God of War: First Impressions

If you are interested to hear what Aaron Kaufman, Santa Monica Studio’s Senior Community Strategist, had to share about God of War, head over here for our interview! And check out what God of War felt like to a fresh pair of eyes that are new to the series!

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God of War has a lot to live up to – over five years in development, a huge team behind it at Santa Monica Studios, carrying the hopes and dreams of the numerous God of War fans around the world.

This could easily be the make-or-break entry for the 13-year-old franchise, and based on an exclusive experience of the first three hours of the game, players are in for a treat.

Since its 2016 reveal at E3, with a different looking Kratos and his son, Atreus, players knew that this sequel marked a significant departure from the old games. The titular character is no longer purely driven by vengeance – Kratos has grown older, wiser, and stronger in the undetermined amount of time since he left the Greek pantheon in ruins, and arrived in the Nordic lands.

More importantly, his son is his world. He recognises rage as a disease of being a God, and he is deathly afraid of passing it onto Atreus. It’s easy to lose control and pummel everything to a pulp, to be measured in one’s actions is much harder.

God of War is ultimately the growing journey of the duo, of Kratos teaching Atreus about the godhood he shunned, and Atreus teaching Kratos about the humanity he lost. And it runs through the game in every way.

In between bouts of full-blown action that has been made more impactful, visceral, and spectacular with the new over-the-shoulder camera, players catch glimpses of the new dynamic between father and son, of a distant father struggling to guide a son that’s desperate to prove himself worthy of being a celestial offspring.

It is a familiar relationship that plays out, with Atreus trying his best but never quite meeting the high standards of Kratos. Often admonished, it is only through overcoming obstacles and a journey fraught with danger that a more familial relationship is formed.

Kratos is every bit as powerful as you remember him to be, sans the Blades of Chaos. Armed with the Leviathan Axe (which inspired the accompanying PS4 Pro console), he hacks, cleaves, and destroy like the God of War would.

It is always satisfying to execute your foes with brute strength or send them flying into trees and mountainsides with a swing or a punch.

Atreus is no slouch either, as he is expressly not an escort mission. His bow can help distract enemies, do elemental damage, and provide snippets of worldbuilding through his dialogue. Be it combat or puzzles, he is essential to the core experience. Without Atreus, this is an entirely different game and a lesser one at that.

It certainly helps that both the enemy and environmental designs are top notch. The duo will face fantastical creatures throughout their adventure, but the foes also feel more real and grounded in reality, with every bit of personality as their godly counterparts.

The Draugrs shamble and overwhelm with numbers, while Fire Trolls throw their weight and flames around as they should.

Santa Monica’s take on the Norse mythos and world is realized beautifully, with sweeping vistas of snow-covered plains and towering peaks bringing the world of God of War to life in a stunning fashion.  Coming face to face with a Norse god of sorts in the demo certainly threw out some expectations.

God of War is already a frontrunner for one of the most graphically gorgeous games of 2018, and this is a preview build we’re experiencing! However, it is important to note that the build was running on a PS4 Pro, so the jury’s out on its performance on the normal PS4.

It would not be a God of War game without upgrades, and this entry marks a more RPG-like approach to upgrading. There’s a levelling system that involves weapons, armour, loot, crafting, and skills.

All which can be upgradable through XP and resources found in the world and even Atreus gets his own skill tree for players to truly customise the way they fight.

There are also runic gems that can enable special attacks, giving you more strategies to open a fight. And as we learned, there’s definitely more to find and options to consider with combat being integral to the game.

Collectables also make a return, and are not just for health/mana upgrades. Of course, these remain, but there are also a ton of other secrets hidden that can flesh out the world and universe of God of War, and for the dedicated player out there that wants to learn the lore, you would do well to seek out more Jötnar shrines and runes to translate, amongst many others.

In just a short session, God of War has managed to both subvert and surpass my expectations of a current-gen entry in a beloved series. It feels right at home, yet it is also an evolved experience that belongs in today’s gaming landscape.

The focus on combat, exploration, and more notably, narrative, are the three pillars of God of War for Santa Monica Studios, and if the demo is any indication, Santa Monica Studios has done it and more. Here’s hoping that everything from the demo carries on for the full 25-35 hours one can expect when they try out God of War on April 20.

If you are interested to hear what Aaron Kaufman, Santa Monica Studio’s Senior Community Strategist, had to share about God of War, head over here for our interview

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