Kratos recklessly swung his twin blades of Exile through hundreds and hundreds of enemies in 2010’s God of War. His weapon of choice is now a giant magical axe that can freeze enemies, but that is surprisingly one of the least important changes in this majestic soft reboot of the series.
Switching from the familiar series lore of Greek mythology to a brand new backdrop of Norse legends, Kratos has recently buried his wife and must take his young son Atreus on an epic journey that will change them both.
His budding relationship with his son is at the heart of the journey, though you have to work to find some of the optional scenes that give you more insight into how they feel about each other. An example comes early in the journey, when the duo comes across some animal tracks in the mud off the main path.
Atreus correctly identifies the animal that made them, and Kratos quips, “So your mother did teach you something.” The moment then turns into a small one of grief, as both seem to reminisce about some event in the past when they were still a complete family.
It’s missable moments like these that make the game feel like the backstory matters as much as the combat. Taking a page from landscape-defining pioneers like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, the gameplay is wrapped up in a beautifully real story that make this a true experience, rather than just a game.
That’s not to say they slacked off when designing the actual mechanics of the game. Though less over-the-top, the combat is still bone-crunchingly visceral. In addition to the deadly Leviathan axe, Kratos will make use of the Guardian’s shield to parry attacks at just the right moment, or use his bare fists to stun his opponents. Atreus will support you in combat with his bow and arrow, and unique abilities as you complete more of your journey.
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The graphics are also worthy of any current AAA title, with the snow-covered mountains of Midgard looking almost photorealistic, and the various dungeons lovingly rendered. The voice acting is also on point, with the gruff guttural grunts of Kratos provided by veteran actor Christopher Judge conveying more emotion than the literal words might suggest.
God of War has really raised the bar for storytelling in action video games. Whether you enjoy bashing monsters onscreen or not, it’s worth playing through this marvellously entertaining experience.
Disclaimer: This review was written with a review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Hong Kong Limited
Edited by Karly Cox