God of War (Review)

God of War is already PlayStation’s Game of the Year for 2018, a 10-hour epic campaign focused on convincing you to call your dad and maybe go fishing with him this weekend. If you haven’t played God of War by now, you’d be well placed to give “Just Say No” talks to troubled teens after you’ve finally traded in your Xbox One for a good console.

God of War follows the recent trend of “reimagining” classic games, taking them in a different direction and shaking up the formula. Like Assassin’s Creed: Origins last year, God of War has been given the open world treatment with a splash of RPG fundamentals on which to balance a Spartan with anger issues and his equally troubled boy, Atreus. This has given us the beautiful realm of Midgard – and surrounding realms – to immerse ourselves within, full to the brim with precious goodies to find and a handful of excellent side characters to get to know and drag through your tavels.

God of War - Fighting a Draugr

Equal parts frustrating and fantastic, God of War easily made me submit to a love-hate relationship – there were times where Midgar was firmly against Kratos, dismissing the puny god with nary a care and it was almost enough to earn a comparison to Dark Souls. This was most apparent in the boss fights, of which several were a reskinned troll or ogre model and the rest were unique and interesting toe-to-toe battles.

Gone are the days of slick, fast-paced combos and QTE cutscene deaths as combat in God of War is slower and more methodical, utilising tactics and proper positioning to rip through your foes. You have a beserk button on hand for really tough moments, but if you shuttered in on a bloke during a brawl you can quickly become overwhelmed and have to start all over again.

There are a lot of options for customisation through your experience; you don’t have the freedom of hundreds of different weapon sets, but you are able to apply 3 Runic attacks to your weapon which add powerful moves to your arsenal. These are hot swappable – to borrow a term from computing – so you can throw in a different rune whenever you want to change your panic buttons. There is more freedom in customising the armour sets, which can be found throughout your travels in chests or enemies and are upgradeable at your “friendly” dwarven blacksmith.

Everything from your axe to Atreus’ tunic can be upgraded at the blacksmith and you’ll stumble across new recipes for craftable gear as you progress as well. These are significant pieces of armour, that will take a lot of adventuring to collect the resources required to complete. Each piece you upgrade affects your stats in different ways, making you more hardy and powerful or reducing your cooldowns to punish your enemies more often.

Additionally, God of War comes equipped with a skill tree tab in which you can use XP to upgrade Kratos’ abilities to be more effective in combat. XP is gained by carving your way through any of the denizens of Midgard (amongst other activities) and you’ll easily be able to afford upgrades that allow you to dominate the battlefield – just make sure you check back regularly or you’ll find yourself on the back foot quickly.

Just to confirm; I am not a father, but God of War has fully prepared me for my inevitable future through its invaluable simulation of a father-son relationship beginning, of course, with a disillusioned ex-God with anger issues learning to face his sons growing pains and bonding through the experience of a traumatic family death.

Somewhere around the end of Act 2, the storytelling of God of War peaked because puberty hit Atreus like a World Serpent and I almost walked out on him like your dad when he went to get some cigarettes. The utter unpleasantness displayed by my ‘wonderful’ boy in this section slams the brakes on progression, but I – and many child psychology textbooks – can promise you that if you persevere, it does get better.

There is a lot to unpack in the latest chapter of Kratos’ legend, a fact the developers are aware of and tease the player with. We have already been told there is enough content that could spawn 5 more games in the series and this is hinted at through many Easter eggs and secrets hidden throughout Midgard and YouTube. Despite that, God of War is a complete experience and does not disappoint – the story is crafted expertly and leaves you waiting patiently, with a metric ton of side content you can unpack if you want to.

Personally, I did not expect to enjoy God of War as much as I did when I first put the disc in and I’ve spent the following weeks boring people to tears at parties with my enthusiastic recounting of that very fact. The amount of effort and dedication that Santa Monica Studios put into crafting this game shows in every step that Kratos and Atreus take through Midgard.

God of War takes a raging leap away from its established roots, but lands expertly in its new home and doesn’t miss a beat. With the central quest behind Kratos, the realm is your oyster and there are hundreds of collectibles for you to hunt down or kill, new realms to dominate and a second ending to keep you hooked.

This is a fantastic addition to the PlayStation lineup and Santa Monica Studios should be proud of what they’ve created. This will hold a spot of regard on my shelf for the foreseeable future and has even brought me back into the living room to play games. Pick this up, play this and praise this – you won’t regret it.

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