God of War is a franchise that has been around for fifteen years. All of the seven major PlayStation releases before 2018 were a practice of toxic masculinity. In these, Kratos the protagonist has never been a compelling character and had no arc. He was a by the books angry bald man who brutally slaughtered his way through very loose aspects of a story, that in more mature hands could have been compelling. While the game play was mechanically sound and engaging, there was no character to sympathize or grow with, making them fun but ultimately un-fulfilling experiences.
All that has changed with God of War 2018 for the PS4. Santa Monica Studios has raised the bar for the God of War franchise in a new and compelling way. The story, without giving any spoilers, starts with a funeral and finds us in the land of Norse gods. We find Kratos older and now with a son. The funeral is for the boys mother and subsequently Kratos’s wife who has died in an unspecified way. The game begins immediately while standing at the funeral pyre, when Kratos tells his son Atreus to hunt for them some food.
From there the adventure begins, as our protagonists set off to scatter the ashes of their recently lost loved one on on the highest mountain peak in the land. This is the one main goal of the entire game. Nothing more grand or epic than that.
This may make God of War seem small in scale, but from the very beginning of the journey, you realize that this is going to be a much harder trip than either character thought, and that it will not simply be a stroll up to the top of a mountain. Many roadblocks lay in our heroes’ path that will have to be overcome. Added to that is a Kratos that has softened only slightly, but is learning to be a father that cares and guides Atreus to the right path in life.
Whereas Kratos was a blood thirsty maniac in the original games, we find that he has tried to leave that life behind in God of War. The killing, and there is a lot of killing in this game, always seems like a necessary evil as he is trying to protect his child and lay his wife to rest as he had promised. All while learning to be a worthy father. The Story of God of War is that of shedding the past, not by ignoring it, but by learning from it. Acknowledging the atrocities of the past and working to not repeat them. This is a redemptive story for Kratos. This is Kratos making peace with who he was and vowing to be better. God of War is the story of a father who only wants the best possible life for his son, and he is willing to get this at all costs.
Also, a new aspect of God of War is the game play. Now that we are following an older Kratos, we have left behind the frenetic and incredibly fast paced fighting mechanics of the older games in the series and replaced it with the new Sony staple of a third person, over the shoulder view, where the combat is a bit slower and more deliberate. Many comparisons to the Souls games have been made, and they are mostly apt comparisons. This change delivers a far more satisfying and complex fighting system. The game never suffers the fact that it is a prolonged escort mission either. Atreus is not just there to be protected, he helps fight and with the various puzzles you will find around Midgard and beyond.
Its finely tuned and has a fairly deep progression system. New armor and runes have become essential to getting to the point where you feel like a God of War again. A deeper progression and a sense of getting stronger as you progress make this a mechanically compelling game to play. The game itself is a linear single player affair, that does open up slightly for exploration. This is a refreshing change from the norm of the open world game.
God of War is a beautiful game. Its easily the best looking console game we have ever seen. The attention to detail and the beautiful color schemes make this a treasure for the eyes. If there is any knock against the game, and its a very slight one, its that there isn’t a vastly diverse pallet of enemies and kill animations. That being said, the designs they have are beautiful.
I rarely step away from a game and feel the emotion that I did from God of War. Maybe this is because I’m a bit older and have a child myself. But, this is a game that represents the maturing of an industry and more specifically, the developers. The industry has been evolving and maturing over the years and God of War is an amazing representation of that maturity.
With its beautiful graphics, compelling game play, and surprisingly deep and emotional story about being a parent, God of War has easily become one of the best games of a generation, and possibly of all time.
- Beautiful graphics
- Deep and emotional story
- Compelling gameplay
- Satisfying combat
- Lack of diverse enemies
- Lack of diverse kill animations