Hands-on with God of War

I had the privilege of playing a couple of hours of God of War, which is coming soon to your PS4 on 22 March. Here’s some information and impressions to give you a glimpse into this awesome game before you step up to challenge the Norse gods yourself.

Something Familiar, Yet Different

At its heart, the God of War series is basically a collection of action-adventure games centered around Kratos. Each entry offers pulse-quickening and intensive combat, as well as several customisation and upgrade options to play Kratos the way you want to play. The latest God of War game is no different in this respect.

Kratos and Atreus

However, when we delve deeper into the character of Kratos, all similarities with past games end. Kratos is no longer filled with rage all the time and hellbent on vengeance. We see a smarter, wiser, and more worn-out Kratos, who has found a new purpose for himself – To be a good father to his son, Atreus. Kratos is shown to be much more restrained as he does not wish for the taint of rage to pass down to Atreus. He teaches Atreus about godhood, and Atreus in turn teaches Kratos about being human.

The setting is vastly different as well. Gone are the familiar Greek gods and mythology, replaced by a colder, more somber Nordic setting. The journey of Kratos in this game is one of traversing to the highest peak in Norse realms to spread the ashes of Atreus’ mother. To fully capture the atmosphere of the Nordic realms, the development team spent long periods of time reading up on Norse mythology and made a visit to Iceland. Much of Iceland’s breathtaking landscapes can be seen in the game.

Getting My Butt Whooped

Gameplay wise, there are several departures from the previous instalments. Most noticeably, the enemies are smarter and more tactical, and don’t feel like robotic sacks of hit points like in previous games. My first encounter in the game had Draugr (the basic minions) move to flank me so that they can land hits from blindspots while I’m distracted by their ally. Playing on the second-highest difficulty setting, this is particularly deadly as each hit whittled down my health pool by about a third.

Kratos vs Draugr

The one boss fight I tackled was particularly challenging as well, partly due to the difficulty setting I chose and partly due to his unpredictable movements. Without spoiling too much, the boss I fought would alternate between a sweeping attack, a linear slam, and an area of effect stomp. These did not come in predictable patterns, and sometimes he would fire off several sweeping attacks in a row to catch me off guard. It also didn’t help that I would essentially die in two hits as each attack would take out about 70% of my hp.

Santa Monica Studio, the developers, made the deliberate choice of freeing up the camera. This is a departure from previous games where the player was constantly locked onto Kratos’ back. This change made combat much more fluid, tactical, and immersive, putting you into the shoes of Kratos as he deals with overwhelming odds from all sides.

Kratos teaching Atreus to hunt

Finally, a game-changing addition is the utility of Atreus as a support weapon of sorts. Atreus is equipped with a bow and serves as a useful distraction as well as a source of damage. Using Atreus felt natural and intuitive, and he didn’t suffer from the “annoying npc companion” syndrome. He opens up a lot of tactical opportunities that makes combat that much more interesting.