It’s hard to believe but it has been 13 years since Kratos the legendary “Ghost of Sparta” debuted on the PlayStation 2. Fuelled by vengeance Kratos brought the Gods and Titans to their knees in the seemingly final God of War III back in 2010. It was a blood-soaked gore-fest as players racked up corpses ripping apart Greece. When God of War came along it shook up the status quo and one such element it injected was the ‘Quick Time Event’ aka the QTE. Fans immediately adored the various features and the incredible lore behind Kratos and this mythical world.
The story of God of War this time around see’s Kratos in a new land (ancient Norway) as he tries to hide from who and what he is. This has worked for years unfortunately, Kratos can’t ever seem to escape his past and when the death of his wife brings unwanted change he must make one last journey with his child in tow. This sets the stage for a realm shattering event that dwarfs all previous journeys with Kratos.
A little older and a little wiser Kratos has now joined the ranks of Joel from The Last of Us, Logan from Logan and Bryan Mills from Taken aka “The Murder Daddy’s”. He has with him now a young progeny named Atreus who he has a tenuous relationship with but will ferociously protect from any harm. The two must travel to the top of the highest peak and scatter Atreus’ mother’s ashes to honour her. Along the way, they’ll face off against trolls, dark elves, nightmares and so many more mythical figures and it’s a hell of a ride.
With God of War what you will immediately be taken aback by are the graphics. They are stunning, Kratos and the world he resides in has never looked so spectacular. As you travel across the nine realms you will encounter all manner of monsters and mythic figures and as you do battle with them (usually with young Atreus’ aid) you can’t help but take in the gorgeous environments that surround you. A favourite of mine was the Lake of the Nine which is home to a particularly impressive figure in Norse mythology. Accompanying the breathtaking scenery and the intense inhabitants that dwell within is a haunting score. God of War is truly a triple threat, the score, the acting, and the gameplay.
On the topic of gameplay, there has been a massive overhaul of the combat system. No longer do you run and gun through the various stages mowing down paper thin enemies until you hit a brick wall. What has replaced it is a far more atmospheric direction akin to the Uncharted series. Combat is still as intense as it was it in previous iterations this time however it feels far more strategic especially when you factor in Kratos’ little sidekick Atreus. Much like Elisabeth in Bioshock Infinite, he is your tag team partner helping you dish the damage to your enemies with his signature bow and dagger combo. The boss battles are possibly the most cinematic battles I’ve ever been a part of. There is an early boss battle that just makes you feel like a god as you go toe to toe with a figure of equal strength and the rush I felt as I battled this boss was fantastic.
If anything has stayed the same it is the puzzle elements of God of War, like previous iterations you may only be able to finish a puzzle with an unlocked ability from a defeated boss or new found area. The puzzles are okay, nothing too taxing for the mind and so if I had any issues with God of War it would centre around the puzzles. There is also a similar system of levelling up your skills for Kratos and Atreus with the points earned from the various slain monsters. This can be put into skills for the Leviathan Axe, which sadly seems to have replaced the iconic Blades of Chaos, as well as Atreus’ bow to strengthen them. There are also dwarven smiths which will sell Kratos armour and runes that further customise Kratos in his never-ending battle. To also further lengthen the game there are several favours (side quests) that you can undertake to strengthen the duo with more powerful skills and items. You will need these as the harder difficulties are quite punishing. I myself am playing on hard mode and I have to be smart when going into any encounter.
Adding further personality to the game is a great cast of characters, Kratos this time around is voiced by the awesome Christopher Judge (Teal’c from Stargate). It will sting when you realise that T.C. Carson is no longer voicing Kratos but Judge makes the character his own, giving us a more reserved and taciturn man than we knew 13 years ago. Along this journey with him is young actor Sunny Suljic who brings a wonderful vulnerability to the role of the young warrior to be. Together they are an iconic team and will be talked about in the hallowed halls of dynamic duos of gaming. This is due to how the relationship between father and son grows throughout the course of the game. It’s wonderfully touching and surprisingly emotional especially since the previous God of War titles were anything but emotional.
With God of War Kratos has returned in a big, bad way and has gone from being that angry drunk uncle you adored as a dumb teen to the father that you respect as a man.