It’s been over eight years since God of War III (released on March 16, 2010) hit our PS3 systems, dear readers, so we were really chomping at the bit to play the newest chapter in Kratos’s story. With all of the revamping that SIE Santa Monica Studio did with this title, we were anxious to see whether the changes were a boon or a bust for such an iconic and fan favorite franchise.
God of War, the newest PS4 (and PS4 Pro) exclusive, continues the story of Kratos. Once a Spartan warrior in the Grecian lands who became a god (and subsequently slaughtered the entire Greek pantheon) and now living in the cold and snowy north, Kratos has been given a second chance at life and fatherhood. He must adjust to his new life, and raise his son (Atreus) in the best way he can. Through it all, young Atreus learns about his father’s storied past, and must decide whether to be like him, or forge his own path in life.
In a single word: GORGEOUS. This game is so well done when it comes to the look and feel of the cold north. Snowy forests, mountainous landscapes, and stunning waterways all lend a near-unrivaled beauty to this title. Facial mapping and mocap (motion capture) have been used to great effect, and the art style gives a tremendous ethereal feel to the separate realms, while retaining a sense of Earthly believability to Midgard (the human realm). Additionally, with the change to an over-the-shoulder camera angle, God of War shows off the gigantic scale of this game nearly perfectly, as well as the imposing size of some of the enemies.
This time around, God of War draws heavily from Norse mythology, and I have to say that – based on the cumulative 6 hours or so that I played over the weekend – the writers of this chapter (Cory Barlog and co.) pretty much nailed that aspect. The introduction of Norse mythology lends itself to some seriously deep and interesting storytelling, and the way that different mythological figures show up throughout the game really makes it feel as though every bit of this fantastical story is intertwined.
As far as the core story of Kratos and Atreus goes, the exposition at the beginning of this title does a fantastic job of setting up what plays out as a deep and meaningful tale of familial redemption and growth. While on the surface, it may feel like Kratos isn’t making any progress with connecting to his young son, a closer look and some attention to subtle details shows that he very much wants the best for Atreus and wants him to grow up as a strong warrior. Atreus, on the other hand, learns more about Kratos’s past, and must decide which life path will be the best for himself. There are a lot of punches in the feels in the early parts of this amazing title, and one can only hope that Sony Santa Monica kept this up throughout the latter parts.
This iteration of the game completely revamped the franchise in not only gameplay mechanics, but in camera angles, combat, setting, and so much more. With an almost RPG and resource-management focus this time around, the best way to describe this game’s new mechanics would be to quote Because Science‘s Kyle Hill:
It’s really true. The movement & combat controls, as well as the over-the-shoulder camera angle feel a lot like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to (having played all of the previous chapters in the God of War saga) but after a while, the control scheme really works well. The only real issue, that I saw, is that the camera can sometimes turn in such a way that the player really isn’t able to keep track of all of the enemies in a room, making combat somewhat (mildly) frustrating at times.
Replay value in games can be so subjective. However, this is where the God of War franchise has always shined for me. God of War has always had one of the most cathartic combat systems of almost any game I’ve ever played, and this iteration doesn’t disappoint there. Have a rough day at school or work? Come home, turn on your PS4, and kill some Draugr and Dark Elves.
Additionally, with so many collectibles and ways to upgrade Kratos and Atreus’s skills, challenging oneself by upping the difficulty level for a second (or third) run-through of the game would be a joy, in my opinion.
For a franchise that used to be all about blood, guts, and nudity, God of War is a genius move by Sony Santa Monica. Making the change to a more sophisticated control scheme, and bringing in a story about family and parenting shows fantastic growth in not only the character of Kratos, but in Sony Santa Monica Studio and the fans of the series as well.
I’m giving God of War a solid 4.7 Leviathan Axes out of 5