Developer: SIE Santa Monica
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 20, 2018
ESRB: Mature / PEGI 18
Available Platforms: PS4 Exclusive
Genre: Action-Adventure, Fighting
This review is as spoiler-free as possible… no story specifics are revealed. Some things are kept intentionally vague as to not spoil the experience.
Prior to playing God of War I did minimal research on the game and only watched the first trailer. I wanted to be surprised – and surprised I was. The game is a new beginning for the God of War franchise, much more story-driven with lots of puzzles along the way and the best graphics this console generation. The combat system has gotten a complete overhaul. The game is open-world and no longer linear, featuring side areas, side quests, and much to explore. It now plays and feels more like Hellblade.
The back story is that Kratos had a son, called Atreus. Father and son embark on a journey together in which they will face many types of enemies, bosses (as is a custom in God of War games), puzzles, and beautifully crafted cutscenes. Gameplay and story flow together thanks to camera work like you’ve never seen before – everything is being rendered in real time.
What took my breath were the graphics, vibrant colors and artful designs. Santa Monica Studios has delivered to us the best graphics in any game to date. It’s a testament to what good optimization should look like. There aren’t even loading screens during gameplay (except when you boot up the game or die – and even then the loading times are fast).
It has more puzzles than its predecessors – I would sum it up as 33% story/cutscenes, 33% puzzles, 33% fighting. This mix fits together beautifully. Especially the puzzles must have required a lot of testing to get them “just right”. They aren’t so easy that they are solved instantly, but not so hard that you will be stuck forever. It’s the perfect “in-between” that combines exploration with common sense.
The story took me around 14 hours to beat while ignoring everything else (hopping between hard, normal and easy difficulties – yes that means you can change difficulty via options midgame). 100% game completion (finding all collectibles, doing all side quests) took me well over 60 hours searching for everything myself, but it can be done in 30-40 hours when you follow a collectible guide. With moderate exploration and a side quest here and there, the game may last you over 20 hours with an additional 10-20 hours of mop-up time. That’s rare for a story-driven game.
After the story there is free-roam and endgame content. There’s enough content to justify a full-price purchase. Hunting down all collectibles also proved a nice side activity. Most of these collectibles reveal more lore, make you stronger, or can be sold for hacksilver (the game’s currency). It’s nice that collectibles have some actual in-game use. This makes it all the more fun to explore.
The combat is very different from the last games but in a good way. For one, it’s now a third-person camera view. Kratos uses a new weapon called the Leviathan Axe and a shield. It leans more on Dark Souls than old God of War titles. The best way to explain this is that playing through previous God of War titles will be of no advantage to you here. Having beaten a Dark Souls game, on the other hand, will make hard difficulty feel like a breeze.
At first there aren’t many combos but you unlock more as you progress through the game. There are also “Runic Attacks” with cooldowns (they are a type of super move). The game is built like a classic Role-Playing-Game. Kratos has different stats that are affected by his armor and accessories. There’s a fully fletched crafting system with resource gathering – although it’s kept relatively simple and I never had to farm materials to craft what I wanted. You earn enough materials along the way by just playing the story.
The difficulty settings are also just right. I recommend normal for the first playthrough. On the first run, hard difficulty can be quite challenging, especially during bosses. For your second playthrough you may want to try the new “Give Me God of War” difficulty for added replay value.
I only have some minor criticism: certain parts are too puzzle-heavy and could have used more fights, and there was more potential with the boss fights (the old games did a better job at that). I also found the map useless in my hunt for all collectibles. Some collectibles are tracked, some aren’t – this makes no sense. Either track them all on the map or don’t bother. There are no clear borders between regions and when zooming in on the map it’s hard to tell where you are. There should have been a second close-up map for each region to remedy this.
All in all, everything comes together like magic and the bold changes pay off. Truly a new beginning for the franchise. Part 2 can’t come soon enough!
This is Great:
+ The best graphics this console generation
+ The level design & environments
+ No loading screens (except when you die, but they are short)
+ The story
+ The voice acting
+ Puzzles are not too hard and not too easy, well balanced
+ Open World is a good fit for God of War
+ Exploring the world actually feels rewarding. Collectibles provide plenty of in-game advantages
+ 40 hours for 100% completion, longer than the original trilogy combined, more than enough content to justify a purchase and good replay value on higher difficulties
Not So Great (Minor Issues):
– Combat is somewhat neglected in favor of puzzles
– Boss Fights had more potential
– Map interface needs work (hard to make out paths and region borders, some collectibles not tracked on map)
God of War is the most beautiful piece of art ever made! If you play this and still don’t think games are art, then what is?
Played on PS4 Pro, a free review copy was provided by Sony PlayStation. Earned the platinum trophy, defeated all bosses on hard difficulty, solved all collectibles and quests, reached 100% game completion.
For more on how reviews are scored, check out the Review Policy.