Recently, Hardcore Gamer made a list of Seven Things We’re Glad God of War is Getting Rid of – and we meant every word of it. After having extensive hands-on time with the game, however, it’s clear that this is still very much God of War, despite all that has changed. It’s violent, gripping and epic like all the past God of War games, but it’s also heartfelt and more open than ever before. It gets rid of quite a bit, but ultimately keeps around a lot of what made God of War the iconic series that it was in the first place. For a critical look into the overall game, here’s our review, but now here’s a list of five things we’re glad God of War is keeping around.
Yes, Kratos’ attitude has mellowed substantially from the previous six games, but that doesn’t mean his anger and grief that always drove him have gone away completely. What’s better, he now has paternal and empathetic drives that allow him to push through the tough obstacles that Norse mythology constantly throws at him. His son Atreus is largely his motivation and he’s a compelling one at that. Yes, his daughter and her death will always motivate him in countless ways, but this father-son relationship is far more active and consequential to the unraveling narrative.
One of the great things about this reboot is that it’s not really a reboot at all: this is absolutely the same Kratos, just with a lot of time and non-murderous experience under his leather garments since we last saw him at the end of God of War III. Though players can enjoy the story without having played the previous six God of War games, there’s a lot of depth that can be gained knowing that he was tricked into murdering his wife and daughter, that Zeus is his dad and that he used all the energy at his disposal to murder every Greek God imaginable. These things all continue to make the Kratos in the new God of War interesting, alongside all of his new developments. If SIE Santa Monica Studios decided to just start the series over with a new protagonist, it absolutely wouldn’t be the same.
While many gamers that only gave the God of War series a passing glance may think they were simple button mashers, that definitely isn’t the series’ reality. The original six games focused on combinations of heavy and light attacks, with lots of player input being devoted to keeping some enemies at bay while focusing on tearing apart others simultaneously. Skill trees could be invested in with red orbs acting as experience, new skills and weapons were introduced throughout the games to vary combat and story beats always managed to accentuate the introduction of new gameplay mechanics. If players went through any of the games on easy or normal difficulty, it was possible to get through decent chunks of the games by wildly mashing buttons, but complex combat options could not be ignored on higher difficulties.
With the new God of War, Kratos’ Leviathan Axe is more than up to the task of facilitating bloody encounters while necessitating active player input. Like the earlier games, there are light and heavy attacks that create combos depending on how you sequence them, but there are also axe throws that can hit enemy weak points to deal lots of damage and can even freeze enemies if thrown with the heavy attack button. Once the axe is out of Kratos’ hands, he can go to town on enemies with his fists and feet – this line of combat even has its own skill tree with additional combos and abilities that can be unlocked throughout the course of the game. That’s good too, because fighting enemies this way (along with using Atreus’ arrows) can build up enemy stagger meters and allow Kratos to unleash brutal finishing moves. Speaking of which…
God of War is still very much an M-Rated game. Though there isn’t sex and nudity in this new title (the ESRB rating confirms as much), there is still plenty of cursing, and it has more than its fair share of violence. Though Kratos ripping Helios’ head off in God of War III may remain the pinnacle of gore in the series, enemies still bleed plenty, and various limbs can be hacked and ripped off over the course of the new God of War. After all, Kratos is still Kratos, and it’s hard to kick old habits. Expect buckets of blood and scenes that could be hard for many to watch. The new God of War is absolutely not for kids, and that’s fine in our books.
Yes, Greek Mythology is out and Norse Mythology is in with the new God of War, but it’s a welcome (and necessary) shift. After all, Kratos killed pretty much every Greek God imaginable by the end of God of War III, and whatever minor Greek Myths the series might have skipped over probably wouldn’t warrant another game just like those. Luckily, Norse Mythology runs deep, and there is a lot of source material for SIE Santa Monica Studio to draw from.
The Norse Gods are assuredly different from their Greek counterparts, though violence, in-fighting and dark history still runs rampant in the old Norse texts. The God of War series is known for its focus on Greek Mythology and the god-fighting that comes with it, and it still will be after the new God of War gets written into history, albeit with even more mythology to draw from. With this new set of gods comes new enemies, friends and everything in between, and the new setting absolutely makes the game feel fresh in a way it couldn’t if things stayed totally Greek. Without some sort of mythology, a God of War game couldn’t really be God of War, so this shift feels right at home.
Epic Set Pieces
We would never in a million years want to spoil the many awesome, head-spinning moments that God of War has in store for you, so trust us when we say they don’t disappoint. God of War II had Kratos’ epic race across the seas with Icarus’ wings, God of War III let you take down multiple Titans in real time and the new God of War keeps in line with these epic set pieces. What’s better, while there are some moments that have context-sensitive button input, none of these can strictly be considered Quick Time Events, meaning the player has direct control over the insane action at all times – even when things get bigger and seemingly more out of control than ever before. The new era of God of War mimics the old God of War games in many ways, even with all the various new ideas it incorporates into its gameplay, setting and story.
God of War is coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4 on April 20.