Looking back at the PlayStation 2 era of video games, I think that a lot of people would agree that the God of War games were some of the best that the console had to offer. The games were epic, with the main character Kratos being this angry beast who seemed like his only emotion was pure rage. It was perfect. Kratos would become one of the more recognizable PlayStation icons over the past decade, with the series becoming a beloved franchise to many people – myself included.
So here we are with God of War 2018, a game that I honestly feel quite bad that I didn’t play sooner. For the entire week, I found myself playing this game nearly nonstop and I can honestly say that this is easily one of the best games that I’ve played on the PlayStation 4. Everything about it just feels really good, even if there were some big changes from the previous installments. I have nothing but good things to say about this game, so let’s just get right to it.
Like the other God of War games, you play as returning protagonist, Kratos. The game is set in Midgard, with characters based off of Norse mythology, as opposed to the previous installments, which were based off of Greek mythology. After the events of God of War III, Kratos traveled to Norway. From there he met his wife, named Faye, whom he had a child with. The story revolves around Kratos and his son, named Atreus, who set off to scatter Faye’s ashes at the highest peak atop of all the realms. This is basically the end goal, as the game is more about the actual journey, with Kratos and Atreus having to face off against many great challenges along the way to achieve their goal.
Over the course of their journey, you can kind of see the way that Kratos will start to bond with Atreus. At first, Kratos seems like a very cold father. He gives off a very tough love sort of vibe, it’s clear that he cares about Atreus, but, it comes off as very hostile at times, with Kratos cruelly referring to his son as “Boy” for most of the game. On the flipside of this, Atreus begins as a very determined kid, but as the game progresses on he starts to develop more of a smug attitude. This bad attitude plays out for a while, but, Kratos does eventually put him back into his place. This results in Atreus developing more maturely towards the end of the game, and Kratos seems to approve of him a lot more than when they had first begun their journey. I can honestly say that I found it an absolute pleasure to see the way these characters developed throughout the game. It was truly special.
Differing from the previous God of War installments, there are a lot of changes in God of War 2018. For starters, the game doesn’t play with a completely linear approach. I would say that it best compares to something like the Tomb Raider reboots. It isn’t open world, but, it isn’t exactly linear either. It’s sort of a mix between the two, with some areas being expansive and others being straightforward. Either way, there is a lot in the game left for exploration, with Midgard’s Lake of the Nine, being quite large. Outside of what Midgard has to offer, there are also a number of different realms that you can travel to. A few of these realms are needed for the main story, but, there are a few which act as side areas that you can go to as an extra means for getting stronger equipment.
In terms of the amount of things you can do in the game, there is definitely a substantial amount of content in this game, with more that becomes available to access as you progress through the games main story. There is also plenty of side quests and collectibles throughout the game, doing these will reward you with experience points or different kinds of gear upgrades. It’s all definitely all useful, and certainly worth doing for the sake of leveling up and learning new abilities.
Outside of the side quests, another notable thing worth mentioning are the Nornir chests. Finding runes and hitting them with your axe will unlock a rune that will be on a nearby Nornir chest. Hitting all 3 of those runes will unlock the chest and reward Kratos with either an Idunn Apple or a Horn of the Blood Mead. Collecting 3 of each of these items will upgrade Kratos’ Health or Spartan Rage meter. Opening these chests are certainly useful, since having both upgraded will help increase your survivability.
Getting into the combat of God of War 2018, it’s definitely a huge departure from the previous installments. The game ditches the Devil May Cry-esque combat that we had been familiar with in the prior entries and elects to go with a more grounded Action-RPG approach. Instead of the massive combos from the previous games, we now have a system that definitely feels a lot slower than the other God of War games. I would honestly say that it seems like a mix between Dark Souls and Breath of the Wild. I still think it feels great, but, I do think that it is a drastic change. In the way the combat actually works, well – you can hit your enemies with Kratos’ Leviathan Axe. You have the means of either using a light or a heavy attack, with an extra means of throwing your axe when aiming, and an ability of locking onto an enemy to make it easier to stay focused on them. Kratos also has access to a special called Spartan Rage. This will allow Kratos to pummel enemies and make him invincible for the duration of the Rage meter. Comparing to something like Dark Souls, Kratos can also block and roll. This is an effective means of staying alive, as there can be quite a lot of difficult enemies at times. You can also have Atreus shoot arrows at enemies. This definitely helps with enemies that have a tendency to be a lot more evasive, and helps catch some enemies off-guard to make them easier for Kratos to hit.
There are also special attacks that both Kratos and Atreus can use. These attacks can either be obtained by using your experience points in a weapon’s skill tree, or by equipping your weapons with different runic attack abilities. These runic attacks are all different, and each one has its own unique attack. There are a number of light and heavy attack runes available throughout the game, either by purchasing or finding them. It seemed like it was best to play around with some of these runic attacks, since a lot of them felt incredibly underwhelming.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game has role-playing elements in the form of upgrades. There is weapon; armor; talisman; and rune upgrades available for both Kratos and Atreus. Upgrades can be performed by a pair of Dwarven brothers, named Sindri and Brok, who you come across throughout the game. Using Hacksilver (the games currency) and various materials you can craft new equipment or strengthen gear at any of their locations. As for the rune upgrades, all you need for these is just experience points. Using experiences points in these runes will make them stronger with each level. It’s worth taking the time to upgrade your equipment in this game, since some of the battles will get increasingly difficult as you get further into the story.
Taking the time to mention the games technical aspects. I honestly feel that this game is truly a marvel. Everything in the game looks and feels amazing, with some of the views being absolutely breathtaking. This is easily the best looking PlayStation 4 game that I’ve played. The music is still as great as ever, with Bear McCreary creating a fantastic soundtrack for the game. Everything fits the games’ Nordic setting, and it creates a level of immersion that I can’t say I’ve felt in a while. The controls feel fantastic, and the game runs very well. That’s all that matters.
So coming to a close, what exactly is left for me to say about God of War 2018. It just has to be the best PlayStation 4 exclusive that I’ve played this generation. It took me so long to play it, that I’m honestly slapping myself for it. Even with the combat changes, I still felt that it was still pretty fun. There was something satisfying about seeing some of the melee combat, when prompted to use R3. Seeing Kratos mutilate certain enemies was just glorious, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The graphics were definitely stunning as well. I found myself stopping to take screenshots on more than just a single occasion. In the 30 hours of time that I spent playing the game, I probably took around a hundred or so screenshots. It’s a really pretty game. Outside of all of that, I have to give the story and voice acting performances a lot of credit as well. Everyone sounded believable, this is something I find incredibly important in games, and the performances given by the voice actors in God of War 2018 are definitely some of the best that I’ve heard. I was admittedly a little skeptical about Kratos’ voice actor change, but, I do think that Christopher Judge did a good job. Really, a fantastic performance from everyone who was cast. It made experiencing the games’ story that much more enjoyable for me. And I don’t think that I’ll be forgetting this game anytime soon. So with all of that, yeah, I’d say that God of War is one of the best PlayStation 4 games this generation. It’s new gameplay shift felt a bit strange to me at first, but, I still feel that this is a game worth experiencing at least once. I can’t wait to see more from this series going forward, this is easily one of the best games of 2018.