“TWRM GOTY 2018” – God of War

The TWRM GOTY 2018 Collab has begun! This special event consists of multiple writers making their best cases for their picks for GOTY 2018. Check out each article posted daily from the 1st through the 15th and listen to their points, then on January 16th you will have the opportunity to vote on which game you think should be crowned TWRM GOTY of 2018!

 

God of War

Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Platform/Console: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action-Adventure

 

ninjamage “The following is a contributor post by the Mail Order Ninja Mage.”

Picking my favorite game of the year is usually a daunting task, but 2017 and 2018 have both made it particularly difficult with the onslaught of fantastic games–or they would have if 2017 hadn’t seen my favorite game of all time released in Breath of the Wild and 2018 my second favorite game of all time with God of War.

That is right, I’m not only extolling the virtues of the best game of the year to you today, but one of my favorite games of all time.

I’ve always been a person who likes to take the unbeaten path when I can, sharing the virtues of things others might not be aware of. Though never a contrarian, I don’t always tend to fall in line with what the biggest game running is, even though the last two years would beg to differ. When it comes to God of War, I find myself unable to do this, as it has obviously been the darling of 2018, winning numerous awards including the coveted Game Awards Game of the Year award. There is a very good reason that it is such a popular pick for these awards, and that is because the game is utterly amazing.

It isn’t just a game of the year, it is something that should be in the running for game of the decade, or might even top the best of lists of people like me the world over.

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Why though? If you haven’t played the game yourself, that is a fair question to ask. After all, we are talking about a new game in a franchise that has fallen by the wayside a bit, with a new entry not being seen since the early PS3 days. In addition to all that, the main character Kratos wasn’t exactly beloved to many people, in fact by the end of God of War 3 he had become an outright villain despised by a good majority of people, it seemed.

So why is a game from a dead series, with an unlikable protagonist, game of the year, let alone game of the decade?

As a fan of the series previously, even I could see how it would have been easy to throw Kratos away and reboot the franchise with a new protagonist. Instead, the developers decided to take on the challenge of writing a story that revolved around Kratos becoming a father, and the powerful changes that can wrought on an individual. This choice lead to a poignant tale about a small cast of characters, revolving around the evolving relationship of a father and son that just so happen to be Gods. Using Norse mythology it weaves this deeply personal tale into Ragnarok itself, providing an epic story to juxtapose against the more emotional one, and using existing lore many of us know in surprising ways.

If God of War was only an achievement in storytelling, it might not get the praise it has, but it also manages to be a masterful technical achievement as well. In a move I was sure would end in failure, the developers decided to frame the entire game from one perspective, over the bolder-sized shoulder of the God of War himself, and never cutting or fading into another scene. They accomplish this through deft storytelling in a boat and other such clever methods that masterfully hide load times. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal until you look into it and realize what an enormous undertaking this was, as the developers had to throw away camera tricks that the industry has relied on ever since the switch to 3D happened in the early N64 and PlayStation years. Not only is it a gorgeous game that is stunning to look at, with an amazing art direction that rivals any game on the market, but it also uses a revolutionary new framing device in the world of gaming that makes a huge impact into how personal the entire game feels.

07.0

All of this would be for not if the game wasn’t an absolute blast to play, but fortunately for all of us it feels damn near perfect. A lot of this is down to the Leviathan Axe itself, which I will argue for the foreseeable future is the best-feeling weapon in all of gaming. The satisfaction of throwing the axe at an enemy and watching it embed itself into their flesh, turning to pummel another enemy with your fists, and then holding out your hand to hear that lovely sound effect accompanying a slight vibration of the controller as the axe smacks back into your palm—sheer magic. This is partnered with a fluid upgrade system of both armor, weapons, and stats that deepens the entire experience from past games in the franchise, along with simple yet deep and strategic combat that makes every decision in battle feel important.

Each of these things alone would make it a contender for Best of 2018, but combined they create a game that is not only a phenomenal exclusive for PlayStation, but a revolutionary step in gaming that combines the best in technological achievement, fun and rewarding gameplay, and a deep and meaningful story that will stay with me for a long time to come.

There is a reason the game has been showered with awards, and why it should also win TWRM’s Best of 2018—it is just that damn good.

In the words of Kratos himself: “Just vote on my game already…boy. Or girl. Or non-binary other. I don’t know your life.”

]

 

Pros:
+ Technological achievement in both graphics and revolutionary new framing method that masks all loads.
+ Wonderfully engaging and personal story about the bond between parent and child that redeems one of the most hated heroes in gaming.
+ Leviathan Axe—best feeling weapon in gaming.
+ Simple yet deep combat system that makes every choice in battle matter.
+ An in depth leveling and crafting system that allows you to customize your play experience.
+ That one thing I can’t tell you about, because spoilers.
+ The other thing I can’t tell you about, because spoilers.
+ I mean seriously, why are you still reading this and not playing the game already?

Cons:
– You have to own a PlayStation 4 to play it, so everybody in the world can’t play this game.
– Um….seriously I’ve got nothing. It is a masterpiece, 10 out of 10, OMG kind of game.
– Ok, so maybe angsty Atreus. You’ll know it when you see it.

 

The Mail Order Ninja Mage loves video games across every console: an assassin of fanboy nonsense. He also really loves martial arts and pizza, though that is of no consequence here. To read more of his random word soup, or to view daily(ish) photo mode screenshots from his favorite games, visit him at Home Button.

 

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13 thoughts on ““TWRM GOTY 2018” – God of War

  1. I’m not sure I’d have called it a dead franchise. It certainly wasn’t lively but the break between entries is nearly the same as it was for Uncharted.

    I also don’t think that Sony Santa Monica set out to write a story about Kratos becoming a father, I mean, he’s always been a father. The original games revolved around his revenge at the gods for his wife and daughter’s demise at his hands. Before he became king murder machine though, he was a loving father and husband. I think this God of War is more about grieving, dealing with loss, and trying to move on after that loss and handle things that your partner would have been there to support you on (such as parenting and revealing to your little shit of a son that he is a god). I think it is interesting that it approached those topics, I just wish it actually succeeded on them for me.

    I’m glad you liked it, now I am going to spend far too long detailing why I feel it is middling at best.

    As a father of four and of a son of 13, I get that kids can be assholes at times. There has been countless occassions where I wanted to Spartan kick my son into a well. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character more than Atreus. I didn’t like him from the word go and came to outright hate him by a certain point in the game. If he were my kid, I would have Spartan kicked him off the mountain. It didn’t help that I didn’t really like any of the other characters in the game besides Mimir and Freya (up until they ruined her character for me at the end), so there was nothing else to latch on to.

    Then there was the gameplay which never clicked for me. While I fully agree that the axe is an amazing and super satisfying weapon by the time I embedded it into the body of yet another Draugr or evil flying elf I was over it. There only seemed to be a handful of different enemies and the boss battles, which should have been the most impactful mostly fell flat for me, especially having to do a battle with the same one over and over and over again throughout the course of the story.

    I don’t know, I get why people like it (it is an amazing looking game and the story resonated with them) but at best it just hits middle of the road for me. In fact it finished lower than middle of the road on my list (30th out of 49). I’m glad it clicked with so many others but its one I won’t remember especially fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First off, thanks so much for reading!

      As for the comments about a dead franchise, while I think it would take several generations of consoles to really declare it fully dead it was a franchise that had gone downhill critically and sales wise, ending that generation and having a sizable gap from one to the next with no further announcement. For something that used to be a major platform for Sony, that was a big deal, and though rumors abounded people thought it well and truly dead. After all, they basically ruined Kratos by the end of the trilogy as a hero ( though I argue that made it more Greek than ever).

      As for my interpretation of the father/son dynamic, I’m actually quoting the developer and their intention directly. The creative director, Cory Barlog, had a son and it changed his sensibilities a good deal. His direct idea was to have Kratos be a father change him, though of course that wasn’t the only thing.

      See, Kratos wasn’t really ever a father. He was like any other Spartan. Sure, he would go to battle for his family, but ultimately he simply wasn’t there. He never had to raise a kid on his own, let alone be around one. After their death he used it more as an excuse to rage and hide his grief than anything else, it certainly wasn’t for them.

      He had also been absent a good deal of Atreus’ life, because he didn’t want to be a bad influence having recognized what his vengeance cost him (something you see him realize at the very end of God of War 3).

      So yes, while being a father wasn’t the only contributor, per the director himself that bond between father and son is what drives Kratos’ change throughout the game.

      As far as Atreus, I can certainly see you disliking him during his moody portion, I did as well. Before that he is a pretty dang good kid, trying desperately to gain his father’s approval. I’m not sure what really struck you about his behavior during that time. As for his moody period it is in the trailer itself, so not a spoiler, that he finds out he is a God as well.

      Even a normal teenager reacts poorly as they start to deal with the heady reality of becoming an adult, now imagine you told a 12 year old he had immense powers. Once they start believing themselves a peer to you of course they would behave the way Atreus did.

      As for the combat I’m really kind of surprised by your take. What I saw was a game that constantly got deeper as you went on, adding new tactics and ways to play and constantly testing you on it. There is that one large point midway through the game that changes nearly everything about how you approach combat.

      That being said your opinions are your own and I respect them, though I obviously completely disagree. I would be curious to know what your top game of the year was if something of the caliber of God of War didn’t stand out for you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I mean, Ascension still sold 2.5m copies, reviewed well (holds an 80 on Metacritic) and was nominated for best writing in a video game by the Writers Guild of America. I mean, it wasn’t the 92 or the 86 that III or Ghost of Sparta received but an 80 is still a pretty damn good critical score. But, yeah I agree that III destroyed the character (as he should have been).

        I get what Barlog is saying and I believe he thinks that is what he delivered but I don’t think they hit that note.

        As for Atreus, I felt that before he finds out he is a god, he was a whiny brat and after he finds out he is a god, he is an insufferable asshole. As I said, I totally get that kids can be that way and I’ve wanted to spartan kick my own son in to a well. That said, my tolerance level for other people’s kids acting in such a way is zero and while the game wants you to be in Kratos’s shoes you are basically just witness to this kid being a complete asshole with no recourse. It infuriated me.

        While I really liked what that midpoint did for the gameplay (and I ultimately enjoyed using that more than the axe) it was still mostly the same three or four enemy types just with an added imunity to it that once figured out became rather stale for me again quickly because I was still fighting mostly just draugr, elves, and trolls. I do like what that item does to open up the puzzle aspects of the game though, they were my favorite part. I wish the regular combat was more varied by more different enemy types and I really wish the boss battles landed better for me. What I hold most dear to me about the original series are the boss battles and none of them, save maybe the first Baldur one, were as impactful.

        My top game of the year was Tetris Effect followed by The Messenger, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, and Gris. In terms of big budget games third person action games, I enjoyed AC: Odyssey, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Marvel’s Spider-Man more. And while there are things I can easily nitpick about those three, at the end of the day I enjoyed playing those titles and being in those world’s with those characters far more than God of War. I did like God of War more than Red Dead Redemption 2 though… so there’s that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The Messenger is such an amazing game, basically in my top ten regardless of some really big pacing issues. I need to get around to Bloodstained and have never even heard of Gris, but if you hold it in the same esteem as those two, maybe I should look into it.

          I like Tetris ok, I recognize its contribution to the industry, but the idea of Tetris Effect taking anyone’s game of the year being yet another re-release of an ancient game is confusing to me.

          I still don’t understand what consequences you wanted to see Atreus face for him being insufferable at one point. Child abuse? That is what I saw some people crying for, and that would have been a huge misstep.

          That being said we obviously simply disagree about God of War, and I won’t seek to dissuade you any longer on that front.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Honestly, I don’t know what consequence I would have liked to see Atreus face. Certainly not child abuse and I agree that would have been a huge misstep, especially for what the story was trying to do. I just don’t like how the story actually handled him as a character or how Kratos interacted with it. I’m not sure if there is anything that would have made me OK with it but the direction they did go didn’t work for me. And I think this is a big failing of these big cinematic story games. There is no agency on the player side so if an aspect of the story doesn’t work, you are left spending swaths of the game with story decisions that may not click and for me at least that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and ultimately sours the experience. For me, this can be balanced out by the gameplay clicking but when that doesn’t happen, the story deficiencies can be enhanced because there is nothing to sit well with you. Obviously everyone is going to experience the story differently and have things that work or don’t work for them personally. I’m glad that God of War ultimately worked for you, it just didn’t for me. And that is OK. I certainly don’t want to convince you it is a bad game, I’m happy you liked it and wish I liked it more.

            Gris was released in December and is a puzzle platformer that reminded me a lot of Journey but in 2D. Very chill and relaxing, but the puzzles are smart and fun.

            As for Tetris Effect, I understand the sentiment. And have similar feelings on certain games. In my mind Tetris is an example of perfect game design. It is the game that I would choose if you were to offer me one game to be stuck with on a desert island with because it’s something that 30 years after I first played it, I still come back to and can get lost in. There have been tons of iterations of actual Tetris over the years, additional game modes, modified rule sets, different gravity, etc… and there have been bad releases of Tetris. Which brings us to Tetris Effect. Not only is it an excellent version of Tetris, it is a masterful audio/visual experience as well. Journey mode is a legit campaign that has not only made me want to get better at Tetris but actually has made me better at Tetris. Before playing it, I’d get to about speed level 9 or 10 and be done but because of how Journey mode’s speed levels adjust to the music, so it’s not always a climbing ladder of difficulty, I’ve been able to progress to speed level 15 and I’m slowly getting better at managing that speed, and nevermind that speed level 9 and 10 are a joke to me now. Then there are the variety of different modes the game has, including puzzle modes where they present you with a preset well and give you a certain amount of moves to clear all the lines, or the mystery mode where different randomized effects or obstacles can present new and unforseen challenges as you are playing. It is really more than just another re-release. If you don’t already enjoy Tetris it isn;t going to blow your mind but for me, as someone who really enjoys Tetris, this is an extraordinary release. For me it is about on the same level as Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which revitalized Pac-Man for me and was my 2010 Game of the Year.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. “Gris was released in December and is a puzzle platformer that reminded me a lot of Journey but in 2D.”

              Well I will be buying this shortly then.

              It really just sounds like we are a different kind of gamer in general, and that is perfectly ok. I know Tetris is near perfect game design and can appreciate it when I play it, it just doesn’t blow my wig off. From hearing you talk about it so passionately in terms that I as a casual player of Tetris only understand because of my history in gamin–it clearly means a good deal to you. I love talking to people that are passionate about something they love, it always comes through when they write and even if I don’t love the same thing.

              Like

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