Starting off, I'd like to list some thoughts I had while playing God of War:
- "Wow, I can count the hairs in his beard."
- "This kid is pretty annoying. Please go home."
- "Boy, where are you. I'm dying. Save me!"
- "I'm rowing a boat."
- "Is that a snake? Oh, its a serpent. So, a fancy snake?"
- "Tuck and roll, Kratos. Tuck and roll."
Random thoughts out of the way, lets get down to business with God of War and my first impressions of it.
First, let's talk a little background for God of War. The game picks up years after Kratos has left his original land and has found himself in the north. He resides in Midgard with his son, Atreus. Before she passed away, Kratos' wife, Faye, left a last wish to have her ashes scattered at the highest point in all the realms. Of course, any journey involving Kratos isn't going to be an easy one. Along the way, they meet many Norse gods, enemies, and discover Norse lore.
Combat: I wasn't expecting the combat to be so balanced and clean. I gave all the difficulties a shot, besides the most difficult one because I didn't feel like crying myself to sleep. The difference that I noticed between the difficulties was the enemy's AI. Depending on the difficulty, they act differently. On the easiest, they are slower and take a minute or two to recover from being hit. On the balanced difficulty, the AI moves as fast as you and seem to respond as quickly as the player. When it comes to the hardest difficulty, the AI moves extremely fast. They become harder to hit, almost anticipating your attack, and take Kratos down in a single hit, depending on their level. While other games might do this, this is the first time I actually noticed it.
I noticed that I didn't utilize Atreus very much, but when I did, it was to stun enemies that I was having difficulty with. He can attack and strangle enemies, holding them in place for Kratos to slap around. The amount of damage and arrows he carries can be leveled up, which seems to come handy when he gains new arrow types. I'd say that Atreus makes a pretty decent companion in combat and can be a great partner for power moves against stronger and bigger enemies.
-Character Development: Atreus' personality changes several times over the course of the game with the reveal of certain information from Kratos. When meeting the youngster, he is shy to the thought of killing. Knowing that Kratos comes from a past of bloodshed, I questioned if Atreus was actually his kid at first. Deeper into the game, I found Atreus somewhat annoying, in a pre-teen "I'm better than everyone" sense. Even so, Kratos struggles to take his time handling his kid's attitude, but he truly tries his best. Seen through the dialogue, I felt as if I was watching Atreus grow into the better person that his father kept telling him to be.
As far as character development for Kratos goes, he isn't the young, "I want to kill everyone who looks at me the wrong way" guy that he once was. He's older and wiser and trying his best to change his ways to be better for his son. When the two would butt heads, I found myself siding with Kratos. While he is very reluctant to share the story about his past at the point I'm at, it seems like he is coming around to the fact that he needs to tell his son what he has done. With both characters, I felt as their development over the game wasn't too quick and fit at the right moments.
The (Not so) Bad
Enemies: While this is minor, and I'm probably being picky, I thought the amount of times the trolls were reskinned was too damn high. Pun intended. There isn't a large variety in the enemies, and the number of different enemies could, probably, be counted on one hand. I became bored of seeing the same two or three enemy types back to back. Eventually, I tried to avoid combat altogether, going off to adventure in my boat instead. On the topic of enemies, I'll toss in that I struggled with the Revenants. These hunchbacked, cloud floating, witch type creatures can launch poison, and the like, at Kratos from a distance. When trying to get close, they move extremely fast no matter the difficulty. In combat, I found myself using Atreus to take them down while I stood back. Against the other enemies, I rarely called on the boy for help, but with the Revenants, I couldn't get past them alone.
Story: I'm divided on the story. While I believe I will gain answers to my questions as I go on, I find myself struggling to comprehend why everything is happening. Kratos and Atreus seem more involved with fighting with each other than discussing why Norse gods want to kill them, not like Kratos wants to find out. Currently, I have a lot more questions than answers. Will that change? I'm going to say no. It is easy to see that God of War is the start of a new trilogy, so I can understand not wanting to give everything all at once. The information given seems to be setting up the player for an epic next game, but what about this one? Why not add a little more kick to it? That is me being greedy, but with the possibility of another five years before the next game comes out, I need something to hold me over and keep me invested in the duo.
Buy this game for all your family members during Christmas time and make them play it. While I'm far from completing the game, I absolutely love what I have played. The seamless gameplay, not littered with black load screens, helps me get lost in Kratos and Atreus' journey. While I have minor issues here and there, God of War seems to have set a bar for games of its type. It deserves all the praise it has been given, and even more. Some might say it's too early, but mark this down as my Game of the Year winner.
Side note, no DLC. You get a full game for $60. Developers, take notes.