Calling God of War one of the most anticipated games of 2018 would be an understatement. Sony Santa Monica, the Studio behind the franchise and Creative Director Cory Barlog have kept many details of this game close to the chest. All the footage that you have seen is barely the tip of the iceberg for both the story and gameplay. This has been done for a good reason. The game is an epic journey filled with a deep story, varied combat and fun exploration. The short version of this review is that if you have a PS4, you must play God of War. A lot of people including me were skeptical about the changes in combat. However, once you get your hands on the controller, it’s hard to let go.
The story of the game kicks off with what you see in the story trailer of the game. Kratos’ wife has moved on from the world and it was her dying wish that her ashes be scattered from the tallest mountain in all the realms. This is all we are going to reveal about the story. Which Gods you fight, how the story progresses, who you meet on your journey, we leave that for you to experience. The story is one of the strongest elements of the game. The relationship between Kratos and his son (Atreus) changes throughout the journey and that is one of the most organic elements of the game. Kratos’ past is also explored in the game and if you have played the previous games or are aware of the story, these moments will bring a smile on your face. There is one instance for example where Kratos and Atreus are discussing the story of a son who kills his father and you can’t help but smile when Kratos presents his justifications for the story being discussed.
Overall, the story of the game is very well carved out giving the game a definitive ending yet leaving room for more than one sequel. The writing is quite witty for a God of War game bringing a smile to your face at every other turn.
Gameplay: The evolution of Kratos
Before reviewing the new God of War game, we went back and played the first three main entries once again (God of War 1 and 2 on the Vita and 3 on the PS4). We could finish each and every one of those games by simply pressing box, box, triangle for every fight. We’re happy to say that isn’t the case with the new God of War game. The combat has matured. If you are skeptical about the combat in this game, we can assure you, you don’t need to be. The RPG elements aren’t overwhelming and the combat is easy to get a hold of.
The controller mapping has changed and may take some getting used to. The face buttons no longer control combat and for good reason. Since the camera is free flowing you need to be able to turn your head, keeping both thumbs on the analogue sticks. This keeps your fingers free to press the shoulder buttons and the triggers. R1 and R2 are the light and heavy attacks respectively and L1 is for blocking and L2 is for aiming you Axe. Words cannot express the satisfaction you get when you throw the axe at a foe and recall it to perform another combo.
There are magical abilities too in the game and they work just like they did in past games. You have to press the block button along with a light or heavy attack to perform a light or heavy magic attack. There are more than a dozen magic attacks that you can unlock in the game but only two can be equipped at a time. Some magic abilities inflict more damage, others have a wider field of effect but only stun the enemies, so on and so forth. The perfect combination of magical attack with the light and heavy attack makes the combat diverse and a lot of fun. I can throw my axe at one foe, start punching another enemy, parry a projectile, recall my axe hitting another enemy on its way to me, perform a heavy magical attack and finish the leftover with Atreus’ arrow. The combat in this game is insanely satisfying and by itself can be a reason to replay the game several times. There is definitely someone in Sony Santa Monica who said that we are going to make the experience of throwing and recalling an Axe so satisfying that players will want to do it all the time and that is exactly how it feels – blissfully satisfying.
There is traversing as well and a lot of puzzle solving. The game is divided into a bunch of areas and all the areas are connected with a boat that you use to get from area to area. You can unlock fast travel as well, but we recommend using it as little as possible as you will stumble upon a lot of hidden secrets, hidden boss fights and hidden rewards if you take the long road.
The only qualm we have with the gameplay is that after you’ve beaten a large chunk of the game and are looking to unlock the scattered secrets, the world starts feeling empty. Enemies don’t respawn and just like Doom, you are left wandering an empty world to find the last few secrets. There are enemies that spawn here and there, but at the end of the game they are far and few.
Overall, combat in God of War has matured in the right direction. From upgradable armour to upgradable magic attacks and skills, the fights in this game keep combat a fresh uproach till the very end.
Stunning is the first thing that comes to mind when you play the game. We played the game on a PS4 Pro on the Xiaomi Mi TV 4, a 4K HDR TV and on the Sony W950D, a 1080p TV. The game looks absolutely gorgeous in 4K and HDR and if you have access to a PS4 Pro and a 4K HDR TV, I highly recommend you exploit it. The game looks great on a 1080p TV too, but 4K HDR is just beautiful.
The environments in the game vary from vast forests to snow capped mountains and even dark caves. Each environment has a signature lighting and between various environments, they are very varied. There are a few occasions where you will encounter texture pop ins or a bit of stutter, but these are far and few to bother about.
Something to keep in mind is that we had installed the game on an external hard drive at first and playing off it seemed to cause some loading in between. Transferring the game to the internal hard drive seemed to solve this.
As far as character models go, Kratos is very well detailed. From his newfound beard to the muscles on his back and every hit animation, it’s all done impressively well. Since the camera is so close to Kratos, any flaw in animation will be immediately noticeable and I’m happy to say there seem to be none. Even the NPCs you meet along your journey are beautifully detailed in terms of design and animation.
The elimination of camera cuts has been a big talking point of the game and if you pay attention, you will see how seamless and remarkable this is. From the very first frame to the end of the game, there is no camera cut. Even fast traveling between locations doesn’t result in a traditional loading screen which is nice. Sony Santa Monica deserves special credit for the way they have pulled it off. You are immersed in game from the very first frame and the cinematics and camera crew behind the game deserve special credit. Not to mention the development and engine team for making this possible.
Visually the game looks stunning and dare we say, is even on par with Horizon Zero Dawn.
The one game that made us realize the importance of sound design in a video game is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Just like that game, God of War uses a fantastic orchestral score to immerse you in the game. From emotional moments that are low key to the fast, high octave music that plays during combat, to the quiet moments where all you hear are your footsteps and the rustling of the wind, the sound design is fantastic. Interviews online with the development team bring to light the fact that a lot of the chorus’ in the game are in actual old Norse dialect.
Coming to the voice acting, every character brings a unique tone to the game. Kratos has a serious tone, Atreous has the tone of a curious child, Mimir (another character you encounter) brings some light-hearted jokes, the Witch in the forest has the pain of suffering in her voice. The actors really immerse you in their personality and you understand their motives long before it is revealed. Not the plot point, just the emotion.
God of War – The Verdict
By now you realize that we absolutely loved God of War. We had only the one problem with it. The world becomes quite empty once you start clearing areas of foes. We wish there were separate arenas where you could keep enhancing your fighting skills like we have in DMC or the Batman Arkham games. If you are a God of War fan, don’t fear the changes in gameplay; embrace them. There is a learning curve and once you got the hang of it, there’s no turning back.
|Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro
Price: Rs. 3,999
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 Pro
Developers: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publishers: Sony Interactive Entertainment
When it comes to experiencing God of War, the story is deep, the gameplay is satisfying and the visuals are stunning. If you like games like Bloodborne, Dark Souls, DMC, and Horizon: Zero Dawn, then you should definitely give this one a go. You will be left wanting more.
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Sameer "Psycho Mantis" Mitha
I live for gaming and technology is my muse. When I am not busy playing with gadgets or video games I delve into the world of fantasy novels.