Game review: God of War (PC)
With God of War, Sony releases another of its tent-pole PlayStation 4 games on PC.
2018's God of War is the latest release in the long-running PlayStation exclusive hack and slash series. Following the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, God of War is the third first-party game from Sony to make the leap to PC.
Whereas the previous games across the PlayStation 3 and 4 have followed the Spartan, Kratos, on his tragic journey through Greek mythology, God of War switches proceedings to an interesting deep-dive into Norse mythology.
The game starts some years after the last game, Kratos having created a new life for himself in the wintry realm of Midgard, far from the Mediterranean and the Greek underworld. He has a son, Atreus, and is recently widowed.
The father and son embark on a quest to deposit the ashes of their wife and mother atop the highest point in all the realms. What follows is a journey through Norse mythology and some stunning environments whereby father and son get to know each other.
Whilst the game retains the titular character from the previous games, it is a reimagining for the franchise that requires no prior knowledge of the series. It's a great jumping in point for PC gamers. Very much a reboot of the original games, the combat and game mechanics have been updated to feel more modern compared to its predecessors.
For the most part, the game is based around a central hub with Kratos and Atreus using the legendary Norse Bifrost to travel between realms.
Using a small boat, the pair row to various destinations. It's a mix between open-world, allowing players to revisit some locations once they have updated their equipment to reach otherwise blocked areas and linear paths.
Environments are expansive, even in areas that are more curated and linear. In addition, the level design is refined enough to allow players to feel like they are exploring epic locations whilst offering just enough visual cues along the way.
The gameplay is that of exploration, puzzle-solving and combat. The game is well-paced, offering a decent balance of gameplay beyond the combat that is intrinsic to the series. There are plenty of distractions in the form of chests that sometimes need some wits to unlock. The completionist will certainly be kept busy.
Both Kratos and Atreus's weapons and armour can be upgraded by an interesting pair of rival dwarven brothers that add a little humour to the game. Of course, experience points earned during play can be used to unlock abilities. The character customisation is vast, allowing players to adjust Kratos and Atreus according to their own play style.
The game's combat is visceral and rather breathtaking. Kratos wields his Leviathan Axe that not only allows him to split his opponents in two but can also be thrown and drawn back into his hand (think Thor's hammer in the Marvel movies). Atreus fires arrows at enemies automatically and as directed by the player. The combination of axe throws, light and heavy attacks, special move combos and rage attacks make for some exciting combat encounters. Boss battles, ordinarily not something I'm a fan of, are reasonable, offering a fair challenge.
There are four difficulty levels in the game. The default is “Give Me a Balanced Experience”, with the next up being “Give Me a Challenge”, and then there's “Give Me God of War” for the true heroes/masochists. If you just want to enjoy the tale with a minimal challenge from the combat, the “Give Me a Story” difficulty level will accommodate exactly that.
God of War explores the relationship between Kratos and his son via a finely crafted bit of storytelling that doesn't involve lengthy cut-scenes. What cut-scenes there are dramatic and exciting. There's no standing about whilst the father lectures the son. Instead, interactions between the pair occur during gameplay, be it whilst travelling in the rowboat or during the many puzzle areas.
The character performances are amazing, with Stargate's Christopher Judge providing the gruff voice of Kratos. Even supporting characters are fully realised and excellently animated.
The visuals don't appear to be that far removed from the original PS4 version. It's not because the game looks bad; it's just the game looks so good on the PS4. Whereas the original ran at 30fps on the PS4, PC owners are treated to unlocked framerates, ultra-widescreen displays and all the tweaks needed to get the game running smoothly from moderate to high-end PC systems.
Players can select the graphical fidelity from low, original (which I assume is the PS4 version), high and ultra settings. Even on the low setting, the game looks stunning. The game has Nvidia DLSS and AMD FidelityFX support, so even a relatively modest machine should be able to get decent performance. With a Core i9-10900K and an Nvidia RTX 3090 (I know), I could get over 100 frames-per-second in 4K HDR using DLSS set to quality and the ultra setting.
God of War strikes a balance between narrative design, exploration, puzzles and combat like very few other games. Sony has, once again, given PC gamers the cream of their first-party PlayStation exclusives. Quite possibly, they have created one of the greatest PlayStation 4 games that will become one of the greatest PC games.