I never really jumped into the God of War bandwagon when it first came out. I had heard a lot of good things about the series though and I did try to play the remastered collection and, even though they’re really fun games, they never managed to hook me in. When God Of War 4 was originally announced at E3 2016, I was excited because it looked fun and I’m definitely a fan of Norse mythology, but probably not as much as someone who would’ve played the whole series. Then, the reviews came out. Rarely have I seen a day 1 release with such a overwhelming positive reaction. So I decided to sit down, play the game, and try to figure out exactly why everyone seems to love this game.
**ARTICLE CONTAINS GAME SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED**
The Story of a Father and His Son
First and foremost, I want to talk about the story. There seems to be this big stigma about single player, offline AAA games right now. Lots of companies (**cough** EA **cough**) are moving away from the single player experience and moving towards this “games as a service” concept. Inherently, I don’t think it’s a BAD idea, but having an interesting and engaging story in multiplayer games is a feat not many have accomplished. God of War is a prime example of how single-player story telling should be.
Even if I hadn’t played the first games, I was right away captivated by the story of Kratos and his son Atreus. It’s not a reboot of the series per say; Kratos simply moved to Midgard after having beaten to a pulp anything with a pulse in Olympus, but it’s still a fresh start for someone new to the God of War universe.
I immediately cared about the characters because they play on the very common issues in many father/son relationships and that they are forced to bond together in honor to respect the late mother’s wish. I honestly enjoy that the simple premise of bringing her ashes to the “tallest mountain in the world” turns into an insane and complex journey. It made every new encounter and every new world feel so epic and mind blowing. The amount of time the devs took to build the world around Kratos is impressive. It’s filled with interesting lore tidbits, characters and side-quest that don’t necessarily add to the main story, but explore the stories of the side-characters and makes the world much richer. The dwarf blacksmiths for example, while very cartoony, never felt over the top or annoying. I’m absolutely in love with Brok and his sassy-fuck-you attitude. I remember one line, after you’ve completed all the side quests to bring the two dwarf brothers together and go after a mythical item to create one of the best armor in the game. Atreus asks “How will you make an armor out of something so old and rusted?”
– “Nunya fucking business. Now get out of here”
Then you’ve got the Witch of the Woods, who ends up playing a massive role in the final fight. Mimir, who joins you and Atreus on your journey, brings a lot of interesting information and tells us all sort of stories and tales from the Norse mythology. Kratos, of course, wasn’t really interested, but Atreus and I loved it. I wanted to know what would happen next and I wanted to see the story resolved in the end. Which, it kinda does, but not really? You don’t get to see the big names of Norse Mythology until the very very end and only for a split second in the prologue. Definitely opening the door for God of War 5 and got me really excited for the sequel.
Of Axes and Bows
Like I said at the beginning of the article, I did play a bit the first God of War games, so I went into 4 expecting the combat to be quite similar. Rooms filled with dozens of enemies that I have to swing my way through. Right away, you learn that the combat is a lot more focused and I hate use that term, but very Soulslike. I wouldn’t say it’s as fluid and quick, but it’s just as brutal and oh so rewarding. You often have to deal with quite a few enemies and looking around can be difficult sometimes. I really appreciated the threat indicator surrounding you, making it possible to dodge enemies without even seeing them. I loved the awesome combination you can make with Atreus as well. Juggling an enemy in the air while he shoots arrows at them dealing massive damage was incredibly cool. It’s definitely hard to master, but so satisfying at the end when you feel incredibly powerful, chaining your combos and abilities to destroy mobs.
Speaking of abilities, you get a TON of them for your weapons. I really enjoyed the idea of finding pommels for the ax that you can then upgrade with experience so they do more damage, add elemental damage or stun. Stunning enemies and ripping them in half with your bare hands is so so SO satisfying and the other finishers with the ax are JUST as amazing. You can create builds with specific items and combine them with the proper pommel to focus on one type of damage in particular. I went mostly with RUNIC sets because you could pretty much spam the special abilities and destroy enemies. The most fun though is definitely when you finally unlock the Blades of Chaos again. The combat drastically changes for meticulous one on one combat to all out brawl, swinging your chains around. Definitely not as crazy as in the earlier games, but still pretty clusterfucky and intense. Although, I still found that using the ax was better suited for single enemies like bosses.
Don’t expect massive battles against gods with QTE’s this time around. God of War definitely features epic boss fights: like a big ass dragon. Combat is still very grounded as you need to throw stuff at it to make it fall rather than fight him in the air. To be honest ,most of the boss fights I found we’re pretty simple. I don’t want to say they we’re not interesting, but definitely not the mind blowing experience I was half-expecting. The only really impressive one is the last showdown with Baldur. Fighting on a huge frost giant while throwing Atreus around to kick Baldur’s ass made me feel like such a badass and the build up to the fight made it even more meaningful.
Also, I think it’s important to note that Atreus just does his thing most of the time. You don’t have to try and keep him alive or prevent him taking damage/resurrect him. I’m really happy they went in that direction or else this game would’ve felt like a 40 hour escort quest and nobody wants that.
Then you’ve got the endgame content. Once you’re finished God of War’s main story, there is still so much more to do in Midgard. Exploring the worlds of Muspelheim and Niflheim for super strong end-game armor is really fun and pretty much required if you want to beat the Valkyries. These fierce warriors are the true end-game content and will require that you do tons of preparation and farming before facing them in combat. I managed to kill 5 of 7 as of writing this and I am definitely going back to finish the rest off. It’s really during those fights that you encounter real difficulty and ruthlessness. I honestly felt like I was playing Bloodborne at some points, needing to have perfect dodge timing to not get absolutely shredded.
The Gods May Be Slain, but not the Single Player AAA Experience
Honestly, there’s so much to this game to adore. God of War has everything you’d want in a modern action RPG and does it masterfully. Did I mention that it’s easily the most amazing looking game on PlayStation 4? I played on a PlayStation 4 Pro and, like many games these days, you have the option to run it in “Performance” mode, which lowers your resolution but bumps the FPS, or a “Quality” mode that lowers the framerate but gives a 2K resolution. I tried both and while I prefer a higher FPS than resolution, I was absolutely impressed with still shots and some of the screenshots I took. As a PC gamer, I felt right at home in terms of quality and framerate! If you’re a PC or console gamer and have a PlayStation 4, do yourself a favor and play this game. It’s nearly perfect. Heck! It managed to pull me away from all the others games I was playing at the time. It’s all I thought about for a few weeks: getting home and playing God of War. You should all do the same.
All screenshots taken by the author.
DISCLAIMER: God of War review copy was provided by Sony Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.