A God Among Boys
As someone coming in to God of War with absolutely no experience in the franchise having logged precisely zero hours playing the franchise up to this point i had no clue what to expect. The early games had turned me off due to their machismo feel and over the top brutality were all I saw. But when i started hearing a different tone swirling around this iteration into the franchise i was extremely interested. Norse mythology, a deep and complex story, and a great battle system all piqued my interest ultimately leading me to decide to try it out. To say that it lives up to the hype would be an understatement. This game is a masterpiece from start to finish with one single camera shot that will ultimately redefine how we play video games forever. And, with that, this is your official God of War spoiler warning.
The graphics in this game are amazing. Every landscape, every realm, every hair on Kratos’ freakin mammoth beard are beautiful and so crisp and clear that you can see their mouths move in combat. The level of attention paid to this game aesthetically is jaw dropping. I was almost done with the game and still finding little things that had been happening the entire game in the background. They are all over the place too, it isn’t just in major spots that this happens, everywhere in the game has this amount of love and detail in it. The single camera shot is a revolutionary mechanic that truly will change how we play video games from now on. It adds a whole new level of intensity and immersion I have never experienced in a game before. For the first time ever i found myself getting lost in a world and enjoying it.
Getting lost in this world is so fun because of how well sized and paced the game is. It doesn’t just give you everything all at once and say have fun. It makes you earn the world by progressing through the story. You unlock the main world in increments as you progress through the story. Initially starting with very little world and more boat sequences. For once though, being in a boat is fun, the designers decided to make a very smart decision and use this time to relax and let the player breathe. Riding in the boat allows players to learn more about the world and provides a great deal of the comic relief in an overall intense story. However, these slow moments also allow the times when there is action to be really cool, these fights have more potential to stand out and stand more as a challenge rather than as a constant mechanic so the player doesn’t get bored.
The story will keep you from being bored though, this is an amazing story from start to finish. From the opening scene of Kratos chopping down the tree to cremate Faye to the ending scene finishing with them spreading the ashes, the story is gripping, intriguing, and overall just a really fun story that goes to places and explores themes that previous entries had not gone near. The perspective of Kratos trying his best to connect with his son is one of the most rewarding story arcs in the game, which makes the final twist of Atreaus being prophesied to kill Kratos all the more upsetting. We have just spent and entire game exploring, bonding, and genuinely connecting and having the rug swept out from under them at the last second rips your heart out.
Freya’s character arc however might be the saddest. A strong woman who had been so wronged by Odin that she was forbidden to a forest so that the slander doesn’t get out and ruin him. She is forced to live her life knowing that her son hates her for the things that she had done to try and protect him. However what she didn’t realize that that needless mistake happened when Baldur was born, enchanting him made him so bitter and encouraged him to live the life that he did using his anger as his only tool, much like Kratos. However, the fact that Kratos steps in and kills Baldur to save Freya only makes a more powerful enemy. The woman who did everything she could to save the most important thing in the world to her had her whole life ripped away from her against her will. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned, and if her parting words aren’t telling enough, this won’t be the last time we hear from Freya.
While it may seem like this game has no flaws, that simply is not true. There were a few things through my playthrough that i found to be problematic, some were later revealed to be intentional, some were not. The first thing i would like to get out of the way is the most unintentional thing on this list. The monsters and finishers felt fairly repetitive by the end of the game. The monsters especially felt like they were ripped from a MMO. They were all the same base model just with a different color. This is a nitpicky detail but an important one because if the monsters are the same, then a lot of the finishers, a big draw of the game, feel repetitive as well. It does not take away from the fun, battling and killing are so fun and even more rewarding, (the axe is one of my new favorite video game weapons, it was designed so well.) The battles feel the same unintentionally but what was worse for me was how limited i felt in exploring the world. It is an open world yes, but the map layout restricts where you can go, sometimes it is puzzle solving, but other times it is just funneling the player to the correct spot, I see ledges or wooden walls and wonder why Kratos needs a little yellow line to be able to do that. This choice in particular felt a little silly to me because you have the Ghost of Sparta being told which ledges he can interact with because they have yellow paint on them it totally takes me out of the world of the game. The fast travel mechanic is the last big problem I had with the game, at least for the first half of the game, this is because of having to go one way on the tree of life. It was another decision that felt fairly forced, although in this case i understand because you only get certain dialogue on the boat compared to the tree, they will have completely different conversations depending on which method you choose to traverse.
Overall this game is phenomenal, the gameplay is rich and rewarding, the graphics are stellar and game changing. But most importantly, the story is meaningful, it isn’t afraid to take risks and more importantly it isn’t afraid to have the player pace out the action. The story packs a punch and every character, even ones you haven’t met yet such as Odin and Zeus are distinct and memorable. Mimir is an absolute gem and the perfect comedic relief for this game, the fact that his whole purpose has been reduced to the talking head that spouts lore info is so smart and right for that world. This game not only reintroduces the world to God of War, but is also builds a much larger franchise, with Freya and Zeus lined up to fight Kratos next, and different lore markers of different mythologies. This series has been planned out not just for the near future, but for after this arc as well, and I can honestly say that I am extremely excited to see where the rest of this story goes. This game is a masterpiece and one that cannot be missed.