God of War Review – Change is Good

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Change isn’t easy to accept, change is something most people aren’t comfortable with. It is especially difficult to handle when it is changing everything about your favorite games. Sony Santa Monica’s God of War series entered Uncharted territory with the latest installment. No one knew if changes to gameplay design and Kratos’ personality would work.

Fortunately, the new God of War is the best thing that could have happened to this IP. After the release of God of War 3 and Ascension, the redundancy was pretty clear. God of War was getting old and tired, it was beaten down by the ever-changing landscape of video game design as it was stuck in its same old ways.

Change was needed, we were just not sure how well this direction will work. But it did, by god it did! God of War is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece, a slap on the faces of publishers who consider singleplayer, story-driven games to be a dying breed.

God of War is a drastic reinvention of the series. All previous games offered linear experiences, packed with action sequences, fixed camera angles while the story was placed on the backburner. But that is no longer the case, Sony Santa Monica crafted an experience that is noticeably different from anything we have seen so far from God of War.

It is a cinematic experience right from the moment you hit the play button. It seamlessly blends tutorials with cut-scenes, guiding you through the new mechanics with ease and comfort. It takes less than 5-minutes to be familiar with the new changes, it is that well-crafted. And it seems developer knew that as the game throws you into a boss fight 15 minutes into the game when a stranger knocks on Kratos’ door.

And with little to no camera cuts, the overall presentation is as seamless as it can be. You won’t know how effective this kind of presentation is until you actually play it.

The main storyline is pretty simple but excellence stems from its execution. Kratos and his son Atreus are heading on a journey to the top of the highest mountain after the death of Atreus’ mother. It seems like a simple task but the challenges along the way aren’t as simple by any definition.

The relationship and interactions between Kratos’ and his son hold a stable emotional value for the player throughout. How Atreus struggles to kill, how Kratos tries to be a better father every step of the way, how Kratos’ true nature is taking over Atreus, possibly killing him in the process.

While Atreus may not be playable for the most part, he is treated as a playable character. His abilities, armor, skills, weapons, all can be upgraded so he can better perform in battle. The relationship dynamic between the two characters is the main driver of this story.

Son and father are two very different people, it is clear that Atreus takes after his mother as he has a softer side. While he is eager to prove to his father that he is ready for the journey, his first kill had a significant emotional impact on him.

Atreus is a smart young boy, he is knowledgeable about the Norse mythology and helps Kratos’ with puzzles, and understanding ancient language. His lack of combat skills (that do get better as you progress) create an interesting dynamic as both parties are learning from each other.

Kratos struggles to hide his true self from his son due to the Spartan Rage inside him which makes Kratos a much more interesting character. Seeing Kratos showing restraint after the strange man punched him thrice in the face minutes into the game is unbelievably fun. You can see the expressions on Kratos’ face, he desperately wants to rip this man’s head off but his son being in the next room forces him to stay calm, and politely ask the man to leave.

This doesn’t mean Kratos holds his anger at all times, he fights, but his fight has a purpose. He only fights to protect his son. He uses meaty blows to rip through enemies most of the time but an extensive skill tree, and weapon upgrades keep him on par with higher level enemies as well.

Right from the get go you feel the power of Kratos, you feel how strong he is against most enemies, all kinds of minions are no problem at all even at level 1. However, if you are not careful they can overwhelm you, especially, when grouped with higher level enemies.

There is a very delicate balance in this regard that keeps combat interesting throughout the game. As a fan of the Blades of Choas wasn’t easy seeing their departure but the Axe is surprising fun to use. It is more involved as well so gone are the days of button mashing until you beat the enemy.

The combat in God of War is more skill based this time around and players have more control over the outcome. Apart from the main storyline, you can explore the world, locate hidden locations, runes, find collectibles, resources to upgrade weapons, armor, and skills.

Let’s talk about the aesthetics, Sony Santa Monica has done justice to the Norse mythology and it will be hard to find a better-looking game than God of War. But it needs some improvements with a post-release update to stabilize frame rates.

God of War’s music is amazing with low and high-register choir coming in to complement what’s going on at the screen. From large-scale battles to grounded moments between Kratos and Atreus, the score is perfectly handled.

God of War is the prime example of how change is good.