God of War is a PC game. That still felt weird to say as I wrapped up my second playthrough over the holidays. Not far above it on my Steam library sits another game that is “of War” for a different master—Gears 5. Just a few years ago, these two tentpole series existing on the same device was impossible. Now they share a virtual shelf.
Sony’s latest angry dad game is evidence that the PC is the ultimate videogame unifier, and a great reminder of how the platform can bring out the best in games. I’ve killed my way across Midgard at 30 fps on a PS4 and 4K on PS5, but I don’t think I can go back to either after 24 hours of buttery smooth monster chopping at 90+ fps. This is a damn good port, at least on my higher-end PC.
If you skipped God of War 2018 or haven’t touched the series at all, this is the God of War to play. All you need to know going in is that Kratos was Athena’s best murder man until he was betrayed and decided to kill all of the gods (including his daddy, Zeus). This soft reboot picks up years later. In that time, Kratos left a now-godless Greece and wandered into the Norse lands, where he gained a wife (who has just passed away at the start of the game), a son named Atreus, and a glorious beard.
God of War is its restraint. It’s a small story in a world of gigantic characters. Kratos and Atreus aren’t out to save the world—they just want to spread their wife/mother’s ashes on a big mountain. They’re not looking for a fight, but end up walking into a bunch of them because, apparently, Midgard has been a nightmare land of evil trolls, poison witches, and zombies for the last century or so. Much of the game is basically carving a path through this broken world, unraveling the petty god drama that led to its ruin.
There’s a lot of The Last of Us and Uncharted in its puzzly moments—hoisting young Atreus up a ledge to kick down a rope and jostling dilapidated supports to make a bridge are pages straight out of the Naughty Dog playbook—but these familiar puzzles get to have a lot of fun with Kratos’ superhuman strength.
My strongest memories all revolve around one of the greatest weapons in videogames: the Leviathan Axe.
It’s both cool and funny how often Atreus ponders how they’re going to cross a gap just as Kratos lifts a beam the size of six cars or spins an entire building like it’s a windup toy. Where Nathan Drake looks for a chain to lift an ancient pulley, Kratos simply throws his axe at the gears so hard that they spin. For a character that used to mostly show his toughness by killing every living thing in the room, it’s nice to see Kratos throw his weight around the world itself.
Lifting big rocks wouldn’t be near as fun without the back and forth banter with Atreus (or as he’s often called, “boy”). It’s not exactly a new narrative trick to pair a strong silent type with an inquisitive youngster, but unlike the developing relationship of Joel and Ellie, Atreus and Kratos already have a layered rapport that’s steadily peeled back over time. It’s obvious from the jump that the two aren’t close. Atreus is determined to prove he’s ready to make the journey and pressured to live up to Kratos’ high standards (“Do not be sorry. Be better,” Kratos tells him after taking a careless shot at a deer). Kratos, meanwhile, is an emotionally distant father who projects his own issues on other people.
Their relationship evolves organically as they take on the world together, but Sony Santa Monica was smart to let side characters do some heavy lifting as well. One character introduced halfway through is easily the best part of the game, a wise old grandpa figure brimming with useful advice and stories to fill the dead air while the trio boat around Midgard.