I always wanted to play the God of War games but never got around to it so I ended up watching playthroughs and following Kratos through it all… I just didn’t get to pick up his blades myself which is a great regret of my gaming ‘career’. When Sony Santa Monica announced God of War would be returning, I decided it would be time to get myself in gear and finally take the reigns of the Spartan.
The opening few moments of the game blew my mind. I picked my difficulty option (always what is considered normal difficulty) and before I could think the words ‘Kratos looks badass’, it began. Seamlessly moving between gameplay and cut scene, I think the first half hour or so was spent with my mouth wide open. Everything about this game is beautiful. The graphics, the music, everything inbetween and even the way Kratos says ‘Boy’ made me so glad that this game had been made. I will of course go into a little more detail but rest assured I will be presenting my thoughts in a spoiler free manner so you can enjoy the story for yourself.
Let us begin with the story. Kratos’ wife, Faye, has passed away leaving our Spartan and his son, Aretus with a quest to take her ashes to the highest peak in all of the realms. Kratos comes across as hard, unfeeling and disappointed in his weakling of a child but as you spend time with them on this journey, you see everything unfold as time goes on. I loved the relationship building between them both as they get to know one another properly. The petty arguments, the hunting, Atreus showing Kratos his knowledge of language or animals and the good times when they get along. We see them both develop and grow as a family throughout and while there are times you would gladly knock their heads together, it makes the moments of genuine mutual understanding all the more touching.
This story is different from previous God of War games as it is not in its usual setting. This was the main draw for me to go out of my way to play this game because I have had an interest in Norse Mythology for a while so I was particularly keen to see how the writers had managed to weave the two together. This is another aspect in which the game is successful in its story telling in my opinion. Those of you who are more knowledgeable may have niggles regarding the use of runes or how the stories are told but I enjoyed the way it all came together. Having Atreus be the translator was a great move as it was a way of getting Kratos to depend on him, not just for the puzzles that they face together but as a way to keep their journey moving forward. The journal in the menus is the place where this knowledge is kept and if you get some time, you should probably take a pause to have a read through.
With the Norse way of things comes a lot of familiar names and faces on the journey. Now, if you know Kratos you will guess that he has some issues with Gods no matter where they come from so you can imagine that there may end up being more than a few fights other than those with ogres, ancients and other beasties that lurk in the Nine Realms. With his mighty Leviathan Axe, shield and son in tow, Kratos is able to make short work of many of them but there are certainly some enjoyable fights to be had throughout and I’ll talk more about them shortly. Mimir is the one character who bridges the gap between the Kratos/Atreus combo and the Norse Realms. You meet him relatively early on and he is a useful ally not only for telling you stories along the way but as a look out in times of need. It’s worth taking the time to float around on the lake to take some time out and listen to him, he’s got some good stories to tell so even if you stop him halfway through, he’ll pick up where he left off when you are settled again. You can also go off the main story quest to explore Midguard, the Lake of the Nine or the other realms to complete favours for more XP and potential gear. These are well worth doing and you might even find some good fights along the way so be sure to have a look and spend some time doing these.
Returning to Kratos and Atreus, it’s not only their relationship that develops but their skills (if you remember to spend that XP and upgrade their gear of course!). Kratos wields his Leviathan Axe which can not only be recalled after it’s thrown but can offer frost damage as well as some impressive finishing moves. The shield provides a good slam attack if timed right which can be upgraded to dish out more damaging attacks as you progress. There there’s Atreus, your archer, who will fire at whoever you are looking at when you command, these can also stop the unblockable attacks if he gets in there quickly enough. He will climb on enemies backs and try to choke them which is helpful as it helps build up the stun meter allowing you to deliver those awesome finishing cinematics. You can get outfits with benefits for Atreus as well as upgrading his bow which will provide different bonuses depending on how you want him to help you in a fight. Kratos has more to upgrade as you have his axe to think about as well as his arm, waist and chest armor. There are enchantments and various talisman to upgrade and utilise too so my top tip is to remember these. I went through most of the game not paying attention and then suddenly realised I hadn’t upgraded anything. My protagonists became instantly more powerful and I felt that had I paid a little more attention to this, some fights my have felt a little more balanced. Brok and Sindri are also worth a visit where you can craft and upgrade items. They are dwarfs but they are also brothers…. who don’t get along. Not only are they great characters who provide some more light hearted quips throughout but they also come in handy when you need to get better gear. These guys stole the show in my opinion and I adored them.
Once you have your gear sorted, you want to fight things. I only avoided one fight and that’s when I stumbled across some level 5 enemies when I was still level 2 so I turned and ran back to the boat. Whether you are throwing your axe or just punching things in the face with your bare hands while Atreus fires off some arrows, you are going to enjoy fighting with Kratos. Now I know what you’re thinking ‘But it’s not the same without his Blades of Chaos’… it’s not a problem here. You will enjoy the axe. Trust me. You may even utter ‘What Blades of Chaos?’, you never know! There’s something incredibly satisfying about throwing your axe and recalling it only to have it hit another few enemies on its return. It’s great! You do need to be tactical at times as some enemies will test what you think you know so you may have to mix things up a bit which is great as it means you don’t get a chance to get comfortable. I would encourage you to also consider trying out different light and heavy runic attacks. I mainly stuck with the same throughout the game but I have a couple of favours to finish off which will give me the opportunity to test out some of the others which offer whirlwind attacks, additional stun damage among other things.
Now I said the game was beautiful and I mean it. The choice to have the camera over the shoulder maintaining that third person view was an interesting one however when you actually play the game and I mean from the moment it starts, it truly is seamless. I would go as far to say it is incredible. The detail of everything from Kratos’ bandages to his beard and the whole world around these characters is impressive. It feels more like a film that you get to participate in and as the game takes over again you get to see every detail while the gorgeous soundtrack sets the tone. The music really draws you in as well, from the beautiful arias that accompany the more emotional moments to the deep, dramatic male vocals when Kratos enters or is about to do something epic. The performances are great, not only from Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic but everyone involved is fantastic. I personally enjoy the little comments Atreus makes when you wander off to explore or the dead pan way in which Kratos talks to Atreus at times. It all helps to build the great story and I’m glad I get to see Kuniku play through now so I can hear all those lines that I may have missed the first time around. But at times I did find Atreus irritating at times when he would anger quickly and then be ok with everything only to then become cocky or unleash some teenage angst. The dialogue between the two does falter once or twice but other than that, the dynamic between them is pretty great throughout.
As I don’t want to spoil anything for you, all I can really say is that overall, I loved God of War. I’m sad that I have finished the story but slightly glad that I still have things to finish because I fully intend on returning to do these when photo mode appears as there are a lot of amazing moments I missed capturing and I want to show off how stunning the game really is. There were only a few moments where the immersion was broken and that was mainly when Atreus would bug out a little preventing me from continuing because he was stuck somewhere or he would run on the spot while reading something to Kratos. Everything else was damn near perfect in my opinion. As you know, I don’t believe any game is perfect but sometimes one will come close and God of War is a great achievement in terms of gameplay, story and production. Not only is it enjoyable but I honestly will add it to my list of best games I have ever played joining the likes of The Last of Us, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Horizon Zero Dawn. For those who say single player games are dying out, God of War joins the ranks of those titles proving that theory is incorrect. If you have an opportunity to get it, do it sooner rather than later and I guarantee you won’t regret it.