The God of War series is no stranger to both epic story lines, combat and boss fights. In short, the term "epic" gets thrown around a lot when discussing the series and across its six main console installments and a cell phone game and even a recent Facebook Messenger text adventure, the story has grown and changed along its course.
If you’re a fan of the series, by now you are already aware of the story of Kratos and his story of vengeance against the Greek pantheon who betrayed him and tricked him into murdering his own family. What followed was the goriest and action packed series we haven’t seen since the likes of Mortal Kombat or the Legacy of Kain games. Brutality was the name of the game and alongside it, a mature tale on vengeance and tragedy, culminating with Kratos finally defeating not just the Greek gods but even the Titans themselves in his quest. It all ended with a noble sacrifice as he kills himself to release the hope that was trapped inside him all along unto the world.
Or so we thought.
Kratos has in fact survived, and has found himself amongst the Norse mythology this time around. He has also found a semblance of peace, settling down and remarrying and having a son and a new family. It is unfortunately short-lived as Kratos is thrown back into a journey where he realizes he truly cannot escape the past though as his wife mysteriously dies and her last wish is that her ashes be cast upon the tallest peak of a mountain in the realm. His other life gets called into question as his journey with his son Atreus becomes a focal point for the magical and mysterious in this Norse realm, and as expected, the gods of said realm come knocking across the 20-25 hour ordeal (40+ if you are a completionist). How Kratos found himself in this realm, and whether Atreus learns the truth about his father’s tragic past is what drives the beginning of the story, and after a particularly amazing point a few hours into the game, God of War becomes something much, much more. Twists and turns drive the story forward, and a large part of the story is Kratos learning what it is to really be a father. It’s a fantastic leap of growth for the character, only marred by dialogue decisions over the course of the game. There were times Kratos still objectionably referred to his son Atreus as “boy,” even despite some key moments in the story where their bond becomes stronger and more together. It’s a minor quibble at the very least but some may feel that for all the progression the duo goes through, the dialogue not matching up entirely might throw some off. Overall though, God of War’s story remains its strongest point and the journey Kratos and son embark on is as epic as the series has been and even at times isn't afraid to tap into the more emotional moments that may tug at our hearts.
If there however is weak point in the game, it’s unfortunately found in its other half in the combat. That’s not to say the combat is bad, it just comes across a little underwhelming as outside of the Leviathan Axe, a Shield, Atreus’ Bow upgrades and a few others there isn’t much to fight with beyond that main trio. You can equip different armor sets and customize both Kratos and Atreus individually so they each have their own unique look. The skill trees and leveling up of the characters provides a good sense of RPG elements as the enemies do scale up in difficulty as the game progresses but due to the landscape design, they’re more content to keep away from Kratos rather than engage you head-on, which leads to a lot of you running in and going all out in the middle of three to four enemies, occasionally hitting the button for Atreus to do a magic attack with his bow or a choke hold depending on how you have him set up. The customization options available in Brok’s shop (a character you meet in the game) are plentiful, so no two player’s Kratos or Atreus will be alike. Your skills are tied to the weapons and the weapons are upgraded at the same shop. You’ll find armor, wrist bangles, belts and mods for the weapons as well. The mods are Runes that can be found at the shop and some are hidden in the main game as well. Atreus has costume upgrades primarily and the choices available affect his arrow firing rate and melee abilities to name a few. It’s not incredibly deep but its serviceable to the core mechanics the combat is designed around.
The enemies unfortunately don’t offer much of a threat on anything except the harder difficulties as they are content to be dumb fodder to be chopped down brutally by Kratos. The larger trolls and some of the other beasts in the game provide more of a challenge and are where the combat truly begins to shine. The few boss fights in the game are amazing, and without spoiling anything are the definite highlight of the tale, and there are even some side quest exclusive encounters that highlight why its important to craft gear and actually level up the father and son duo. There are some boss fights you’ll see coming for sure, and a surprise appearance or two bring the series together and this title home to its surprising and chilling conclusion.
God of War has always been that cinematic action game and has delivered in all its entries. SONY could have played it safe and given us the same game we’ve played complete with the Blades of Chaos and the always useful Square, Square, Triangle combo but wisely chose to bring this entry to the much more up close 3rd person action and over the shoulder view similar to what we’ve received in games like The Last of Us and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The decision to do this still maintains the cinematic presentation God of War is known for, and the set pieces you come across are a joy to watch and take part in. The cinematic sequences that break up the action and provide us with a breather are full of amazing emotion and an excellent musical score.
In the end, God of War is very much a God of War game. While it doesn’t offer anything truly new or unique to the genre, it’s innovation to the series itself is how it has decided to present itself to us now. With a new camera viewpoint and a much more tighter set of weapons and moves, the game is still as brutal as ever and still tells its tale as well as it has always done before. The achievements it has made in going about this reboot-esque change and how it tells the story with all those changes is an achievement in its own right. If it could only be described in one word, then this new title maintains the one single quality always found in the series...its sense and showcase that always has been and always will be "epic."