Sony Santa Monica's latest release God of War that has taking the gaming world by storm since it's recent release.
With a diverse setting, a slightly reimagined protagonist, and a cast of new characters, does it live up the massive praise it has been receiving as of late?I'm here to let you know in this review in this spoiler-free review.
Some time has passed since the events of God of War III and Kratos has found himself inhabiting the Norse region of Midgard. After the death of his wife, he and his son Atreus begin a quest to spread the ashes of the newly deceased matriarch at the top of the highest peak in all of the land. Problem is if it was that simple, we wouldn't have a game.
The narrative and writing is a cut above any of the previous entries in the series; It’s cerebral, cinematic, immersive, and considerably more filmesque this time around but maintains the rugged underpinnings that we’ve grown accustomed to. The pacing is fantastic (save for a few sections that drag on a tad bit too long and others that weren’t explored nearly enough) and they have made it easy for players to invest in the game’s lengthy story.
It does a mostly admirable job at utilizing it’s characters to the atmosphere and lore to expand upon this rich universe they have created. Kratos has never been the most loquacious of protagonists, but he is more introspective and fleshed out than he’s ever been and the story structure gives him ample room to mature and temper himself.
One of the Ghost of Sparta’s biggest criticisms was that he was cartoonishly angry which ultimately made him one-dimensional and at times downright disconnected from the player as a result. This is no longer the case and the writers have ensured that Kratos is far more complex and multi-faceted. Yes, I still would have liked to see more conversations between him and the characters, but it is a step in the right direction for the series.
Don’t worry about Atreus, he can handle himself and contributes to the story in many positive ways. You can rest assured knowing that this isn’t just a babysitting simulator.
Quite has changed with this iteration and it received a litany of mostly positive overhauls that offers a far different experience from any of the other titles in the series. Combat is more intimate as a result of ditching the isometric camera for an over the shoulder one, and it's slower and feels a bit more weighty. The new weapon of choice for the Greek expat is called the Leviathan Axe and this addition substantially modifies the way combat and puzzles are handled.
It can be thrown to begin or extend combos and Kratos can also use hand to hand combat now as another means of doling out punishment to unfortunate challengers. The new mechanics are noticeably sluggish at times when compared to it's predecessors but after taking some time with it, I found that the amount of depth the system possesses depends on your willingness to explore the array of moves he has this time around.
Atreus is completely autonomous and is excellent at finding ways to help out during the scuffles you find yourself in throughout the campaign. He calls out enemy locations, incapacitates foes so that you may get some much needed room to regroup, and attacks at will. He can be commanded to fire arrows at targets as well which adds some extra range to your repertoire.
Upgrades for both characters are obtained through a surprisingly deep armor and weapon crafting system that will most certainly take some time to get used to.
There isn’t much to be said about the graphics and presentation that hasn’t already been commented on by numerous reviewers and publications. The game is gorgeous and it’s difficult to say anything to the contrary. Outstanding lighting is bolstered by a diverse array of atmospheres, a vibrant and expansive color palette, and various interior and exterior environments that lend themselves well to the mechanics and lore of the title. While I have done little to no gaming on PC, I can say with relative certainty that this is one of the best looking games I have ever played. At times, I found myself longing for more slower, deliberate segments that showcase the game’s elite ambience. The game is filmed in a "one-take" style so there are (at least that I can remember anyway) no cuts in the action and cinematics whatsoever. It's fluid and honestly gives the game that much more immersion.
The sound design is just as impressive and throughly enhances the gritty nature of the gameplay presented here. Breaking bones produce a luscious reverb, the guttural war-cries emitted from Atreus and Kratos echo across the stages with beautiful resonance, and Bear McCreary’s thundering score may just be my favorite entry from the entire God of War pantheon. I played on a standard PS4 and an older 1080p TV, but I will be replaying this on PS4 Pro and an updated set-up to fully experience the graphical nuances in the near future.
A Few Complaints:
While the new Norse setting is a fitting change in scenery, there was little information related to how and/or why Kratos chose this region as his new home. The exposition is very sparse when it involves the motivations of the former Spartan in between the events of God of War III and the new entry that can effectively be seen as a soft-reboot of the series. There are some easter eggs here and there, but I wanted to know more about Kratos’ journey leading up to this game. Age isn’t necessarily synonymous with maturity, so how our protagonist went from anger personified to stoic father-figure felt like a bit of a stretch without some much needed context. What we are presented with here is a more than effective vehicle for progressing this iteration of Kratos, but where did he come from?
It felt like the developers were so fixated on communicating this new world to us and shedding some of it's former tentpoles that they forgot to explain why it was worth inhabiting to begin with. Perhaps Sony Santa Monica is saving that for future DLC.
Almost all of my issues with the game stem from the combat. The quicktime death animations for the enemies get repetitive rather quickly (as it seems that there is only one per enemy type) and they lack the sheer brutality that we’ve seen in the other games. This could be a byproduct of the more intellectual route the game is attempting to take, but in the absence of the over-the-top barbarism from the earlier outings, these sequences lack a definitive wow factor and became noticeably trite after the third or so viewing.
Picking up health during combat took A LOT of getting used to as this was not necessary in the previous games and it broke the flow of combat for me.
The new combat system is good, but Kratos feels older. He has aged, I get it, but at times it felt like he was dragging the Leviathan Axe, not swinging it. I noticed this feeling went away as the game progressed but be warned, the rhythm of combat is quite different.
Not having invincibility during runic attacks can lead to some extraordinarily cheap deaths as the animations can be a bit slow and can’t be canceled once you start them, so be sure to factor this into your play style.
As someone who has become a bit disenchanted with the gaming industry in recent years as a result of it’s shameless money grabbing tactics and a noticeable decline in quality, God of War is a triumphant testament in favor of video games still being taken seriously as a powerful storytelling medium. It is what the industry can offer when it focuses on giving the consumer a product that they want to invest in, as opposed to making them do so artificially through unnecessary DLC, loot crates, and does away with the exigent greed that has become so prevalent in today’s gaming stratosphere.
Is it the best of the generation? Only time will tell, but it is definitely one of the best things i’ve played in a long, long time.
Want to stay updated on new interviews and posts? Head over to the Inside the Rift Facebook page and leave a like or follow me on Twitter @insidetheriftx, Instagram @insidetherift, and Soundcloud @Insidetherift! You can also support me by Contributing or on Patreon!