God of War (PS4 Reboot(ish))

The God of War franchise on Playstation has long been a rage fueled button mashing spectacle action series. You played Kratos, a Spartan commander who is sucked into the games of the gods and pays an incomprehensible price. That launched him on a quest for vengeance fueled by pure anger. After many bloody adventures and achieving god levels of power several times, he ran out of enemies to kill and discovered that vengeance doesn’t solve everything. He leaves the world of Greece and its mythology behind.

That's a big snake.
I’m glad we have a head that speaks ancient snake.

The new God of War picks up years later. Kratos is in the frozen Norse north. His wife has just died. He and his son are gathering wood for her funeral pyre. It’s instantly clear that everything has changed.

While the game starts slowly, the funeral kicks off a quest that soon erupts into bloody violence. Kratos has been peaceful for so long he actually starts out pretty weak. Combined with the radically different combat, I felt wildly inadequate for the beginning of the game. Nearly any enemy in the game can kill you. You have to dodge attacks and respond with precision. Initially, none of this feels like God of War. Once you accept the changes, surprising depths are revealed.

There are RPG stats to improve, weapons, runes, armor and abilities to upgrade. There are abilities to unlock. Even your son can be upgraded. Well, his skills, weapons, armor and abilities can be improved.  This means the combat system keeps getting deeper as  you continue on your quest. 


Eventually, you’ll unlock realm travel which lets you visit places like Alfheim, home of the elves.  This opens up new enemies to fight.  If this were the previous God of War series that would be enough.  This Kratos has learned to love again after being filled with rage for so long. He now has a son to protect, teach, and learn to love.   Of course, they’re both dealing with the loss of Kratos’ wife, Fey.  

It becomes clear that Fey knew they both needed this journey after her death.  Figuring out what is involved with this quest and where it will lead drive the pair to meet interesting characters including dwarves, witches, giant snakes and Norse gods. To complete this quest, they’ll have to grow stronger and grow together despite seemingly endless obstacles put in their way.

Upgraded Armor
Fancy new duds.

It’s really this story of a bonding journey that sets this new God of War apart.  Kratos and his son, Atreus, are real characters who grow and change.  They see the good, the bad and the pain in the world.  They work to try to make things better along the way.  Sure, they make mistakes along the way, but that doesn’t stop them.  They overcome.  They make allies.  They get stronger.  Slowly they progress along their journey.  

I didn’t expect a personal, involved story, deep and flexible combat and an emotional attachment to the events of the story from a God of War game.  It surprised without losing any of the fun (once I got over the initial learning curve).  Highly recommended.

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