God of War is a modern take on Playstation’s classic character Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta, made famous by his bloodlust and desire for revenge against the ancient gods of the Greek mythos.
Kratos was, and still is, an extremely violent and exceptionally angry character throughout the previous God of War games.
And, while Kratos is still the same character he was in the previous games, he has a newfound depth that is explored through the relationship he has with his son and how he is supposed to be a father with such a devastating past.
Kratos and his son, Atreus, are broken individuals that are on a quest to scatter Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother’s ashes atop the highest peak in the Norse land of Midgar.
This deeply personal quest brings humanity to a character who lost all his by killing his family in the past. His quest pushes Kratos to try and relate to his son, even though he has no idea how to do so.
The game features a single steady camera shot with no cutscenes or loading times to help make the game feel like a fluid experience and not like a movie with gameplay bits in between, forcing players to see Kratos in every emotional situation that he goes through.
Everything is smoothly woven together for a cinematic experience as well as gameplay experience that is like nothing to come before.
All of this is supplemented with a fantastic supporting cast that is voice and motion acted phenomenally and provides a great range of personalities to meet throughout the game. Christopher Judge’s booming voice brings Kratos new depth that is not just constantly screaming in rage. Sunny Suljic’s portrayel of Atreus is not just that of an annoying kid, but of a child that misses his recently deceased mother and has issues and questions about his father that may never be answered. Judge and Suljic work perfectly together, and their relationship feels natural and maybe even a little to real at times.
Even though the story and acting is exceptional, a God of War game is nothing without great gameplay and large-scale battles.
Though the combat has changed significantly from the hack-and-slash action game mechanics of the previous titles, it still retains the same intense and brutal combat of the series while also providing a sense of scale that is right in line with God of War games of past.
Kratos has a new weapon this time around, the Leviathan axe, and it cannot be understated how fantastic it is. The ability to upgrade the axe with special attacks and combos, while also being able to throw and recall the axe, much like Thor and his hammer, make for an exceptionally satisfying combat experience that makes players feel powerful and in control.
Along with the fantastic combat, players have the ability to upgrade Kratos’s and Atreus’s armor and weapons. Doing so allows Kratos to deal more damage and take more hits while also allowing Atreus to perform some combos off of the attacks that Kratos performs. These small RPG mechanics do not feel cumbersome, rather, they are a welcome change of pace that provides a reason to explore the world, allowing players to find specific crafting parts to build new gear.
Atreus is a key to the success of God of War. I was skeptical of Atreus, and thought that he would get in the way of combat and I would constantly have to look after him to make sure he did not get killed in the middle of big fights. This was not the case.
Atreus is essentially unkillable and is always a helpful hand to have in combat. When upgraded, he can perform some very cool tricks, such as jumping off of Kratos’s back to shoot arrows after a heavy attack, that not only look incredible but actually help win fights and, in some cases, save the player’s life.
Atreus also provides much of the world building throughout the game. He will read runes scattered across the land, giving players greater insight into the world of the Norse gods. He will ask meaningful and impactful questions while traveling across the land that gives a deeper look into the past of Kratos and his actions. Atreus is a great partner to have and, by the end of the game, he has secured a place as one of my favorite sidekicks of all time.
Atreus is most successful not as a gameplay mechanic, but as a tool to bring humanity to Kratos, a character that many fans believed would never escape his rage and blood-fueled existence.
Atreus is Kratos’s son, no plot twists there, and Kratos struggles to understand how to be a father. Kratos fears his past inhibits his ability to become a good father, as he blindly slaughtered his former wife and daughter and also killed his father, Zeus, in the previous trilogy.
The relationship between Kratos and Atreus is one of the biggest accomplishments of God of War, and their development as father and son is worth playing the game alone.
God of War is a modern marvel of the video game industry and has set the bar for what video games can and should be.
A masterful woven tapestry of gameplay, story and visual fidelity, God of War takes every expectation players have for it and not only fulfills it but greatly surpasses it to be one of the greatest video games ever made. A triumph, in short, and developer Sony Santa Monica should be praised for their accomplishment.
Braxton Coats is a senior computer science major from Raleigh, North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter at @brxcoats22.
Screenshots by: Q Russell, Opinion Editor