Yeah, thanks for mentioning that - I was going to but it get lost among all the rest of the awfulness. Funnily enough, during my reading up on the series, I came across Jim Sterling’s article on this affair - well, “came across” is a bit dishonest since I have a bit of an obsession with Sterling and always check if he wrote about an older game I’m playing - which is surprisingly conciliatory. I know he changed a lot over the years, but it’s always interesting to see just how much.
Well. You say “better fan”, I say “spurred by toxic masculinity to accomplish pointless things in the name of ego and at the cost of my enjoyment and mental health”.
But yeah, glad to hear people are still following this thread! I’ll probably throw up a summary of the pre-2018 series today and I should have preliminary impressions of the new game in 2-3 days.
Keep em coming! I’ve never been able to play these, so impressions from smart people (and you ) are welcome.
God of W4r, Pt. 1
And yes, that is how we’re calling it from now on
Video games have a problem with maturing. By this I don’t mean anything as frivolous as saying that we don’t have mature games, or that games can’t handle mature themes; I mean that games have a real problem with taking an existing series, existing characters, existing systems, and bringing them up to the standards we would want to see in games today.
This is the real reason, more than anything else, why I dread the Final Fantasy VII remake. As someone who deeply loves that game, who replays it on a biennial (I had to look that word up!) basis, it cannot escape me that the game had flaws: it was graphically ugly, even back in the day, its representation of homosexuality and trans people was shockingly bad, and at least its English localization, while still giving Barret a lot of good character moments, also contained a lot of racist stereotypes.
There’s improvements to be made to the game, for sure; I just have no faith that these are the improvements that will be made. I fear, more than anything, that the new FFVII will contain all the flaws of the original, while pointlessly trying to iterate on a combat system and a story that, as far as I’m concerned, are still unmatched in their quality in any modern game.
We saw this problem four years ago, when Ground Zeroes tried to “mature” Metal Gear Solid by introducing a miserable, unearned po-faced misery and a particularly disgusting use of the fridging trope. Far from being mature, Metal Gear Solid just went from being the kid who makes tasteless sexist joke that you hope will become better with age to being your run of the mill sexist man. Games still think that shouting “I am an adult” makes you look like a grown-up, whereas that just makes you look all the more childlike.
I’ve now played just over two hours of the new God of War, and while it’s entirely too early to judge, this is what I’m keeping an eye on. God of War was immature in a lot of ways - hell, it was immaturity in gaming personified - but at its core was a good, intriguing idea: telling the story of a man whose thirst for revenge is so unquenchable that he literally ends up destroying the world on his campaign of destruction, his triumph hollow, his power meaningless.
The new game seems to want none of that. Instead, it wants to be “mature”. How is this accomplished? Give Kratos a son, give him a new dead wife, and make the world around him grey and dull, a stark contrast to God of War III’s visual magnificence. I’m sorry, but I don’t think the 3 year old remake of your 8 year old game should look significantly better than your brand new entry. There’s just no excuse for that.
That’s not where God of W4r stops being offensive to the eyes, either. With a framerate chugging along at barely 30fps, combat is markedly unpleasant. It doesn’t help that movement is weird and clunky; in an attempt to make the game “modern”, the new game introduces an over-the-shoulder, player-controlled camera, which never seems to move as smoothly as needed.
The game is also lacking a sorely-needed lock-on system, meaning you will often fail to swing at the enemy you wanted to target. (Just noticed there is a lock-on system, my bad. It’s awful, but it’s there.) I’ve never missed fixed camera angles more.
I just don’t understand why they decided to completely overhaul a combat system they’ve iterated on and eventually made really good and replace it with this clunky, generic system they clearly don’t have a good handle on. I’m all for change, but if you’re changing just to do something different, you better at least do something better.
I’m also not on board with this new voice actor they have for Kratos. I find he has none of the presence that Terrence C. Carson brought to the role. Sure, Carson was kinda dull the last couple of games, but, given the games… can you blame him?
And if we’re trying to bring things up to date, can we address the fact that Kratos still sounds like an American? I’m not saying a Greek person today would sound like an ancient Spartan, but he would almost certainly be closer. At the very least, can the Nordic god who assaults you not have the accent, mannerisms and speech of a Far Cry 5 villain, except somehow more cartoonish?
There have been good parts. When Kratos first gets Atreus to kill a deer he has shot down, and it’s this beautiful, majestic beast you don’t want to hurt, there’s a real sense of identity with the boy. In another cutscene, when, in a fit of anger, he stabs at a boss you just killed and Kratos reins him in, you feel for this kid.
Then the dead body he was slashing at fizzles out of existence like in the PS2 games, and you’re reminded that God of War has not matured. It’s just older.
(Oh, and I realize I didn’t end up doing a summary - I’ll do that when I’m done with this game.)
Eager to see what you think of the rest of it, this whole thread has been great to read!
It’s funny, I watched the first hour or two of the game and this moment actually made me have a complete opposite reaction. I was kinda mad/confused that the death of the wife was glossed over with very little emotional weight attached to it, no real “funeral” or any explanation (I understand there is more later in the game). That scene you described happens so close to this one, and is signposted as much more of an emotionally-tinged moment, that in light of the series history with women and just general bewilderment as to why the wife’s death isn’t really dwelled on, this grated me in the exact wrong way.
Thanks! And yeah, I totally get what you’re saying and I actually have jotted down quite a few things to say about that, but I’m waiting to see how later parts of the game handle it.
Looking forward to see the overall comparison of God of 3ar to God of W4r
Something to keep in mind with 4 is that it’s trying to examine that toxic masculinity mindset that plagued the original games, but instead of having Kratos change and grow (he does but in minor ways), a major theme is that he can’t really change who he is, he can only use what he’s learned to try and help others avoid his mistakes - aaaaaand that’s where things get fuzzy because they’re clearly trying to set up for a sequel exploring this further. I’ll let you continue with the game before I go any further with those thoughts.
God of W4r, Pt. 2
In the throes of axe throws
So after my initial disappointment with God of War’s presentation, I think it’s slowly growing on me. There’s this satisfaction to the game’s - and by god, do I hate this term in general, but here it fits - “gameplay loop”, where you explore an area, find a quest, during the quest find another quest, or a treasure map, or whatever, and then you bring back all these goodies to the ubiquitous merchants dwarves - who, aside from being rather unpleasant antisemitic caricatures, have ill-fitting accents and lingo that make them feel very plasticy - get new stuff, and go out to explore again. I think the most fun I’ve had with GoW so far was during those times where I completely ignored the main quest and just went around to see the sights. Usually this type of design irks me greatly, but the quests feel unique enough and the dungeons / levels are interesting and varied enough to where it avoids going into that Ubisoft “do the same thing a billion times” place.
Having said that, combat is still a rather miserable experience. I usually look forward to combat in games like this, even the Ubisoft ones, but whenever Atreus shouts that “enemies are near” or whatever he says, I very audibly sigh. I knocked the difficulty down from Hard to Medium, which I’m usually loathe to do, but here it really is necessary. Combat is, on the one hand, very involved, and on the other, there’s really nothing to it. I find most fights are won by spamming axe throws, running to safety when enemies focus you, and using the occasional Runic Attack when enemies bunch up too much to allow you through. And yet, there are a million things to do: standard attacks, combos, axe throws, runic attacks, shield bashs, special shield bash moves, special axe throw moves, stuff for Atreus to do - every time I get to the upgrade screen, all I can think of is, well, here’s a lot of stuff I’m probably never going to use or remember. Occasionally these new moves are fun to use, but you never need them. Your initial move set, plus some basic equipment, is all you really need to deal with most of the encounters I’ve seen so far.
Well, what am I complaining about, then? There’s Hard difficulty or whatever it’s called, just switch to that, you may think. The problem is that God of War, like so many games today, thinks that difficulty is all about decreasing or increasing numbers. Enemies on hard aren’t more clever, they’re just a lot more spongy and can generally kill you in two hits. This makes the game a test of endurance rather than skill, and while it’s true that skill is tested more thoroughly when you need to do the same thing more times, it doesn’t make for a very fun game. When you learn how to play a song on an instrument, you play it a bunch of times, but a song allows you to learn individual parts and then put them all together once you have a handle on them. If I had to start the entire song from the start every time I whiffed a couple of notes, I don’t think I would’ve learned many of them by now.
The game seems to have a bit of a pacing issue, too. I’m admittedly still in the early parts of the game - I think I’m like a third of the way through? - but ever since the fight with dimestore John Seed, I feel like nothing’s really happened. We went to a place, talked to a dwarf, went to another place, talked to a witch, and now we went beyond the looking glass to kill some Elves. Admittedly, it’s not like that much happened during the older games, but those games were laser-focused and melodramatic enough to where that wasn’t felt so much over the course of the game. Here, it’s just a bit weird. I hope it picks up again after this part.
Also, here’s the thing: I like Atreus. I think he’s a good character and obviously it’s easy to sympathize with him. In cutscenes, I think he’s great. But, my god, over the course of the “regular” games, this kid DOES. NOT. SHUT. UP. “You did it!” “I don’t think that gonna work…” “INCOMING!” “BEHIND YOU!” “What’s over there?” Jesus Christ, kid, can you be quiet for like, one friggin’ second.
You may argue that that’s what kids are like in real life. I would counter that real life has no planet-scale serpents.
I try for my second post on the games I’m less positive about to be somewhat more positive, but here I managed to make that last for exactly one paragraph, and even then, only partially. Thing is, I am enjoying this game now. Like I said, the basic moment-to-moment gameplay is fun, and combat can be spent just going through the motions, which is better than the abject misery of some of the older games. But as far as things to talk about, I still find a lot more to condemn than praise. This is certainly not going to be my worst game of the series or of the year, but barring some miraculous transformation, it’s not going to be one of the best, either.
I played Dad of Boi through to completion on the hard setting (the one down from hardest setting). I found the combat a real slog at first, needlessly difficult. You don’t really have much to work with at first, and they just pile on the enemies. It teaches you the various mechanics, like how you can stun enemies with your fists, which felt practically useless at first. I was stuck on the market section for a good two hours before I realised I could afford the two first axe moves. Once you start unlocking abilities and levelling up it seems to become easier (save for a few encounters) and more fun.
As with the first games, I like the depiction of mythology in the game. I think the exploration of the linear open world lends itself well to the awe and mystery of the setting. I did feel like the (euh) gameplay loops reminded me heavily of the two latest Tomb Raider reboots. The game does reward you for exploration, but it’s all to fill these very short term gratification loops. Once you’re done with a section of the map, there is little reason to come back to it - sometimes it just feels like busy work to accumulate all your resources.
This is one of the many reasons I hate Dwarfs as a fantasy race in media. It is almost always this and no one ever thinks anything about it. I sort of mind it less here as the myths they draw from make for a pretty easy through line on how they could have unintentionally got here but I still really dislike it even if I like the characters on the whole in terms of arc in that “I have issues with this but appreciate the execution” way
I know you liked the combat in the old games a lot better than I did, but honestly everything you’ve said lines up with my complaints about the combat in the old games, minus the added pain of that fixed camera. Difficulty was always additional enemies + being blade sponges, you had extra combos that you could never use because mobs were always knocking you out of them, and you had to stick to basic combos because they were short and had specific effects like knockdown (and also because of the need to block or dodge).
Keep in mind the ones I actually liked were CoO and III, which I think you didn’t get to. I agree with your complaints regarding the first two games, and others as well, but in those two they really seemed to have things figured out. Which was also my frustration with Ascension - the fact that they’re still repeating mistakes they’ve corrected before.
I’m hoping this is the right thread for this, but I have a question about my progression in the current game, with spoiler tags attached: Just got the black rune and about to head to the land of giants. But I notice on my world tree map there’s still a number of areas locked. Are these all optional challenge areas like the fire realm, or is there still more story coming up than I expect? Just feels like I’m on the final leg of the game at this point.
This isn’t really the thread for this, but there are so many God of War threads at this point that it’s hard to tell which one would be. Anyway, iirc, the black rune chapter comes roughly two thirds of the way through the game, so you still have quite a bit left (which has been the focus of some pacing-related criticisms around here). I believe the locks you’re talking about are the fast travel/move between realms system, which you can currently only use in one direction. Won’t say more, but basically there’s quite a bit more game left than it seems.
Cool, thanks for the info - and yeah I didn’t think this was the right place for my query, but it’s the only active GoW thread I’ve seen around here. I’ll be a bit more discerning next time!
God of War - An Epilogue
I tried playing God of W4r today. I really did. But when it came time, after a rough day at work and some frustrating technical issues at home, to turn on my PS4 and once again enter Midgard, I just… couldn’t. As I sat down to play a video game, there was nothing I could do to compel myself to make that video game be Nordic-themed Horizon: Zero Dawn. Instead, I did what everyone should do and finished my second playthrough of Specter of Torment, Shovel Knight’s latest - and, in my opinion, the best so far - campaign.
Did you know that Shovel Knight is one of the best video games ever made? I feel like I have not voiced this opinion enough.
Don’t worry, I don’t intend to turn this into a Shovel Knight thread. That would be quite a bait-and-switch. But I did think today about one part in Shovel Knight, and I won’t say where, but at one point, when you tear open a secret wall, it seems very clear there’s more to it. You attack the next wall, and it opens as well. And through a process, so well-designed as to appear effortless, you find a string of secrets all within what seemed like a single secret before. And it’s this moment of simple joy, of elation. It’s a moment that shows you that this game was made with love, with passion, by people who cared so much.
It’s a feeling I’ve yet to have at any point with God of W4r.
It’s not that G4W is not well-designed. Hell, a lot of the level design is downright inspired. But nothing about it says to me love or passion - certainly not love, a concept so far beyond the purview of a game like this. G4W is, discourse aside, a AAA Video Game, a product, a thing that behaves like people expect a video game to. There’s a skill tree that you don’t need, a host of collectibles you needn’t care about, and a story that… I guess starts happening at some point? But I have not reached that point, and right now it feels very much like how Final Fantasy XIII is supposed to become good 20 hours in. Meanwhile, in just over 20 hours, I’ve finished a three-campaign playthrough of one of the best games ever made, and I still have some more challenges, a new campaign and a new fighting game mode to look forward to in the coming months.
When you love video games, when you want to write about them and talk to people about them, no cliche seems as relevant as “life is short”. We will not be here for long, and much of our time here will be filled with unpleasantness. Most of us will never, ever get to do the things we want in life. No one will read what we write, no one will listen to our music, no one will play our games.
And so, to me it is understandable why those of us who have managed to eke out a living doing what they love are so defensive of it. I understand why so many sites need to have God of War headlines for as long as the game sticks in the public consciousness, preferably coupled with the title of another popular thing for that sweet sweet SEO juice.
But all the same, life is short, and for those of us who are not paid to write about games, chasing the discourse in this manner is a fool’s errand. Luckily, we don’t have to. We can play other games. We can have fun. We can be free, if only in these moments of free time we steal away for the sake of our passions and hobbies.
I do not regret playing the other God of War games just to get here. I feel like I got to experience and think a lot about video games, which I love to do. And the discussion in this thread has been interesting and fun to me - and, I hope, to some of you as well! This wasn’t time wasted. But any more time playing D4d of B0y will be. I have given this game its fair due, and it has failed to impress. It’s not even bad. It’s just another Far Cry, just another Assassin’s Creed. It’s better than those games, but fundamentally, it’s the same. It’s not even another God of War, and that series contains stuff like Ascension, for the love of GoW.
And so, this shall be my last post in this thread, and indeed, the last in these forums. I know this seems very dramatic and petulant, but I did not want to leave this thread unresolved, nor do I want to seem rude by not answering any replies I might get. It’s nothing personal; it’s just time to move on. If you’d like to stay in touch, feel free to hit me up on twitter. Or if you just wanna hear me jabber on about games, there’s my YouTube, where I might even have a God of War video at some point. But of course, there’s no reason you should feel obligated to do either.
That’s that. Mods, feel free to lock this thread. Or not. It doesn’t really matter to me.