Revisiting God of War (2018): A Modern Masterpiece

God of War: Ragnarök is just a few short months away. May as well get the hype engine started ahead of time.

The 2018 reboot of God of War was my favorite game that came out that year. But that was four years ago, and I was still fairly fresh off of my first playthrough. Is this game really that good? Or was I just swept away in the hype?

No, it’s really that good. Not perfect, but still damn good. Easily one of the best games the PS4 had to offer. And now you can get it on PC, too!

After the passing of his wife, Kratos is left alone with his son, Atreus. Together, the estranged father and son must climb to the highest peak in all the Nine Realms to scatter her ashes and fulfill her last wish. Along the way, they’ll be aided by many friends, and hunted by the immortal Baldur, brother of Thor and son of Odin. It’s an emotional tale of father and son that you’ll never forget.

The writing is definitely the highlight of this game. The shared story arcs of Kratos and Atreus is genuinely gripping in a way few other video game stories can manage. While they’re the strongest, being the stars of the show, the rest of the cast is equally memorable. From the bickering dwarf brothers of Brok and Sindri to the cruel and selfish Baldur and the overly-protective mother Freya, the characters in this game are written spectacularly well!

Even better than the writing are the performances. Christopher Judge is perfect as Kratos, with his earthquake-like voice and spectacular attention to small mannerisms in his motion-capture. Sunny Suljic is equally fantastic as Atreus, complimenting the big guy perfectly without becoming annoying. And the rest of the voice cast, from Jeremy Davies as Baldur to Alastair Duncan as Mimir or Danielle Bisutti as Freya, keep up with these two seemingly effortlessly.

On motion-capture, lets talk about visuals. God of War doesn’t have the most unique style; it’s yet another triple-A game with photo-realistic graphics. But it does more than a few interesting and cool things to make it stand out. Even if the graphics will undoubtedly age ten years from now, it’ll still look pretty good.

My favorite part is how this game handles scale. When something is big, you don’t just see how big it is. You can feel it. Take the World Serpent as an example; each time it moves, the entire overworld changes. When it speaks, the very air around Kratos and Atreus vibrates. He feels truly enormous in a way that few other games have ever managed to capture.

The cinematography of the game is also a stand-out. The whole game is filmed like one great big long take. At no point does the camera cut or fade to black beyond you booting up the game or dying. Outside of those instances, you will never see a loading screen. Not to mention that the camera movement helps further sell that sense of scale I mentioned before, as well as aiding in the capture of so many other powerful moments throughout the story.

And good god, the music! Bear McCreary’s score is an absolute joy on the ears! From the testosterone-pumping ‘God of War’ to the emotional epic that is ‘Ashes’ to the ultimate Nordic boss theme that is ‘Deliverance’, this OST is a must listen.

Now, onto the star of the show: the gameplay.

It isn’t an inherently complicated game. As Kratos, your goal is simple: murder everything that tries to murder you. To do this, you’ll be swinging around your three go-to weapons: your fists, the Leviathan Axe (which is one of the coolest video game weapons of all time), and later on: the Chaos Blades.

But it isn’t just Kratos. Atreus fights at his father’s side. All of his actions are either done completely independently or at your command using the square button (or X on PC or whatever other button you set him to). He’s a useful companion, his arrows being capable of hurting, weakening, and distracting enemies and even summoning spectral creatures to aide you. Thankfully, he can’t die; he can, however, be temporarily knocked aside, leaving just Kratos.

It isn’t all just hacking and slashing and ordering boy to shoot, however. God of War also has some mild RPG mechanics, so you’ll need to keep track of numbers. It’s not as annoying as it might sound; all you’ve got to do is occasionally update your equipment through upgrades or replacements. It isn’t bad, but it does unnecessary.

Between the occasional murder-fest, you’ll need to solve some puzzles. These aren’t particularly interesting or memorable. Often, they boil down to moving an item to a different location or freezing something with your axe. Some of them are rather clever, requiring some more advanced knowledge of the game’s mechanics. But none of them are as fun as something you might see in another puzzle game.

There’s also a plethora of side content to indulge in. From fighting the mighty Valkyries to freeing imprisoned dragons to diving into the combat challenges of Muspelheim and Nifleheim, there’s a ton to do. For taking the time to do them, you’ll often be rewarded with rare resources for making cool and powerful armor.

Now, quick little warning: do not play this game on the highest difficulty, ‘Give Me God of War’ mode. Not even if you desperately want a challenge. All it does is make Kratos weaker and the enemies stronger. It isn’t a fair or interesting challenge. It’s just that there are more enemies that can kill you faster. It’s so blatantly unfair and frustrating that it completely ruins the fun factor of the game. Play on literally any other mode. Just trust me; it’s not worth it.

And if you decide to do it anyways, just know: I warned you.

Believe it or not, that’s not the biggest problem with the game. That goes to the lack of enemy variety. Throughout the entire game, you’ll only ever fight roughly six types of enemies. Outside of the big cinematic boss fights, you’ll only ever fight the same troll over and over. It can get really repetitive and annoying. Hopefully Ragnarök will deliver more unique bosses throughout its run.

Gripes aside, God of War is still a modern masterpiece. Or at the very least, it’s damn close to it. While the gameplay has its issues, the masterfully crafted story more than makes up for it. The narrative is so good that I simply refuse to skip the cutscenes, no matter how many times I play this game.

If you’re a fan of games with good stories, then God of War (2018) is a must play. Just… for the love of god, don’t play on the highest difficulty. It’s simply not worth it.

See you all come Ragnarök.

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