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God of War as a series hadn’t really evolved from the 2005 original and Kratos was one of the most badly written and 1-dimentional characters in gaming, a raging spartan warrior whose sole purpose in life was to rip everything he saw to shreds, not thinking of consequences, existing purely to get revenge on those who wronged him and as a weapon at your disposal.
But what happens when that revenge cycle is over? What does a man do when do when his only reason for living is over? The new God of War game reveals that Kratos has retired to Midgard to get away from the trials and tribulations of Gods. Or so he thinks.
The main plot of God of War is that after Kratos’ new wife, Faye, passes, he is left to be a full-time father to rather reserved young boy, Atreus. The main quest is to spread Faye’s ashes on the tallest peak in the land, but this being a story driven game, it isn’t that simple. Won’t say any more, you’ll just have to play the game.
The one thing that really struck me about Kratos as a character is how much he’s grown since the previous games. As I mentioned earlier, Kratos used to be just a weapon but now he’s been fleshed out. He still has his trademark God of War rage but in this new matured version, he supresses his urge to act out, instead coming across in a cold and distant manner towards everyone, especially Atreus, Kratos uses his pent-up aggression mentor his son through a harsh world of demons and challenges. Making Kratos’ trademark rage a ‘personality defect’ of sorts was a genius move from Sony Santa Monica, giving us less of a video game character and more a man, someone who considers the consequences of his actions.
There are some real issues for Kratos at the very heart of this game. He starts to question weather he is just a coldblooded killer who butchers everything in his path? The question of weather he can ever feel or love again is one that he struggles with throughout the game, and as a visualisation of this entire idea in one image, we see Kratos reach out and try to bond with Atreus multiple times, but always pulling away at the last second.
Watching Kratos nurture Atreus does come across as a bit weird at first because of past experiences with God of War, but thanks to such natural writing, excellent voice acting and absolutely stunning animation, it’s easy to get completely sucked in to the pairs journey and buy into their growth as father and son. Kratos carries a mountain of self-pity and a massive level of grief that only the innocence of Atreus can help him with. Atreus too has his own issues to deal with that might have set him on a very different path if not for Kratos mentoring him.
The story takes through many realms other than the home realm of Midgard, such as Alfheim, Helheim, Nilfheim and Jotunheim. Each realm is filled with various puzzles and a plethora of formidable opponents and there’s always areas blocked off at the first time of visiting, making you want to revisit the realms when you’ve acquired the necessary skills.
With Atreus fighting by your side, getting more and more skilful as the game progresses, firing arrows and choking your enemies with his bow. Kratos prefers to wield his leviathan axe nowadays, which function very differently to the trademark Blades of Chaos. The axe also comes with a satisfying ability to summon it back to your hand, like Thor’s hammer, a move that never grows old.
And I’ll be honest, the combat in general doesn’t grow old either. The new over-shoulder camera brings you into the immediate battle and blocks your view as a consequence, meaning you have to look out for the flashing red arrows or listen to Mimir’s warnings. The basic set of close-range combat and runic attacks can be upgraded by using experience points.
If there is one bad point I could find, it would be the final fight with the primary antagonist, it isn’t the worst in the world but feels like more of the same from the boss battle stand point. He’s great from a narrative stand point and I’m sure some of the revelations with shock you and thankfully the game as a whole offers more than enough to make up for this short coming.
In conclusion, God of War does stay true to the originals and along with Kratos, recalling the past but acknowledging that he needs to improve. Everything new is there for the better, while everything that remains benefits as a result, trust me there’s a massive throwback that made me feel such nostalgia. With this reboot, God of War walks a new path that has made this one of the best games I have played and dare I say it, one of the best story-driven games ever.