If you’re looking for a spolier-free post then the first part of this post is OK. I’ll put up a warning when it gets to the story stuff.
Like many others I was very excited to play the new God of War game when it came out a couple of weeks ago. I’m a big fan of the franchise so my expectations were high and I was not disappointed, it’s an incredible game. I really love it. Being such a big fan of the first three games however is making it impossible for me to not compare them or pick it apart a little bit. Having just finished the main story of the game I am ready to dissect and discuss, so please indulge me as I get my small frustrations off my chest before delving into the good stuff.
First and Foremost… Boss Battles
This is absolutely the worst aspect of God of War. At the beginning of the game you will have a boss battle with this dude, who will try and beat you up with a log.
It was a fun, reasonably challenging battle. Not a bad boss, no? As tutorial bosses go, he’s pretty decent. Right? RIGHT?! Good, so we agree. And boy, are you in luck – because almost every single boss battle will be this exact same fight, but with some new gimmick. How about Ice troll? Fire troll? Both fire and ice troll at the same time? Teleportation troll…? The list goes on.
Need a sub-boss? How about an ogre? This guy will show up a lot too, in various locations and situations, sometimes with the fire/ice gimmick to shake things up a little.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the countless Draugr that will show up when you’re fighting Log Dude #537, to make something that would normally be reasonably challenging doubly difficult in a really dissatisfying way. You’re being constantly assaulted on every side by endlessly spawning minions, that just end up annoying and distracting you from the main enemy, artificially inflating the difficulty of the fight, and making the boss seem way harder and more challenging than it actually is. Yeah, in the previous games they had the undead soldiers, which were basically the Draugr, but they almost helped you in battle sometimes – you could swing them at the bigger enemy to deal more damage, or they’d drop health orbs (the Draugr do too, but far less frequently.)
I just don’t get it… In previous God of War games you had a wonderful assortment of monsters – Minotaurs, Sirens, Chimaeras, Gorgons, Satyrs, Centaurs, Hellhounds, Harpies… I could literally go on for ever. They took everything they could find from Greek mythology and put it in a game and it was wonderful. I appreciate that maybe mythical beasts and beings may not be as abundant in Norse Mythology as in Greek mythology (I don’t know if that’s the case) but… You couldn’t find anybody besides Terry “The Log” Trollzilla to serve as a boss? Even for the Bridge Keeper in Hel? Really??? Maybe they’re saving up the monsters for the sequel (which there had better be by the way, I’m fully invested in the story) but it just comes across as ridiculously lazy in a game which has obviously had so much love and care poured into the rest of it.
Finally, boss battle Quick Time Events… There aren’t any. I appreciate they are not for everyone but trust me when I say that they would have added something here. (Brief spoilers here, skip to next paragraph) In one part, for example, you kill a dragon… I’m sorry, I mean Kratos kills a dragon, while you watch. In the old games they would have had QTEs that would have at least made it feel like you were helping, but not here. After chucking small bombs at a dragon’s nostril for a while, I got to sit back and watch a visually fantastic scene of Kratos doing all these killer moves that apparently I am not worthy of executing myself. The same goes for most big boss fights to be honest (by “big”, I mean on one of the three occasions when you have a fight with someone besides a troll). I want to do all the cool stuff…
Yeah, these aren’t a thing any more…
Kratos Gets Crafty
Let’s make something clear so that I don’t sound like some idiot screaming “I DON’T LIKE CHANGE” at the slightest thing that happens to my beloved franchise. I am embracing the God of War change. I like the addition of a little (surprisingly not annoying) sidekick, the beard, the option to explore the world a little more, the voice actor change. I think all of that is wonderful, I can even get on board with the switch of the chains to the axe, but… Crafting. No. Don’t do that. I don’t want to craft all my stuff.
Please don’t make me… I’ve never been that into the crafting side of games and, having recently re-played the third God of War, I didn’t realise how much I appreciated the simplicity of ‘here is your weapon, kill stuff, level up the weapon. It’s now more powerful and here are more attacks’. Now there are two dwarves (brilliant characters by the way, particularly Sindri, he’s my favourite) that have set up a shop almost everywhere I go, and it seems like every time I see them they have more stuff for me to buy or more that I can upgrade. That’s not all though – before I can upgrade or craft this cool equipment, I need to find the stuff to do that.
So maybe I spend an extra hour rooting around the Nine Realms, looking for an extra bundle of Soft Sfuiurlkt Steel and Bottled Ice Giant Farts, which will let me craft the Inscribed Pauldron of Parental Scowling. Unfortunately, by the time I manage to find all these things, there’ll be something even better in the shop now – for which I’m missing two Dragon Whiskers and a fistful of snowflakes. I also can’t count the amount of times I bought something from the shop with my precious resources, only to find something better in literally the next chest I opened.
I imagine that the reasoning behind all this is that they want you to craft armour depending on your play style, and I’m totally on board with that. I appreciate that some people enjoy the crafting side of games, I think it’s just that there’s a lot of that about at the moment in the gaming world and I don’t always want to think about that. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t spent an hour of the game in the same set of armor, and I bet you that at least a quarter of my play time is spent shopping/crafting.
I Got Skillz… They’re Multiplying
On a similar ‘too much stuff’ note, skills are the other thing that’s getting on my nerves a little… Just look at this:
Not too bad? OK, so maybe at first glance you’re like “ah that’s fine” but almost every single one of those shapes is a new move AND those 4 diamonds in the top left corner? At least one more skill tree for different weapons. That’s so many! It’s great that I have the choice but… My brain can’t handle all that! I generally end up slipping into a generic R1, R1, R2 combo mixed in with a random move I just read about but will forget after this battle, some blocking and, when I remember them, my runic attacks… And it’s working. I don’t actually need any of these moves (except the guard break move). I wish I could remember more of his move repertoire because most of them look so cool but in all honesty if I ever do something that looks super cool it is usually totally by accident and I won’t remember how I did it. Plus Atreus (the son) is off to the side waiting for me to push “square” to command him to fire arrows. Something I’ll totally forget about until halfway through a battle.
You also level these skills by spending experience points on them, and this might just be me, but I ended up forgetting about the skill tree for a while then coming to it with tons of points, draining them all into as many skills as I could (about 8 at a time) and then promptly forgetting about them almost immediately.
Wait… What? *Spoiler Alerts!*
Finally, my last negative point. Occasionally something out-of-place would happen in the story that jarred me slightly and, due to the otherwise totally smooth flow of the rest of the story, it would annoy me. Two bits in particular stood out here: The first one being Sindri making mistletoe arrows for Atreus, only for them to be angrily grabbed and burned by the Witch of the Woods who tells you they’re “evil”. OK, so next time we see Sindri we’re going to have some words, right? “How dare you give my son evil arrows! Are you trying to sabotage our mission? What’s going on?” But no… They were never mentioned again until much later in the story. The second bit was sweet-natured, kind, do-gooder Atreus finding out the nature of his heritage and just really suddenly, with literally no preamble, getting really cocky, snobby, and downright nasty about it… Then suddenly recovering and being back to normal a bit later. I can kind of get over the Atreus thing, I mean it would take a lot more time to turn a characters’ personality around like that and then back again normally, we only have a 25 hourish game here. There’s no excuse for the arrows though, that really got to me and made me suspect Sindri of being a spy or assassin or something for ages and every time I spoke to him it just frustrated me that no one was mentioning it like it had never happened.
Ok… So now that the negative stuff is out the way allow me to revel in all that is good about this game.
Story Time *Spoiler Alert*
Oh the story… I constantly wanted to know what happened next, I was always theorising about what I thought was going to happen – is Atreus really Kratos’ son? What does Baldur want from them? Why is Odin being such a dick? I was totally absorbed in it. The dialogue and characters were a huge part of this incredible storytelling, I have never seen a game with such smooth and interesting dialogue.
This really got good for me when you meet Mimir, who joins you on your quest, and is definitely the best character. He’s witty, sarcastic, and fun. Time in the boat is story time, and while Kratos used to be the storyteller before they met Mimir, he wasn’t that good at it. So Atreus will ask Mimir a question relating to your quest (“How come Baldur can’t feel pain?” “Who is this person?” etc) and Mimir will tell you a tale (an as-true-to-legend-as-possible tale, as far as I know) as you row to your next destination. As soon as you dock the boat, Mimir will finish his sentence and then say something like “We’ll finish this up later though!” and sure enough next time you get in the boat he’ll pick up right where he left off, after a quick re-cap.
I found myself just stopping the boat and chilling for a bit if I arrived at my destination while he was in the middle of a story just so that I could hear the end. I was so into it that after finishing the game I bought Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology book so that I could learn a bit more!
If you need even more convincing: my other half has recently purchased Dark Souls 3, and he is very into the Soulsborne games. He’d usually be playing that while I was on God of War – but more often than not, I’d glance over to see Splormp McBones standing idly in Firelink Shrine, and Dan’s eyes fixed on my screen rather than his own.
Characters and Dialogue
Building on what I was saying above, the voice actors are just brilliant. Kratos’ new voice actor, Christoher Judge, nailed it, as did the kid that voices Atreus. Due to my slight
fear dislike of children I was really worried that he’d be annoying but he wasn’t at all. As stated above, Mimir is my favourite character and that is mainly due to his perfect voice acting from Alastair Duncan. However some of the bits I found myself most looking forward to were the interactions between Kratos and Sindri, the germaphobic dwarf blacksmith. Being a man of few words, Kratos never says more than he needs to, and putting him into situations with the chatty dwarf made for some great humour throughout the game.
This game is absolutely gorgeous. It is the best looking game I have ever seen by far, the clouds in the sky look real, so do the mountains in the distance. I felt like I was on holiday, pausing to take screenshots every now and again and just spending a minute to take all the scenery in when going to a new area. I think that the prettiest location was Alfheim. I could have just stared at it for ages.
There’s also so much minute attention to detail. I mean just look at the video above. You can see fluff from Kratos’s armour lining, the lines on the axe, even the way the stone looks is so natural and real.
You know what? I’m going to be that person that makes you watch a slideshow of my holiday pictures. Just take a look at some of these beauties…
So in conclusion…
Do I love this game? Oh yeah, I adore this game. Please don’t mistake my larger critical section as game-destroying critiques because they aren’t. It’s just really hard for me to talk about the good stuff without revealing too many spoilers, and it’s easier to fault something than to praise it. I really can’t wait to finish everything. Now that I’ve done the main story I can get onto killing some Valkyries and finishing up my side quests. It’s incredibly fun to play, it’s great to look at and I’m hooked. I may moan about the little bits I’m not keen on but they’re really not big flaws for me (though I’m hoping that they were holding back on boss fights because they want to save a larger variety for future instalments…) One thing’s for sure, if the next game comes out, and half an hour in a troll pops up to offer me a bite of his log, I will not be happy. For now though, I’m going to go get my butt kicked by some Valkyries!