The return of a icon of videogaming without doubt, a character that in a way or another has one of the most complete stories in gaming, despite at some point certain parts of that story being approached to many times, more directly in Ascension that went to a period that had been told many times or approached in the other games of the franchise, like in Chains of Olympus, or in many story revelations in the other games.
All of Kratos story can bee taken back to its childhood in the games, and it is in this way one of the most developed characters I ever seen, giving us a full background on the character in a more extensive way than what would have been done or was done in other games for example. And following the rule of the main games, were I personally consider the console games the main ones, and the handheld ones and even Betrayal spin-offs maybe, God of War 2018 advances Kratos story forward and into a new phase of its life, being that the only exception in this rule is Ascension that would take the main plot back into the past.
Going from a ancient Greece setting to a more Nordic one, in a more frosty ambient, with the Nordic mythology in place, bringing with it hardened and cruel creatures, and some cold hearted gods in their actions that in the mythology have some supposed love for mortal. Despite the appearance of some gods and other characters with their fare share of reputation in the mythology of this setting, the point of Kratos journey here is another, not the bloodlust from the past fueled by revenge against deceiving gods, but a more meaningful point or objective, in here Kratos went to Midgard at some point after the events of God of War III, and got together with another women, Faye, and he had a son, Atreus. Our journey begins on the day Atreus mother died, and both of them are out gathering wood to make a funeral burning that was a costume in those times in the Viking setting. After the burning, Kratos collects Faye ashes, and a final wish of its wife remains, to have her ashes scattered on the highest peak of the whole 9 realms of the Nordic setting, and its here that our journey begins.
Without wanting to spoil the plot for you, all the journey we go on of Kratos and its son ends up being in the great part, a bonding experience, to really create the father son connection they have been missing for what we get to know on the journey, and to see a new Kratos in action with a more calm and mature personality, aware of its actions and the consequences they may create, and trying to pass this knowledge and awareness to its son that is nothing more than a child at this point. Even for people who don’t have sons they can feel the impact of the relationship that is generated along the journey of the game and with the unfolding of the plot events, and feel the impact of all the moments, even more the ones of danger were Kratos goes head on to protect its son and the same around, the moments Atreus tries to go head on into the face of danger to try and help and protect its father from life threatening situations.
Despite of it all being well done and accomplished, and of us seeing Atreus personality grow and the changes it goes through, the plot ends up having two flaws in my view, all the sequences that go around Kratos past end up having no real impact on the plot or in its relationship with his son, or not at least in the full way it should have, and in this we have to have in consideration that his past is one that he tried or is trying to leave unknown, to the extent that his son doesn’t know they are gods, being that at some point after the revelation a part of Kratos teaching is he trying to pass the responsibility of their actions has gods, being that it can have catastrophic consequences in the lives of others and the world itself. But getting back to the point, they didn’t approach this in the way I believe they should have done, even more it doesn’t really matter almost in a meaningful way in their relationship like I said, not even has a to set a example to its son on what not to do, seeing Kratos basically left chaos and ruin all over ancient Greece after wiping out the main gods lineage and even some titans of the whole Olympus realm, and this only gets me to my second point, how did the whole situation end up there, how are things in Greece, how did Kratos end up going to Midgard, nothing of this is approached in the plot, and we are left with a little cliffhanger between GOWIII and GOW (2018) that needed to be addressed in some way in my view.
To make a conclusion in the story point, a very good thing is the whole way a character like Faye that we never see, creates a bond with the player, and this is done by the times Kratos and Atreus are traveling by boat and end up talking about her, or the plot points where she is addressed, all of this gets the player to know her without her ever showing up on screen or having dialogues, and that is just awesome, and I leave a little note that the cutscenes being rendered in real time in the game is just awesome.
Going to sound and voice acting, lets just say the voices are on point in all characters, there is none that feels lower in quality or acting than the others, they all are exceptional, and express the right feelings to the player in all moments. The OST its pretty interesting, the thing is we don’t really have many times a track gets to play in our journey, like it would in more calmer times in other GOW games, in combat we have it, but it’s a little more rare to have any playing in other times, and it’s a shame in my view seeing that for example GOW1 had one of the most epic OSTs in my opinion, and its calmer or exploration times tracks where just unique. The sound and effects of the game itself like Kratos swinging and throwing its Leviathan Axe or using in in any other situations, Atreus using its bow, the whole ambiences in general in interior or exterior zones, of opening gates, of giant monsters moving, or even the breaking of jars or boxes in our way, and tons of other effects feel like well done quality content all the way through.
Visually this is one of the more stunning games on the PS4, and that drives the Pro to its limits, and that’s nothing strange to see at this point, with the PS4 approaching the end of its life cycle has a main platform (yes the PS5 is inbound just go see the life cycle between console releases from Sony), and its regular at this point to have a first party game launching that shows the platform at its best and fullest, and GOW is that game on the PS4 and especially on the Pro. All the places we visit in the game, all the caves that we go through, all the outside and inside places we visit feel unique, but leaving this on the side for now, the Pro has two visual modes to choose from, Performance or Resolution. On performance the 30fps cap is lifted allowing for a more fluid experience on the Pro, but on the other hand we get more horizon blur on more distant places and objects, and even on textures and models that are right next to us, we get some with less details, while in Resolution we get a 30fps cap, but get textures and models with a little more detail, especially on farther ones, and even at 30fps the game can pull a nice stable performance on the Pro and doesn’t feel like it needs more, the motion blur that occurs also helps a lot in my view, and ends up being a nice touch to help the game keep its quality momentum. To have a disclosure of how we played this game it was on a PS4 Pro in a Full HD TV, and we had a awesome journey, but bear in mind that with HDR you will probably and naturally get a more quality experience visually and with 4K the same shall happen, and in our end the whole game was played in Resolution mode, at times using Performance just to compare both of them.
Getting back to the scenarios of the game, all of them feel unique and can be distinguished between them, there aren’t many different places, but the ones that exist are really something else in this experience, and a particular point is that even though they are very different, the player will not get a feel of being strange to the new place they visit in a general concept, they amaze the player but also makes them feel at home at all times in the whole game experience that God of War delivers. A thing that I loved in this game is the way the lightning and shadows work in it, the way they act on the scenarios, on the characters, objects, its really realistic In my view, and players will notice that more in caves going from low light zones to pitch black one, its really something else and that amazed my at all times in the game, the way the light works on the ambient when a thunderstorm is happening, and even all the other details, small or big that the game gives us visually like the wind blowing, and taking leaves or smoke, etc…, it just adds up to make this a almost perfect game visually on the PS4. The thing is that it has some flaws, like one or another time a small delay on loading the textures of some objects that leave in that time low quality ones, or some effects feeling low quality almost pixelated and stretched, bring the game a little down on the visual side.
Going to gameplay, the combat here is really interesting, the game went from a button mashing combo hack n’ slash genre, to a 3rd person over the shoulder camera action adventure type of gameplay, that delivers a more paced and tactic combat, that really give more importance on the tactical side, with we having to think before pressing a button, before starting a combo, and really giving use to skills and abilities, being the ones from Kratos or Atreus that we unlock in a skill tree, also another thing that did wonders in this game is the motion capture, it really makes us feel like the movements in and outside of combat are real, and that is a quality seal (lets call it that), that helps this game being a unique experience.
The use of Atreus in combat is also important, he will be the difference at many times between life and death, especially in boss fights, he can attract the attention of foes, and damage them of course, giving Kratos and the player time to recover or breath, and with the development of its personality through the game, he even ends up going head to head with foes, and even jumping at them and restraining them in some way to give Kratos a opening to go nuts at them. He also unlocks some magical elements to its bow like shock arrows, and other magical abilities that will help in combat, and even outside of combat, to help Kratos get to new areas, or even access secret areas, or get to make way to open some crates or coffins that contain loot, or collectables, among other things.
Going to the loot system, like I said we have crates and coffins in the game, all over the game, hidden or in plain sight, that contain hacksilver, that it’s the currency in the game, ability runes that have passive or active effects, and that are applied to Kratos gear and weapons, and going to this, Kratos has armor now, with him having armor in its upper body, arms and war belt part, Atreus has a armor set pieces that cover its whole body, while Kratos can buy its armor or find it as loot, Atreus only gets it by buying it, in the shops run by one of two dwarves in the game, that have a bigger part in the story than the one I will reveal. In these stores we can buy armor, upgrades to our armor and weapons, runes, between other items, and even sell the ones we have, or the collectibles we find in the game world. Upgrading Kratos and Atreus weapons is also a way of unlocking more skills levels in their skill trees, I could go deeper into this but lets leave it for the player to find out.
One of my complains in the game ends up being a feel of excessiveness the game gives in one of these elements, lets put it like this, the game develops its RPG elements that the series always had even further, now we gain XP be fighting but also from completing main plot quests or side quests that the game has, like requests from other characters or finding hidden treasures from treasure maps, etc.., this XP can be used to unlock abilities/skills, but going back to the point the feel I talked about is in the gear for Kratos, there are too many armor sets in the game for the journey and experience that this game is, the player may think it’s a way of helping tackle the harder difficulty levels, but I can say I played the game on Hard and there weren’t many times I ended up changing armor, most of the time I was more concerned in upgrading the current one I was using, than really forging or finding new one, I think they should have spent more time creating more gear upgrade levels with more meaningful changes in combat than really creating a ton of armor for Kratos.
Going to the exploration part the game has a wide variety of places to go, and gives at times the open world feel, but like Crysis for example, God of War makes use of open scenarios, the barriers and lack of paths to go further into some places and zones will make themselves known to the player, but in the style of open scenarios this game has some of the most awesome ones I ever saw, that end up also being interesting to explore, beautiful to look at and varied between them.
To start my conclusion on the game, it has many moments that makes itself worthy of getting a perfect score, but if we see the issues I approached in the review they end up pulling it a little bit down, and I also think they could have made more use of mythology figures in the game, more concretely a certain god that is father of two brothers we fight in the game, that would be natural that he would show up in the game at some point, but that we only get a glimpse of him in one particular moment of the game, him showing could have been just a entry point for him in the story like opening up a conflict with Kratos, but no, we just get a glimpse of him in a part of the game and nothing more besides statues and mentions, but we will see, the series at this point has time to develop this part in future games that will naturally happen and where in my opinion we will se Atreus taking the main part and stepping up in its father shoes.
A complain I’ve seen people have is the game losing pace on its plot with having too many times of we having to backtrack our steps to go get something or go to another place to get something to advance our journey forward, and in my opinion the game doesn’t do this many times and the times it does it does them right, and it is well justified moments, the thing is I think there are some situations in the game where we are going to do something and foes show up without a real reason to show besides just prolonging the time we spend on doing our current objective and that is annoying and not justified, another thing is that too many times the game throws semi bosses to the player, at many times together like 2/3 semi bosses going after us, or more showing in a row, or even coming with a boss in the middle, if the game doesn’t have many boss fights, it sure makes up with having too many semi boss fights, and gauntlet like boss fights, and you will feel this when you start going out to just explore the game world.
God of War ends up being a unique experience, a unique reboot of the series that starts a new chapter that will like I said and like I believe, see us taking control of Atreus at some point, and with him being the series future protagonist at some point, maybe not in the next game but in the one after that. There are many ways of prolonging a series life, and taking Ascension out of the picture, Santa Monica Studio shows us and other studios how to do it, they evolved a lot, and the new formula is a breath of fresh air, that ends up being well integrated with the experience and new phase of Kratos life that the game gives us.
I felt like giving it a perfect score, but the big or small mistakes that occur in the game, like the ones I’ve been talking about, and even smaller ones I didn’t approach here and that don’t have real impact in the game, pull the game a little bit down, and from a 1 to 10 scale, the game is a 9, a 9 that is so close to turning into a 10. It ends up being to me the best game in this generation of console games, and like one of the most remarkable games I ever played in my life, and like the well deserved return of Kratos and one of my favorite series ever.