By William Haderlie / May 9th, 2018
That customization does extend to your weapons as well, but not in the same way. You can upgrade your weapons, but only Atreus has fairly common materials for his bow upgrades. For Kratos you will only find the parts he needs from very specific bosses, so that takes place at set intervals. The only exception is his final upgrade part, which can be purchased from the blacksmith brothers after you finish the story. You will notice that I said weapons in the plural. And this is one of the largest reasons for my spoiler alert at the beginning of this review. One of the largest disservices the gaming publications have made to this game is that they are not talking about the combat in any real way. Yes it’s a very intense story moment when it occurs, but it’s important to know that Kratos doesn’t just use the Leviathan Axe during the entire game. He also regains use of the Blades of Chaos halfway through the story. So through most of the intense combat in this game you will be switching between the Axe, the Blades, and unarmed combat. Even though the camera perspective has changed, the Blades still feel just as good as they always did, and maybe even more brutal than before. But that being said, you will quickly find out that each weapon has their own use. And you can customize the Axe and the Blades by equipping two Runic Attack gems in each weapon. These Runic Attacks can be upgraded like other skills, and they each have their own cooldown and strengths/weaknesses (as you can see above).
In the early game you will have to make some decisions about what types of skills you want to invest in that will help you for your preferred style of combat (and the fact that you won’t have the Blades of Chaos until later). I personally focused on Shield Combat first because whether you are fighting with your weapon or unarmed you will always have your shield. But also because you can do a lot of great stuff with parries, even tossing back ranged magic attacks. This isn’t the first God of War game with a shield parry, but this one is the most useful and the most satisfying. That being said, it does bring up the Soulsborne elephant in the room. No, this game is not a Souls-like. You are not punished at all for dying, and even if the enemies are more intelligent than the previous God of War enemies were, you are still rewarded for being quick and brutal instead of steady and cautious. You will take on large groups of enemies, just like previous God of War entries, and especially after you get the Blades. The only thing that makes this game even remotely like a Soulsborne game is the camera switch, but that doesn’t really change anything but how cinematic and gritty the game is. If anything this game is even more brutal when it gets violent than God of War games were previously. And the combat is massively satisfying, which is a good thing because of how much of it you will be engaging in.
It would be a great mistake to ignore Atreus’ skills just to focus on Kratos. In fact, your son is indispensable in combat. He can do some damage with his arrows or with melee attacks, which he will do automatically as you fight. But he does even more damage and builds up the stun meter on enemies when you call on him to attack the enemy that you are focused on (with the Square button by default). You can also equip summon runes on him that will give him the ability to summon magical creatures to join the battlefield with a long cooldown. He will eventually learn two different elemental affinities to equip on his arrows, but his most useful ability is in building up the stun meter. Kratos can also build up the stun meter on enemies quickly by using his shield parry and by punching them unarmed or hitting them against walls. But nothing builds up stun quite as fast or as easily as Atreus does. Once an enemy is fully stunned you can either rush in for a brutal finish (which will make Kratos invincible during that move), or for larger enemies he can use them to attack other enemies around. For instance, you can climb on an ogre and lay waste to all the peons surrounding you using the ogre against them.
Whether you know Norse mythology at all, chances are you have seen the Marvel movies. As such, it should be no surprise that you are going to use the Bifrost to travel between realms. Most of that traveling is for story reasons, but there are two whole realms that are entirely optional and you could finish the entire game without entering. Each of those areas are very worth going to, however, because they contain some of the best armor and upgrade materials in the game. Also, if you plan on freeing all 8 of the Valkyries (a totally optional task) you will need to complete each of them. Niflheim has a killer mist and a labyrinth full of traps that is initially very intimidating to enter, but gets a lot easier over time. Muspelheim is the Norse fire plane and contains a series of 8 fighting arenas to test your limits. Both of them can get quite difficult and even though you can enter them during the story of the game (if you find all their cyphers around the world), most people will not finish either until the post-game. In general you have a lot of options about how you tackle all the optional content in the game. You can even fight the infamous 9th Valkyrie before fighting the final boss (but as someone who did so, I would not suggest it). However, for the most part, I would suggest engaging in as much side content as you want to while you play, the story will always be there for you to get back to and the side areas contain a lot of nice upgrades and Runic abilities.
Regardless of the reviewer, everyone has to admit this game is simply stunning in the graphics and art design department. That also extends to the quality of voice acting and the soundtrack. You can tell that not only did Sony give Santa Monica studios 5 years to develop this game, but they also gave them all the funding they needed to bring their vision to fruition. The next time I want to buy a new game soundtrack (I listen to them while reading books), this will be the soundtrack I buy. If I was to pen a letter to Microsoft about what they are missing with their first party lineup, it is less the dearth of single player games and more the quality and attention to detail that the Sony first party studios are putting out. There is a huge story spoiler at the end of the game that I won’t get into that makes the story of this game very memorable. But a memorable story can be told on pretty much any gaming system. What makes this game possibly the game of this console generation is how immersive it is and the quality that just bleeds from all aspects of it. But what other reviewers have seemed to forget is that the quality also bled into the combat as well. This is not a walking simulator, this is very much a video game for video game fans, and it’s very much a God of War.
The one word that comes to mind the most when playing this game was spectacle. There were amazing spectacles when just wandering around the world or rowing in your boat while Mimir relates the history of the Aesir. There was also amazing spectacle when you fight the massive bosses that you have come to expect from the God of War series. Surprisingly some of the greatest spectacle comes from the human sized bosses who quickly reveal themselves to be other Gods. You discover only a couple hours in that this game has the greatest superhero fights you’ve ever seen in a video game. This game takes around 20 hours for the main story, and around 15-20 more hours to finish everything else (over twice as long as previous God of War games even though it’s the same standard price of $59.99). During none of that time did I feel like I was just going through the motions. I never felt bored, I never felt underwhelmed, and I never felt like the game was taking control or agency from me. This isn’t just an amazing “experience”, this is an amazing game. So yes the other reviewers are correct that it’s a masterpiece. But it’s not a masterpiece despite being a God of War game, they didn’t leave us fans behind. It’s a masterpiece because they took Kratos and they made him even better. Not only did they make possibly the game of the generation, the anticipation for a sequel is rabid and will not abate until we have it in our hands.
Review Copy Was Self Purchased
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