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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Talismans can also be crafted, found, and upgraded. Just like Enchantment, they have effects which can aid you in battle:
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.
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.
Labors can net you a lot of experience after completion. There are multiple types of Labors:
Some of these Labors have tiered amounts to finish. Bronze, Silver, and Gold tiers, each netting you a certain amount of XP.
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.
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).
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.