The Best Moves

PlayStation

God of War • Fully upgrade a Runic Attack • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 53.8% (Common)

I wore some criticism yesterday for ‘giving too much away’ when it comes to God of War, which I suppose is a subjective assessment, but it still gives me an emotional reaction at the injustice of being called out. The modern risk of putting yourself out there is not so much an occupational hazard, but one of the vissictudes of life. Que Sera Sera.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to be spiteful and try and ‘spoil’ something else (yes, I’m that kind of person), I went with a trophy that’s a little more ‘mainstream’ tonight. My intent isn’t so much as to labor the substance of this achievement – I feel like it’s one that most people will get to in their course of learning the game (and a 53% completion rate seems to support that), but more so just to talk about these final few beats of the God of War narrative.

Tonight I had a range of battles, puzzles and encounters that start to tie-up the threads that have been left throughout the journey. I feel like the game is moving at a cracking pace, but sure enough, it’s nearly midnight and I have just put the controller down for the night – talk about a time-sink. I am left glancing at the clock every twenty minutes while willing the game to draw to an end, just so I can scratch this one off my ‘played’ list and return to hating on PlayStation and Sony.

Another solid session like today should bring the main narrative to an end, but a glance at the checklist to complete shows a much greater list of side missions and tasks to complete before I even get close to a Platinum trophy. I’m not sure if this is an ‘immediate’ priority for me, or whether it’s something I’ll go back to later in the year.

Either way, I’ve enjoyed the journey so far – and I intend to enjoy these final few steps as well.

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Hello, Old Friend

PlayStation

God of War • Retrieve the Blades of Chaos • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 56.6% (Common)

I’ve tried to stifle the unbridled praise for God of War that swamped the internet. Quite against my character, I’ve tried to add nuance to the echo chamber of the Sony fanboi chorus holding God of War up as some idol of gaming in 2018.

Tonight, however, I am gladly adding God of War to my short list for Game of the Year.

To be honest, not much has changed. The puzzles are still on par with Tomb Raider. The graphics are brilliantly matched to the best the Xbox can offer and the combat is as good as anything else on the market (sans the satisfying thunk of an axe returning to your hand). But it was this very moment in the achievement which got me – the return of Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, made famous through – well, pretty much his entire career, and they look and feel just as wonderful as they did the first time you played God of War … and that goes for any platform at any point in history. You never forget your first time playing, and tonight I had every piece of nostalgia not just tickled, but caressed lovingly as Kratos flung those babies around like no tomorrow.

It was glorious. Glorious.

I really have no idea where I’m up to narrative-wise. I’m still stopping to complete the odd side-quest, so I’m probably not being as prompt as I could be, but Sony Santa Monica have done a brilliant job of making a quick half hour turn into a four-hour gaming session.

That’s a special kind of magic.

I feel like that if there was three acts, then we’d be about to kick-off the third, but I’m simply hypothesising, so don’t mind my shoot-from-the-hip approach to blogging. I’m just happy I got to experience this game despite my ongoing bitterness towards Sony.

Yes. God of War even has the power to break through that. If that doesn’t get bonus points for Game of the Year – nothing will.

Dragon Slayer

PlayStation

God of War • Defeat the Dragon of The Mountain • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 65.1% (Common)

Well, in terms of big battles, this really tickled my tits. It’s what I want out of Dark Souls, but it offers a level of accessibility that far surpasses any of From Software’s catalogue. This was a big, meaty fight that let you learn and respond to attacks along the way, rather than punishing you from the first strike for failing to study up on a particular combatants techniques.

I guess this also gives you a placeholder in terms of where I’m up to in God of War. Kratos and Son have been working their way to the summit of the mountain, and found a new friend (with echoes from Game of Thrones and Fallout 3), and started their journey back to the witch in the forest.

You can begin to see why you hear whispers of so many ‘false endings.’ Even now I have become accustomed to not getting comfortable about my place in the narrative, so every session continues to surprise and delight me.

With a few more setpiece battles like this … it might even start to convince me that it deserves Game of the Year.

Death Happened Here

PlayStation

God of War • Fully explore Veithurgard • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 25.6% (Rare)

I thought it was worth following up on yesterday’s assessment of God of War, just to make sure that I hadn’t left it feeling cold and alone. If anything, I’m quite invested in the development of Kratos 2.0 now, so I’m keen to follow the story through to completion.

Despite that, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the story today – instead working through a couple of side missions, which I thought would never eventuate (or I was missing them to begin with). In what is essentially ‘Act 2’ (of who knows how many parts), the world opens up considerably – and you are left to explore and undertake these side missions at your leisure.

One of the things that bothered me about Fallout 4 was the drive for the protagonist to find their son falls by the narrative wayside as side missions and other story beats take shape. Even core story places the pursuit on the back burner which just doesn’t make any sense. Bethesda’s mistakes are Santa Monica Studio’s gain though, and Kratos and Son’s exploits are thematically framed as ‘gathering resources’ for the journey ahead. It’s a little thing, but damn it makes a difference.

I haven’t changed my stance from yesterday though, I still think that God of War is subjectively as good as a range of titles on-offer both exclusive and cross-platform, and while it’s good – it’s not good at the exclusion of all else.

Nonetheless, the journey continues. Let’s see where it takes us.

A New Friend

PlayStation

God of War • Survive the Witch’s Woods • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 80.6% (Common)

Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t think God of War is ‘all that’. That’s probably a bit unfair to launch into – but let me explain my reasoning, and I hope that everybody can at least put their pitchforks down for ten minutes before the next scheduled hype train is about to depart.

Perhaps I’ll start by saying this: God of War is a great game. It is visually stunning, the graphics are crisp on a vanilla PS4 on a 1080p TV, so I can only imagine how great they look on a Pro with HDR.

In terms of narrative, Kratos kicks off his latest adventure with the same poignancy as The Last of Us. That intimate, family-driven exposition intermingled with a tutorial is now both expected and cliche, but it works in this setting.

And the gameplay itself is well-paced and satisfying. There is a satisfying buzz you get from throwing your axe and having it return to you, Thor-style.

But is it, or should it be, the centrepiece of gaming in 2018? Perhaps, but I also think it should share the mantle.

I made the mistake of hunting for an old tweet that compared God of War to Dark Souls … and I’m sure that the comparison might be true on a harder difficulty (I’m playing on easy), but if I thought I was being harsh on GoW, then there’s plenty of hate online already there for it. Rage ranges from ‘it’s just not God of War’ through to criticism about Kratos’ repeated utterance of “Boy”.

For what it’s worth, the minor quibbles about dialogue or gameplay – a departure from the original GoW approach which I think is welcome – don’t really bother me. What I do find frustrating is the pedestal that GoW has been put on as the game to beat in 2018.

Here’s a controversial opinion: I think there’s plenty of games that could do it.

The game that comes to mind straight away is Tomb Raider, which might be as a result of my earlier session on its sequel today – but the visuals and the puzzles in Tomb Raider are (for now) as complicated as anything on offer in GoW, and as pretty as anything in GoW.

The pedestal of great games does not, and should not, be reserved solely for first-party games.

What this does demonstrate though is the popularity of hating Microsoft. When Tomb Raider was brought out as a timed console exclusive, Microsoft and Square Enix were utterly slammed for the decision. The hypocrisy is staggering, but shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Of course, there’s a new Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption due out this year – neither of which are platform-exclusive. Far Cry 5 only has to keep its award-winning formula to keep everyone happy and let’s not forget the well received A Way Out.

So, yes, it’s a great game. But it’s not the only game out there to give you the same puzzle-exploration-combat aesthetic with high-end visuals. I’m sure it’s nice for PlayStation otaku to be able to hold something up with this level of quality and say that ‘it’s all mine’, but when you clear off the fanboi fog and compare games with games – yes, you’re left with a contemporary masterpiece, but it’s not the last game you’ll ever need to take with you on a deserted island.