The Ghost of Sparta, the God of War, the man who brought down Mount Olympus through a very painful and long journey is finally back. God of War is not a reboot but a sequel to God of War 3 with a huge time gap in between those two games due to which there is a lot of mystery regarding the life that Kratos lead during those years. God of War is not just a sequel but a complete re-invention of the series which manages to change the formula that was set by the previous three main games while also holding onto the aspects that made it good with a very modern touch to it which makes it feel like a God of War game. God of War will be out on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro on 20th April.
God of War 3 ended with Kratos finally getting his revenge by killing his father but at the cost of what looked like a fatal wound. However the ending hinted at the fact that Kratos survived the battle. 8 Years later we finally have a sequel, the continuation of his journey. While it did confuse me as to what direction the story would take before the announcement since all of Olympus had fallen but now we know. Many years later, Kratos is living with his son Atreus in the land of the Norse Gods. The story starts off after his wife passes away, whose last wish was that her ashes be scattered from the peak of the tallest mountain but before they can begin this journey, they’re attacked by a visitor and we all know that nothing good has ever come from pissing off the God of War.
All this however creates a lot of mystery since Kratos moved to this new land, got married (maybe not necessarily) and had a child. Our questions are thankfully answered throughout the game by the help of the story and character interaction, something which God of War has not been known for. The story, the character development of Kratos and his son and the interaction of Kratos with this strange world is phenomenally done. Santa Monica Studio wanted to make it feel like Kratos was a stranger in a strange land and they absolutely nailed it. He is an outsider who is living in the land of the Nords and just as we as the player explore and learn about this mysterious land, so does Kratos. It is a great step taken in bringing a fresh experience to the players especially as they fit this change in location as one of the central theme’s of the game.
We all know know that God of War games are not God of War games without the combat, and this game delivers in spades. While the whole game is from a much closer and personal point of view, which again meshes great with the theme of seeing a much more vulnerable Kratos who is on this journey of being knowing what it was once like to be a Human. This change in camera angle means more grounded combat which is as brutal and fluid as ever. Kratos doesn’t wield the Blades of Chaos anymore but instead wields The Leviathan Axe that has the power of frost and can be thrown and recalled similar to Thor’s Mjolnir. This is an interest aspect of the combat system since you can throw the axe at enemies, continue to beat them into a pulp with your bare hands and then recall it back to slash and rip some other foes. The Brutal kills are still present and a special “Spartan Rage” mode allows Kratos to unlease all of his anger and rage with fast and powerful melee attacks once he has built it up.
Quick Time events are present but aren’t as prevalent as before. The combat system also allows Kratos to wield a shield in his other hand to use both, defensively and offensively. This means that he can protect himself even from ranged damage and then ram into someone with his shield. Throughout your journey you will be assisted by your son, who has a dedicated button that you can use to tell him to do things. He can attack enemies with his bow and arrow, distract enemies while you’re in a fight and can pretty much handle himself in a fight. He also translates the Nordic Glyphs and texts and keeps a journal where you can read more about the creatures, objects and places you see and visit. While I was worried that he would hinder my experience and slow me down, I had no such trouble whatsoever which is great since the only other Player Companion that I can think of that didn’t suck was Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite.
The game features more of an RPG element to it as compared to the previous installments. There’s a crafting system which allows you to upgrade your weapons and enhance them with various buffs and abilities, you can wear different types of armour which have various stats and the experience and leveling system also returns. The more you level up, the more moves and new combos you can unlock. There’s also quite an emphasis on exploration and the game features a top down map in the menu which has enough detail to give you the information you need while the in game HUD is minimal with only the Health and Rage Bar being visible at the bottom corner and a compass which shows the direction of the next objective.
Levels are quite big and have various paths that the player can explore to find optional boss battles and loot that does a good job of rewarding the player with items, currency and upgrades. While this isn’t an open-world game, the levels themselves are quite open with fast travel only available by the use of portals at certain places that must be unlocked. Players also traverse through a boat across various stages which is a good down time between the fast paced action and narrative heavy moments and allows for interaction between Kratos and his son. Environmental puzzles also make a return but they aren’t brain-breakingly hard and helped give players a bit of a breather while still being interesting enough on their own.
Visually this game is absolutely stunning. It has great atmospheric and environmental detail that breaths life into the world. The vistas, the mountains, the creatures that inhabit the land, the water are so fantastically done while also managing to keep a stable framerate on the PS4. The beard on Kratos looks so lifelike, the armour and clothes have great texture work and physics and, the attention to detail on the whole world, including Kratos himself is phenomenal. It really is something that you must see for yourself because it is extremely immersive.
Another technical marvel that adds to the immersion is the fact that the whole game features no camera cuts, no loading screens or fade to black scenes when the game goes from gameplay to cutscene and vice versa. The whole game is done on a single shot and that amazes me due to the fantastic visuals the game has and the fact that it is doing this on PlayStation 4 hardware. The framerate on the regular PlayStation 4 is capped at 30fps at 1080p while on the PlayStation 4 Pro it is at 4K 30fps with a performance mode that drops the resolution to 1080p while capping the framerate at 60fps. Players who don’t have a 4K TV but own a PS4 Pro can use the resolution mode to supersample the image to a lower resolution. The audio is fantastic with an amazing soundtrack that succeeds at capturing the mood on the screen and uses it in a very impactful manner.
The game has a few minor issues where there was a bit of clipping between weapons and hair on characters, framerate that isn’t that stable on the 4K mode at times and the camera being glitchy at times but these were all minute enough in the grander scale of things with the framerate being an issue that was annoying but which can hopefully be patched with an update on launch day or after. But I can safely say that this did not hamper my experience with the game and were just minor annoyances to me, especially since I preferred the higher framerate because of the fluidity in combat.
God of War is not just one of the best games that is available on the PlayStation 4 but is actually one of the best games to have come out in this generation of games. A sequel that manages to start fresh while also weaving in the events of the prequels that made Kratos the man he is. It is not a story of revenge anymore but the story of Kratos and his journey to become more human while also being a father and mentor to his son. With great character development throughout the game, a story that lasts about 25-35 hours which holds the answers to a lot of our questions, a detailed and beautiful world that we get to explore and experience with a fluid yet brutal combat system, this game does “re-invention” right. It is extremely fun, satisfying and just a blast to play and I really recommend this game.