God of War is perhaps the landmark release of 2018, and Santa Monica Studios have done a great job of keeping the essence of the original trilogy alive, whilst bringing a fresh take to the narrative in this sequel to God of War 3.
The move from Greek to Norse mythology is a bold departure from the well-trodden path of the original trilogy and although it was a risk, it was a risk that definitely paid off. God of War 4 is now the highest rated PS4 exclusive on Metacritic, developer Santa Monica Studio certainly knew how to bring life back into this ageing franchise!
God of War 2018: Not Your Typical Sequel
Despite not being a numbered sequel, according to Santa Monica Studios, this is actually a continuation from 3rd GOW instalment. A surprising revelation given its initial resemblance of a reboot. God of War is not your typical sequel, though, as it overhauls almost every aspect of the series from combat and graphics to gameplay and a greater emphasis on narrative.
GOW (2018) is a tale of two. Following the untimely demise of Kratos’s wife, he and his son Atreus embark on a quest to fulfil her last wishes and spread her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms.
What starts as a seemingly simple objective soon becomes the catalyst for the game’s central character and story arcs, propelling the two on a perilous journey that sees them dealing with a variety of threats from Odin’s Raven spies to fire hurling behemoths.
This new dynamic humanises Kratos more than previous GOW instalments, which painted him as a blood-thirsty man driven by revenge towards the gods. This Kratos is more relaxed and often pauses to gauge the situation and to calm Atreus as well. Overall the story is well crafted with surprising moments such as when you first meet the world serpent.
God of War (2018) Gameplay Mechanics
The rejigged combat system flows seamlessly alongside a compelling story, with some top-notch voice acting to accompany it, whilst the finishing moves that were a staple of the original games still remain intact.
God of War (2018) features some of the best combat mechanics we’ve ever seen. The balance and pacing of movement and strikes is near perfect. The use of two characters is also incredibly well integrated, with either Kratos or his son taking centre stage, often to devastating effect.
Gone are Kratos’ signature chained blades, these have been replaced by the trusty Leviathan, an upgradable and destructive weapon that is also integral to solving puzzles.
The Axe can be thrown and recalled, too. This works great in combat and when solving puzzles that require halting moving cogs to hold doors open or even to methodically set traps.
Atreus can be called on to distract and attack enemies with his bow and arrow, which allows for a great system when taking on larger enemies and can work well when low on health and surrounded by multiple foes.
The combat is definitely more nuanced this time around.
We opted for the medium difficulty as we like to focus on the story during the first playthrough and then crank up the intensity and go for achievements the second time around. The first thing that struck us was that unlike a lot of great games with flawed fight mechanics, you can’t just put it on an easier difficulty and expect button mashing to get you through things.
Nope. Not here.
Regardless of what difficulty you choose you will still need to pick your moments wisely, thinking about when to strike, when to block, and when to parry.
Graphics and Exploration
Since the E3 reveal, the graphics have stepped up a notch. Stellar rendering of light and immaculate detailing accompanies a strong element of exploration.
Exploration also pays off with plenty of extras to find and runes to translate that, in turn, lead to further treasures. The trademark treasure chests make an appearance but have done away with the button hammering quick time events.
Fast travel becomes an option once you meet travelling blacksmith Brock, who also happens to be one of the two craftsmen behind the legendary Leviathan axe. The fast travel works well, alleviating any fears of a linear map. Whilst God of War (2018) doesn’t feel as open world as an Elder Scrolls title, it still gives a sense of exploration and makes it easy to backtrack if you have missed something in the game.
The Obligatory Nitpick
If we had to pick one thing we didn’t like so much, it would be the loss of the platforming that the original games had. It’s a small thing to criticise, and we know a lot of people are happy with the change, but the invisible walls at the edge of ledges seem to make things a bit too easy. They take away a little bit of that danger you felt in previous God of War titles.
That said, we completely understand why this change was made; that is, to prevent the flow of the game being interrupted.
Final Boss’ Final Words
One of the flagship games available on PS4 right now, this definitive iteration of God of War doubles down on narrative, with a compelling tale running alongside a fluid and intuitive combat system. The Leviathan Axe lends itself to well to both puzzle solving and combat, while the fast travel and weapon upgrade systems make this title a breeze to play through. God of War (2018) will be accessible to fans of the old series and newcomers alike, with top-notch voice acting and a layered world to explore.