God of War ***Spoiler Thread*** (Gaming)

by CruelLEGACEY @, Toronto, Monday, April 23, 2018, 09:55 (999 days ago)
edited by CruelLEGACEY, Monday, April 23, 2018, 10:00

There seems to be enough interest in this game here at DBO that it might not be a bad idea to have a dedicated spoiler thread (and if it does turn out to be a bad idea, we can just blame Cheapley ;p)

So I'm roughly 12-15 hours into the game now. For context, I've cured Kratos' son and told him that he's a god, and we're now making our way back up to the top of the mountain.

A few comments I want to make at this point.

First of all, I wanted to say how generally spectacular this game is. The story keeps getting better, and has just recently taken a turn that opens up plenty of fascinating and compelling possibilities given the history of the franchise and Kratos' past (more on that later). But just as a collective, cohesive experience, this game is absolutely top notch. The progression, world design, the characters and writing, the imaginative visual design and technical wizardry (seriously, how the heck is this game possible on a PS4?!?)... it's all stellar. On to a few specific things:

World design

This is a tough game to describe in terms of its physical structure. Its not actually an open world. A better description would be something akin to ODST's "Hub and Spoke" layout, or the modern Tomb Raider/ Batman Arkham Asylum versions of a metroid game. One of the things that jumps out at me is that the world has been crafted with an amazingly efficient use of space. The range and variety of locations is vast, awe-inspiring, and memorable. But everything is compact enough that it never feels daunting or tedious to travel between locations. The use of the boat to get you around the "hub" quickly is a brilliant move, and transitions nicely to the mostly on-foot traversal in the "spokes".

This all adds up to a world that feels much bigger than it is. Which is ideal, really. Because it takes up this huge place in my imagination, but its always quick and easy to find my way around. This plays into exploration in a big way. When I'm playing most open-world games, I'm often reluctant to wander off the main path because I don't want to get lost or take a wrong turn and end up backtracking and wasting a bunch of time. When I'm in the right specific mood for it, I'll set aside some time to ignore the main missions and just explore, but I need to be in just the right headspace to do that. In God of War, I've found that I can now freely explore all the time, because I'm never going to end up going too far out of my way in terms of geography. BUT, my detours will often end up taking more time than I expected them too, because I wander just a tiny bit away from my objective and find something else to do that is completely awesome. I do it, and then in a minute or two I'm back on my path towards my main objective. So far, exploring the world has only ever lead to me finding stuff that made me glad I'd gone exploring, without any of the usual open-world pitfalls.


A few days ago, I made a comment about how the combat in this new God of War game is fundamentally different than the combat in previous entries. My feeling at the time was that this new combat system is excellent, but doesn't scratch the same itch as previous games, because it is just such a different system.

What I've found over time is that the new combat system is indeed excellent and deep and rewarding and thrilling. As I continue to unlock new moves and abilities, the Axe is feeling closer to matching the versatility of Kratos' blades from the rest of the franchise. I think the most interesting difference is that in the previous games, Kratos himself would begin to feel like the eye at the center of a hurricane. The birds-eye camera allowed full awareness of everything going on around you. Enemies would flood towards you from all directions, only to be explosively repelled by Kratos' non-stop whirlwind of blocks, counters, parries, and slams. This new game seems to reward a bit more of a "divide and conquer" approach, thanks to the dual-character nature of the combat. If you let multiple enemies come at you together (as I often would in the previous games), they'll almost inevitably overwhelm your ability to block and parry, as certain attacks now stagger Kratos even when he blocks them, leaving you open to follow up attacks which are certainly coming. So I find it often works better to use constant motion around the environment to take on enemies one or two at a time, while I use Atreus' and his bow to distract other enemies. Then, once the opportunity presents itself, I'll focus Kratos and his son's attacks together on a single target to deliver major damage.

Somewhere around the 8-9 hour mark, I got to the point where I was so absorbed by this new combat system that I no longer felt like I was missing the combat of the previous games. And then, the whole table gets flipped over. Kratos gets his blades back. And just like that, the "old" combat and the "new" combat come crashing together in the most fantastic and satisfying way. Except its not quite the "old" combat. Kratos uses his blades much the same way he always did. He spins and twirls and attacks in all directions at once. But you still need to contend with the fact that the counter/parry system is not quite as invincible as it used to be, so you still need to think about approaching encounters within the context of the new combat system. And its a perfect marriage. I'll use my blades to engage half a dozen weaker foes simultaneously, while using Atreos' arrows to distract a single larger foe. Then I'll switch back to the Axe mid-combat and slam the big guy with more focused and direct attacks.

The development and layering of all these different combat mechanics is freaking awesome, and I'm nowhere near seeing everything it has to offer.

Story & Characters.

I won't go too far into the story right now, but I will say that I care a lot more about what is going on than I thought I could ever care about a God of War game. Much like Horizon Zero Dawn, they build the story slowly, naturally, with confidence.

The one thing I wanted to highlight is how awesome the humor in this game can be. Not only is it genuinely funny, but they also use humor to smooth over the rough edges that can often come from trying to accommodate storytelling and game mechanics at the same time. The best example of this is the Dwarves. The way they just show up in the most impossible places and dismiss it like its no big deal is great. Even though they do eventually provide an in-universe explanation for their ability to get around the world, its still a great little nod to the silliness of finding "vendors" at the tops of mountains or in abandoned caves. My favorite moment so far is when Brok demands to see my Axe, then he smacks it with his hammer and hands it back to me. Kratos says "... what did you just do?" and Brok replies "IT'S BETTER" in a voice that is just dripping with sarcasm. It's such a great poke at the whole "stats going up" trope that runs through these games.

There's also a lot of humor that comes from the interplay between Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir. Kratos himself has always been so painfully serious and humorless, but here they've found a great way to play off of that with other characters, without it ever feeling forced or unnatural.

Finally, I really appreciate the way they use the relationship between Kratos and Atreus to add believability to the whole "side quest" nature of the game. Since Kratos himself seems very much like the last person on earth who would ever go out of his way to help anyone, they play up the son's desire to help and turn that difference between him and his father into part of the conversation between them as you are completing side missions (Kratos reluctantly agreeing to go along with it in an attempt to show the slightest bit of paternal care for his son, while Atreus starts to think about realistic/strategic ways to justify these missions to his father to help convince him to go along with it).

That's all I wanted to say for now, but I'm sure I'll get into more stuff later. Looking forward to hearing about everyone else's experiences with this game :)

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