Between Microsoft’s Game Pass, cloud gaming, the resurgence of MMORPGs, and the constant stream of free-to-play titles coming to Steam, there has never been a better time to be a PC gamer. For the longest time, the only thing missing was Sony’s fabled PlayStation exclusives. Well, it looks like 2022 is the year when we’re getting those, too.
Don’t get me wrong, Sony already ported a couple of its best games to PC over the past few years. But I feel like the release of God of War is the most important sign that Sony is finally willing to take PC gaming seriously.
While games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone were certainly welcomed additions to our Steam libraries, the critically-acclaimed God of War was the title we wanted to see the most on PC ever since its initial release back in 2018. Now, almost four years later, we finally have it and I have to say: the wait was well worth it.
God of War Hooks You In Immediately
First impressions are often everything and God of War definitely doesn’t fail to deliver on that front. Aside from the unnecessary quick-time event at the very beginning, the opening sequence of God of War is pretty much perfect. There’s a good balance between action and exploration, and just enough cutscenes to get you invested in the story without feeling like you’re passively watching a movie.
Towards the end of the opening sequence, you are also treated to a memorable fight scene that you’re likely to be familiar with by now even if you haven’t played the game. The folks over at Santa Monica Studio clearly know their audience and their expectations. The devs made sure to add an epic boss battle near the start to assure players that this new iteration of God of War is just as brutal and visceral as previous entries. Perhaps even more so.
And perhaps the devs also wanted to show that settling down and starting a family didn’t make Kratos soft. Quite the contrary. The God of War now has something to lose, and that makes him even more dangerous than before. Especially after Kratos already lost his beloved wife shortly before the start of the game. When we first meet him all he has left is his son, Atreus.
Father and Son
The tension between Kratos and Atreus is tangible from the get-go, as each protagonist chooses to mourn the death of their loved one in a very different way. The two are also almost opposite in terms of personality, with Kratos being stern and apathetic, and Atreus being curious and compassionate.
This father-son dynamic was one of the only things I was worried about before jumping into the game. And I remember it being a major point of debate back when the game was originally announced.
On paper, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to pair Kratos, a man known for inflicting unspeakable acts of violence upon anyone who looks at him funny, with Atreus, a young boy that seems more interested in reading and hunting than fighting towering gods and monsters. And yet, the pairing ends up being extremely effective precisely because of the stark contrast between their personalities, not in spite of it.
The top-notch writing and animations are two big factors that help bring these characters to life. Meanwhile, the voice acting is so good that it instantly gets you invested in their quest.
The voice acting in God of War is stellar across the board but the performances of Christopher Judge as Kratos and Sunny Suljic as Atreus are genuinely some of the best in gaming. The casting choices are simply perfect and after playing through the game it’s hard to imagine these characters being voiced by anyone else.
Not Your Typical Video Game Companion
While Kratos continues to be the only playable character in the series, Atreus provides you with invaluable help throughout your adventures in God of War. The character is not the strongest combatant at the start of the journey, but he becomes increasingly better at it as you unlock more skills and abilities for him to use.
In addition, Atreus knows much more than Kratos about the history and culture of Midgard. And is the only one of the two who can read runes.
So while Atreus relies on Kratos’ strength for protection, Kratos, in turn, relies on Atreus’ knowledge to overcome challenges that require more brains than brawn. And there are quite a few of those in God of War as the game is absolutely teeming with puzzles.
But Atreus’ best quality isn’t his intelligence or his skill with the bow. Far from it. From a gameplay perspective, his best quality is that he isn’t a burden to the player. Sure, Kratos scolds him on more than one occasion for being too reckless or distracted during their quest. *obligatory BOY reference* But I personally wasn’t bothered by his behavior in the slightest. Which is more than I can say about most video game companions.
Historically speaking, video game companions have been more of a burden than an asset to the player, especially in RPGs. Companions in The Elder Scrolls games are probably the most infamously incompetent, but there are certainly a lot of other examples out there. Now, God of War isn’t a straight-up RPG but it does have a fair share of RPG elements. Luckily, a braindead companion is not among these elements.
Whoever designed Atreus’ AI did a remarkable job. The character never gets in your way and provides exactly as much help as you want him to during combat. He doesn’t get lost or stuck either, meaning there’s no need to worry about having to babysit him.
It can be a bit tricky at times to take advantage of Atreus’ full potential during combat but that’s mostly just because you’ll want to focus primarily on dishing out the big damage with Kratos.
Combat in God of War Can Be Surprisingly Tactical
As one might expect, combat is a major component of God of War and it also happens to be one of the game’s biggest strengths. The combat is fast-paced and heavily reliant on skills and combos, but not to the point where it becomes overwhelming.
Action games often have a tendency to bombard players with more combo moves than most people can realistically keep track of, leading to situations where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the button combinations you have at your disposal. Luckily, that’s not the case here at all.
God of War is very smart about gradually introducing new skills and combos. Even more importantly, it generally only has you fighting a handful of opponents at any one time. Therefore, giving you plenty of room to experiment with newfound powers at your own pace.
Naturally, over the course of the game you’ll find yourself fighting stronger and more numerous bands of enemies but very rarely do fights feel drawn-out or unfair. The game makes sure that you always dominate the battlefield. Except in situations when you’re not supposed to.
A Warrior and a Scholar
When fighting against bosses and even elite enemies things are a bit different. God of War takes a page from games like The Witcher 3 by giving each type of enemy its own strength and weaknesses. You don’t have to drink potions or rub oils on your weapons before combat, but you do need to be aware of how to exploit enemy weaknesses if you want to come out on top.
While generic monsters can quickly be dispatched by simply hacking and slashing your way through them, stronger enemies require you to put in a bit more work. Or, in the cases of bosses, a lot of work. Towards the end of the game, you’ll run into some of the hardest video game bosses found in an action-adventure game.
In God of War you’ll also find yourself frequently running into opponents that are too fast to hit with regular attacks or completely invulnerable to them. The game encourages you to experiment with various types of attacks to try and discover the optimal way to take down special enemies. Once you find it, the game conveniently records it for you in the Bestiary.
If you can’t picture Kratos sitting down to take notes after each battle that’s because he doesn’t. All the Bestiary entries, along with pretty much everything else found in the Codex and quest journal, are being written down by Atreus. The boy chronicles everything partially for his own enjoyment and partially to help his father with useful information.
The Axe is Mightier Than The Pen
But while information is indeed useful, the most useful thing for the God of War is, of course, his weapon. In the process of moving from fantasy ancient Greece to Midgard, Kratos decided to ditch his trusty Blades of Chaos in favor of a new weapon, the Leviathan Axe. Fittingly, given the whole Norse mythology theme, the axe behaves like Mjolnir in that it always makes its way back to the owner regardless of where you throw it.
The Leviathan Axe is both a melee and a ranged weapon that also doubles as a puzzle-solving tool. In combat, Kratos also makes use of his shield and fists to deliver devastating blows, some of which are even more powerful than a lot of the axe attacks.
Although you can try to specialize in a specific style of combat, the game strongly encourages you to use your entire arsenal in battle. This includes Leviathan Axe add-ons and special abilities you can unlock by equipping certain talismans, as well as the skills used by Atreus.
Despite playing God of War on PC, I made the rather uninspired decision to use a controller. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but in my case that meant having to struggle with ranged attacks because I absolutely suck at aiming with a controller. Even with the aim-assist turned on.
In hindsight, I guess I just found it ironic to play a Sony game on PC with an Xbox controller. And it was.
But if you don’t use a controller very often, I strongly recommend playing God of War on PC with a mouse and keyboard. It makes everything a lot easier.
The game puts a lot of emphasis on melee combat, but you will find yourself having to use ranged attacks more often than you might expect. Puzzle-solving often requires good aim as well, so even more reason to stick with mouse and keyboard if that’s what you usually use.
Pretty as a Picture
Speaking of PC-centric things, this version of God of War is easily the best out there in terms of visuals. The PC version features 4K resolution support, Nvidia DLSS support, 120 FPS, SSDO, ultra-widescreen support, and more. Naturally, you will need a beefy rig to play the game with all the graphical settings cranked to the max.
Unfortunately, my aging GPU couldn’t handle the Ultra present so I had to settle for playing the game on High, with a couple of settings like Shadows and Ambient Occlusion turned down to their original settings.
Honestly, the game looks stunning even when using the default settings and the system requirements aren’t very demanding if that’s all you need. But make sure to experiment with the settings because this is a well-optimized PC port that runs better than you might expect even on a lot of older systems. Especially if your rig is running an Nvidia card.
Still Needs Some More Optimization for AMD Hardware
If you’re running an AMD GPU, your mileage may vary. Many AMD users have been reporting issues at launch and while some of those issues have since been addressed, the developers are still working on further fixes as we speak.
Earlier this month, the developers stated that “while we do not have a timeline, we want to communicate that we have identified the primary cause leading to AMD performance problems and are now investigating solutions to resolve this issue.”
By the time you’re reading this, those problems may have already been addressed. If not, you can try to fix the problem yourself by installing a Vulkan API mod. There are a couple of these mods available out there and they allow the game to run with AMD’s Vulkan API.
A lot of AMD users have reportedly been experiencing a significant performance boost when using one of these mods, but there have also been reports of more frequent crashes. So download it at your own risk.
Speaking of God of War mods, there are a bunch of others you can check out as well. The game is still fairly new so don’t expect nearly the same variety of mods as Skyrim, for example, but you can already find a few interesting ones out there.
Mods are an essential part of PC gaming and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out at least a couple of them. Ideally, after completing the game so as not to ruin the vanilla experience.
God of War is a nearly flawless game that more than deserves all the praise it’s been receiving these past few years. Aside from some very minor issues here and there, the game is perfect and can rightly be considered a modern masterpiece. God of War offers one of the most memorable gaming experiences we’ve had in a while and should not be overlooked by anyone who enjoys story-rich action-adventure games.
As far as the PC experience is concerned, the port comes with most of the visual and performance upgrades you would expect. There are a few important features missing here, most notably an FOV slider, and the optimization for AMD GPUs still leaves something to be desired. But, for the most part, this is a very solid port that runs and looks fantastic on most PCs that can handle it.
It’s honestly a miracle that Sony decided to port one of its most important exclusives to PC in the first place. The fact that they gave us a good port with a decent amount of improvements that works well with mouse and keyboard is even more impressive. Let’s hope they decide to do the same with the upcoming God of War Ragnarok.
Use the player down below if you want to check out the video version of this review.