God of War Featured Image
God of War Title Screen
Title God of War
Developer Sony Santa Monica
Publisher Sony
Release Date April 20th, 2018
Genre Action RPG
Platform PlayStation 4
Age Rating ESRB M for Mature
Official Website

I am going to be writing this review a little bit differently than we normally do. The main difference is that I’m going to be delving into some spoilers during the review. In general I will avoid any that happen in the last 10 hours or so of the game. And I will also be avoiding anything that is unnecessary for giving an accurate impression of the game. And that is the major reason why I’m doing this review different. In my opinion, most reviews about this game spend so much time being cagey about the actual content of the game, that they do the game a disservice. If you really don’t want to know anything going into God of War, you can skip from this first paragraph all the way to the last paragraph and the score. The game has been released for a couple weeks now, so most people will have already made their purchasing decisions. But for our audience, who are more into RPGs and indie games, I would like to give them a better sense of whether they should invest their time into this mainstream game. Unfortunately, many reviewers seem to be engaging in revisionist history and suggesting that God of War was an unpopular game and everyone hated Kratos as a character. I’m one of the many people who have always loved the series and really like the protagonist, so is this new game leaving us behind?

God of War | Kratos
But where is my Kratos?

There was recently an article posted on a gaming website that I really do not like (and hence will not provide a link for, but you can do a Google search if you really want to) about the current revision of Kratos being a response to toxic masculinity. I’m not a part of the community that gets all enraged when the phrase “toxic masculinity” is brought up. However, I do feel like that is a very poor way of describing the changes that they made to the character of Kratos. It may speak to those who are typically very liberal minded, but it’s also a way to trigger those who tend to be more conservative. So it’s worth asking, is that accurate, and is it helpful? Contrary to what many reviews and editorials have suggested, this is very much Kratos. This just happens to be a Kratos that is a few hundred years older, and one who has recently lost his mate and has a young kid. It is not the case that Kratos is no longer angry. In fact, much of his power still comes from his anger. But, as Kratos himself points out, he has learned to channel that anger in more productive ways. These are things that he has learned before even entering into the events of this story. The journey of the protagonist in this particular story is learning to be a good father (when he has largely been absent previous to this), and teaching his son to be a better man than he has been. Mindless revenge is a horrible thing, and Kratos has struggled with his past due to that. But that burning desire for justice and to protect the weak, these are lessons you want to pass down to your son. You can still understand the protagonist of this game without playing God of War 1-3, God of War Ascension, and the two PSP games. But you should know that there is nuance that will hit you harder the more time you have spent with him in the past. They do not go out of their way to judge Kratos for his previous actions, but they do point out the consequences to them. So you are not totally leaving the past series behind.

God of War | Atreus
I don’t like kids, and I hate escort missions… so this kid has a lot going against him.

So you might be worried that this game should be called Dad Simulator 2018. Or, even worse, that this game is one giant escort mission. For anyone who has played MMORPGs, or games like Resident Evil 4, the thought of spending 30+ hours escorting a useless kid around sounds like something you wouldn’t break an appointment with the proctologist to engage in. He’s also a kid that is at the cusp of his teenage years and most people can attest to what a nightmare middle school and junior high are (myself included). I think that for the most part, people will be pleasantly surprised at how reasonable Atreus is. I’m not going to say that his attitude will never irritate you, that would be extremely unrealistic. But I will say that when he’s being a little d-bag, generally Kratos was the cause of it. And regardless, those situations don’t last, they just round out his personality to make him much more like a real human. Thankfully the bent towards realism does not extend to needing to babysit him at all. There is really only one time that you need to wait on him to get somewhere, and there is a story reason for that. In all other cases you never need to stop and wait for him to catch up. Any time you need to climb something or run towards something, he will always catch up to you. Any time you need to boost him up somewhere, or get him to move something for you, that will be easy to accomplish. But most of all, you will find that in combat Atreus is extremely useful.

God of War | Mimir
There is not a single NPC in this game that feels underserved or phoned in.

The nuance of character extends to all the major NPCs of this game, whether they are on your side or not. Norse mythology, much like Greek, does not really engage in the dualistic Zoroastrian way of looking at good and evil. And so I hesitate to call anyone a good guy or a bad guy. That also fits very well with Kratos and the story that they are trying to tell. That makes it doubly interesting to enter into relationships with these characters, even when you know who they are from mythology. The first major boss you fight will not have his name revealed until later in the game, but you will know who he is if you know your Norse Mythology. However, you might be shocked to discover that he is generally considered one of the more pleasant members of the Aesir. And if you thought that Zeus was a total bastard in the original God of War trilogy (or in mythology), Odin the Allfather has some horrifying myths attached to him. But what is common to everyone in this game is that they are extremely well realized in the dialogue they are given and in the voice acting and animation departments. Which is one of the primary ways that I actually agree with the other reviews out there, this represents a tectonic shift in the level of quality developers should strive for in the future. I was very unsurprised when I learned the identity of the Witch of the Woods, because that Goddess is one of my favorite in all of mythology. But how well she was realized in this game was a supreme pleasure. Even the dwarf brothers that upgrade your weapons and armor have enough personality and dialogue to shame main characters in other games.

God of War | Lore
Exploring will net you nice equipment, but the Lore gains alone are worth it.

The structure of the new God of War is actually closer to an Action RPG than it is like the original games. And that serves the story and this new environment very well. While you were generally just pitted against various Gods and creatures from Greek mythology before, this time you can learn a lot about them and also characters who are not directly related to the current story. If you actually search around and engage with Atreus’ journal, you can become fairly proficient in Norse mythology using this game. Many things were slightly altered, but the Edda were definitely consulted for this game. But you don’t have to worry about permanently missing anything, you can go back to almost any area in the game. The only couple of areas you cannot access again never have anything in them that is missable, whether it’s upgrades or trophy related. In some ways that makes the structure of this game feel a bit like Metroid Prime. There are many chests and doors that cannot be opened until you gain new abilities later in the game. You are often given reason to go back to those areas and open up those new areas and chests, so you seldom really need to keep track of what you are missing. The one major complaint I have about the game is that the overworld map is not more useful. But at least you really don’t need to use it much, the only trophy that you might need a guide for is killing all 51 of Odin’s Ravens (but even then the overworld map tells you how many are in each area and they always make a very distinctive call when you are nearby). The best reasons for exploring are finding apples to upgrade your health, horns for upgrading your rage meter, and new armor, skills or enchantments for equipping.

God of War | Equipment
Kratos does gain levels, but only via equipment, with this being the maximum.

There are surprisingly many RPG mechanics added to this game, particularly levels, stats, and equipment. They use the common color coding of equipment (popularized from Blizzard games like Diablo and World of Warcraft) of white<green<blue<purple<gold. The dwarf brothers can craft armor, but most of the really good armor needs to be found or earned out in the world. Then you can take it to the dwarves and have them upgrade the pieces. The nicest thing about this system is that you won’t find your inventory filling up with a ton of different useless armor, instead what drops from enemies and is commonly found in chests are upgrade parts. Kratos and Atreus with both have fairly drastic different looks with new armor pieces, but it doesn’t feel like they added a ton of different armor pieces in there with junk stats just to give the illusion of variety. To give you even more options they instead socket the pieces with up to 3 enchantment slots and then you can add gems that will give you many more options with which stats you want to favor and what passive abilities to equip. With the colder environment and the general Viking mythos, adding the armor system in this game feels like a natural fit. Getting better armor and upgrading your weapons will add to your effective character level (up to a maximum of 9), but you should know that because there are so few levels, the difference in levels between you and your enemy can make quite a large difference. There is a noticeable difference between fighting an enemy one or two levels higher than you are, unlike most action RPGs.

More Father / Son Bonding on Page 2 ->

William Haderlie
Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.