When it comes to reinventing game franchises, 2018’s God of War is about as drastic as it gets. The original three God of War games were all critical and commercial successes, and were known to be linear experiences with fixed camera angles and a penchant for action-packed gameplay, with story taking a backseat. This isn’t the case here, and what Sony Santa Monica have crafted in this year’s God of War reinvention is an experience noticeably different to any other entry in the series.
Not too dissimilar to Sony’s recent flagship efforts, God of War is cinematic right from the get-go, seamlessly blending combat tutorials with cinematic cutscenes. The result is a game with very little camera cuts, allowing you to follow Kratos and his son Atreus from start to finish without missing a single interaction.Without going into too much detail (my intention is to keep this as spoiler-free as possible), the premise of God of War’s narrative is incredibly simple. Kratos and his son are venturing to the top of the highest mountain in the realm to carry out a task that’s important to them. And while on paper the premise sounds rather simple, it wouldn’t be a God of War game without a number of epic challenges standing in your way. This is a recurring theme throughout God of War, as you’ll always feel like the end is in sight before something else gets in your way, be it a new boss battle or an item to collect that will let you proceed. It all starts off rather cleverly, but ultimately throws a few too many curve balls at you, which holds up the story and in turn hurts the pacing of the game.
That said, the relationship and dynamic between Kratos and Atreus acts as the main driver that keeps things interesting throughout. The two couldn’t be more different, with Atreus clearly taking after his mother, with a much softer side to him. He’s also incredibly knowledgeable about Norse mythology – knowing everything about the old Norse language, which allows him to teach Kratos about the many characters and enemies he’ll encounter along the way. Obviously, he’s not as well versed in combat as Kratos is, so it’s fascinating to watch these two learn from each other, and it makes Kratos so much more likable as a character. It’s obvious he still has a tonne of rage within him, but he’s much more restrained in order to not let Atreus see his true self. It’s a genuine pleasure to watch their relationship blossom as the game progresses, and something that will stick with me for a long while. Thankfully, while the journey is by far the longest of any God of War game, the combat remains interesting throughout. I was quite worried, with the combat relying on a singular weapon, that it’d get stale quite quickly, but I walked away from God of War pleasantly surprised. With the game throwing a variety of enemies at you, an extensive skill tree as well as two elemental rune attacks and a secondary magic Talisman ability, the combat manages to stay varied and fresh throughout the 25-hour journey. I never thought I’d say this but I think I actually prefer Kratos’ axe to his signature chain blades after all was said and done.