I wasn’t expecting this God Of War. I had prepared myself for an action-packed adventure with plenty of battles, bravado and epic combat. What I found was a gorgeous, must-play experience and an incredibly challenging, emotional journey between a father and a son.
God Of War is the eighth instalment in the God Of War series. It’s a direct sequel to 2010’s God Of War III. With his vengeance against the Gods of Olympus behind him, Kratos now lives as a man in the realm of Norse Gods and monsters.
Our protagonist’s Kratos central role is as a newfound mentor and protector to Atreus. Atreus is a son determined to earn his father’s respect. He must teach Atreus how to survive in such an unforgiving world whilst contending with the Norse gods themselves.
Kratos’ rage has provoked a ton of bad decisions in his life. And, his struggles with maintaining a required animalistic sense of survival whilst forming a nurturing bond with his son makes for a deep and emotive experience. Kratos’ venomous refers to his son as ‘boy’ during instructions. This frames well the difficult emotional journey ahead for both.
He continuously instructs Atreus to ‘close his heart’ to the world and chaos surrounding them. It is a difficult process to watch Atreus struggle with this concept, and even more to so see the small moments of sympathy from Kratos’ tough, emotionless exterior.
The brutal nordic landscape is unforgiving in his stripping of Atreus’s innocence and each action Kratos is forced to take is ultimately for the survival of Atreus. Kratos is often frustrated at Atreus’s lack of skill and abilities, stemming from a place of fear for his son’s life.
This is a story of Kratos teaching his son how to be a god, and his son teaching Kratos how to be human again. The weight of responsibility Kratos has to protect his son creates some truly beautiful moments of storytelling and harrowing examples of brutality.
The gameplay in God Of War has been rebuilt from the ground up. An over the shoulder free camera brings players closer to the action than ever before. The entire game is presented in a continuous shot camera perspective, much like the 2014 movie Birdman. With no cutaways or transitions, the entire experience is from Kratos’s perspective and creates some beautiful moments of storytelling.
Kratos now wields a magical battle axe, called the Leviathan Axe. This primary weapon features both light and heavy attacks. You can also infuse it with different elemental abilities. Much like Thor’s Mjölnir, the Leviathan Axe can be used as a projective and summoned to return.
Kratos’ arsenal also features a shield and hand to hand combat. Each weapon type has its own skill tree. The skill tree requires you to spend collected experience points to unlock new features, combos or upgrades.
Although the game played entirely as Kratos, there are times where the player can choose to passively control Kratos’ son. One button is dedicated to his bow and arrow, which you can use to distract combat focus.
Kratos’ final power is ‘Spartan Rage’, a timed ability which you can unlock when his rage bar is full. This provides Kratos with a short-term devastating melee damage and speed boost.
Weapon and armour system
God of War features a robust weapon and armour upgrade system. You can purchase new items to provide stat boosts. You can also enhance items via runes and collectables. This is a surprising element of RPG, which provides variation in both Kratos and his son’s abilities and appearances.
The Noric realm is open, but not open world. There is an added emphasis on discovery and exploration within the threatening landscape. This landscape is the largest in the franchise to date.
The level of detail within the environment and monster design are truly breathtaking. The new over the shoulder camera provides an incredible sense of scale for many of the huge monsters you will face. PlayStation 4 Pro players will also be provided with the options to optimise for higher frame rates or resolution (either 4k or supersampling for lower resolution)
Gorgeous environments, a challenging and emotional journey between a father and son and a surprising amount of gameplay depth for an action platform game has made God Of War a must play experience for PlayStation owners.