Game review: God of War (PC)

With God of War, Sony is releasing another of its flagship PlayStation 4 games on PC.

2018’s God of War is the latest installment in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive hack and slash series. After Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, God of War is Sony’s third first-party game to make the jump to PC.

While previous games on PlayStation 3 and 4 followed the Spartan, Kratos, on his tragic journey through Greek mythology, God of War moves on to an interesting dive into Norse mythology.

The game begins a few years after the last game, with 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.

Father and son embark on a quest to lay the ashes of their wife and mother at the highest point of all the realms. What follows is a journey through Norse mythology and stunning environments where father and son get to know each other.

While the game retains the titular character from previous games, it is a reimagining of the franchise that requires no prior knowledge of the series. It’s a great starting point for PC gamers. Very much a reboot of the original games, the combat and gameplay mechanics have been updated to feel more modern compared to its predecessors.

For the most part, the game is based on a central hub with Kratos and Atreus using the legendary Norse Bifrost to travel between realms.

Using a small boat, the couple row to various destinations. It’s a cross between open world, allowing players to revisit certain locations once they’ve upgraded their gear to reach otherwise blocked areas and linear paths.

The environments are vast, even in the more organized and linear areas. Additionally, the level design is polished enough to let players feel like they’re exploring epic locations while providing just enough visual cues along the way.

The gameplay is one of exploration, puzzle solving and combat. The game is well-paced, offering a good balance of gameplay beyond the series’ intrinsic combat. There are plenty of distractions in the form of chests that sometimes require a bit of smarts to unlock. The finalist will certainly be busy.

Kratos and Atreus’ weapons and armor can be upgraded by an interesting pair of rival dwarf brothers that add a bit of humor to the game. Of course, experience points earned during gameplay can be used to unlock abilities . Character customization is extensive, allowing players to tweak Kratos and Atreus to suit their own playstyle.

The game’s combat is visceral and quite breathtaking. Kratos wields his Leviathan ax which not only allows him to split opponents in half, but can also be thrown and brought back into his hand (think Thor’s hammer in the Marvel movies). Atreus fires arrows at enemies automatically and according to player instructions. The combination of ax throws, light and heavy attacks, special move combos, and rage attacks make for thrilling combat encounters. The boss battles, which I’m generally not a fan of, are reasonable and offer a fair challenge.

There are four difficulty levels in the game. The default is “Give me a balanced experience”, the next is “Give me a challenge”, then there is “Give me God of War” for real heroes / masochists. If you just want to enjoy the story with minimal combat challenge, the “Give Me a Story” difficulty setting will fit just that.

God of War explores the relationship between Kratos and his son via finely crafted storytelling that doesn’t involve lengthy cutscenes. What cutscenes there are dramatic and exciting. There is no need to stay while the father gives lessons to the son. Instead, the interactions between the two happen during gameplay, whether on a punt trip or during the many puzzle areas.

The character performances are incredible, with Stargate’s Christopher Judge providing Kratos’ gruff voice. Even the supporting characters are fully realized and perfectly animated.

The visuals don’t seem that far removed from the original PS4 release. It’s not because the game looks bad; it’s just that the game looks so good on the PS4. While the original ran at 30fps on the PS4, PC owners get unlocked frame rates, ultra-wide screens, and all the tweaks needed to make the game run smoothly on moderate PC systems at high-end systems.

Players can select graphical fidelity from low, original (which I assume is the PS4 version), high, and ultra settings. Even on the low setting, the game is gorgeous. The game supports Nvidia DLSS and AMD FidelityFX, 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 100fps in 4K HDR using DLSS set to quality and 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 PlayStation exclusives. Most likely, they made one of the greatest PlayStation 4 games that will become one of the greatest PC games.

Verdict: 10/10