God of War Review
It has been 2 years of silence between mankind and the gods, void of any notable releases to the God of War franchise, or should I say, 5 years since we have experienced any new or original Kratos infused chaos. That silence has finally been broken. Greek and Norse Mythology have collided and had a glorious, godly and refreshingly unique brainchild in the latest God of War title.
Well then. Where to begin? Perhaps with an apology of sorts for the delayed review. However, it is justified by the game’ addictive, engulfing, heart wrenching, adrenaline inducing, “just a little more” and “I nearly had it that time” moments of glory that has had me glued to my console for an average of 4-5 hours a night since I received my review copy. “Is it really that good Jean?”, you may ask yourself. Well, that is why I have been playing so much and why it has taken two weeks for the written review (I did do a 2 hour gameplay and chat-through livestream the day before launch. See bottom of this article for the video) to finally materialize digitally for your perusal.
Can This Old Spartan Still Lift?
Set as the follow up to God of War III (2010), God of War(2018) places you right in the middle of an emotionally taxing scene for both Kratos and his son, Atreus. Each, clearly showing you the tone of their characters which you can (or should) expect throughout the game.
With Kratos now in Midgard, “suffering” the loss of Faye (his second wife and mother of Atreus), the setting is ideal for the switchover between Greek and Norse Mythology, which guides the game through its interactions, puzzles, challenges, fights and story context, however, there are moments where there is lore crossover between Norse and Greek, which I believe is fan-service and tribute to the origins of Kratos through this “reboot” of sorts.
To quote Cory Barlog, it is only a reboot in the sense of him wanting us to, “reimagine the gameplay, give players a fresh perspective and a new tactile experience while delving deeper into the emotional journey of Kratos to explore the compelling drama that unfolds when an immortal demigod makes a decision to change.”
Kratos has aged. He has made the decision to be better. However, he intended to do that while “retired” and alongside his partner, Faye. With her gone, Kratos is faced with three exceptionally challenging situations all at once: Raising and moulding a son into a man (by being a father, when he himself, killed his own father), fulfilling the dying wish of his late wife by scattering her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms (seemingly simple right?) and being pursued by the main antagonist Baldur (brother of Thor) throughout Kratos and Atreus’ journey.
It Is All About The Journey
In God of War, you start off your adventure within Midgard, fighting your way through castles, mountain caverns, open fields and spooky mazes against some incredibly formidable living and “unliving” creatures. I am so grateful that the “facerolling” or “button bashing” days are over and the old battle system has been revamped in this title. The new battle system is fluid, albeit tricky to master, but is so much more effective in utilizing strategy to deal insanely high amounts of DPS instead of just “flailing” and hoping for the best.
It gets even more enthusiastically complex when you start to face enemies who are Elemental-Based, where your only option is to counter their elemental persuasion or face being parried for days. As an example, your new Leviatan Axe, is Frost based, and is only effective against Magma Type and Neutral Type enemies. Your trusty old Chaos Blades are Flame Based and will only damage Frost Type and Neutral Type enemies. Your fists though… well, they beat the living (and unliving) crap out of all types of enemies. This allows you to develop your own play style and unleash some impressive Melee and Ranged Combos by switching between Elemental Armed and Unarmed Combat.
When it comes to battles, multiple and different enemies spawn at once, and depending on how far into the game you are, the more spawns there will be, making the arena fights more tense and difficult, requiring strategic dodges, blocks, quick attacks and well timed heavy attacks (heavy attacks leave you vulnerable for a few seconds, depending on your skill tree upgrades). Primarily you find yourself in battle while traveling on foot during your adventures or as part of certain cut-scenes. Travel in itself is a pleasure, as you are already so caught up in the story and dialogue that happens while your journey unfolds, but your surroundings make you forget you are on foot, covering kilometers of ground while in Midgard or in other Realms. Once you reach the Shores of Nine, and the Lake of Nine, you will switch over to rowing between land zones to explore and loot hidden areas or fight really skilled challengers.
In the middle of the Lake of Nine, is the Temple of Tyr, which is home to another fantastic form of travel as well as the World Tree that allows you connection to one of 8 Realm Towers and the ability to travel to and from the Nine Realms via the use of the Bifröst. This is not available from the get-go, as you first need to unlock a few story crucial tools and characters who all interlink and either accompany you on your journey “indirectly” or make surprise appearances at very convenient moments.
A Long Way From Kansas, Dorothy
I will not deny that one of the biggest reasons I was so excited about God of War, was learning that one of my favorite actors was going to voice and character animate Kratos. Christopher Judge became a legend to me as a child during his role on StarGate SG-1 as Teal’c, who also, in the Television Series, was a hater of the “gods” known as the Goa’uld. How fitting to have this man play the role of Kratos? I watched this “behind the scenes” animation recording for one of the most incredible in-game moments over and over pre launch since it hit the internet, just because of how excellent I felt Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic (Atreus) worked as a team on set already, which I can confirm, pulls through into their in-game chemistry.
With references and characters from the previous God of War titles, we are naturally also introduced to new characters seeing as the lore has shifted to primarily following Norse Mythology. If you know anything about Norse Mythology, or even have just heard references before elsewhere, get ready to learn a lot more or see visual representations of certain stories and specific characters. One of the first important characters we meet is Baldur, and then a mysterious witch who lives in an enchanted forest *ahem*, some lightning tossing lads, a huge sea creature known as The World Serpent, Mimir the “all knowing” headless guide, the legendary Valkyrie… and before I spoil the rest, two exceptionally funny and polar opposite dwarven merchants or blacksmiths named Brok and Sindri.
Some fan-service can also be discovered, as seen in the animated screenshots above, where Kratos stands next to an ancient Greek pot depicting the story of him! Keep your eyes peeled for golden moments like this in the game, as there are a lot of tributes to the God of War roots. Now, back to Brok and Sindri, the only characters I can actually go into detail about without ruining your experience when you play the game. Obviously there is much more than meets the eye here with Brok and Sindri, which you can discover on your own, but primarily they act as your gear and weapon merchants that will either craft you your armor, weapon sets and accessories or upgrade your currently equipped gear, weapon sets and accessories. They have a very convenient or sneaky way of being in the right places, at the right time, which at first, made me distrust them (play it to see what I mean), but the lion share of that suspicion did loosen up a bit as I kept playing and progressing.
I am neither confirming, nor denying whether I still distrust them, I need to earn my Platinum on the game first before I reach my own personal conclusion, but they are nonetheless, very quirky, and Brok, has the best vulgar one liners I have ever heard, sure to cleanse your palate after a grueling fight while you are out somewhere between the Nine Realms. Brok also “develops” the nifty “Fast Travel” Gateway System that you can then later use should you not be the type of explorer or achievement pursuing personal philanthropist I am. As for the humor that accompanies you when Brok and Sindri are not near, your headless companion Mimir, whom you have dangling from your belt, does not only pass the perfect comments while you push toward your goals, but also fills awkward silence moments with the most amazing lore specific stories that fit perfectly within your current plot position. We will not go into detail as to why Mimir is headless or why he is one of your companions, as this in its own is also a fantastic part of the story.
Gear Up And Keep Moving
The gearing and skill system is absolutely magical. Sorry, I’m a sucker for bad puns. Seriously though, there are six main stats for you to “build” your own custom Kratos. These stats are: Strength, Runic, Defence, Vitality, Luck and Cooldown. Each of these balance out your “loadout” to either make Kratos Hit Trucking Hard, Tank Major Damage or Shoot Off Volleys of Runic (Magical) Attacks like a Squirrel on Caffeine.
You also loot Enchantment Stones from Chests scattered around in each Realm, and these act as Gems that you can Socket into your Gear to increase specific Stats based on their effect. I must add, that each of these are very situational to parts of the plot or challenges, so try not be too eager to sell off old gear or sell your Enchantments, as you can always unsocket them and transfer them to your new armor set. Play safe. Play wise. Upgrade as much as you can!
Your weapons also house Runic Sigils, which are the magical attacks I mentioned above. Each of them applies to a specific weapon, granting special and powerful DPS moves to throw into your regular and heavy attack rotations. These magical attacks work on the Cooldown and Runic Stats, so if you want to use them often and make them chew out chunks of health from your enemies, then lean your gear more toward the Cooldown and Runic Stat Gear Build. The Runic Attacks can also be upgraded, so if you find your favorite Sigil, just beef it up to its maximum potency. Your Weapons, your Guardian Shield and Atreus’ Bow have their own Skill Tree, from where you unlock new Movesets, Abilities and Bolster Current Skills, a common mechanic we are all used to.
The currency used within the game for upgrading Runic Attacks and your Skill Tree, is your XP, but for your Gear and Weapon Upgrades, you use Hacksilver and many other Materials that you need to find around Midgard and the other Realms. As an Example, if you want the Ancient Guardian Armor Set, you will need a boatload of Hacksilver, and specific materials like an Ancient’s Heart, Ancient’s Rubble and Solid Svartalfheim Steel for each Gear Piece, let alone the upgrades. The materials list is huge, but each has their own area where you can farm them, so it is not just a random drop from chests that you loot or rewards you receive for beating certain enemies. Your Leviathan Axe is upgraded by finding Frozen Orbs and your Chaos Blades get upgraded by finding Chaos Orbs, but those you mainly get after reaching a certain point in the game and beating a boss… or two.
Lastly, each region has a set of goals to achieve which aid’s toward area completion. These are in forms of completing Favours (Side Quests, Big Rewards), finding Artifacts, unlocking Mystic Gateways, finding Lore Markers, opening Nornir or Legendary Chests, killing Odin’s Ravens, defeating Valkyries and Closing Realm Tears. Each of these goals reward you with either one really large trinket once completed, or reward you as you progress. As an example, by closing 1x Realm Tear, you are rewarded with a crafting material called Dust of Realms, or by opening Nornir Chests, you learn the Sigil Language or Key to accessing a new Realm, as where you only unlock a reward after killing all of Odin’s Ravens.
God of War, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, was released globally on 20 April 2018 and has received a hugely positive response, and I am adding my voice to that choir. I did my review, and currently still play the game on a PlayStation 4 Pro, and the graphics are stunning. I tested the game on a PlayStation 4 Slim and even still, it looked magnificent. The textures are amazing, the lighting is spectacular, and the atmospheric refraction and reflection is so realistic, I can understand and fully appreciate why it took Santa Monica Studio as long as it did to develop this masterpiece. Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and distributed locally by SterKinekor Entertainment, you can pick up your copy for only R889.00 via Raru.co.za (at the time of this review). If the God of War franchise never caught your attention, this game will most certainly make you a fan. It is worth every cent, and at its current price, it is an absolute steal when considering the content and entertainment you will receive from it.