God Of War (2018) is an incredible work of art. I believe that it is the best game of this generation. I understand this is an incredible claim to make. Each component of the game, story, graphics, and gameplay complement each other, providing a fun and immersive game that resonates with the player.
(Beware spoilers if you have never played a God Of War game)
The God of War series of games began in 2005 on the Playstation 2. The first game was named, appropriately, God Of War, which is also the name given to the entire series.
The story begins in ancient Greece, with a Spartan Warrior named Kratos. Kratos is tricked into killing his wife and daughter by the Greek God Of War, Ares. Kratos, armed with the Blades of Chaos, and fueled by utter rage, kills Ares and ascends to become a God, the new God Of War. In the following titles, it is revealed that Kratos is the son of Zeus. Kratos, disgusted with the behavior and manipulation by the Olympians, embarks on a dark path, destroying allies and foes alike to take down Zeus and the pantheon of Greek Gods.
A New God Of War
God of War (2018) finds an older Kratos living in a different land, somewhere in the periphery of the territory claimed by the Norse gods. After killing Zeus, Kratos seemingly left Greece and found a woman named Faye. They had a child together, a son they named Atreus.
The game begins on a rather sad note, as Faye has recently passed away. Kratos and Atreus do not have a very good familial bond, as it seems that Faye performed most of the duties of raising Atreus. Even Kratos’ history seems to have been kept from Atreus, including the very nature of his father. Faye’s death leaves both father and son, traumatized, grieving over the loss of Faye.
Faye, however, gave them a task after her death. She asked her son and husband to spread her ashes at the highest point in the nine realms. After cremating Faye and placing her ashes in an urn, Kratos and Atreus receive a visit from a stranger, who comes looking for someone. Kratos does not take kindly to this intrusion, leading to a battle. The battle ends with the apparent death of the stranger.
With the conflict seemingly settled, Kratos and Atreus begin their journey, strangers to each other, but with a common purpose.
The Weapons of the God Of War
In this journey, Kratos eschews his typical weapons, the Blades of Chaos for a new weapon, the Leviathan Axe. The Leviathan Axe was originally Faye’s, but left to Kratos after her death. The axe is both a weapon and a tool, allowing Kratos to cut down a tree for his wife’s pyre, or for cutting down draugr. The axe has powers similar to Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, in that it can be thrown and retrieved, always returning to Kratos’ hand.
The axe has an innate power of frost, allowing you to damage enemies with frost or freeze them in place. The axe can be thrown at an enemy, and once it hits the enemy they will be frozen in place until you recall the axe. When the axe is not in your hands, you can attack with punches, kicks and shield attacks.
The axe has many options for attacking enemies. Standard Axe attacks are made by pressing the R1 and R2 triggers on the controller. The actual attack varies depending on the pressure you place on them. A tap on the R1 trigger will give you a swipe of the axe, holding it down will swipe and then launch the axe at an enemy. A tap on the R2 trigger creates a slower more powerful axe swipe, while holding it down creates a powerful “axe chop” attack.
The axe has two Runic attacks, a Light Runic Attack and a Heavy Runic Attack. Both the Light and Heavy Runic attacks have a variety of attack styles to choose from. Runic attacks can be found, gained, or bought throughout the world. Runic attacks are powerful attacks that once used require a cooldown before they can be used again.
An example of different Light Runic Attacks are: Wrath Of The Frost Giant and Charge Of The White Bear. Wrath Of The Frost Giant allows you to briefly aim and blast enemies with Frost damage (ranged attack), while Charge Of The White Bear allows you to charge at enemies with the shield, knocking them back and damaging them. There are many different attacks to choose from. These attacks can be upgraded upgraded by spending XP points.
Through the story, Kratos and Atreus meet two incredible blacksmiths, Brok and Sindri. As they were the original creators of the Leviathan Axe, they are able to perform upgrades to your weapons and armor. They only require hacksilver, specific ingredients, or a favor for these upgrades.
The Leviathan Axe can be physically upgraded by switching out the Axe’s grip. Each Axe grip bestows added power to your core stats. The core stats are Strength, Runic, Defense, Vitality, Luck, and Cooldown. The Grip of Tanngiost, for example, adds 12 to Strength, Runic, and Luck, but does not increase Defense or Vitality.
The power of the Axe is felt directly by the player through the Dual Shock 4 Controller. Every attack, every throw, every recall of the Axe is felt through the rumbling of the controller. Each rumble pattern is unique to each action. You physically feel the power of the Leviathan Axe every time you use it, and it feels glorious.
Atreus is no slouch in the combat department either. He assists Kratos by firing his bow at enemies to distract and damage them, as well as jumping on them to choke or knife them. Kratos can command Atreus to attack during battle. Atreus is a very good companion for Kratos, unlike many games that have companions, Atreus never gets stuck, lost, or gets in the way of Kratos in battle.
The Powers Of God Of War
Kratos time as a God has imbued him with his own innate powers, such as strength and spartan rage. His fighting prowess as a Spartan serves him well in the Norse Realms, as there are many enemies roaming about.
Kratos has core stats that can be leveled up or increased by his armor. His core stats are:
- Strength – Increases damage for all standard attacks.
- Runic – Increases both Runic Attack and Elemental damage.
- Defense – Reduces all damage taken.
- Vitatlity – Increases maximum Health and decreases severity of hit reactions from enemy attacks.
- Luck – Increases Perk activation chance, increases XP and hacksilver gains.
- Cooldown – Reduces recharge time of Runic Attacks, Runic Summons, and Talismans.
Kratos and Atreus both can gain skills that grant them different types of attacks or damage bonuses as they level up. Kratos can gain skills with the Leviathan Axe in both ranged and close combat. He can also gain skills with his shield in both shield and rage combat.
Atreus can level up his Magic and Expert combat skills. As a magic and bow bearer, Atreus is very capable in assisting Kratos in Battle. With his Cold and Lightning arrows, Atreus can temporarily stop an enemy so that Kratos can damage them. Atreus can be equipped with a Runic Attack that can summon animals such as wolves or squirrels to attack enemies, or find consumables to heal Kratos.
The Armor of God Of War
Kratos can equip Chest Armor, Wrist Armor, Waist Armor, and a Talisman. As your journey progresses you will gain or craft different armors that enhance your core stats and may offer different types of perk activation. Perk activations are specific to a piece of armor, and randomly grant extra powers or abilities during battle. An example of a Perk Activation is one called Frost Mastery. Frost Mastery increases all frost damage inflicted by 15% (stacks up to 50% max).
Each piece of armor can also have enchantments (in the form of gems) socketed in them. These enchantments help to level up your core stats, and grant you a perk activation. An example is that in my waist armor I can socket three enchantments, I chose to pick one called Inscribed Crest of Runic Power. This enchantment adds 14 to my Runic stat, and adds a Moderate Perk Activation chance to grant a blessing of cooldown on any successful block.
The World of God Of War
The game draws heavily on Norse Mythology and takes place throughout most of the Nine Realms. Midgard, Helheim, Muspelheim and Nifelheim are a few of the realms you will travel to. Each of these locations are incredibly detailed and are inhabited with different sights and creatures, including Ymir, the world serpent.
That being said, the Norse world is in a state of decline. Ancient constructions slowly deteriorating are inhabited with ghastly creatures. Undead nightmares litter the landscape, always looking to add to their numbers.
Much of your time in the Norse worlds will revolve around the Lake Of Nines. You will explore the areas around the Lake for portals to other realms, for treasure, and solve puzzles that lead to new areas or grant treasure.
Even with the Norse world in he state that it is in, the environments are absolutely incredible, with so much detail. The lighting, characters, environment, enemies, the art of this game really brings this world to life.
The Enemies Of the God Of War
The Norse world has many fantastic creatures in it. Beings known as Dwarves, Light and Dark elves, dragons, ogres, trolls and many other creatures reside in the Norse realms. During your journey you will encounter many different enemy types, with most pulled from Norse Mythology.
With the world as it is, you will encounter Draugr the most, as they are found everywhere. Draugr are the spirits of the deceased that refuse to pass on, and continue to inhabit their slowly decaying corpses. Many are frozen in place, only awakened by your passing. However, not all awaken, but those that do will attack ferociously.
Nightmares are floating eyeballs that attack the player with ranged attacks. As they are flying enemies, they can be very elusive. These creatures are best handled by Atreus and his bow. When you have a target, you can tell Atreus to fire his arrows at them. Both arrow types damage and stun them so that they can be defeated by throwing the Leviathan Axe, or by repeated arrow shots.
The Norse Gods do not seem to be happy with Kratos and Atreus roaming around their territory. It can be said that during your travels you will encounter some of them, even with your attempts to avoid them. These encounters are surprising and reveal much about the gods and their hierarchy.
The Unlikely Companion to the God Of War
In their travels, Kratos and Atreus come across a famous person in Norse mythology, the self proclaimed smartest man alive, Mimir. How you meet Mimir and come to have him as part of your travels is a story spoiler so I won’t mention it here.
Mimir counsels Kratos and Atreus of the many dangers in the world, the most fascinating aspects about it such as the statue of Thor and Ymir the World Serpent. Most importantly, he regales you with all sorts of tales. Tales of the Norse gods, notable characters that inhabit the world, his view on the Norse Gods, and advice on how to achieve certain tasks.
The stories are fascinating and often humorous, constantly giving you information about the world in a clever way. Mimir informs Kratos and Atreus, as well as the player, to many of the stories of Norse mythology during periods of exploration, or story moments. These stories are vital to the game, and also help to inform the player about the world around them during quiet moments, such as exploring. Mimir is the funniest, most informative character in the game.
The Heart Of God Of War
The heart of God of War is the relationship between father and son. They start the game seemingly worlds apart, as they are two different people. Atreus shows empathy and compassion to all creatures and beings in this world. This empathy is illustrated clearly during a hunting scene early in the game. These attributes undoubtedly came from his mother.
This is in stark contrast to Kratos, a warrior shaped by the tragedy of his life. He is distrustful of anyone they meet, often dismissing their pleas for help, only agreeing if there is a mutual benefit. Kratos has a very dim view of gods and their meddling in the affairs of men. His gruff manner and dismissive attitude make it hard for him to bond with his son. Fearing Atreus might follow the same rage-filled path of revenge that he followed, he refrains from informing Atreus about his godhood.
Despite these differences, Father and Son trudge on, determined to honor Faye by completing the Journey she sets them on.
Past God of War games drew on Kratos’ Rage heavily, leading to a somewhat one note character. God Of War portrays Kratos as a more nuanced character, a father that loves his son but hasn’t come to grips with showing his feelings.
The story is well told with clever and selective integration of Norse Mythology as it’s driving theme. You will meet interesting and well written characters, each with secrets and hidden motivations. The voice cast is just incredible, through their voices they bring these characters to life.
The gameplay provides a satisfying loop of combat and exploration. Enter a new area, find enemies, use various attacks to beat enemies, gain loot/health/crafting supplies. Move to next area and repeat. The combat is very satisfying, with the Leviathan axe as its star. Not only do you feel the power of the Axe, you hear it as it flies from and returns to you.
The graphics are fantastic. The world is vibrant and alive, colorful and real. The graphics do not stutter or struggle to keep up with the player’s movements. God Of War is one of the smoothest games I have played with character movements. The variety of worlds and locations give the player many different landscapes, skies, and examples of architecture to encounter.
I call this game a Masterpiece simply because God Of War sets the bar for modern 3rd person Action RPG’s. The game is fun to play, with a great story filled with plot twists, interesting characters, and a fun gameplay loop that adds enough variety to keep it from feeling stale.
God Of War is a great example of a Sony exclusive that has reinvented itself to great critical and commercial acclaim. God Of War recently won the award for Game of the Year at the Game Award show.