An Incredible Narrative Experience
The fact that God of War still holds up after its release in 2018 speaks volumes about the great work Santa Monica Studio have done with this “not really a reboot but not really a sequel” game. When it dropped on Playstation as an exclusive, it rightly received critical and fan acclaim the world over. Fast forward to 2022 and that same experience is now available to PC users, in a port that’s just as good – if not better – than its Playstation counterpart.
Set an undefined period of time after the original Playstation 3 series of the same name, God Of War is an epic single player, narrative driven game, testing the limits of both Kratos and his son Atreus through every part of this stunningly realized world. And what a world it is too. Breathtaking visuals and lighting effects help immerse you in every part of this stunning landscape and combined with the refined, evolving gameplay system, make it a worthy arrival to PC this year.
Even as early as the opening credit sequence, where the menu screen seamlessly transitions from a static shot of a desolate forest to Kratos chopping a tree down in a cut-scene, this is a game of sheer beauty. On Playstation it looked fantastic when it released, and still stands up to this day. On a powerful PC rig, the graphics are pushed even further, with textures that much more slick and the framerate pushed to incredible heights. While this is still the same exact game, even those who have played before should check this out again on PC (if they have the hardware!) as the increased graphical fidelity makes it that much more satisfying to play through.
The first glimpse at just how impressive God Of War is comes moments after selecting “New Game” on the main menu. A seamless transition from a static shot of a desolate forest shrouded in fog cuts back to show Kratos chopping a tree down. While you marvel at the staggering detail put into the landscapes and character models, it’s easy to become distracted and forget to press X as it feels more like an in-game cut scene than a playable moment.
Visually, God Of War is an incredible experience on PC
To give too much away with the story would be to discredit the memorable moments in this 20+ hour adventure but the basic premise revolves around the complicated relationship Kratos and Atreus share. The pair are forced out of the comfort of their home and, honoring Atreus’ dying mother’s wishes for scattering her ashes atop the highest peak in the world, set out on a perilous journey together.
Of course, the story isn’t quite that simple and around the midway point, just when it seems like you’re gaining headway on this mission, the story shifts slightly from this initial goal to something more epic and treacherous, complete with well-timed and often surprising plot developments.
While the journey to the mountain may seem generic on paper, especially with the linear landscape, it’s the evolving relationship between father and son that ultimately make this such an elevated experience. Atreus and Kratos constantly grow throughout their adventure together, with dialogue shifting between cold and callous to warm and understanding over the hours spent trekking these beautiful worlds. Not only that, Atreus starts to grow snarkier, with more quips and backhanded compliments thrown toward his father. Interestingly, this works in tandem to the boy’s abilities, which grow to become much more useful as the game progresses.
In many ways their relationship bears some resemblance to Joel and Ellie from The Last Of Us. Joel playing the chiseled, cold father figure while the daughter enthusiastically and naively thinks of ways to brighten up their relationship strikes more than a few similarities to God Of War and you may find yourself drawing the same comparisons too.
God Of War boasts some of the most realistically rendered snow seen in a video game
God Of War is a game worth persevering with early on. The opening hours are incredibly linear, with a basic combat system consisting of a few simple button presses as you begin your journey. Once you get past this initial slow period though, God Of War opens up in the best possible way after one of the most memorable boss fights in the game. While the main structure of God Of War remains following a linear path to the main objective, a wealth of options open up that allow for a much more versatile and rewarding experience. The world is still linear to traverse though, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does allow for a lot more environmental detail to shine through.
Defeating enemies and completing quests – both main and side – grant you experience points that in turn allows you to level your character up. This levelling works twofold – you get access to better weaponry and armour along with more skills and abilities to use in combat. It pays to smash the various vases, wooden crates and anything else lying around too, with Hacksilver (the currency used in-game) able to be used at various vendors across the world to buy better weapons and armour as well as items for Atreus.
The skills range from simple combos to extra damage done with axe-throwing, through to game-changing moves. One of my personal favourites involves sprinting and slamming an epic axe-blast into the ground, temporarily stunning enemies and knocking them back.
Combat is challenging but rewarding as you unlock new skills and abilities
Each of these moves can be combined in any order with a special skull-breaking ability available with the press of a button when the on-screen prompt alerts you – usually when the enemy is left with a sliver of health. Rage Mode is the maximum-power equivalent of this, slowing time while you launch a barrage of punches, kicks and axe slashes to enemies. The combat is brutal and genuine skill is needed to prevent cheap deaths, even on the easiest difficulty levels. Dodging and accurate axe throwing helps here too, with the latter incredibly adept at dealing with onslaughts of enemies rushing on your position.
This variety in combat and skills is some of the reason God Of War works so well. What begins as a seemingly basic and almost button-mashing experience evolves slowly into a deeply refined, intelligent combat system with multiple moves and skills to shake things up. As a personal recommendation, I would say to use a controller while playing this, as the controls flow that much more smoothly compared to using a keyboard, especially the combat which can be a bit finnicky using a keyboard and mouse.
The narrative journey between Kratos and Atreus takes centre stage
During some of the slower segments outside the adrenaline soaked combat, multiple environmental puzzles are dotted throughout the world help to keep you engaged, requiring a decent level of logic and spatial awareness to solve. Of course, these also serve an additional purpose by granting you additional bits of health or increased duration of rage on your respective meters at the bottom of the screen.
Navigating the menus does take a little getting used to though and the early hours can feel pretty daunting, especially given the sheer number of different options available. Likewise, the map seems a little convoluted at times, thanks in part to the multiple different dimensions and worlds you travel to, but it certainly doesn’t detract too much from the experience, especially when you start to get the hang of things.
Visually, God Of War is absolutely stunning and easily one of the most polished PC experiences out there right now. Snow crumbles and cracks realistically as you walk through knee high clumps. Trees rustle and blow from gusts of wind and the draw distance is insanely good, especially if you have the hardware to crank this up to its highest levels.
Likewise, the various worlds feel alien yet familiar enough to feel like real places. Flora and fauna make sense in these lands and part of the joy with playing this game comes from exploring and experiencing the various different imaginative landscapes.
Boss fights are adrenaline soaked, tense and boast some great rewards
Of course, to reveal too much more about the various worlds and what happens in this game would be bordering on spoiler territory. Yes, I know the game has been out since 2018 but for those avid PC gamers that have steered away from story beats pertaining to Kratos’ journey, I’m not about to spoil them here! Suffice to say, there’s an impressive amount of work done here to make each world feel unique and the story beats are just as delightful to experience. Despite the amount of walking on foot, the best scenes in the game occur at sea as you row toward your destination across the beautifully rendered water telling stories of old and generally bonding with your son.
Aesthetically, the game looks fantastic but its the sound design and soundtrack that deserves a lot of plaudits here too. The sound effects are crisp and brutal while the music is fantastic from start to finish. : Bear McCreary’s score to this game is just as good today as it was all those years back.
Despite a slightly overlong opening, God Of War shakes off any shackles that may have been holding it back, paving the way for an incredible narrative experience that PC users should absolutely relish.
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Verdict - 9/10