God of War sat as number 1 in the game charts for 5 consecutive weeks, taking the record for Playstation 4 exclusives. It also sold over 3 million copies in three days. It’s the fastest selling PlayStation 4 exclusive ever made, and is both a commercial and critical success, sitting at a Metacritic rating of 94.
So, you might say God of War is a big deal in the gaming world. And if your kiddo’s a gamer – you can bet they’re talking about it. So, what exactly is this thing? And as a parent, what do you need to know?
What is God of War?
Let’s get to it. What exactly is this thing? God of War is the 4th game in the successful PlayStation God of War franchise. God of War games have been out on every major PlayStation system since God of War 1 came out way back in 2005 on the PlayStation 2.
Getting more specific, it’s a 3rd Person Narrative-Driven Action-Adventure game. That’s a whole lot of gamer-specific words, but it’s actually pretty easy to understand if you break it down.
Let’s look at 3rd Person…
In a game, this simply means that the game’s “camera” is positioned behind Kratos, the main character. This is important in a game like God of War. The action is focused on melee combat – wading into the thick of things with an axe that is not-at-all-but-entirely-is Mojilnir from Thor. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Narrative-Driven pretty much means what you would think it means. This game has a big story, and it’s important to the gameplay. This is much different than other games your kiddo might be playing, like Fortnite where the story is largely irrelevant.
Okay… What’s an Action-Adventure Then…
The Action-Adventure part of it comes in how the game plays and how you progress. We already touched on the melee-focused combat, which touches on the “action” part of things. The Adventure part touches on the progression. For parents, what’s important to know is that God of War tells a story, and lets the player explore a world, with more and more options opening up as they get further into the game and gather more tools, abilities, and weapons. This is a well known and very popular game structure you may hear your kids refer to as Metroidvania-like.
As a parent, you really don’t have to worry about the vocabulary or gamer-slang too much. You can think of the game world (where all the action takes place) as kind of like an onion, as you work your way through the story, you peel off more and more layers – each layer representing a new section of the game world you can explore or something in the game world you can now access.
So – more specifically – you might run around and see a treasure chest embedded in some gnarly looking branches. As much as you might want to, you can’t get to that chest, so you leave it be and progress through the game. Later on, you get the ability to start fires and burn wood and branches, now you can access all of the “branch gnarled” treasure chests in the game.
What’s God of War About?
It’s a story-based game that, at its core, is about the relationship of a father and his young son. They both just happen to be gods. In the previous games of the serious, the main character Kratos took on the pantheon of Greek gods, becoming the God of War. In this game, he’s the same, but now is facing off against the likes of Odin and other Norse gods.
The conflict with the Norse gods sets the backdrop and provides the context for the action and story, but as mentioned above the real story is the relationship he has with his son. The storyline, voice acting, and direction are excellent – easily some of the best I’ve ever experienced in a game.
So Why’s My Kid Talking About It?
God of War is a truly stellar title. It’s similar to big summer movie blockbusters. People who like movies know what The Avengers: Infinity War is — just like people who like games will know what God of War is. The quality of the game makes it stand apart from many others, as does the action, and the method of story delivery.
It’s a big title, extensively marketed, and gaining significant accolades across the review sites. So, it’s sheer presence is going to have an impact if your kiddo is into games.
All Right… What’s so Great About It?
The overall quality of the game is a major point here. It’s exceptionally polished and fun. So, a key part of what makes it great is that its foundation is extraordinary.
There are, though, a few things it does that makes it stand out and be noteworthy, even among other “big” games of the season.
I’m not going to low ball this. I’ve played a lot of games in my time, and God of War features some of the best voice acting (and the motion captured movements of the characters) I’ve ever heard in a video game. It’s easily on par with any movie, which goes a long way to drawing players into the narrative and connecting them with the characters.
Kratos, the main character, has a signature weapon in this game. His Axe. It can be used in the game as a solid and powerful melee weapon, but it also doubles as a tool. On top of that – and perhaps it’s most stand out feature – it can be thrown and then recalled. If you’ve seen any of the Marvel movies with Thor in it, Kratos’s axe functions very similarly to Thor’s hammer. Furthermore, the development team didn’t just “jam it in”. It’s an amazing take on things. When you throw the axe in the game and it returns, it feels like you’re Thor. It’s an amazing experience and, as a developer myself, I’m stunned at the quality and care put into that particular mechanic.
God of War does something I’ve never seen in a modern game, particularly one as narratively driven as this one. It never cuts away from Kratos. It never cheats. You’re always there, with the main character. It takes all the work done in other aspects of the game to forge a connection with the character and just makes it deeper. On a technical level, this is a remarkable achievement and undoubtedly added a significant amount of work, but to the player none of the technical aspects matter – it just feels and plays great.
The Combat & Action
Even with an outstanding narrative and amazing production values across the board, a game like God of War lives or dies by its combat. In this game, the combat has taken a bit of a departure from its predecessors. It’s still incredibly fun and visceral, but it’s also a little slower and more methodical. Done poorly, this could have slowed the pace of the game to a crawl. Thankfully, God of War does a really great job of keeping the combat fast but not frenetic. This results in you having a bit of time to think about how you want to engage. This gives God of War more depth and strategy than if you simply mashed buttons.
One aspect of this depth – and a large part of why the game earns its “M” rating – are the “brutal” kills. Here, if you do enough damage quickly enough to an enemy it can get stunned. Letting Kratos (the main character) run up and finish it off in a usually gory fashion. While these actions are over-the-top to be certain, there’s actually some gameplay reasons behind it – it’s not just for sensationalism. A key part of winning battles, particularly difficult ones, is figuring out how to manage dealing damage while also trying to stun creatures.
How Does it Play?
The moment to moment gameplay is fantastic. The combat is deeper and more challenging than previous games in the franchise – the first boss is particularly challenging, and there’s some optional bosses – the Valkyries – which are, in a word, brutal.
The pacing is amazing. There’s a great mix of puzzles, action, and exploration which prevents fatigue in any single one of those areas — The game also does a really great job of doling out narrative and story primarily in the exploration beats, where it’s a welcome addition rather than a frustrating distraction.
It’s not a perfect game, though. The User Interface – particularly when interacting with your character’s gear and equipment is an exercise in frustration. It’s functional, but not at all intuitive and stands out all the more in comparison with the polish in the rest of the game
Another less than stellar area is in the skill upgrades for the main character. Basically, as the player experiences the game, they gain experience points. They can then spend those points to upgrade their skills. Some of the skill upgrades are really useful, others not-so-much – and the skills are mostly mirrored from one weapon to another, which lessons the tactical options available with each weapon – which means there’s less of a reason to switch from one to another.
The above flaws (and they’re actually pretty minor in the scope of a truly stellar experience) don’t take away from the fun and excitement of the experience. God of War is outstanding.
So This is a Good Game for My Kid To Play?
Absolutely not. No. Unless your kiddos are in their upper teens — sixteen or greater, this is not a game for your kids. Now, to be clear, this is a Mature game – but not an “Adult” one. There’s some hyper-violence, but nothing particularly sexual. The maturity comes in the themes and narrative. In many ways it’s similar to high-quality R-rated movies – There’s amazing quality, but not necessarily something for younger kids.
Ironically, while it’s not a great fit for younger kids, it is a great game for parents. The storyline and themes will resonate with anyone who’s struggled trying to connect and relate to a child.
Where Can God of War be Played?
God of War is an exclusive for the PlayStation 4. Similar to other “big” games like The Last of Us and Horizon: Zero Dawn – there’s only one system that can play this particular title.
As we wrap up here, there’s a few things to highlight. As a parent, here are the most important things to know about the game. It’s an incredible experience, a truly great game – but not one for younger kids. The story and narrative are outstanding, as is the voice acting, but the themes of that story might be a bit much for youngsters. The game is, without question, violent – with some gory & grisly details thrown in, but despite that, the game does a great job of staying “mature” without slipping over into truly “adult” territory. So, while the game may not be a great fit for kids, with all its merits, it’s certainly a worthy game for parents.