Review: 'God of War'

Screenshot by Daija Marrow

Staff Writer | Daija Marrow

Originally published on April 27, 2018

Kratos returns in the PS4 exclusive, “God of War,” as a wise father still fighting his past, with the addition of Norse gods. Highly anticipated since the gameplay sneak-peak at E3 2017, “God of War” officially dropped on April 20, 2018. This title is a continuation of a franchise alive since 2005, but holds a stand-alone flare that sets it apart from its predecessors.

This emotion-packed story follows an aged Kratos and his son, Atreus, following the death of his second wife, Faye. On a journey to fulfill her final request to carry her ashes to the highest point in all of the realms. Enemies are destroyed, allies are made, secrets come to the light and unwanted memories surface.

Unlike in previous installments of this action-adventure series, the gameplay is not limited to the hack-and-slash mechanics. Upon starting the game, difficulty options are given that can skew the gameplay in the player's favor to either be more combat heavy or narrative focused.

This opens new aspects that players can enjoy within the beautiful, expansive semi open-world: from reading up on the lore of Norse mythology in Atreus’ journal to smashing the heads of ogres who stand in the way of Kratos’ family.

The story of this game is connected to those before it, referencing the deaths of certain Greek gods as well as celestial appearances by a couple. The narrative magnifies Kratos’ relationship with his son, whom he addresses as “boy” for 75 percent of the game, as well as conflict with his own identity. By giving Atreus attention, it removes the possibility of cramming an already heavy storyline and, in simple terms, avoids beating a dead horse.

While the amazingly engaging story grabs players, there are some completely new, customizable mechanics that have been added to the mix. There is a new level-up system reliant on XP through combat. Also, the currency found within the world, known as hacksilver, are used to customize armor, weapons and abilities for Kratos and Atreus.

Hacksilver, collected by smashing pottery, opening chests, and looting bodies, is used to upgrade the Leviathan Axe, Talon bow and other weapons as the story progresses. Experience from killing enemies and completing side quests allows the player to unlock varying combat styles and combos for both characters.

The third-person camera that players recognize is still around, but is no longer stiff or focused on the playing space. The over-the-shoulder third-person camera can now be freely rotated to observe the ever changing environment surrounding Kratos for the perfectly screen-capped PS4 home background.

Another admirable feature that deserves attention is the lack of lengthy load screens. There are no load screens or dark moments between gameplay and cutscenes. The camera follows Kratos, zooms into the cutscene when necessary, then returns to normal camera view.

There are a few well-placed quicktime events that give a more immersive feel for the game. Gating is done well, connecting the different areas with the slam of a door, but never darkness.

The semi-open world and narrative allow players to return to locations previously traveled to loot crates previously forgotten and open sealed doors with later acquired abilities, eliminating the boredom of repetition. With a travel system that is weak early on, backtracking through the world is possible, but is not necessary, as the story eventually carries the player where they need to be.

Managing to retain the intense fights and rage that is so loved in “God of War,” while enhancing an already deep story, makes this game a must play. Beautiful visual graphics and plot aside, plowing through enemies with slowed, skull-crushing finishers, and long range axe-throwing attacks makes turning a blind eye to the new combat system impossible. Putting down this game packed with 30+ hours of gameplay will prove to be a bigger challenge than seeing the result of finally making it to the highest peak in all of the realms.