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Published on May 31st, 2018 | by Ian Goodwillie


God of War

Video games are as susceptible to hype as anything else. God of War has a lot of hype surrounding it. It’s great, but not perfect.

Hype can really mess with your expectations. And there was a lot of hype surrounding the new God of War game, particularly from the usual suspects in video game reviewing. Many of them gave this game a perfect, or damn near perfect, score. And while this is a fantastic game, calling it perfect is a little much.

If you’re not familiar the PlayStation exclusive God of War series, you probably play games solely on an iteration of the Xbox. It tells the story of Kratos who was, ostensibly, a really angry Spartan with a bone to pick. And who was he picking that bone with? The Greek gods, of course.

The arc of the first era of games that were released between 2005 and 2013 focused on Kratos pursuing his trademarked brand of rage fueled vengeance on various gods and titans. He moves from being in their service to annihilating them, with each title letting you guide Kratos through a different time in his life. By the end of God of War III, the narrative end of the series released in 2010, Kratos has all but eliminated the gods and has walked away from the shattered remains of Mount Olympus. And that leads us to 2018’s God of War.

Kratos has left his life, Greece, and Olympus behind, settling in Scandinavia before the era of the Vikings. Kratos is an older, wiser family man who is trying to live a relatively quiet life.

Until a stranger shows up on his doorstep.

That man quite naturally turns out to be a Norse god and proceeds to fight Kratos, who is still up to the challenge of laying a whupping on an out of control god. Once again, Kratos has an uphill battle against several notable mythological names, though his goal is quite different.

This is a different Kratos with a different life. The Kratos of old was fueled by his festering desire to avenge his dead family, kind of like a magic version of the Punisher without the guns. This older, more mature Kratos has a son and a recently deceased wife but his actions are not about vengeance. They’re more rooted in a strong desire to live a peaceful existence while he attempts to honor his late wife’s wishes and raise his son, Atreus. He is forced to fight for it as the Norse gods descend on him for somewhat vague reasons that will most likely be elaborated on in future games.

At this point, the Norse gods attack Kratos because…well, it seems like mainly because they just don’t really want him around. Kratos doesn’t always bring the best out in his fellow gods, regardless of where he travels.

Beyond the story, there are also differences in the gameplay. Where the old games were, for the most part, button mashers, the 2018 iteration has bit more nuance and thought into the combat. And Atreus adds a new element to that. He can be used in combat, and can also be upgraded and modified uniquely.

For all that’s different, there’s a lot that still the same. You still solve puzzles to open chests that give you elements to expand your health bar and more. You piece together a mysterious story based in mythology while bashing your way through it. And it is a good story. The narrative of the 2018 game has a lot more going on in it than previous iterations. His is story not purely of vengeance but of family. And the world they’ve crafted to play it out in is the most gorgeous and engaging of the franchise.

But for everything that works, this is not a perfect game.

It flirts back and forth with the state of Kratos. Sometimes, he’s a broken down old warhorse that may not be up to the challenge. And other times, he’s the Kratos of old, with seemingly no limitations to his rage and capabilities. When and why you get each version Kratos is at the convenience of the story and gameplay vs. cut scene, and doesn’t always make sense. While there are options in how to modify your characters and grow them, the story and how you complete it is still quite linear. That chafes a bit in this era of sandbox games. The developer has created an amazing world with less opportunity to explore it than you’d like.

Ultimately, none of these issues are so detrimental to the game that they ruin the experience of playing it. But when framed by a barrage of media outlets declaring it virtually perfect, they start sticking out like sore thumbs.

If you haven’t tried the new God of War, yet, let it be for a while longer. Let the hype die down before you dig into it. The game is more than worth the time you’ll put it into it.

Just don’t go looking for the perfect game.

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About the Author

Ian Goodwillie

is an established freelance writer, a regular contributor to both Prairie books NOW and The Winnipeg Review. He also writes two blogs that very few people pay attention to, a Twitter feed no one follows, and film scripts that will never see the light of day. He is very fulfilled by his career choice.

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