What God of War (2018) Seems to Be
A Lengthy History
God of War developed by Sony Santa Monica has been one of Sony’s flagship first party games since the first smash hit release on the PS2 in 2005, with a sequel following two years later on the same console the series quickly became one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. By 2013 the series would see 6 more entries (excluding remastered ports) spanning from the PS2 to the PSP and the PS3 as well as a mobile phone game. Over the years and the many releases the games felt better with each subsequent entry. The story was never groundbreaking but what it lacked in storytelling was made up by furious combat and a game camera that was tightly scripted by the development team that made the proceedings on screen feel truly grand with a style that was distinctly its own.
(Spoilers ahead)After the world ending finale of God of War 3 that saw Kratos kill what was left of the Greek pantheon, it’s clear that Sony Santa Monica wanted to continue their beloved series. But yet when the latest PS3 entry “God of War: Ascension” launched in March of 2013 it didn’t live up to previous entries Sony Santa Monica had so expertly delivered in the past. While it scored strong reviews and technically was a very well designed and developed game, it couldn’t escape the feeling of déjà vu that permeated the entire experience from start to finish. In both good and bad ways the game felt like another God of War.
God of War:Ascension(2013)
Acting as a prequel, everything that made the previous entries so memorable was still in place, including puzzles, a more refined and still excellent combat system and the astounding cinematography. But as there was no real growth without a strong narrative or any new additions to gameplay the game had overall started to feel dated in a sense. It’s not hard to understand why the game had started to feel that way after the long run it sustained from 2005 to 2013. Other than a rather mediocre multiplayer, that felt more like it was required to be there rather than an experience the development team actually wanted to add, the game as a whole didn't manage to add too much to the series that stood out in any meaningful way. In a way, just like Kratos, the game couldn't escape its own past.
The series would lie dormant until 2015 when God of War 3 would be re-released on the ps4. I myself had a very hard time coming back to and thoroughly enjoying the remaster as it was still a great game, but having played it so much upon its initial PS3 release I didn’t find much enjoyment in it anymore. Once again I was reminded of my feelings regarding Ascension, these were still good games but I had grown weary of their formula. After rumors had begun to swirl about a new God of War that would see Kratos with a beard and moving on to Norse mythology fans grew excited once again.
A year later God of War would be officially announced at Sony’s E3 2016 press conference, but this wasn’t the game fans had come to expect. Instead fans were shown a game that had more in common with Sony’s other (also excellent) first party IP developed by Naughty Dog, The Last Of Us and even 2017’s feature film Logan. The trailer that was shown was derived of a sizeable section of gameplay from the opening of the game, which showed us a very different Kratos who now once again is a father to a young boy who we see is an integral part of the games new direction. Not long into the reveal we’re shown a game that is both familiar yet vastly different than we had come to expect of a new mainline entry in the series.
The First Official Reveal of God of War(2018)
A Promising Yet Uncertain Future
As we were shown, all the trademark elements of God of War are still in the game just not exactly as we remember them to be. The camera has been pulled in over Kratos’ right shoulder and is now fully controlled by the player, the combat is still as brutal as ever and the cinematography is still beautiful, creating enough change to elements that Sony Santa Monica managed so well before that the game feels vastly different. The entire game, including the storytelling appears to have matured in the hiatus from 2013 to its first reveal in 2016. The game would go on to be revealed as both a sequel to God Of War 3 as well as acting as a soft reboot of the series in a way.
Jumping ahead to the game’s final release in 2018 (a little under a week from the time I’m writing this) very little has been revealed outside of the main story, which revolves around the journey Kratos and his son Atreus embark on to fulfil the final wishes of Atreus’ late mother, and how the new elements work together to make a new vision for a game that could have easily been a carbon copy of previous entries. We see a Kratos that, while still angry as we’ve seen for years now, is also working hard to control that anger that brought him to where we see him now and to teach his son to be better than himself. Similar to The Last of Us and Logan, the story is centered around the relationship between Kratos and Atreus seemingly growing from a cold and distant student teacher relationship to a warmer father son partnership. We see this early on from scenes of Kratos teaching his son to hunt coldly referring to Atreus as “boy” rather than by name, but when the action picks up Kratos commands Atreus to stay back and attack from a distance while he works to keeps the boy safe from harm.
Bold And Meaningful Changes
There are also even bigger changes to how combat works outside of the addition of Arteus as a companion. Kratos no longer uses his signature chain blades but rather a weapon called the leviathan Axe that similar to Thors hammer Mjolnir, can return to kratos on command as well as freeze enemies, a retractable shield and even his bare hands when his axe is out of reach. The combat seemingly focuses on timing and dodging rather than purely stringing together combos in hopes of filling your Spartan rage meter. This seemingly all works together to make combat feel both much more personal as well as make it feel fresh
Aside from the combat, the cinematography again is seemingly just as astounding as before just in a different way as this time the game is one long uncut shot. With this new entry Sony Santa Monica hopes to breathe new life into a series they could have easily moved on from or even just lazily rehashed what worked well before, but by taking the elements of what they did so well before and reworking or revamping them to fit a more modern and mature audience. Reviews for God of War (2018) are unanimously high, but I don’t think this entry will appeal to everyone as story seems to take a focus over action from what we’ve been shown. I personally can’t help but feel excited for the new chapter of such an old franchise that seemingly understands just how drastically it needs to change without losing its identity in the process of doing so.