPG elements in the game interfered with the fun and almost hurt the overall pace of the game. While finding different enhancements help strengthen your character and your playstyle, the nature of having to pause the game and go to your inventory to equip certain gear removes you from the fun of playing the game. You have to go out of the way from the action to ensure your armor and weapon are efficient enough for the next enemy encounter. While the RPG elements didn't feel forced or tacked on, I was at the point where my skills with the game overshadowed all the perks from the items I had equipped. It just so happened I was not strong enough for higher level encounters. I'm sure in higher difficulties or in certain encounters, having the right build will help, but I feel like players should be rewarded with mastering their play style. Yes, having crafting and different loot gives the player more incentive to play through side quests and interact with puzzles, but the pacing of the game could do without it.
I know it’s cliche to say this but, God of War really makes you feel like a god of war. The sound of your fist pummeling against demons is extremely satisfying. Everyone of Kratos attacks feels heavy and takes priority against your other input making it important to time your attacks just right. When you chain a combo enough to juggling them in the air and finish them without taking any damage, it makes the experience even better.
While the battle makes the player feel Kratos’ strength, the game tells a story about him living with the burden of his past. One of the major themes of God of War is the consequences and responsibility of power. Throughout his journey, Kratos is reserved and only unleashes his power when provoked. Perhaps he learned from his previous life, but this character development is a welcomed change.
The game’s theme is echoed throughout the entire game, but mostly with Kratos’ relationship with his son, Atreus. In the beginning of the game, Kratos’ son who berates him for his lack of affection for his family. Their relationship was shaky at best. God of War injects the father and son relationship trope with an intriguing aspect of a stern God raising a wild child. Kratos constantly tries to teach his son lessons to avoid his son facing the same consequences he’s forced to shoulder while finding the resolve to control his anger. Their awkward father son relationship adds a different element to Kratos’ menacing nature. There are times when they put aside their differences to survive different obstacles which make the growth of their relationship feel genuine.
Outside the story, Atreus serves as the player’s guide, plot device, and AI companion in battle. In all three aspects, Atreus achieves all. He enhances the overall story instead of interfere. While he can be annoying to some, I give him the benefit of the doubt being a young kid. And he does provide really good one liners and reminders throughout their journey. There was only one aspect of his character development that I found fault in later throughout the game, but nonetheless, his debut is welcomed in the God of War mythos.
The game manages to tell a story through its environmental design and worldbuilding which enhances the overall playing experience. It mirrors the theme of consequences of power. When Kratos and Atreus depart to achieve their goals, they encounter a world after the Norse Gods unleashed their wrath. The feeling of abandonment is not only achieved with the lack of bustling civilizations, but with nature covering abandoned temples, castles, and relics of the past.
The artists and developers of God of War deserves mighty praise for creating a world that seem grand without the open world flaws. Environments feels larger than what the levels allow you venture through. Each waypoint on the map is sprinkled with puzzles which leads to hidden chests. The majority of the discoveries are loot to enhance your playstyle during battles and lore entries that describe what brought the world to its current state of ruin.
With how the world is empty, it makes for each character interaction to be more meaningful. Every character you meet in the game has their own development and role in the story. Characters are full of character and emotion with how they portrayed in cutscenes and voiced over dialogue. All of them react with astonishment of your actions throughout the game. It made each and every interaction with the cast memorable.
The developers managed to tell a story without loading in cutscenes or cutting away from the player’s point of view. Whenever a cutscene occurs, the camera pulls away from Krato’s third person perspective and shows the scene. After the event, the camera resets itself back behind Kratos’ shoulder. This serves not only to break the immersion when cutscenes take place, but alert the player to prepare for an encounter. Now this is personal, but the only time I felt that these cutscenes broke my immersion was during the QTE sequences. I understand that they are sprinkled throughout the game as an ode to the series' past installments and to give the player more chances to interaction in crucial situations, but it felt odd when the cutscenes pause when waiting for me to input a button to make the scene resume. Still, its impressive how the developers managed to keep storytelling merged with gameplay without any cuts.
God of War (2018) is one of those generational masterpieces. There is no nonsense with the package Santa Monica Studios presented. This is a complete package game. For $60.00, you have an extremely polished AAA title with an engaging story, diverse gameplay mechanics, challenging difficulties, rewarding puzzles, and lore and collectibles to discover. The world seems vast without falling into the open world design issues. Almost every location you visit has something to engage with whether it be a challenging fight or puzzles using all the game mechanics you unlocked throughout the game.
Personally I put more than 25 hours into the game doing most of the side quests, finding most of the lore markers, backtracking to finish most of the puzzles, and defeating most of the valkyries. There are points in the game I felt ready to put down the controller to watch the ending, only to realize that the game constantly chugs along. When I reached the ending, I felt satisfied watching the credits roll. I highly recommend others play this even with the game’s slow start.