God of War or A Divine Tale of Gore and Boy

As someone who has never liked the previous God of War games, mostly because they were too linear and too fucking full of fucking quick time fucking events, the worst ever sorry excuse for actual gameplay mechanics, Rabidgames is pleasantly surprised how incredibly awesome the new God of War is.

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Kratos and WWE’s Triple H – twins from alternate realities?

But make no mistake, the new God of War still is linear for most parts, it’s just rather well designed so you don’t feel the linearity that much. There are some branches that lead to some goodies, some paths that merge again, and some puzzles ask for a close observation of your surroundings. There’s also a big open area for you to relax and listen to Kratos’ stories, although his stories are not to everyone’s liking. But don’t worry, you’ll meat a better storyteller soon.

The combat system in this God of War feels slower but meatier – and seeing your thrown axe sink into an enemy’s flesh feels pretty satisfying, too. There will also be a second weapons later on, which will speed up combat a bit (no spoilers though). There is less gore in general, but the finishing moves still include Kratos ripping apart bodies, limbs and fountains of blood. But while the combat system is fun – and gets upgraded quickly with runic attacks from your axe and the boy’s bow attacks, enemy variety is a bit underwhelming. There are a handful of enemies that appear over and over throughout God of War, and only reappear with new skins later. The same goes for boss fights – there are only a few real boss fights, most are fighting the same set of mini bosses over and over again.

That being said though, it doesn’t have that much of an impact because the pacing in God of War is well-rounded for most parts – story, exploration, fights, puzzles and the odd “what the fuck?” moment work well together – pretty close to the pacing of Uncharted 4 (although the puzzles in God of War are more diverse and sometimes involve more thinking – although never THAT much more). The only time that wasn’t the case was towards the end when there were mini boss battles after virtually each step – honestly, that was the point where Rabidgames said “fuck this shit!” and went to finish the game on Easy – because once you figured certain enemies out, it was nothing but a war of attrition, which can become boring if it happens 3 times within 10 minutes …

Now, the story … without a doubt, this is where God of War really, really shines. What starts as a journey to spread the ashes of Kratos’ wife turns into more. Honestly, the less is said here the better but Kratos in the north works remarkably well, his interactions with others do, too. And virtually everyone you meet, from a stranger coming to your house (starting the first epic boss fight) to a mysterious witch, plays a part in this cosmic Norse play – it’s a bit of a bonus if you know a bit about Norse mythology, sure, but obviously, Sony’s Santa Monica Studio has taken some liberties there (which don’t feel terribly out of place).

As with the Greek mythology, the Norse gods were also pretty much giant (no pun intended) assholes. Don’t expect God of War to be a Viking Metal fairytale where the heroic deeds of Odin and Thor are praised. On the contrary, the gods are depicted as big jerks. Which makes sense, because if you read your Edda, they actually were. Or well, as actually as fictional characters can become …

You also get to travel a few of the legendary 9 realms in God of War. Starting in Midgard, you travel to some during the story, but there are also 2 realms that sadly only exist as glorified arenas. It’s a shame to do that, as it would have been awesome to explore these realms a bit more. A few are also locked permanently – sorry, we don’t get to see Asgard and Valhalla this time.

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Black breath can’t be healthy.

And then, Atreus, or “Boy” – forget Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite, forget Ellie from The Last of Us (who was utterly useless in combat anyway), Atreus now officially is the new best juvenile sidekick in gaming. Not only is he a very, very integral part to God of War’s story, he changes from a weak little boy to a competent fighter – and more. In fact, he is a bit overpowered when fully levelled, which means all you need to do is evade and block and have Boy fire his arrows at enemies.

The writing also manages to portrait the relationship between Atreus and Kratos without it being tacky or soap operesque (is this even a word? Whatever). You can sense the bond between them growing because of the events in God of War, because of Atreus learning more and more about the world he’s growing up in, and you can feel it by how Kratos addresses his son. What exactly happens and what the implications of the revelation towards the end are, well, let’s say it makes more sense to not talk about it here, because, let’s face it, you should go and play God of War to see it for yourself. Speaking about implications, yes, there is a massive motherfucking cliffhanger! But in this case, it even makes sense. Let’s just say that Kratos’ bloody actions start a series of events that would probably have not fit into one game, hell, that would have been too epic for one game!

While this God of War might not appeal to all of the old-school fans of the series, the new mainstream approach has worked perfectly well in terms of metascore ranking and sales – and for a reason. Just like Uncharted 4, God of War is a masterpiece of storytelling and combining different gameplay elements together into a narrative machine that does a great job. And like Uncharted 4, God of War also is a very polished experience. Who would have thought that it pays off to publish a COMPLETE polished narrative masterpiece and make money with a SINGLE PLAYER game in this age of “games as a service”? Because fuck you, turns gamers actually like to play games like reading books – a complete experience you can wrap up in one sitting. And sure, there’s a cliffhanger, but that ain’t different with certain books. Right, George R.R. Martin?

Rabidgames bathes in the blood of Kratos’ enemies: First, Monster Hunter World has emerged as a GOTY contender, and now God of War throws its axe into the ring. And with Red Dead Redemption 2 on the horizon, there might be more to come … But one thing is clear – it will be hard to beat the story of this journey to Hel and back!

 

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