Console exclusives ensure that at certain instances some gamers will miss out on experiencing some series. Since I missed out on the PlayStation 3 era, I never got a chance to play any “God of War” games. Sure, I heard plenty about how the main character, Kratos, tallied a massive body count as he hunted down (and killed) most of the Greek Gods in an extraordinary fit of rage. These games developed a reputation of hyper violence and gore, which was fueled by Kratos’ unforgiving, unsympathetic nature. A quick Google search will reveal some of the horrible things this character has done to people, whether they deserved it or not. In other words, Kratos is no saint.
However, when you see Kratos in the latest game in the series, simply titled “God of War,” many things have changed.
Besides donning a massive beard any Viking would envy, Kratos seems to have adopted a much calmer, restrained demeanor. Sure, that probably has to do with the fact that he has a son, Atreus, who he wants to mentor and protect.
Not to get too heavy into spoilers, but on the onset of the game, both Atreus’ mother has died and both father and son are still grieving as they look to fulfill her final wish – to spread her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms. However, before they can set off, a mysterious visitor comes knocking at the door with the intent of causing trouble. What follows can only be described as one of the most intense, entertaining, brutal boss fights I’ve ever seen. Cinematography has Kratos and foe crashing through trees, flying through mountains and causing all sorts of destruction in a normally quiet mountain top haven. Not only are you instantly rooting for Kratos, you are actively hoping to take this fool out.
Spoiler alert: Kratos fends him off and then retires as God of War and son head off to climb to the top of the mountain. It won’t take very long to hear Kratos refer to his son as “Boy.” Often, when Atreus gets too curious or finds himself in trouble, Kratos howls “BOY!” as a warning or criticism. It happens so often that the internet has kind of turned it into a joke. Later, when Atreus goes missing and doesn’t respond right away, the silence is eerily disturbing. As a player, you get used to the ceaseless banter between the two and things don’t feel right until the two reunite.
The combat did take a little time to get used to at first. Nothing too difficult, but I did think mapping the light and heavy attacks to the right trigger buttons seemed weird. However, I soon learned why. Other buttons allow Kratos to roll or climb and also instruct Boy to shoot arrows, which can stun or distract foes. You never directly play as Atreus, but he can help out when enemies flood your personal space.
Kratos begins the game with a pretty impressive axe. He has a number of options; he can chunk it at foes and magically summon it back to his hand whenever he is ready (plowing through the ones dumb enough to stand in its way back). He can stick to melee combat, cutting enemies to pieces and even executing some in over-the-top, grotesque fashion. For instance, after a proper pummeling, Kratos sometimes slashes bad guys in half or rips them apart with his bare hands. And speaking of his fists, he can fight while his axe is lodged into a wall or on the ground somewhere. Throughout the game, you can upgrade your weapons, add more skills and even craft armor, but honestly, I never felt like any of that was actually needed.
The story gets better and better, the boss fights grow more intense and the world opens up to encourage a massive amount of exploration. However, I found one aspect of “God of War” sometimes infuriating – the puzzles.
Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of puzzles. If there is a way to skip or bypass them, that’s usually the option I take. Yet, there are some puzzles you are forced to solve, traps you have to roll through and, to me, it just breaks up the pacing of the game. I just want to go smash more idiots and see what happens to Boy and Dad of Boy. I don’t want to spend hours trying to figure out where to throw my axe or why I am blocked out of a certain area. Eventually, I solved the puzzles, but I still think they add nothing to the game and I’m positive they will annoy me in the sequels.