God of War: A Heathen Perspective
Kratos has been kicking various god asses since 2005. He's settled down and started a (new) family. But when the Norse gods come knocking he doesn't hesitate to get right back in to his old habits.
As a heathen I knew the moment I saw the announcement trailer that I would be getting this game. As a gamer I knew the game would involve some good old-fashioned god killing. So just to get it out of the way right here at the start: No, I did not expect this game to be a fun and fluffy look at the gods I know and love. Having only ever had a passing interest in the franchise I had a basic idea of what to expect. I intentionally kept myself int he dark on this one. I knew I would probably enjoy it so I made sure the game would surprise me as much as possible. In case you haven't figured it out by now I will be discussing events in the game. While I will do my best to avoid spoiling anything major there WILL be some spoilers. If you don't want anything spoiled then I'll just tell you it's a great game that's fast-paced, fun, and takes a unique look at Norse gods and mythology. I highly suggest playing it for yourself.
The second you select your difficulty the game throws you in to the middle of events. No monologue or boring unskippable cutscene. The game starts on a sad note that really sets the tone for the game. Kratos and his son are on a mission to deliver his wife's ashes to the top of the tallest mountain. The tutorial consists of teaching Atreus survival techniques in the wilderness surrounding their home. The game IMMEDIATELY makes you feel like exploring. I am usually a very linear player and I found myself exploring every crack and trail looking for chests and loot. After getting the feel for the basic movement controls Kratos, wielding his wife's axe which he can throw and recall just like Mjolnir, soon finds himself fighting draugr and trolls.
The trigger button layout for combat takes some getting used to but after a brief period of adjustment the combat has a very fluid feel to it. Learning the mechanics to set up the puzzles in the game I stumbled across the first Jotnar Shrine. This was the first moment when I felt like I needed to start taking screenshots and thinking about writing a review.
These shrines are all over the game and tell stories of various myths and gods.
As cool as these are this is where I feel that I should mention for anyone who might not have already figured it out but this game does not tell the story we Heathens are used to. It tells the story of the Norse gods as they exist in the God of War franchise. I shouldn't have to even say this but just recently I saw someone online referencing the lore in the game as if it applied to the gods we worship. No, Odin did not call for the extermination of the giants because they foresaw the outcome of Ragnarok. No, Tyr did not betray the Aesir and help the Jotnar hide the realm of Jotunheim. The gods in this world are even more dysfunctional than normally depicted.
Anyway, as the tutorial comes to a close you stumble upon a friendly forest witch. (Who happens to live under a turtle. How cool is that?)
Her garden has one hell of a view, too. I cannot stress just how good this game looks.
This is where the game picks up. The tutorial doesn't FEEL like a tutorial but you are railroaded through the zone. After some friendly conversation with the witch she sends you on your way where you come to a huge lake. The witch gives you a compass and the game finally takes on it's open world setting. The world serpent makes his first of many appearances. He's actually an alright guy in the game.
The lake acts as the quest hub for the game. As the serpent moves the water lowers revealing a temple which acts as a giant gateway to all of the nine realms. Unfortunately the game's pace picks up dramatically and past this point I got so wrapped up in playing that I rarely thought to take a moment to grab more screenshots. I am far from a professional writer or reviewer so as I sit here writing this I feel that I can't do the justice to the story that the writers did. I would only undersell the epic story and pacing that they set up so I won't even attempt it. I'll attempt to sum up my experience and feelings about the game then share the last few screenshots I have.
The game quickly takes on a familiar formula of unlocking a new region, fighting through the enemies, completing the puzzles, then progressing to the next area. Kratos and Atreus face many obstacles and they are always a challenge and a BLAST to overcome. The puzzles will test your problem solving skills and push your timing to it's limits. You can face armies of enemies that you cut through easily and suddenly come across one that feels like it's straight out of Dark Souls. This game definitely takes fun and challenging to a whole new level.
Except the Dark Elf miniboss. Screw that guy. Screw him right in his stupid blind-effect neck.
Even the cutscenes in this game are engaging and I never felt the urge to try skipping them. The gods as they are represented in this game are petty, cruel, and manipulative. The artistic liberties the writers took are pretty much all amazing and tell an alternate story of the gods and Ragnarok that deliver countless "Holy shit!" moments.
One down side is the awkward relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Kratos is his usual broody self and keeps his nature (and subsequently his son's nature) hidden from Atreus. This leads to all sorts of weird tension where Atreus picks up daddy's pouty brooding ways. Eventually after learning the truth he becomes completely unbearable (albeit briefly) and you just want to press square to whip his ass.
The experience and gear system keeps you on a constant look out for upgrades. There are many stats and abilities to choose from so there are plenty of opportunities to upgrade Kratos to fit your play style. You can even upgrade Atreus' armor and abilities. (Which I HIGHLY suggest because otherwise he is only half as much help.)
Over the course of the game you meet a few recognizable characters from the myths. Eventually Kratos comes in to possession of Mimir's head and you get a running commentary on the in-game mythology and quite a few surprisingly funny comic relief moments. The most frustrating part of Mimir's stories that I found was he will start telling a story when you get in to a boat but immediately stops talking when you get on land. I found myself wanting him to keep talking.
After gaining all sorts of new abilities, weapons, and gear your journey comes to an EPIC end with an amazing final confrontation and final journey to complete your quest to spread Kratos' wife's ashes. The end of this game is GREAT and it WILL get a little dusty in the room. Like most great open world games (Unlike Zelda BOTW. I'm looking at you, Nintendo.) you get to explore the world after completing the final story mission. You unlock new objectives and are given the opportunity to continue fighting to secure the realms as a suspiciously severe winter sets in.
NOTE: IF YOU CAN READ RUNES, YOU WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE BEEN TRYING AND FAILING TO READ MOST OF THE TEXT IN THE GAME. AT THE END THERE IS A MURAL THAT IS REVEALED. DO NOT TRY TO READ THE TEXT, IT WILL SPOIL THE END THAT IS JUST UP THE HILL FROM WHERE YOU ARE.
To put it simply this game is GREAT. I've barely been able to put it down over the course of the last week and I'm looking forward to playing much much more. I really can't suggest this game enough.