Wednesday, March 6, 2019

God of War (PlayStation 4)

God and Boy

The year 2005 saw the debut of the action-adventure, hack-and-slash God of War franchise, developed mostly by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio and initially focusing on Greek mythology, with God of War on the PlayStation 2, becoming one of the company’s flagship series. The game would have several sequels, a few on the PS3 and some spinoffs on the PlayStation Portable. The latest release of the franchise on the PlayStation 4, again titled God of War, ships the mythological focus to Norse mythology, although there are occasional references to Hellenic mythos, and the game itself is generally a good effort.

Protagonist Kratos begins armed only with an axe that the player can upgrade with the right materials and currency at rival dwarf siblings’ blacksmiths, players also able to upgrade his son Atreus’ bow for an added damage boost against enemies, not to mention both father and child’s armor. Kratos ultimately gains chained knives, fire-based in addition to his ice-based axe, the player able to toggle among them and his fists and shield, sometimes necessary against various foes. God of War further features some RPG elements such as experience to unlock skills for the father and son, although one can find it difficult to keep track of all available moves, some of which can prove advantageous in combat.

While combat is generally enjoyable, and there are some handy moves such as Kratos being able to do an about-face with the down directional button, a mini-map indicating him, his son, and nearby enemies and what direction they were facing, would have definitely been welcome, instead of the vocal cues from Atreus and partway through the game, Mimir. While the game does have arrows surrounding Kratos noting the relative directions of foes if they’re not on the screen, the camera, as is the case with most 3-D action games good and bad, creates issues nonexistent in titles of the same genre in two dimensions. Even so, there are some definite anti-frustration features such as occasional mid-boss checkpoints reducing repeated gameplay somewhat.

In addition to the camera, there are other annoyances in control such as the lack of apparent indicators as to whether the game is saving, and while the player can manually save, doing so doesn’t always preserve current progress. Many puzzles abound, too, but one can find it easy to get stuck, given the unobvious nature of many solutions to said conundrums. Dialogue during 99% of cutscenes is also unskippable, sure to turn off hearing-impaired players, although some speech comes during exploration that isn’t intrusive. Regardless, the developers could have given this aspect a once-over.

The Nordic-themed storyline isn’t too bad, with some twists as to the heritage of Kratos and his son, but is full of redundant dialogue, and, as is expectant of a game focusing on mythological deities, deus ex machina, and Kratos himself is generally a jerkass who almost never calls his child by name.

Western games tend to feature lackluster soundtracks and rely on ambience most of the time, and God of War is no exception in this area, with music mostly only during combat and cutscenes, although none of the tracks are memorable or catchy. The voice acting is mostly good, although there are some oddities such as Mimir sounding Scottish instead of Nordic, and ultimately, the aurals don’t detract from the game, but aren’t abysmal.

The graphics are definitely one of the game’s highlights, with a noticeable lack of jaggies or pixilated textures, not to mention good character designs and believable models for the various races seen throughout the game, with only some minor choppiness in the framerate.

Given the abundance of Trophies and likelihood the player won’t acquire all in a single playthrough, the game naturally has excellent replay value, not to mention a New Game+, and will take players a little less than a day’s worth of playing time.

Overall, God of War definitely has plenty going for it, such as its enjoyable gameplay with anti-frustration features such as mid-boss checkpoints, good voice acting, and especially its graphics and lasting appeal. However, it also has many things going against it such as the complete lack of mini-maps, the ease of getting stuck and consequential need to look at a walkthrough, the frequent pleonasm in the game dialogue, not to mention the unmemorable soundtrack. As seems the case with most games that receive near-universal acclaim, it definitely didn’t deserve the bootlicking it received upon release, but is by no means a bad game.

This review is based on a playthrough of a copy purchased by the reviewer played from start to the standard ending credits, with 21% of Trophies acquired.

The Good:
+Mid-boss checkpoints.
+Good voice acting.
+Superb visuals.
+Tons of extra content.

The Bad:
-Needs mini-map.
-Easy to get stuck.
-Full of redundant dialogue.
-Lackluster soundtrack.

The Bottom Line:
Somewhat overrated, but still enjoyable.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 5/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: < 1 Day

Overall: 7.5/10

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