I’m late to the game again. Literally, this time. 2018’s reboot of the classic Playstation series, God of War is more than good, it’s an amazing amalgamation of a bunch of games I’ve liked in the last few years. Namely, Uncharted/Last of Us, Shadow of Mordor, and the previous God of War games. I can admit here for the first time that the only reason it took me so long to play this game is because I knew it would get discounted. I ended up paying $12 after discounts and after the awesome time I had playing this game, I actually feel bad about not paying full price. That’s probably a first for me.
God of War (2018) is on first look, a complete reboot of the previous Greek mythology themed PS2 and PS3 games. I am a big God of War fan, I haven’t played any of the PSP titles, but I have played the mainline games and I’ve enjoyed the hack-and-slash gory madness. I’ve always enjoyed its hokey overly dramatic storytelling, even if most of the previous games were about revenge, rage, death, and ultimately, hope? I finished God of War III Remastered recently, and the end of that game is basically that. Kill everything, get revenge on Zeus, and then “hope saves us all”?. I loved that ending years ago, but it does have a little less impact after finishing this recent game. God of War (2018) does something the previous games didn’t think about doing, it adds substance and performance to otherwise stiff and stodgy characters. That’s largely to do with the jump in technology that gives us such authentic and realistic motion captured moments which are in full force in this game. It also, without spoiling too much, avoids the pitfalls of the previous stories while at the same time incorporating big story elements from the last God of War.
I’ll give a short synopsis of the previous God of War titles for those of you not familiar with the story of Kratos. Kratos was a Spartan warrior that committed horrible acts of violence. While under the influence of Ares, Kratos killed his family. Kratos then fights Ares, the God of War, defeats him, then ascends to Olympus to become the new God of War. That’s basically part one. Part two is the typical fall from grace. Kratos is killed, rises from the dead, and ultimately it is revealed through the death of Athena, that Kratos is Zeus’ son. The third entry in the series picks up immediately after these events and sees Kratos rising to Olympus on the backs of giants to defeat Zeus. A pretty strong opening. Kratos pretty much disembowels every item on his way to destroy all of the Gods. By the end of part three, we get a lesson in hope between all of the chopping, Kratos defeats Zeus and “dies”, and then this Greek mythological world is torn asunder. Whew, actually, that’s a lot to boil down, and there is so much more. But here’s the best part of God of War (2018), you only need to know the smallest part of that story to enjoy this latest entry.
God of War (2018) opens with the death of Kratos wife, Faye. Kratos also has a son, Atreus. The larger themes of this story come down to truth and honesty, and a growing up for this typically one dimensional character. Kratos and Atreus’ story involves the two traveling to different realms to see Faye’s ashes to their final resting place. To say the story goes places is not enough to express how fun it was to play this game. You’ll enjoy the typical fruits of a God of War game, fast paced gory slashing, giant set piece action sequences, and a lot of twists and turns in the story. The shame is in having to hold back all those twists from you, the average reader. All I can say, is that having previous knowledge of Kratos story does help, but I think this game would be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of the previous story. The way things simply evolve, I think the player can get there without all that information.
Because I have already talked about Kratos’ previous storylines, I think it is okay for me to let out one small spoiler. In what I think was one of the best reveals for a video game character in, maybe the last 10 years, the developers of this game decided to hold off on this critical reveal till damn near the end of the game. That is, that Kratos’ did not die at the end of God of War III and merely escaped the Greek realm to hide out in this Norse realm. What a cool idea. It’s even better in my opinion that they threw sly little nods to this knowledge up until the final reveal. I loved that they didn’t steer away from the games previous stories and rather, took the time and due diligence to incorporate those stories in a more meaningful way. You could simplify that by saying this naturally comes from the building relationship between Kratos and Atreus throughout this game, but I think that previous knowledge helps set a great tone for what to expect.
Wow, I wrote that much so far just talking about the story that I forgot to get back to my original point. God of War (2018) succeeds in a lot of great ways in how it mimics titles I’ve played in the last few years. There’s the cinematic style of games like Uncharted and Last of Us. Story set pieces such as the dragon fight had me having flashbacks to those aforementioned games. There’s also a big de-emphasis on quick-time events although they do still exist in this game. It was oddly satisfying to watch Kratos take down a troll and not have to press any more buttons to watch the display. There’s also the Shadow of Mordor style equipment system. In a lot of ways this looks like Shadow of Mordor and I think that’s an amazing compliment to what that game did. I liked the socket system because it added to the gameplay by making God of War more similar to recent RPGs. Level up Kratos and his weapons and armor and you’ll find there’s a lot to tinker with there. Finally, God of War embraces the styling of it’s previous games and the storytelling to give us a similar, but wholly new experience. I loved God of War because of the shades of similarities there were from previous stories. It didn’t completely disavow it’s shady past, and I think I liked the game even more because of this.
It also brought the game out of the depths of depravity and shear violence to give us a complex and exciting adventure. The story really moves in an exciting way and gives me hope that possibly more things are to come from this franchise. I also didn’t bring this up earlier, but God of War (2018) plays as well as those previous games, if not better than it’s ever played. The dynamic feeling you get between the toss of a frost axe or the swing of the Blades of Chaos is just awesome. Speaking of which, that frost axe should be a top contender for “best weapon in a video game”. The pitch and catch nature of that axe was just delightful.
All and all God of War was something to behold. A triumph for the folks at Santa Monica Studios who managed to update and uphold the God of War series. They took what was a series that was overtly violent and dramatic and updated it for 2018. And they did it in a way that I thought was most important: they made me care about these characters and their relationships. As we continue into the next generation of video games, I can’t help but hope we continue this tradition. I want games to be impactful by telling us stories so good, that we completely lose ourselves in the stories those characters tell. If games like God of War continue to get made, I’ll always be a happy gamer.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! GIVE THIS GAME A SHOT!