God of War has always been one of Sony’s most beloved franchises ever since its debut on PS2. With God of War III, Santa Monica Studios brought Kratos’s quest for revenge to a close, leaving little room for anything after these events. This wasn’t the end of the series though, as the developer brought us another prequel with God of War: Ascension. While it was definitely a good game, it served as proof that the franchise’s formula was getting old. Realizing this, Santa Monica Studios decided that the series needed some sort of reboot from both setting and gameplay perspectives, and the result of this decision is a remarkable game that is probably the best game in the series.
After the events of God of War III, Kratos left Greece behind and travelled to the Norse realm of Midgard hoping that he would be able to live the life of a normal man and away from the machinations of the gods. Here Kratos met a woman with whom he would have a child named Atreus. Sometime later, Kratos’ wife passed away, and her last wish was for Kratos and Atreus to scatter her ashes from the highest peak in the realms. Initially, Kratos believed that Atreus was not ready for the journey ahead, but when a dangerous strange tattooed man appears before Kratos and claims to know who he is, Kratos makes the decision to leave on a journey with his son to scatter her wife’s ashes as he believed the place where they lived was no longer safe.
Like I said before, God of War changes a lot of things from both a setting and gameplay perspectives, but also showcases a new side of Kratos that we haven’t seen before. With his hate and revenge against the gods now a thing of the past, Kratos’ family is now his priority in life, something that makes him grow as person. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the short-tempered and collected character we have come to know, something that becomes quite obvious in his interactions with the game’s several characters, especially Atreus.
The dynamic between father and son that gradually develops as the story unfolds is without a doubt one the most charming aspects of the game. Fearing that his son would become like him, Kratos always kept his distance, never even revealing that he’s in fact a god, while Atreus on the other hand, always tried his best to impress his father and acknowledge him as a (young) warrior. But, at the end of the day, Atreus is still a child, and his childlike playfulness and naive nature often anger Kratos. Despite this, Kratos cares a lot for his son and only wants the best for him, but struggles to act like a father should. It’s these differences between the characters, both in age and personality, that make their story so compelling and emotional. It’s without a doubt an amazing and memorable journey, one filled with great moments shared between Kratos and Atreus as they grow together as characters.
While the combat in previous God of War games was all about hack-and-slash and devastating combos, the new God of War features a combat system that is more dynamic and complex, which discourages button mashing and incentives players to use strategy and take a more tactical approach in each battle. It’s a combat system that has a lot of depth and offers a lot of tactical options where each split-second decision can have an impact on the outcome of a battle. Once you master all of its mechanics, combat becomes incredibly addictive and satisfying, more than ever before in the series.
Instead of the Blades of Chaos, Kratos’ main weapon this time around is the Leviathan Axe. Using the R1 and R2 you perform light and heavy attacks, respectively. In addition to unleashing devastating combos, you can also press the L2 button to aim and throw the Leviathan Axe at enemies and call it back using the triangle button, with the axe dealing damage to any enemies in its path. Although you can always take out enemies with brute force, this gameplay mechanic offers many options on how to approach each battle. Throwing the Leviathan Axe is a much easier way to kill flying enemies or attack enemies far away from you or in places out of reach. Another example are enemies with shields that will block your attacks from the front, a problem that can easily be solved by throwing the Axe behind the enemy and calling it back, with the Axe hitting the enemy in the back and leaving it vulnerable for your attacks. Finally, throwing the Leviathan Axe into an enemy will freeze it, which allows you to either finish it with your fists and shield, or change your attention to other enemies as the one you just froze won’t move for a while. In addition to its combat capabilities, the Leviathan Axe is crucial to solve several puzzles throughout the game, such as freezing mechanisms or hitting several distant objects in a limited time frame.
Just as I mentioned before, Kratos can also use his fists and shield to attack. While delivering punches doesn’t deal as much damage as the Leviathan Axe, you will often find yourself in situations where you need to do so, such as enemies immune to the Axe. Despite this, there are some benefits to using melee attacks as these stun enemies more quickly. In addition to a health bar, each enemy also has a stun bar that fills with each attack inflected, and when it’s filled, Kratos can perform his well-known brutal finishers. You can also use to your shield to block an incoming attack at the right time to leave your opponent wide open to a follow-up attack. Spartan Rage also makes a return, allowing Kratos to temporarily be immune to damage while delivering some devastating attack on the enemy.
God of War also introduces a new RPG-like level of customisation never seen before in the series. For starters, Kratos can be equipped with up to three pieces of armour (chest, bracers and waist), with each armour increasing stats such as strength and defense. In addition, both armour and the Leviathan Axe can be upgraded by using resources you collect throughout the game. The Leviathan Axe can also be equipped with two Runic abilities, which are basically powerful magic spells with dedicated cooldowns. You will find dozens of Runic abilities throughout the game, each with different attack patterns, areas-of-effect, and damage, offering all sorts of combinations that best suit your playstyle. Just like armour and the Leviathan Axe, Runic abilities can also be upgraded to deal more damage in each attack.
While you only control Kratos in the game, you can also unlock abilities and equip armour on Atreus, as he also plays a crucial role in combat. You can use the square button to have Atreus attack enemies with his arrows. His attacks not only stun and deal some damage to the enemy, but also draws their attention away from Kratos, and just like Kratos’ melee attacks, they fill the enemy’s stun bar more quickly. He’s without a doubt a valuable asset to have at your side in battle, one that holds up on his own in combat and never feels like he’s in the way.
Unlike previous entries in the series, God of War allows players to explore the vast world of Midgard. This doesn’t mean that God of War is an open-world, instead, the game features a large area that serves as a central hub that connects to a wide variety of smaller linear locations. Exploration is certainly rewarding, as you will come across sidequests, rare treasures, equipment, collectibles, and hidden challenges. Not only that, but optional areas and sidequests often add something to the dynamic between Kratos and Atreus, which enriches their character development. Even if you decide to skip all the optional content, God of War takes around 15-20 hours to finish, but if you wish to complete everything the game has to offer, expect to sink in at least 40 hours.
Visually, God of War is definitely one of the most beautiful and breathtaking games on PS4, only rivaled by a few games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted 4. Everything from scenery to character models is incredibly detailed and realistic, and the seamless transition from cutscenes to gameplay makes the experience even more enjoyable. It’s also impressive how the game features no loading times, with the exception of occasions where you die. Composer Bear McCreary did a fantastic job with the game’s soundtrack, with scores that fit perfectly with this epic adventure set in the Norse realm. The voice acting is also superb, and while God of War has a new voice actor for Kratos, I think that Christopher Judge does a phenomenal job as Kratos.
God of War is a perfect example of how a reboot should be done. Santa Monica Studios changed the old God of War formula and created something completely new that “revives” one the PlayStation’s most iconic characters. The game tells a compelling story, supported by a great cast of characters, that explores the relationship between Kratos and Atreus while showing us a more “human” side of the beloved character. This added to an improved and dynamic combat system, semi-open world exploration, RPG elements, and impressive visuals make this a spectacular experience. God of War is without a doubt one of the best games on PS4, and probably the best game in the series.
|Engaging and memorable narrative with a great cast of characters.|
|Satisfying combat system with a lot of depth and strategy involved.|
|Exploring the semi open-world is rewarding.|
|Outstanding visual presentation and soundtrack.|
|A perfect example on how to do a reboot.|