As an Outkast fan, I’ve enjoyed just about everything they’ve ever created. Usually, it only takes one listen for me to love one of their songs, except for Bombs of Baghdad. From the bass line to the speed of their delivery, I hated BOB. It sounded nothing like the OutKast I knew. But after repeat listens, I grew to love it, and before long, it was another song in a long line of OutKast songs that I love. God of War, like BOB, was something I grew to love over time.
I wrote my first review of God of War after beating the game on an OG PS4. At the time, my PS4 would not cooperate with my new 4K TV. I knew the game looked great, but the game displayed on my screen was anything but. Fast forward to today, where I experienced Kratos in 4K at 60 FPS. The game is nothing short of beautiful. Facial animations and cinematic moments were crystal clear, devoid of any screen tears or motion blur. If God of War is the pinnacle of graphic fidelity for the last generation, I can only imagine what’s in store for us in the coming years.
Unlike the previous entries in the franchise, which were more focused on action, God of War slows the pace. Kratos, who left Athens for a colder climate in the Nordic region, has put his blades to rest. He’s done what he believes to be his best as a father. However, when his wife dies, Kratos finds himself searching for answers. How can a Ghost of Sparta truly be a father to his son without raising another god of war? Atreus is not a problem that he can solve with violence. We watch as Kratos learns to give love and Atreus learns to accept that love and what it means to be Kratos’ son.
The change in pace plus an open-world design felt as out of place as the 808s in BOB. This is Kratos, God of War, and I should be on a nonstop rampage. But just like Outkast’s platinum hit, I had to learn to appreciate this new rhythm. Less time killing means more time with character and world development. We all might know of Thor thanks to Marvel’s cinematic universe, but there is more to Norse mythology than a hammer. This gives ample opportunities to paint a picture of the gods and their schemes. Kratos is both a foreigner and a native. He is a god but from a foreign land. His son, however, must learn this history to understand who he is. As he learns, so do we. It’s world-building on a grander scale and sets the stage for the game’s sequel.
I’ve never been one to use defense. It’s all offense, and blocking is just an optional mechanic. This strategy has served me well in the past. However, in this game, button mashing will only get you so far. This time I decided to go with the flow instead of fighting it. I slowed down and used the weapons at my disposal. Atreus is more than a small boy with a bow and arrow. Equip him with the right armor and summons, and he’ll become an integral part of your offensive strategy. He can stun enemies, disrupt attacks, and even support you with health stones.
For Kratos, the game begins without him equipped with his signature blades. Instead, you begin your journey with an axe, shield, and fists. The change in weaponry fits the change in pace. The game wants you to use all the equipment and abilities at your disposal. As you learn how to use the axe and shield, you begin to understand that Kratos has an answer for any situation. As you progress, you’ll find yourself switching between weapons during combos and relying on your defensive abilities to create new opportunities to attack. Mastery of this system is essential as some of the best content lives outside of the main quest.
The Valkyrie quest is the best questline in the game. It is the most frustrating yet rewarding experience I had while playing. The background goes something like this. Within the eight realms are the Valkyrie, powerful warriors who serve as guardians and Shepards of souls to Valhalla. However, their souls have been corrupted and trapped in a physical shell. It’s up to us to free them and uncover the truth behind their corruption. To free them, you must defeat them in battle. Each of these fights requires patience, persistence, and execution. Learning the attack patterns is not enough. You must execute your attack and defensive maneuvers flawlessly.
The Valkyrie quest gives you a reason to explore the world for upgrades. You can only win if you have the best equipment and abilities. And once you defeat all 8 Valkyrie, you must then challenge the Valkyrie Queen. The queen is the capstone to lessons you’ve learned. I found the fight to be a test of mental fortitude. Over multiple attempts, I found myself on the edge of victory, only to die because I let my focus slip and blocked when I should have dodged. My fight with the Valkyrie Queen was not the end of the game, but it should have been. After completing the hardest boss fights in the game, the latter half of the main quest felt too easy. I was multiple levels higher than any of my opponents, and no other enemy required as much effort as the Valkyries.
I finally understand why God of War received so much praise. The game remixes a popular formula to build a world bigger than any in the series before it. It is the promise set forth by games like The Order 1886. A game that changes how we look at AAA games as more than just something you play, but something you experience.