OPINION – I already wrote my God of War review and awarded it an 8.4/10 score, which raised the eyebrow of some people, seeing that the game received a perfect 10/10 score at many online magazines and 9/10 at some others. I actually received some personal insult (the first one since GameStar times, where I worked before as an editor when people angrily wrote me, that I am too harsh sometimes.) As I still stand by that score, I try to explain my main issue with the game. There are some other smaller quirks to the game, but my main issue is the game’s RPG system, which – while being vastly similar to other AAA titles – is broken at its core.
First of all, let me be clear on this: God of War is an awesome game, as far as story, game characters, combat and graphics go. The Midgard universe and the lore are beautifully presented, and told by Atreus, the son of Kratos. You can read my review here, to find out about the whole game. In this opinion, I only concentrate on the RPG aspect of the game, which is, in my opinion, broken. I finished the game a while ago, but since it was released Friday, the majority of the gamers are still playing it, but already have an idea about the RPG aspect. Feel free to comment on the following opinions.
There’s no way back: it is an RPG now
God of War was always a fun hack’n’slash title with very slight RPG elements. You collected red orbs, which you could use to upgrade your newly found weapons, and special, magic items thus, you learned some new combos and their power was stronger – and that was about it. It was very simple, yet it worked extremely well.
In the new God of War, Cory Barlog and his team took another path, which, at first may seem more dangerous, yet it is using some familiar gameplay elements: that of the modern RPGs, like The Witcher 3, Horizon, the last few Assassin’s Creed games or the Souls series – to name only a few games. It probably changed the series forever, as there is no way back to the old system. Was it a good idea? Or a bad one? Well, if you are an RPG addict, like me, still bewitcher be The Witcher 3 and also adoring Horizon: Zero Dawn, or Bloodborne (to only name a few examples) you might find it first very alluring. The problem is that Sony Santa Monica’s RPG aspects do not quite cut it.
Skill tree of a nightmare
My first issue with the RPG stuff is the needlessly overcomplicated and designed skill trees with tons of boring or downright useless skills. Yes, some of them are quite good, but others are either boring, not really working or useful in a direct combat situation. While I learned with fervor every one of them is hardly used about 80% of them, since the two main skills related to each weapon were more than enough.
Also putting those skills was a big mistake. While in older God of War the very simple special skills were always a joy to use, in this they are a pain to use on the hard difficulty level, where you need to use your reflexes and simply not worth to use in normal, which actually another nickname for “easy.”
Make no mistake; I am not saying, that the combat is not very fun, or satisfying (on hard difficulty), because it would be a lie. However, using more specific skills is not.
My other problem related to skills, or the skill tree, is that they are frankly boring and it does not feel like the designer put much thought into it. Yes, there are TONS of them, but most of them are either just some upgrade of the same thing, there aren’t any truly exciting skills, which I was impatient to get after leveling up. Getting new, exciting skills was always a boost for me in classic RPGs like the Dragon Age series, The Witcher 3, or Horizon: Zero Dawn. It is the complete opposite of God of War, where I only checked back into the skill tree when the way is browsing the character UI for some other reasons. It’s a shame because skills should be fun and exciting in every RPG, or action-RPG, and clearly, it isn’t the case here.
Great Breastplate of Unseen Ingredients
My other issue with the RPG aspect is God of War is the way the armor making and upgrades and are done. Okay, they look awesome and different enough on Kratos to feel like it is worthy to change them from time to time – when you got the opportunity at all. Honestly, I had no idea how did they suddenly appear on the dwarves makeable armor list, but most of them were missing ingredients anyway.
And, that is, in fact, a major flaw with this system in a linear RPG like that. Since it’s useless to go back to farm those ingredients since the monsters aren’t respawning, you are forced to do the subquests to get the ingredients for the epic armors, which is pretty lame in my opinion. The “optional” adjective for the subquests in an RPG are here for a reason, and forcing you to do them, if you want ANY kind of epic armor until the end of the game is ridiculous.
After finishing the game and the main quests, there are still legendary armor in the dwarves “craft” directory, which cannot be made, because they are missing several ingredients. I can only guess, that you can get those during the subquests, but forcing those down on your throat (either you do them, or you cannot get legendary stuff) is very bad game design, especially with the added fact, that you are never actually told, that you NEED to do those subquests in order to get your hand on those ingredients.
Atreus: Terminator, your son, your friend, your ally
The final RPG-like aspect which was a bit of a letdown is the way Atreus is implemented in combat. His main role is about using his bow, and you can trigger that by smashing the square button on your controller looking and looking in the direction of your enemy. That becomes tedious after a while, (I don’t understand, why the designers didn’t let it do by himself) and makes the combat less streamlined.
There’s a reason, Ellie was controlled by the AI in The Last of Us, or your allies in RPGs like Dragon Age: Inquisition, or in classics, like Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption.
Later, there are some interesting, more advanced skills Atreus can learn (all concerns fighting mob and not bosses), but they are either too finicky to trigger them on Hard level, or you won’t even bother if you play on medium (which rather the easy level).
Atreus also can learn some more complex close combat feats (besides the obvious “jump on the monster’s back” skill), but I rarely seen using him those.
This new franchise needs to level up
I could go on and mention some other flaws, but you probably get the picture. No offense to those colleagues at other gaming magazines, but there’s no way in hell, that this game is a perfect 10/10. Besides the sloppy RPG elements, this articles is about, it’s an excellent game, perhaps if you are a bit of a blinded fan, it could go up to 9/10, but come on, 10/10?!
We already know, that the game will continue with Kratos and Atreus (Cory Barlog “spoiled” it himself) but if Sony Santa Monica wants a more solid sequel, the messed up RPG system needs to be fixed in my opinions and that includes more focused, more interesting skill system, with a better UI, better crafting system and they way Atreus is controlled. This franchise needs to level up, indeed.
Or do you think otherwise? Please, discuss it in the comments!