San­ta Mon­i­ca has, yet again, cre­at­ed an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence with­in the God of War series. It’s strides ahead of its pre­de­ces­sors in so many ways, but in this case, they’re all wel­come improve­ments. This could have eas­i­ly been just anoth­er hack-and-slash God of War (and it might have done just as well) but the direc­tion the devel­op­ment team chose has pro­pelled this title above the rest.

Story 

God of War Review

The jour­ney for father and son starts off with the wish­es of a dead woman… Kratos’s wife and Atreus’s moth­er. She wants her ash­es to be spread her ash­es at the top of the moun­tain, which you can see in the dis­tance from their home. Right away, you can sense a ten­sion between Kratos and his son, as it is obvi­ous this death is a part of it. That’s not the whole sto­ry as Kratos is keep­ing a big secret form Atreus. As I’m not into spoil­ing sto­ries for oth­ers, you’ll just have to find the rest out your­self. 

Graphics

God of War Review

By far, this is one of the most beau­ti­ful games I’ve seen on the PS4 Pro. It’s up there with Hori­zon Zero Dawn. Play­ing it on a PS4 Pro with a 4k tele­vi­sion is, obvi­ous­ly, going to give you the best visu­al expe­ri­ence. 

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Not only is every sin­gle area very well craft­ed, Kratos’s move­ments and fin­ish­ing moves are bril­liant­ly coor­di­nat­ed. These “stun grabs” (which are real­ly just fin­ish­ing moves) gives you that feel­ing of the old titles. Close up action, with the ene­mies death com­ing from some exquis­ite moves. 

So far, the phys­i­cal move­ments of all char­ac­ters in the game, has been flu­id. Cutscenes are all done with a sin­gle-shot cam­era, so every scene has a nat­ur­al flow and there are still epic cam­era pan-outs. Of course, every game has minor visu­al glitch­es, but it def­i­nite­ly doesn’t take away from the expe­ri­ence of the game. 

Combat 

This is one of the major changes that have been made to the God of War series. The pre­vi­ous titles were pret­ty straight for­ward… L1 to block, square for a quick attack, and tri­an­gle for heavy, with com­bos for the two. It’s very dif­fer­ent now.

L1 is still your block, but R1 is now your quick attack, with R2 being your heavy. Tri­an­gle now sum­mons your axe back to your hand, and you use square to tell Atreus to shoot his bow. Rolling is still X and what­ev­er direc­tion you want to go. They also added a use for the down but­ton on the direc­tion­al pad, which now spins Kratos 180º. Com­bos are very sim­i­lar to what was seen before, with some vari­a­tions.  

You can also go Bare-Hand­ed, while your axe is away, to stun ene­mies until a Stun Grab is avail­able, or sim­ply because you want too. Some ene­mies are also immune to the axe, so going Bare-Hand­ed is the obvi­ous choice. This type of com­bat also uses the same but­ton lay­out for attack­ing and block­ing.

Much to my dis­ap­proval, there are no longer quick time events at the end of boss bat­tle, or dur­ing the Stun Grabs.

Enemies

This is anoth­er big adjust­ment from the old­er games. Before, there was a min­i­mal way you could tell if an ene­my was close to being fin­ished. Boss­es would attack more often, or you could tell you dam­aged it enough by just watch­ing their pat­terns right before that cir­cle but­ton popped up. Now ene­mies have all sorts of indi­ca­tors.

Every ene­mies from boss­es to the pid­dly lit­tle Drau­gr, all have health bar, a stun bar, and a lev­el indi­ca­tor (this is for reg­u­lar adver­saries). There are also indi­ca­tors for attacks. If you see a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong foe and he swings, there will be a yel­low cir­cle which means you will be able to block it, but it will stun you for a few sec­onds. If you see a red cir­cle from an ene­my attack, avoid it, because the receiv­ing dam­ag­ing will be high. 

The health bar is real­ly help­ful for high­er-lev­el, stronger, ene­mies. Any ene­my that doesn’t have a pur­ple health bar can be tak­en down rel­a­tive­ly easy. The col­or dif­fi­cul­ty of ene­my health bars goes as such: 

  • Green — very easy
  • Yel­low — takes a few extra attacks to brings down
  • Red — be care­ful and make sure you defend your­self
  • Pur­ple — you can kill them, but they take a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time to take down, while avoid­ing any attack they make. 

When the stun bar is com­plete­ly full, that ene­my will be stand­ing still, look­ing drunk. A R3 indi­ca­tor will pop up above their head, which is when you can per­form a Stun Grab. Using your fists makes it way eas­i­er to stun a foe and Atreus assists you in fill­ing the stun bar. 

Skills

Much like all the oth­er titles, there are skills you can unlock by spend­ing in-game cur­ren­cy. Instead of red orbs, you use expe­ri­ence points gained. There are spe­cif­ic skills for the axe, Bare-Hand­ed, your Rage abil­i­ty, and even Atreus’s bow. 

God of War Review
Leviathan Axe Skills
God of War Review
Shield and Rage Skills

Unlock­ing these skills give you more com­bo moves to use, includ­ing a counter attack after block­ing, or mak­ing Atreus’s arrow shoot faster. How­ev­er, you can only unlock a new set of skills once you have upgrad­ed the Leviathan Axe, and the same for Atreus’s bow. 

God of War Review
Atreus’s Bow Skills

Weapons/Armor

There is anoth­er major change that’s tak­en place, some­thing the God of War series has nev­er seen before…the abil­i­ty to cus­tomize how you play. Pre­vi­ous titles real­ly lim­it­ed you in the style of play, basi­cal­ly mak­ing the Blades of Chaos the best weapon (with excep­tion of the third title, which still favored the Blades). 

God of War Review
The Smithy table

God of War Review

This sys­tem turns the oth­ers on their heads, allow­ing you to have more cus­tomiza­tion through your equip­ment. You now also have stats, which you can adjust to favorite your spe­cif­ic playstyle. To upgrade most of your items, you need to see a smithy.

The Leviathan Axe

Not only do the skills you unlock improve how you han­dle the axe, there are also Runic Attack Gems which can be equipped to give you an advan­tage. You can find gems for your light attack and your heavy. Each one can be upgrad­ed by spend­ing some of your XP, giv­ing them boosts in Dam­age, Frost, or Stun. Unlike skill moves, these have a cooldown until you can use them again. These gems also have a type, like area, line, or melee. Per­son­al­ly, I like are of attack gems, as they reach mul­ti­ple ene­mies. Some exam­ples are below:

 

God of War Review
Heavy Ruin
God of War Review
Light Runic

The grip on you axe han­dle is also adjustable. Pom­mels give you slight stat boosts, as well as giv­ing you an acti­vat­ed abil­i­ty upon a suc­cess­ful axe hit, like giv­ing you a pro­tec­tive bar­ri­er or inflict­ing shock dam­age you can also craft and upgrade them at the smithy:

God of War Review

 

Talon Bow

Atreus’s weapon can only hold a Runic Sum­mon. It gives him the abil­i­ty to sum­mon in specters, which will assist you in com­bat. This has a cooldown as well, which is much longer than the gems on your axe. It also has a type and can be lev­eled with expe­ri­ence points.

God of War Review

Kratos’s Armor

There are three pieces of armor (and a tal­is­man) that you can adjust, should guards, gauntlets, and waist guard. When at a smithy, you can craft all four of these using mate­ri­als you find through­out the world (you can also armor pieces some­times). The armor increas­es your stats as well.

God of War Review
Three pieces and the tal­is­man at the bot­tom

Each of the three armor pieces can have Enchant­ments attached to them. You can make these, buy them from the smithy, or find them on your trav­els. They do a mul­ti­tude of effect, like giv­ing you increased dam­age on axe throws, pro­tec­tion against BURN dam­age, reduced dam­age with cer­tain ene­my types, and plen­ty more. Some of the Enchant­ments are stack­able, giv­ing you a high­er per­cent­age of that effect. How­ev­er, they are not upgrade­able, but do give you slight boosts to your stats. 

God of War Review

Tal­is­mans can also be craft­ed, found, and upgrad­ed. Just like Enchant­ment, they have effects which can aid you in bat­tle:

God of War Review

Atreus’s Armor

The boy’s armor more assists Kratos than any­thing. He can seek out health when Kratos is low, or help Kratos deal extra dam­age because he is chok­ing an ene­my. They can also help him recov­er from ene­my attacks or recharge his bow faster. 

God of War Review

Extras

God of War Review
Favors

You’re not on some lin­ear path which just takes you from point A to point B, you actu­al­ly have area to explore. Now there are “favors”, which are side mis­sions, that you can com­plete for rewards and expe­ri­ence. 

God of War Review
Labors

Labors can net you a lot of expe­ri­ence after com­ple­tion. There are mul­ti­ple types of Labors:

  • Wol­rd
  • Craft­ing 
  • Skill
  • Kill

Some of these Labors have tiered amounts to fin­ish. Bronze, Sil­ver, and Gold tiers, each net­ting you a cer­tain amount of XP.

God of War Review
Arti­facts

There is also tons of items to search for. Some are with­in the Labors sec­tion, some are attached to trea­sure maps, and Arti­facts are strewn about the world. The Arti­facts will grant more XP upon the com­ple­tion of a set. 

God of War Review
Lore

For play­ers who are extreme­ly into lore, God of War has plen­ty of it. You can find Shrines, Ruins, Mark­ers, and Scrolls, all which are added into your Codex. There’s even a bes­tiary, which gives you tips on ene­mies (after you defeat enough of them).

God of War Review 

Bottom Line

While it’s def­i­nite­ly the same Kratos we all know and love, the gams isn’t even close to the oth­ers. This God of War gives off a RPG feel, which is a huge leap from the pre­vi­ous titles. Com­bat is dif­fer­ent, but it doesn’t feel clunky or obtru­sive, it’s just dif­fer­ent than before. Being able to adjust to the playstyle of your choos­ing makes the expe­ri­ence of the game more enjoy­able. Being able to explore your envi­ron­ment gives you a sense of an open-world, when in fact, the game is still does have a lin­ear effect. If you are look­ing for the old God of War type of game, this isn’t for you. For play­ers who enjoy the open-game, RPG, with a lin­ear sto­ry path, then this is right down your alley.