God of War is a Masterpiece

No spoilers.
Platform: PS4
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
God of War (GoW) is another that is added to a list of games that proves the single player genre is still very much enjoyed. With multiplayer getting the attention as of late, it’s great to see games such as NieR: Automata, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, God of War, and others showcase how incredible storytelling can be.

A somewhat humbling story

Unlike the previous God of War games, we’ve only known Kratos when he’s beating countless enemies and crushing mythical beings. Almost a ‘one-sided tale’. But back then, it was more about the gameplay.
Breathtaking is the word I would say to describe the story in God of War. It’s easy to form attachments to not only Kratos and Atraeus but also other characters like Brok and Sindri, even if Brok can be a real d-hole at times.

God of War - The journey of a Man and a Boy
God of War – The journey of a Man and a Boy

Much different from the original series, God of War doesn’t take place in ancient Greece. Instead, it’s based on Norse mythology and focuses on Kratos and Atraeus’ journey through Midgard and the other eight realms, although 3 of them you have no access to at all (which is an obvious case for a sequel). By just taking place in a different setting, it makes the game much different from the rest of the series, and I love that, especially as ‘Norse lore” is some of my favourite. If it were to be based on Greek mythology again, I don’t think it would be as much of a hit.
I won’t say much more about the story, but playing through is like going through a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll find that Kratos isn’t just a bloodthirsty machine and that he has feelings we can relate to. The one thing that enhances the storytelling is how well the camera is handled. There are no camera cuts, at all. The fact that there is only one camera view makes it feel as if you’re seeing the world in Kratos’ eyes. It’s beautiful yes, but I’ve found myself struggling to pick up other games, simply because God of War is one of the best games, if not the best game on PlayStation right now.
The only real negative I have with the story is that the boss fights are too easy, even on Give Me A Challenge mode, which by the way makes the game pretty difficult in a lot of other scenarios and especially during certain optional bosses. The balance seemed to be a little off as well at times. On Give Me A Challenge I found that at some points early on, the game was vastly more difficult but that could be because you don’t have many skills/upgrades, but even then in the late game, it ramped up, even more, only to get considerably easier (again probably due to skills/upgrades). If you’ve played the game, what do/did you think of the difficulty balance?

Combat has never felt so good

Santa Monica Studios have taken a different approach when it comes to gameplay. Sure you could say it has been given the ‘Last of Us treatment’. I mean, what is that? Just an over-the-shoulder camera with some action? What sets this game miles apart from the likes of Uncharted, The Last of Us and Tomb Raider, is how brutal and intense it can be. One second you’ll be smashing through enemies, the next using Atraeus to shoot stun things, then smashing a pillar on a troll’s head. It’s the executions and over-the-top nature of combat which sets God of War apart. Not to mention throwing Kratos’ Leviathan Axe (easily as iconic as Lara’s bow) never gets old.

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The combat is just so damn fulfilling. You feel like the God of War.

This God of War sure has Depth

While the previous games had a touch of freedom, they were mostly linear. In God of War, there is a lot of freedom to be had, so much so that I found myself not even touching the main story when the game suddenly opened up multiple paths. At first, it was felt like just another open world touch, but I was wrong. Each and every side-quest, even collectibles are worth going for. Not only for the rewards, which do help massively, they’re also as interesting as the main story itself. Delving into the past and learning so much more about the setting and its inhabitants gives the game a lot more depth than I had originally thought. Usually, side quests are quite dull and not worth doing, but this game takes it to a whole new level. It’s fantastic.

God of War - Skill trees
God of War – Skill trees

Of course, there will be times where you might jump the gun a bit and find yourself fighting an enemy far beyond your level, which is a good thing! It highlights that you’re not strong enough, so you’ll need to attain better gear (which determines your level). Talking about gear, I love how it’s got enough RPG stat management in a way, which is completely governed by which items you equip. You can decide which sort of playstyle you like. Runic attack focus with low cooldowns? Physical attacks and high defence? Go for it.I do have to say however, I was slightly disappointed that the Valkyrie armour was inferior in terms of raw stats, to the Niflheim gear, but the effects do very much have their use. I would absolutely recommend doing the Valkyrie side-quest, which is in my view, includes some, if not the best fights in the game.

god of war grip stats
God of War – Legendary Grip of Tanngoist

Special attacks in the previous God of War games were what you had to compliment the raw physical strength that Kratos had going for him. It’s great to see them back in the latest game as it helps break up the usual combos with devastating special attacks, which you can use strategically.

High graphical fidelity

As a PS4 Pro user, my first 2 hours were played on a 4k TV, of course, I had to pack up and go back to playing in my room as it’s the family TV. Switching to performance mode was better on my much smaller, 1080p screen. But I haven’t seen a game as beautiful as this. I’ve probably said that about Monster Hunter World, Horizon Zero Dawn and some other game on PC before that, but this time I mean it. It felt like I was playing a cinematic sequence, with crisp and high fidelity visuals. I ended up taking dozens of screenshots and videos, and you bet I was happy to see Photo mode added in!
The game also has the best snow mechanics I’ve seen from what I’ve played. The gif below speaks for itself.

gow_snow

New music with a touch of the old

Overall the music is solid, with some Norse inspired themes standing out at certain times. But none of that beats the iconic God of War theme, with the heavy instruments and thunderous sound. I will say that you hear plenty of it throughout the game. Of course, it shouldn’t be exactly the same music, otherwise it would be boring, much like Star Wars episodes seven through nine are different from its prequels. It’s good to see change when done right. Have a listen here. Just don’t read the YouTube comments!

God of War is a Masterclass

As a big fan of the previous games, I wouldn’t have thought this God of War would live up to expectations. I was very, very wrong. I’ve played a lot of great games over the last year. NieR: Automata, Tomb Raider, Monster Hunter World, Breath of the Wild and more…but God of War takes the cake. Santa Monica Studios have demonstrated how EAs absurd the ‘single-player games aren’t popular anymore’ statement is. Being a PS4 exclusive is almost…sad because God of War is the closest you’ll get to a perfect game.

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3 thoughts on “God of War is a Masterpiece

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