After a very long franchise hiatus (8 years), Kratos returns for another romp through the lands of the Gods, this time trading in Mouth Olympus and Zeus, for Viking mythology of a Norse flavor.
The series that debuted 13 years ago has grown considerably over that time, spawning over 7 console games (and one lame mobile edition), starting on the PS2 and spanning the PSP, PS3 and remakes on the PS4, Kratos has finally come home in 4k HDR glory.
Now I have been a God of War fan since the beginning, weirdly getting interested in it after my 10yr old son rented it for PS2 back in the day (yeah, I am a terrible parent, deal with it)
And since then, been a series fan and played through all of them on Titan or “God-like” difficulties.
So naturally, when God of War offered me up an instant jump in on “Give me God of War” mode, I was sold, but still had a bit of a reservation, as there is a nice little disclaimer meant to scare off the faint of heart.
If you are insane enough to venture forth on this difficulty, you cannot dial it back if you get stuck, it is an all or nothing endeavor, that requires a complete restart on a lower level if you can’t do it.
Now that is my kind of challenge!
So after putting in almost 80 hours into God of War I have seen all there is and done all I can do. Have a Platinum trophy to prove it (which yes, I earned on Give me God of War)
Now, hindsight being 20/20, I never should have played it on this mode with the intention of going after a Platinum, and we will get to why later, but it made for some serious slogging in some parts of the game.
The game itself takes place “some time” after the events of God of War 3, Kratos is now a dad, a husband who has just lost his wife, and ventures forth on a journey with his kid to fulfill his wife’s last wishes, to have hear ashes spread from the highest peak in the world.
Easy peasy you may think, well not so much.
In short order all the jerks in the land come to thwart Kratos and his Boy from completing their story.
Coming into God of War I was a little skeptical of the father son dynamic, NPC tag alongs have never really worked in games, with years of bad escort missions and poor AI, it was hard to get excited for baby sitting simulator 2018.
Well it turns out Santa Monica Studios knows what they are doing.
You kid is a real asset front to back in the game, from being your translator for ruins, crawling though small spaces, and outright being a solid partner during combat.
He is your ranged combat weapon, allow stun moves or shock abilities to hinder your foes, as well as straight up messing with enemies by helping knock them down or hold them in place.
He even has his own skill tree and level progression. So by the end of the game, your meek unsure child is a fierce fighting companion.
He also serves as a way to cut the through the tedium of traveling, telling Kratos stories and mythology, or querying your other traveling companion (whom I wont name) for Norse mythology, allow for a real organic feel to his character, he is not just some dumb AI avatar to tag along, he is in this with you as a team.
The game play itself a complete overhaul from all the previous God of War games, dropping the static camera and force perspective of combat, to a full 3rd person adventure.
This adds a lot of depth and challenge to the combat.
So much so I came extremely close to throwing in the towel right at the start and trying a lower difficulty.
I was stuck on the first enemy encounter for about 3 hours, the FIRST. If this was any indication of the challenge ahead, I may not be cut out for it.
I honestly believe this may have been intentional, to scare away the overly confident before they invest 30 hours and get hopelessly stuck.
Once that little hiccup was behind me, and I started to get an understanding of how the combat works (which the tutorial is extremely slim on) I trotted off to die about 50k more times before the game was over.
Make no mistake, you have to be hardcore to beat this game on Give me God of War.
This is not your run of the mill difficulty bump, this is not just a weaker hero and stronger enemies, they are faster, much better at flanking and ganging up on you, their tactics change, their resistance to stun and electric damage decreases, all of these thing make the hardest difficulty so much more difficult than your average game.
You will find yourself taking 2-3 hits max, and that is from start to finish.
You never reach a point whereby Kratos attains a god like armor or weapon that will allow you to dominate the game on this mode, you are a punching bag front to back.
Expect this mode to tack on a good 10-20 hours to the core game, and if you plan to do everything, all the side quest, collecting and the god forsaken hell spawn that are the Valkyries, expect the core games 40 hour playtime to double to about 80 hours.
Now, the real bottleneck, those pesky Valkyrie.
Hidden throughout the game in secret areas and arenas are 8 exceptionally hard mini-bosses, and one real mother f*****r of a queen.
I have played just about every balls to the wall difficult game there is, from Demon Souls to Bloodborne, The Surge to Nioh, Call of Duty BO3 on Realistic, you name it, hard games are my thing.
And in all those games, every boss, every encounter, nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the Valkyrie queen in terms of difficulty.
She was the last challenge left in my pursuit of a Platinum, and many times in the course of 6 days I swore I was going to quit.
My earliest encounters lasting about 30 seconds before getting smoked in 2 hits or so.
She has a move set of about 25 moves, all that have a unique “tell” to them, but until you memorize all of them, you are nothing but meat for the grinder.
It took me close to 15 hours to best her, and my deaths were into the hundreds.
So take this as a warning, if you want to go Platinum, do yourself a favor and try this on a little easier difficulty.
All in all the game was outstanding though.
Visually it is a jaw dropper, with amazing set pieces, vibrant colors popping off the screen in full HDR glory. It is one of the most visually impressive titles I have seen in HDR so far.
On top of that the sound design is truly incredible, working all the back channels and overhead speakers. With Valkyries flying overhear, to arrows whipping past, the room is alive in all directions.
Audio placement was pretty key in playing on Give me God of War as well, being able to hear an enemy behind you, or your boy call out from a certain direction to look out made a lot of life and death moments easier.
God of War is one of those games that if you own a PS4, is a must have.
The story is phenomenal, especially if you played the other games.
A solid 10/10 and as perfect as they come.