As one of the most popular Playstation exclusives of all time, Kratos – everyone’s favourite God of War has landed on Nordic shores in his latest outing, the first departure from his rampages centred in Greek mythology that put him in the same leagues as Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet and Clank. But will his latest adventure live up to his past glory?
The God of War gained renown back on the Playstation 2 many years ago with Kratos’ first outing, full of magical powers, blades chained to the protagonist’s arms that basically turned into a death-dealing whirlwind and the ability to rampage across parts of Ancient Greece slaughtering creatures and Gods alike.
In this reviewer’s opinion however – it always felt a bit shallow. Kratos had a bit of a dark and brooding backstory with him having murdered his family and what not; but outside of his own occasional scream that he’d done that, the plot was simple: find Gods, get vengeance on Gods, ergo, kill Gods.
In this most recent outing however, Kratos has become a father. Is this enough to add depth to his formerly more two-dimensional ‘hack and slash’ self?
The game opens with a streamlined tutorial section, easing you into the game. Kratos is chopping down trees marked with a golden hand print, his twin chained blades gone and only a one-handed (although still very sizeable) axe to his name. His otherworldly strength still hasn’t departed but he looks more wizened from the offset, lines now effect his formerly smooth face and a gruff, grizzly beard adorns it. His new voice actor now reflects his beard as well, a rougher voice now comes out from our hero (if you can call him this) when he deigns it necessary to utter a few phrases.
Kratos’ son, Atreus is aiding as best he can in this lumberjack endeavour as they paddle their boat (massive tree tied to the back) back to their humble abode. As they arrive, the purpose of the trees is revealed and an unexpected visit from an unwelcome stranger turns Kratos and Atreus into the wild – with our reluctant God learning how to father as best he can on the fly.
Immediately, the story feels deeper and more involved than any of the previous outings with some moments even bordering on touching as they intersperse Kratos best efforts to mutilate the Nordic undead, tear people in half and crush the troll’s heads under their own hammers. This may however, be in part to Atreus’ role as they storyteller of the piece. Kratos being a man of few words, the lore-rich world is detailed to us by his son, a knowledge hungry boy with a penchant for myths and stories.
Kratos’ retains his unclear, relatively unaccented voice from former titles and the rest of the cast of the game have predominantly Nordic or Celtic voice actors – a great touch for immersion of the story. Atreus however, like so many young game characters is distinctly American, a point which grated on me for the first few hours before I shrugged it off amidst trying to control a group of enemies all hell-bent on ripping me apart.
On that note, combat is now far more complex than older titles. Crowd control is important and away from his own God-realm of Olympus, Kratos is easier to kill meaning simply twirling blades until everything is pureed won’t get you far. There’s an engaging mix of thrown/ranged attacks with axe being your main form and unarmed fists and kicks filling where needed; such as when you’ve lodged your axe in an enemy’s skull so you can punch his sidekick to bits…
World design in the game also bears some serious attention. The attention to detail is stunning as you progress from lush groves where leaves rustle underfoot to snowy peaks where the movement is accurately and painstakingly carved into the knee-deep snow.
The game has received a lot of hype, as to be expected after the long hiatus of a fan favourite and with the length of this story dwarfing the 8-10 hour run time of its predecessors with over 30 hours of potential gameplay – there’s a whole new epic world out there. This reviewer hopes this isn’t the last we see of Kratos, as there’s plenty more to do in Midgard.
Author: Steve, Chiswick store