God of War: To the Nine Realms

This is Kratos’ most personal quest yet and his longest.  — Photos: SIE

This is Kratos’ most personal quest yet and his longest. — Photos: SIE

The god-killer Kratos is back but is the Norse world big enough for him, and his son?

After Kratos butchered pretty much the entire pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses in God Of War 3, gamers were left wondering who was still alive for Kratos to kill next.

Fear not as Kratos has found a new home in Midgard – the Norse equivalent of Earth – and along with it, new gods and monsters to beat up. They may not know it yet but it’s not Ragnarok they should be afraid of but Kratos.

God of War
Get up close or take out the monster from afar – the game lets you upgrade Kratos’ armour and weapon to suit your style.

However, he is a changed demigod, not just older, but now with a son Atreus and wife Faye, who has just passed away. The game starts off with the funeral, with Kratos and his son gathering wood for the pyre.

Trouble soon finds him but Kratos only has two things on his mind – the safety of the boy and fulfilling Faye’s last wish of having her ashes scattered from the highest mountain peak.

This sets the godslayer on his most personal quest yet; however, it is one that’s very, very slow to develop. The more interesting revelations only come past the midway point but it’s worth the wait as things get rather interesting by the end. And throughout your journey, the biggest question will be who the boy is.

But I won’t spoil it for you – if you are a fan, you probably have been waiting five years for the game and want to experience the twists and turns for yourself.

Myth made modern

Santa Monica Studio has borrowed from the best – everything from the interface to the upgrade system has been taken from newer games, transporting the God of War to a new age of modern combat.

And the story starts off with Kratos having ditched the Blades of Chaos – twin swords that were chained to both his hands – for the Leviathan Axe. I’m sure you are rather fond of the blades as it allowed you to ­perform some of the most devastating combos, so starting off with the Leviathan Axe may feel like a downer at first.

But the axe has an ace up its sleeve – or handle, in this case – as you can throw and recall it at anytime from anywhere and it will even cut down any enemies in its way as it ­travels back to you.

This also means you no longer need a bow to hit ­distant targets, making it a very ­versatile and powerful weapon that you will soon grow to like.

God of War
You’d think Kratos, being a Spartan, would have adopted a shield a long, long time ago.

Kratos also has a shield now which not only allows you to block and parry but also use as a weapon – no surprise there really. Atreus has a bow which is handy for ­taking out flying enemies and interrupting enemy attacks.

All three weapons are insanely upgradeable and have the most complex upgrade tree I have ever seen in a GOW game. On top of that you can now craft armour for Kratos (and Atreus) which influence his stats – yes, the God of War now has stats like a hero in a Diablo game.

While it all feels very unlike a GOW game at first, it comes together very well, allowing you to build up Kratos the way you want.

Oh boy

The Leviathan Axe also has light and heavy attacks, and you keep finding new attack abilities the more you explore the world.

And this is a big, big world – as you complete your tasks, the world will keep opening up. As this is the Norse world, bear in mind that there are Nine Realms.

You don’t get to explore all of the realms – or maybe I missed some as I rushed through the game to finish the review. Though some realms are just arenas to prove your skills, this title remains the biggest GOW game, requiring at least 25 to 30 hours of your life to fully complete it.

It’s made all the more interesting because of your companions – the boy is ever curious and you are later joined by another “companion” – who constantly regale you with Norse tales so the journey is never boring.

God of War
There were moments during conversations between Kratos and his son that felt like a genuine glimpse into their burgeoning father-son relationship.

The game is smart enough to stop the idle chitchat when you need to focus on the task at hand and only continue the conversation later when you are back on your boat, the game’s main form of transport.

Having said all that, there is one element I feared most in the game, more than even the Norse gods – the boy. It seemed hard to imagine the forever angry Kratos with a kid in tow but surprisingly it all worked out in the end.

Sure, he gets bratty at times as all kids do and no, you can’t smack him on the head with the Leviathan Axe. And while he never did grow on me, there were moments – and one in particular involving wine – when I enjoyed the conversation between Kratos and his son.

Axe to grind

The combat interface is also different – Kratos is now much nearer to the screen and off to the left. This makes every fight feel up close and personal, but at the expense of not being able to see opponents at the back or the ones flanking you.

Instead a circular compass around you indicates attacks with different colours to let you know if it’s a ranged projectile or an imminent attack. Your ever helpful boy also shouts warnings constantly so you are rarely blindsided but it still takes getting used to.

God of War
Just when you are resigned to the fact that Midgard is all ice and boring, the game takes you to a bright, beautiful woodland.

There are also no more QTE (quick time events) where you have to press keys prompted on-screen to finish off monsters though Kratos hasn’t lost his personal touch of ­disposing enemies in the most brutal way possible.

And while we are on the topic of what’s gone: platforming has not been done away with entirely but has been simplified. There are no more killer slides and jumps that require quick reflexes, as they have been mostly automated.

Thankfully what was maintained are the puzzles – most are basic though they make clever use of your Leviathan Axe but you’ll always encounter a few that will give your grey matter a workout.

World of wonder

I don’t like some of the changes Santa Monica Studio has made and maybe it’s me, but even though it’s a gorgeous game, I feel the Greek world had more insane monstrosities than the Norse one.

Despite all that, the developer has crafted a God Of War game that is different, and it’s the ­differences that make it one hell of a game.

God of War
Nobody knows discipline better than a Spartan like Kratos.

This has to be the most fun game I have played in a long time and though I complained about the length at first, I am saddened it’s over and I hope I don’t have to wait another five years for the sequel.

To put it succinctly, get the game if you are in the mood to kick some ass.

Pros: Interesting story, interesting ending; Leviathan Axe is deadly fun; plenty to upgrade and plenty more to see in the Norse world. 

Cons: Bye bye killer platforming.

(SIE Santa Monica Studio)
Action game for the PS4
Price: RM209 for standard; RM249 for deluxe edition on PSN
Rating: 5 stars

Science Technology , Kratos , Norse , Greek , gods , GoW4 , PS4