Eight years have passed since we last saw Kratos. In his last showing, the god of war butchered the entire Greek pantheon into submission. Now with crusted blood on his hands, Kratos finds himself older, with a child, and in an entirely different land.

This year’s God of War takes an ambitious twist to bring its titular god into the new world (literally and figuratively). Despite its reinvention, God of War remains the fun hack-and-slash role-playing game (RPG) that made its predecessors successful.

© SIE Santa Monica Studio

Dad of boy. Tired of Greece, Kratos has migrated and settled down in a homely cabin in Northern Europe. Life is perfect. However, the sudden death of his wife hurtles him into a role he’s not prepared for—single fatherhood. Kratos must wade through Midgard to fulfill his deceased wife’s last wish.

The struggling father has been a tried-and-tested dynamic since The Last of Us (TLOU). Like that game, God of War liberally tugs at your heartstrings while Kratos struggles with his son, Atreus. Thankfully, this game isn’t just a rehash of TLOU or Logan. God of War has its own charming, original, and beating story.

Move over, Hemsworth. Northern Europe plays host to an entirely new pantheon to meet and beat—Norse mythology. God of War is thoroughly steeped in Norse culture. Throughout the entire game, various gods and personalities are introduced, mentioned, and even encountered. Despite its original story, God of War remains mostly accurate to the guidelines of Norse mythology. If you’re familiar with the mythology, you’ll be pleased with the world building in this game.

Also, even if characters already exist within the pantheon, they are still fleshed out with their own in-game personalities. Minus one or two, every character is believable and charismatic. Their presence and growth breathe life into the story.

Movie-like cinematography. Like TLOU, God of War plays like a movie. Despite being “shot” behind Kratos’s back, Midgard is gorgeous. There’s always something in the background, as if it’s all one continuous stage. Further, the camera never leaves Kratos. The game starts and ends with just one shot; there are never any scene cuts. It even uses shaky cam during intense action cutscenes.

Even the game’s “loading screens” are replaced with cut scenes where characters can mingle and discuss in-game lore. There is never any significant downtime.

© SIE Santa Monica Studio

DIY Kratos. Unlike its predecessor’s hack-and-slash style, God of War has evolved into a well-rounded RPG. The game offers an adequate degree of customization for Kratos—armor, attacks, enchantments, talismans. It allows you to customize according to your own play style whether you prefer a glass cannon approach or a tankier build.

Despite the variety, God of War still maintains Kratos’s character. Unlike other RPGs, the game never drowns you in pointless game mechanics. The game play is easy to follow even in the late game.

Dark Souls lite? Beginning players will surely notice how God of War’s combat and difficulty mirror that of popular rage inducer Dark Souls. This time around, the game’s combat is more nuanced, requiring players to space their shots and time their defenses. Like Dark Souls, God of War punishes greediness. It’s no longer just a button-mashing frenzy.

Still, the God of War franchise’s combo-stringing approach shines through. There is still an intense satisfaction with brutally eviscerating zombies with a flurry of combos. God of War maintains a careful balance between patient combat and willy-nilly mashing.

Do your own difficulty. Like other games in its genre, God of War comes in four difficulty flavors—easy, normal, hard, and brutal. Thankfully, it doesn’t force players to pick the harder difficulty over the easier ones. There are no game play elements or rewards hidden behind difficulty levels. You still get the same content regardless of which level you choose. Sadly, that also means that there are no rewards for finishing the game on hard. But that’s only a tiny remark.

Nevertheless, God of War’s difficulty carefully balances out its players’ preferences. The difficulty spikes are not too similar or too outlandish from one another. They each offer their own specific experience based on difficulty.

A trove of optional content. Besides the main story, God of War comes with a host of optional quests and bosses to meet. There’s still so much to do in between missions and after the game. Thankfully, it’s included in a way that doesn’t reek of just game filler. Except for a few collectibles, there’s always a reason or a reward for finishing this content.

Strangely, the game does stumble uneasily when it presents this. Once you reach a certain point, every piece of optional content is unlocked. Basically, you can finish them before even fighting the final boss. However, the game clearly wants you to save them for the post-game, indicated by an endgame message telling you to accomplish them after the end credits. If you finish them beforehand, the game can’t fill in the gap, despite its wish for you to still go exploring. Hopefully, a New Game Plus mode helps this.

Rewarding exploration. Unlike most open world games today, God of War is a delight to get lost in, literally. The game features a hub world that connects to different branches, required and optional. Instead of wasting these branches with useless spaces, every path is filled with treasures and rewards. There’s always a point to straying from the beaten path. Moreover, the game features a lot of backtracking to unlock previously barred locations.

Besides the game’s main world, God of War also allows travel to a lot of other realms. (Norse mythology features nine in total.) Each realm has its own character but remains small enough so as not to overpower the main world.

God of War adds to the lengthy list of PS4 essentials that every gamer should play. It reignites interest towards an old gaming franchise and in Norse mythology in general. It’s a fun experience that’s worth every penny and every second.

Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure, RPG
Mode: Single player
Price: US$59.99 on PlayStation Store (approx. P3,145)

Test: God of War
Value For Money10
9.8Overall Score