An Incredible Narrative Experience
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 experience. Full of emotion, drama and refined gameplay mechanics, God Of War is quite simply an incredible game and a crowning achievement for Santa Monica Studios. The story is simple, driven by a tale of determination, courage and honour whilst testing the limits of both Kratos and his son Atreus through every part of this stunningly realized world. 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 one of this year’s best games.
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 sidetracked 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 and one of the best looking games on Playstation
To give too much away with the story would be to discredit the memorable moments in this 20+ hour adventure but the basic premise boils down to Kratos and Atreus being forced out of the comfort of their home and honouring Atreus’ dying mother’s wishes for scattering her ashes atop the highest peak in the world. Of course, the story isn’t quite that simple and around the midway point when it seems like you’re gaining headway on this mission, the story shifts slightly from the initial goal to something more epic and treacherous, complete with a few well-timed and often surprising plot developments.
While the journey to the mountain may seem formulaic and rather generic on paper, especially with the linear landscape, it’s the evolving relationship between father and son that ultimately make this such an engaging and engrossing experience. Atreus and Kratos constantly grow throughout their adventure together with dialogue shifting between cold and callous to warm and understanding in a matter of minutes. In many ways their relationship bears some resemblance to Joel and Ellie from The Last Of Us. Joel playing the chiselled, 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, God Of War opens up in the best possible way after one of the best boss fights in the game. While the main structure of the game still follows a linear path to the main objective, a wealth of options become available that make the experience all the more enjoyable and versatile.
Defeating enemies and completing quests – both main and side – grant you experience points that in turn level your character up. This levelling works twofold – you get access to better weaponry and armour and more skills and abilities 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 anything simple like a specific combo to extra damage done with axe-throwing through to game-changing moves including one of our favourites which involves sprinting and pressing R2 which slams 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 move available with the press of R3 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 working incredibly well during an onslaught of enemies fast approaching your position.
This variety in combat and skills that open up the longer you play 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.
The narrative journey between Kratos and Atreus takes centre stage
During some of the slower segments outside the adrenaline soaked combat, multiple environmental puzzles 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 a purpose by granting you an extra portion of health or increased duration of rage on your respective meters at the bottom of the screen. Navigating the menus themselves does take a little getting used to and the map itself 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 game.
Visually, God Of War is absolutely stunning and easily one of the most polished console 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 various worlds feel alien yet familiar enough that they seem like they could be real places. Flora and fauna all make sense in these lands and part of the joy with this game is seeing some of the imaginative landscapes brought to life.
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 there would be bordering on spoiler territory but suffice to say there’s an impressive amount of work done here to make each world feel unique. 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.
God Of War may not be crowned game of the year just yet (especially with some of the heavy hitters yet to be released toward the end of this year) but it’s certainly going to be a hard game to beat for that accolade. Despite a slightly overlong opening few hours, God Of War shakes off any shackles that may have been holding it down following a brutal and exhausting boss fight paving the way for an incredible narrative experience unlike much else on Playstation right now.
Verdict - 9.5/10