You know a game’s sequel is definitive when it drops unnecessary numbers from its name.
Picking up years after Kratos pummelled all the uglies in his path, the latest installment in Sony Santa Monica Studio’s incredible franchise is a brand spankin’ new approach in so many ways. Familiar with the franchise? Then you’ll know these signature characteristics all too well - fixed camera, Blades of Chaos (Kratos’ weapon of choice) and quick-time events. Sony’s taken all of the above and chucked them into the shredder for God of War (2018).
Starting over on a shiny clean slate, Kratos returns this time bearing a scruffy mug, his son and sadistic new ways to slice open his unfortunate opponents like we’ve never seen before. There’s plenty more reasons to lock down your man cave and binge on this bloodfest but before we get into those, let’s just say, Sony’s cooked up a recipe that’ll most definitely have you coming back for seconds. Yes, it’s only April, but God of War (2018) could very well be in the running for Stuff India’s coveted Game of the Year.
ABOUT A BOY
At the core of the game’s narrative is strong emotional storytelling. Kratos’ son Atreus has a huge part to play in the whole process. The constant AI companion could easily have chipped away at the game’s glorious experience, except in this case, it positively enhances it. Not only does the little boy expose sides to Kratos’ character that he fights so hard not to disclose, but he does so while learning to tag team with his dad against all kinds of enemies.
The gripping organic relationship between the two are a sight to behold - watching Kratos shed his murderous mindset to set Atreus on the right path make for a heart-warming videogame chemistry that’s intensely challenging to pull off. You’d never think of Kratos as the ideal parent before, but as the game progresses, Kratos sets all kinds of dad goals with his newfound heart. Infusing this much life in relationship dynamics is hard to come by but Sony Santa Monica Studio has executed this delicate dance with excellence. The Last of Us comes close with its two-person tag team in that regard.
How Kratos strikes just the right balance between who he truly is, and who he’s trying to be for his son, has lessons in it for just about anyone at the helm of the controller. Focus hard enough, and there’s takeaways for all those who battle rage in their own ways. Moments when God of War transcends video game entertainment are truly surreal.
Atreus may have successfully made Kratos aware of his heartbeat, but he also assists his dad when it comes to combat. Using a single button, players can command him to fling arrows at his foes, serving as a fantastic tactical distraction. As the game progresses, so do Atreus’ strengths and skills.
Even left on his own while you recover, Atreus successfully holds his ground against the mightiest of opponents sans any assistance from his dad. His most spectacular skills being runic powers - one that unleashes a pack of spectral wolves is a favourite - but it’s especially satisfying to combine his skill with Kratos’ strength; cleaving an ugly creature in half, while Atreus has them in a headlock, for example, never gets old.
Better still, he even brings his dad back from the brink of extinction with a special item if Kratos is ever overwhelmed by his enemies. Apart from combat, Atreus’ arrow also plays a vital role in solving various puzzles throughout the game.
The game’s sprinkled with generous amounts of Norse mythology and Atreus enthusiastically offers to decode a large portion of it filling the gaps in his father’s knowledge. It only strengthens the bond of the duo while allowing the son to teach a thing or two to the father for a change. Yet another fine example of art imitating life.
DAD OF WAR
Don’t for a second be fooled by Kratos’ compassion from deep down within, he still tames what could quite possibly be the videogame world’s most violent monster. Those seeking generous amounts of skull-crashing satisfaction can now feel every such experience even more intimately.
Each exchange with enemies packs a satisfying punch and puts you as close to the action as possible with the use of tighter close-ups and more explosive strikes. Mindless hoard slaying has now been swapped for more strategic enemy encounters that pays attention to each character’s distinctive traits.
Button mashers will have to burn a few extra brain cells to get past enemies. The end result is each kill feeling that much more fulfilling and showcases immense maturity since early days of the game’s hack-and-slash approach. Of course that’s fun too, which is why you’ll find generous amounts of it as well. In due time, mind you.
Kratos’ new Leviathan axe is built to carve out all kinds of creeps. The dual-bladed death-dealer can be constantly upgraded, outfitted with runes and pommels, and recalled in a fashion that’d make Thor’s head spin. Toss in Kratos’ creative shield attacks, incredibly powerful bare hands, rage meter - which allows him to literally tear enemies in two - and Atreus’ abilities and well, you’ll likely never get bored looking for fresh ways to rid enemies of their entrails.
SEE THE WORLD
As addictive as it can be to dismember the freaks you discover, God of War always encourages you to explore its vast world with all kinds of rewards in store. While it isn’t exactly an open-world, it strays from a linear narrative just enough to give you a wide variety of options. That gives you the added advantage of choosing the path you wish to take.
Be it by boat or on land, you can always find new items, fast travel spots, and several other resource rich corners of the map. Those brave enough to do so will have won themselves hidden treasures, secret levels and side quests as well. While it doesn’t quite take away from the game’s central narrative, it doesn’t feels entirely arbitrary either.
Biggest plus? All your treasured discoveries factor into the game’s many character progression systems. Given the game’s exhaustive attention to detail and immensely scaled characters and environments, I’d encourage anyone to go exploring for the sake of all the nuggets and nuances scattered all over.
GOD OF WAR VERDICT
This is it, ladies and gentlemen, the God of War we’ve all been waiting for. It could easily have decimated all expectations on its heavily burdened shoulders but instead, this is the most visceral PS4 experience there is to be had today.
Stunning environments, gory kill animations, gripping storyline and gameplay only Gods deserve, there’s all that and so much more in abundance here. It’s hard to fathom how many things God of War has got absolutely spot on making for a massive surge of satisfaction for the senses.
If you’ve been contemplating a PS4 purchase, this game could single-handedly push you over the fence into its wondrous world. It’s one from which we’ve had the pleasure of extracting every ounce of excitement and it’s guaranteed to do the same for you.
Just don’t be surprised when Kratos’ ultimate reward for all his antics turns out to be a sparkly Game of the Year shield from Stuff.