God of War has changed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing (far from it) but it’s changed. From its first release on the Playstation, God of War was a classically brutal game about fighting the gods and monsters of Greek mythos, bedding women and goddesses, all to fuel a revenge filled plot of Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta- the God of War. Here, Kratos has changed. He’s not yelling, he’s soft spoken. His wrath isn’t loud and constant but flares brilliantly when needed. He doesn’t have two cursed blades but one axe. He is Kratos, teacher, husband, and now father. God of War has changed.
God of War (2018), developed by Santa Monica Studios, is an action-exploration game with story and RPG elements. Leaning away from the action-platformer that it once was, God of War takes elements from real time encounters akin to From Software’s Dark Souls series with its own bloody spin. Even when it goes back to certain elements that made God of War what it is, it still holds onto its new tone and style.
The story starts simply. Kratos is an older demigod in the Norse world of Midgard, where he is grieving over the death of his wife along with his son, Atreus. At her last request, she asks to take her ashes to the top of the tallest mountain in the realms. What follows is a multi-realm on foot road trip where the two struggles to find middle ground, make friends, and face off against giants, gods, monsters, and a bloody past all in one masterpiece of a game.
Combat is still the focus of God of War. Players may experience a high learning curve as they start to get used to the fluid camera movements than the fixed camera angle that God of War is known for, but it makes sense considering that some enemies will fly around the battlefield than stay on the ground. Light and Heavy attacks are reserved for right trigger buttons, while you have a shield to block attacks, along with dodge maneuvers. Incoming enemy attacks are listed around Kratos in arrows, pointing out directions if enemies are charging or firing projectiles. Speaking of projectiles, Atreus has the ability to shoot arrows at enemies, on occasion summoning animals to rush at or cause area of effect damage. All your skills can be upgraded by gaining experience, unlocking new moves as the story progresses.
Exploration in the realm of Midgard and other realms is essential to upgrade your armor, weapons, and gear. Hacksilver and other materials can be found in chests, breakable pots, or enemy drops. Side quests from ghosts or blacksmiths Brok and Sindri can be found throughout the realm of Midgard. As long as you can travel there, have good enough gear, and your boy isn’t ignoring you because he’s being a disobedient little brat, you can find the secrets of the realms.
While on the topic of realms, it is a shame that other realms aren’t utilized. Thematically, Asgard, Jotunheim, and Svartalheim aren’t available because of other powers blocking realm travel, but Muspelheim, the realm of fire, is reduced to a combat survival challenge area and Niflheim is a randomly generated dungeon. Of course, it would stretch the story if Santa Monica wrote in a segment in either, but smarter application of Norse mythology can help than hurt. One last issue is the lack of enemy differentiation. All the bosses, other than the Norse Gods, are mainly Trolls with different powers, a far cry from God of War’s various large-scale boss fights, from the past.
God of War (2018) is a triumph. It’s years of blood, sweat, and tears into a story about fatherhood, healing, and making amends with a blood soaked past. Ultimately, it’s a reflective journey between father and son as Kratos and Atreus struggle to find common ground while performing a last request from a mother we don’t know. With its great ensemble cast and cliffhanger ending, I wouldn’t mind waiting until we get God of War 2, or 7 in this case. If you have a chance to watch the documentary “Raising Kratos,” I suggest you do. Corey Balrog’s own personal story of developing this game and revamping the GoW franchise is both interesting and heart breaking.
God of War (2018) is rated M for Mature. It is a Playstation 4 exclusive and priced at $19.99.