To the Nine Realms

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

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By MADHAVAN M bytz@thes­tar.com.my

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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