God of War (2018) Review


I first played God of War a little over a year ago. Everyone always raged about how good it was and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I got about an hour into the game and decided it wasn’t for me because I didn’t feel like playing through a whole game with a guy being an asshole to a kid. It didn’t seem like it would be a fun time. Well, I’m here today to tell you that we here at The Pretend Gamer were wrong. And by we I mean me and by me I mean that I’m an idiot.

God of War is pretty rad and you should know how serious I am about it because I never use that frickin’ word. It’s so rad, in fact, that I marathoned my way through it during my vacation week when I really should have been playing all of those games I mentioned that I wanted to finish last year. It’s important to note that I never blaze through games as fast as I did with God of War. I don’t know what was different this time around from when I tried to play it before but it held my attention all the way through to the end.

Let’s just get this out of the way first, shall we? Sharp graphics aren’t usually something I look for in a game but, Goddamn, God of War’s graphics are absolutely breathtaking. There were moments when I would stop playing the game just to admire the scenery. I often wondered how in the heck it was possible for a game to look this good. It’s even more impressive when you remember that this game originally came out on the PS4 (I played it on the PS5 by the way) and it looked really good on there too. I really don’t know how they got it to run on that console.

This is a small detail to notice, I know, but I found the snow tech to be mighty impressive. By that I mean the snow actually crumbles like real snow whenever people walked through it. I couldn’t help but admire it. The people over at Santa Monica Studio should be really proud of what they accomplished with this game. The colors and some of the environments are eyepopping. I don’t think I could be any more impressed with a game’s graphics than I am with God of War.

If you can remember what I said a few paragraphs ago then you will know that the characters really didn’t grab me when I first played the game. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth for my second playthrough. God of War, as a series, isn’t really known for its well-developed characters which made it all the more surprising when I found myself becoming enthralled by each character’s arc.

God of War has, in my humble opinion, the best character development out of any game I’ve ever played. And I’m guaranteeing that. I won’t go into specifics because it would spoil too much (even though it is a four-and-a-half-year-old game) but my feelings for certain characters changed wildly depending upon which part of the story I was in. It was very well done and the writers should be commended for their hard work.

It also helps that all of the actors did an amazing job portraying their respective characters. I’m even including the villains in this because they did an amazing job too. It really drew me in and kept my attention that’s for sure. I have to give a special shoutout to the characters Sindri, Brok, and Mimir because they were all really great and they all provided some much-needed comic relief to the game.

I also want to point out that I loved how reactive some of the dialogue was. A great example is when Mimir begins telling a story while riding around in a boat with Kratos and Atreus. If you decide to disembark in the middle of the story, Mimir will say that he’ll save the rest of the tale for later. And, once you get back in the boat, he’ll say something along the lines of “Anyways…” and resume the story where he left off. Atreus will also say certain phrases which seem dependent on where you are and what you are doing.

Yet another example is when and if you decide to take on a group of optional bosses in the game. I won’t say what they are but I want to vaguely mention them to further support my argument. It seemed to me that Mimir will say certain things based off of what order you’ve beaten these bosses in. I could just be making this up but I’m pretty sure I’m right about this. Maybe someone can set the record straight down below!

I suppose I should mention it here but the story is that Kratos sets out on his journey to spread the ashes of his wife on the highest mountain in all the realms. It was her last wish and he decides to take his son Atreus with him because of, let’s say, events beyond his control. Well, it’s more like one event. Or, rather, it’s because of one person. Long story short Kratos takes his son with him. That’s all you really need to know. One thing leads to another and what seems like a simple task quickly becomes something a little more complicated. That’s all I’ll say about it.

Kratos and Atreus

Perhaps the biggest draw of God of War is its combat. Without getting too ahead of myself, I think the combat is awesome. It is very simple at first glance. You have your standard light attack and heavy attack along with blocking and countering with a shield but it goes much further than that. For starters, you can equip special moves using what are called runes to your heavy attack and your light attack. These moves are essentially special abilities which deal a lot more damage than your standard attacks. They also operate on a cooldown so don’t expect to go running into combat while unleashing these attacks whenever you feel like it.

There are a wide variety of these special moves but I have to mention one light attack here before we move on. Can we all agree that the Wrath of the Ancient runic attack is overpowered? I exclusively used this attack for the rest of the game after I had picked it up. I even used it to mow down enemies that were supposed to be a little harder to kill. Although it was hard to aim at certain enemies so I guess it balances it out a little bit. Even still, I never switched to a different light runic attack the last half of the game because of how useful that attack was.

In addition to using the Leviathan Axe in combat, you can also go running into battle with just your fists should you choose to do so. And I chose to do just that because of stun damage. Stun damage is a separate bar from an enemy’s health and it fills up as your hits land. The reason I always went for stun damage is because once that bar is filled, an enemy becomes staggered and you can do a powerful attack which kills most enemies instantly. Larger and tougher enemies don’t die in one hit when they’re staggered but usually allow Kratos to get a few free hits in for extra damage.

Kratos’s son, Atreus, can also do stun damage with his bow which is nice. Not only can he do that but he can also perform special moves which tie enemies up for a few seconds or he can distract them with his bow shots as well. The best part about using Atreus in combat is that you don’t have to worry about his health because he can’t die. This was a very wise decision Santa Monica Studio. I hate having to babysit NPC companions more than anything else and it was so nice not having to worry about Atreus while I was busy beating enemies up.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that experience points can be spent on upgrading runic attacks and can be spent to acquire new skills for Kratos and Atreus. I have to be honest and say that I usually just ran into a fight, threw my axe (you can throw the axe by the way), and started swinging away without worrying about memorizing new moves. I’m really not that good at learning a whole bunch of move sets which is why I don’t play fighting games. I just thought I should mention that you can memorize them if you want to for those of you who like that sort of thing. God of War’s combat is great in that it allows for players like me and those who memorize moves to be successful.

Armor and weapons can be upgraded using the two blacksmiths Brok and Sindri. They can also craft new armor for both Kratos and Atreus as well. Upgrading armor increases a variety of stats like defense, vitality, and even the cooldown meter. Well, it increases the cooldown stat which in effect decreases the amount of time a runic attack needs to cooldown so you can use it again. Make sense? Good.

My only complaint about the equipment and the upgrade system is that there may be too much of it in my opinion. I was constantly picking items up which I then had to check in the menu. This isn’t including the different armor sets which you can craft which also carry their own unique stats and benefits. I had to simply close the menu and just get back to the fighting because I was getting bored staring at lists of stats. Even though I didn’t enjoy looking at stats, I know there is a large group of people out there who love that kind of stuff so I’m glad it’s in here for them.

Atreus will jot down notes on enemies’ weaknesses throughout the journey which can be useful. He only writes them down whenever Kratos does the particular action which reveals said weakness. Even you if you do something like that on accident, he’ll still record it so be sure to look over his notes if you’re having trouble with an enemy.

Speaking of having trouble with an enemy, I absolutely hated the Dark Elves in this game. I was having no trouble mowing down many different types of enemies by the end of the game but every time I ran into Dark Elves, I had all sorts of trouble. I hated those bastards. I never got used to fighting them and, if I remember correctly, I quit playing God of War a year ago when I first encountered the Dark Elves. That’s how much I hate them. They’re assholes.

Watch out for these assholes.

There isn’t much in the way of enemy variety in my opinion but the developers got around that by making several different variants of each enemy type which behave differently and have separate abilities. The game also shakes things up by throwing several different types of enemies at you at the same time which keeps things interesting. The fact that there wasn’t much variety didn’t really bother me too much since it was just so much fun to go in there and start beating things up. Much like Final Fantasy VII Remake, the developers of God of War should be proud that they designed combat that I truly enjoyed doing. That is a rare achievement indeed.

Although I loved everything I’ve talked about thus far, my favorite part of the whole game was the exploration and the completionist aspect of it. I don’t usually 100% games too often because it becomes boring after a while but I really want to do it with God of War. I haven’t finished it completely yet but I look forward to finishing everything over the next few months.

Each area within the game has several different collectibles in it. You can kill Odin’s ravens, open chests, and find pillars with lore written on them just to name a few. There is even a collection of optional bosses which I won’t get into here but let’s just say they’re both frustrating and fun to defeat. What’s nice about God of War is that the game provides a list showing how many of each collectible is in each area. This was also a smart decision Santa Monica Studio. I hate never knowing how many more “things” I need to get in order to complete a collection.

Although I liked the lists, I did encounter a bug in my game involving said lists because it says I still need to kill one more raven in the mountains. This is in spite of the fact that I have unlocked the trophy for killing all of said ravens in the whole game. This was particularly frustrating because I spent over an hour and a half looking for that last raven in the mountains before getting angry and moving on to another area. Whereupon I killed all of the ravens in other areas which prompted the trophy to pop. This was a minor inconvenience in the end because, like I said, I got the trophy but I just wanted to mention it here in case other people were having the same issue.

I kind of wrote this section out of order but screw it let’s just keep going with it. The reason I like the completionist aspect of the game is because it is an offshoot of the exploration. There is a lot to explore in God of War which is surprising because it is a mostly linear experience storywise. It just disguises that fact by having larger, more open areas scattered around everywhere.

And these areas are very well designed if I may say so myself. This is especially true because certain aspects of the environment can and will change throughout the story which effects the exploration in a big way. I’m talking about the area around the Lake of Nine for those of you who have played the game and haven’t figured it out yet. The water will recede further and further down throughout the game and the developers made sure that every single area around the lake would still be accessible no matter how far down the water went. Not only that but there are even more collectibles hidden where the water drains away. This attention to detail and good design won me over big time.

There are even large optional areas located throughout God of War. One memorable area involved investigating a dwarven king’s realm which disappeared one day. It even had its own lore and storylines as well. I was mightily impressed with this since the developers really didn’t have to design and make that whole area. The game would have been fine without it but they went ahead and did it anyways and I applaud their efforts. This kind of stuff is right up my alley.

There are even environmental puzzles scattered throughout God of War as well. These usually involve using the Leviathan axe to hit objects in the environment or using the axe to move levers and the like. Nornir chests are chests which have three runes which must be hit in the environment in order for it to open. It’s a simple idea yet Santa Monica Studio made each one engaging in its own way. I haven’t had this much fun solving environmental puzzles since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I loved every second of it.

Always fun finding these things.

What I have talked about thus far is just the tip of the iceberg as well. That’s right, folks, I’m not done talking about God of War yet. Since this game is based around Norse mythology, Kratos and Atreus can visit different realms from said mythology. Most of the visits to the other realms are story-based but there are two which are entirely optional. Not only are they optional but they are both entirely different from each other.

One is a series of arenas featuring a multitude of combat challenges and I’ve done most of them. I want to point out that I never, ever complete combat challenges in video games. They never hold my interest but they sure did in God of War and that is quite an accomplishment. The second optional realm is a large area with rogue-lite elements. That’s how different both of those places are and, again, the developers didn’t need to add these areas but they did and I greatly appreciate it. I think that shows great initiative on the developers’ part and it shows that they actually care about their game.

In Conclusion:

Alright, I could keep going on and on about God of War but I think I’ll call it there. God of War is awesome if you couldn’t tell from what you’ve read so far. The story, the characters, the exploration, the graphics, the environmental puzzles, and everything else about the game is just fantastic. I was an idiot for putting it down and not finishing it last year. Don’t make my mistake. Do yourself a favor and get out there and play God of War.

Thanks for reading! Have you played God of War? Did you enjoy it? Well, I sure did.

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