God of War (2018) PC Review
Boy, is it good
Being a parent is, in all honesty, hard work. It is also very rewarding and has moments of absolute joy thrown in to make up for all the other times it can make you feel awful. One thing it absolutely requires though is teamwork. Both you and your partner should be joining forces in the upbringing of your progeny. This is likely why, when you solo-parent for the first time, it can bring about a stark realisation of just how much work goes into raising a child and how hard it must be for those who parent solo full-time. As a parent myself there were moments during God of War where I nodded in solidarity with Kratos and watched scenes unfold that felt all too familiar. I honestly wasn’t prepared for that but I’m glad I don’t also have to wrestle with the additional weight of being a God.
That’s not to say being a God doesn’t have its advantages but it helps little when a loved one has passed away. Grief comes to us all and whilst Kratos is a very matter-of-fact kind of guy it’s clear that losing his wife Faye, hurts. Not only is he having to work through his own issues and internal conflicts but also those of his son, Atreus, who he must now care for on his own. Faye’s last wish was to have her ashes scattered from the tallest peak and it is this journey that we partake in, but it is a path that is anything but direct. The journey tests both Kratos and Atreus and leads to wounds being opened up, truths being spilled and the building of a bond that will no doubt be explored and tested further in the upcoming sequel, God of War Ragnarök.
What underlies most of God of War’s story and its use of Norse mythology is familial conflict and how it can turn even the closest members against each other and how by keeping secrets, even with the best of intentions, does not always grant you the outcome you hope. It’s clear from the outset that Kratos and Atreus do not, at least initially, share a close bond and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kratos is a cold and unloving father. Thankfully through some rather touching scenes early on we learn that Kratos isn’t quite the rageful and downright grumpy man he seems on the surface. Instead we see glimpses of a different man, one whose pain of past exploits weighs heavy on his soul but also makes it hard for him to show, externally, that he is a changed man.
It’s this subtlety of storytelling and the use of Atreus’ notebook, which doubles up as an in-game encyclopaedia, that helps you see both sides of the same story. Atreus often adds personal thoughts in amongst the notes helping you see the journey through his eyes as well as the conversations you both have along the way. This helps flesh out a lot of the story and surrounding mythology, of which there is plenty. So much so that an additional companion that joins you early on is also used as a mythology dispenser. During the boat rides around the Lake of the Nine, the central area you’ll frequent a lot in Midgard, they will tell all manner of stories with a good dose of humour too. Even Kratos joins in with a few stories of his own and by the end, you genuinely feel attached to these fictional characters.
The realm of Midgard is one of six you can visit during your playthrough and whilst the Norse mythology has been reinterpreted here it’s incorporated wonderfully. You can absolutely lose yourself in its crafted realms, whether it’s the breathtaking views, the many stories told on your journey or how it creates a touching story that stands on its own alongside its retooled Norse mythology. There’s a lot of heart here and one of the greatest strengths of God of War’s story is that, whilst many tales told during your adventure are just that, stories, you start to wonder and sometimes hope that you might meet some of their protagonists along the way. Hopefully we’ll get to meet some of them in Ragnarök and the fact that we want to is a credit to the voice acting and scripting.
Many will recognise Stargate SG-1 alum Christopher Judge in the titular voice role of Kratos. In all honesty, the character of Teal’c probably provided him with plenty of practice. Both have the same dry humour along with a strong sense of duty and honour and in many ways, a similar backstory. In both instances the characters were originally used to do bad things in the name of Gods and both have had an opportunity to right the wrongs of their past. However, Sunny Suljic is equally adept in his role as Atreus and the interaction between father and son sound and feel very much believable. Anyone playing God of War as a parent will no doubt notice many familiar parenting moments and I defy any of them who plays not to be having a go at Kratos for not giving Atreus the occasional hug.
The story isn’t the only thing to keep you occupied whilst wandering the various realms. As you meander through the main quest there are plenty of other challenges and side-quests to further lengthen your play time but also your knowledge of God of War’s Norse facsimile. Some rewards from these challenges may grant Kratos more health or perhaps more anger so that you may unleash his Spartan rage and its powerful melee attacks. There are also plenty of people who ask a favour or two for one reason or another. We were more than happy to oblige, mostly because we were either going to learn more lore or, if not, have a blast thanks to a fun and rewarding combat system.
Some may find it simplistic but once you start spending your experience points on new skills and equipping different light and heavy attacks for both yours and Atreus’ weapons you’ll forgive and forget, trust us. Early battles can be tough and rely heavily on your ability to dodge and counter properly. Later battles aren’t easy by any stretch, especially the Valkyries, but they certainly become more fun as you switch between weapons and unleash all manner of hell upon your opponents. That’s not to say there’s not some skill involved; certain attacks have longer cooldowns or take a bit of time for their attack to land. Careful consideration must be given to both facets when deciding on which attacks you want on your weapons.
You can, of course, affect the time taken for attacks to cool down as well as things like your health, hit points and so on through different armours and runes. These, along with your weapons, can be upgraded to take more runes and impact Kratos and Atreus’ stats. Once you start equipping yourself with high-level armour you’ll need to start finding rarer materials and this will likely encourage completionists to disappear off into the side-quests in order to get some of the shinier and rarer loot. There’s even a New Game Plus mode so that once you finish the main questline, you can take everything with you for another run through as well as take on tougher enemies and seek new challenges.
God of War is another triumph for Sony and its decision to port its previously exclusive console titles to PC. With Horizon Zero Dawn, Death Stranding and Days Gone amongst others making the switch to favourable reviews, God of War is no exception. Santa Monica Studio barely puts a foot wrong and Jetpack Interactive has provided a wonderful port that, by utilising the extra grunt from PCs, really allows God of War to shine on all fronts. It is a visually stunning and well-written adventure that uses its Norse setting respectfully. By its story's end, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be counting down the days until you can continue Kratos and Atreus’ journey. Until then, we’re going to go take our axe and be broody for a few more hours.
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