10 things wrong with God of War
Sony’s new God of War is a fantastic game. I don’t think anyone can argue that. However, we in the gaming community tend to fall in love with games so hard that we blind ourselves to their flaws. It’s common for gamers to think that even mentioning a flaw in an otherwise good game is somehow sacrilege and that they will be condemned by the video game pope if they do anything but sing its praises. Well, either the video game pope or the comments section.
However, it’s important to criticize major flaws in games, even if they are generally enjoyable, because good games can always be better. No game is perfect, but by being honest about areas where game development teams can improve, they sure can come close.
So here are some major flaws and problems that I found in God of War.
Everyone’s mentioned this one. The subtitle and menu text is so tiny you can barely read it from your couch. In fact, it’s such a huge problem we wrote a whole article about it. Sony Santa Monica is trying to release patches to fix this issue but they haven’t been doing a great job. It’s a shame, because the only reason this is a problem is because we keep pushing the boundaries of text readability every time we take another leap forward in resolution. I don’t know why so many studios are averse to big fonts.
Lack of Weapon Variety
Kratos only ever uses three weapons the whole game. He uses the Leviathan Axe and his bare fists for half the game, and eventually he (spoilers) gets the Blades of Chaos. While retrieving the blades of chaos was a fantastic narrative moment, mechanically there was something lacking.
For one, you had already become used to the Leviathan Axe at this point. You equipped it with your best axe handle and upgraded it several times. You already found your favorite runic attacks and upgraded them as well. The Blades of Chaos start un-upgraded with no runic attacks and a crappy handle. So unless you put a ton of time into upgrading them, you naturally end up switching back to the axe again.
Secondly, Kratos’s weapons just didn’t feel different enough. You used the Blades of Chaos on ice enemies and the Leviathan Axe on fire enemies, but otherwise you could use the same combos and strategies with either. They also have similar upgrades. They are a far cry from past God of War weapons which offered entirely new ways to play.
This problem bleeds over into Atreus as well. Atreus only ever has two things he can do, summon and fire arrows, and he only has two arrow types to fire. Adding a few more arrow types or perhaps being able to command him to attack with his knife would be nice.
Lack of Interesting Bosses
God of War reused its enemies far too much. How many times did you get to the end of an area of the game only to fight another differently colored troll. In fact, there are only three bosses in the game that aren’t just amped up versions of normal enemies: The Dragon, Magni and Modi, and Baldur (and to be fair Magni and Modi seem to have a lot in common with Travelers). You (spoilers) fight Baldur at the very end of the game and he doesn’t even have any new tricks up his sleeve.
The God of War series is known for its incredibly unique boss fights each presenting you with a new puzzle to solve. This God of War just didn’t do that. Hopefully we will see more variety when Kratos encounters more of the Norse pantheon in the next game.
Not Enough to Spend XP On
By the end of the game I had more XP than I knew what to do with. Kratos and Atreus had all of their abilities bought and all of their runic attacks upgraded. Since many of their abilities were locked behind weapon upgrades, I constantly found myself with more XP than I knew what to do with.
I also found that spending XP didn’t really feel good. I was dumping XP into abilities that slightly altered my combos just because I had it lying around. I rarely used these abilities and gaining access to them never felt like a big jump in power, the way leveling up should feel.
Kratos and Atreus simply need more abilities to spend XP on. They need more abilities that give them passive buffs, but they also need skills that effect things other than their attack capabilities, like movement and the ability to aim ranged attacks. Spending XP should never feel boring, and unfortunately, it always did. I had gotten every upgrade I really wanted well before the game’s halfway point.
The Nornir Chests
I hate these things. First, you have to find them. Then, you have to decipher some puzzle which more often than not just ends up testing your twitch reflexes with fast axe throws. Then when all is said and done, you get only a piece of an upgrade that will eventually give you a longer rage or health bar. Meanwhile, you can equip armor that gives you vitality, defense, or rage bonuses that essentially do the exact same thing and you don’t have to jump through hoops to forge it.
The Nornir Chests require too much work for not enough reward. Since you need to open multiple chests before getting a new upgrades, actually opening Nornir chests wasn’t exciting. About halfway through the game I just started ignoring them. Heck, even if they just game you a health or rage upgrade immediately it would feel more rewarding. You could make these upgrades small, maybe only a third of the upgrades that Kratos would normally get. That would essentially put him at the same power level but would make each opened chest feel like a triumph.
God of War had some side-quests, but they didn’t feel integrated into the action of the game organically. You’d get past a story mission and suddenly Brok and Sindri would ask you to go off the beaten path and retrieve something for them. Or maybe you’d encounter a spirit and they’d tell you to do the same. Nearly every side-quests was a fetch quest or a kill quest and few could be done while you were completing the main plot. In fact, Atreus brings this up every time a side-quest becomes available, saying that you can chase your main quest or “go exploring.” This made side-quests feel like busy work. They never revealed more about the world or about the characters involved. They were just ways to get cool gear.
The Main Quest Structure
God of War has a, how can I put this… a “Your princess is in another castle problem.” Kratos and Atreus have one goal and there’s always some contrived plot device preventing them from reaching it.
Almost reached the top of the mountain? Too bad. Now you have to go to a whole other world in order to clear this black smoke that won’t ever show up again.
Got past the smoke and got to the top of the mountain? Too bad, you have to get to another mountain in Jotunnheim. Gotta find that travel rune?
Got the rune? Now you need a chisel.
Got the chisel? Now you need to find a new realm tower?
Got the tower? Now you need a crystal to travel to the tower.
And so on, and so on and so on.
The obstacles in Kratos’s journey always seemed to bar his progress suddenly and without warning. This increased narrative tension a few times, but eventually it became exhausting. Kratos and Atreus were always so close before having to go out of their way to complete yet another errand. No wonder Kratos was so angry all the time.
It would be nice if the next God of War felt more like a long journey, taking Kratos and Atreus to many new lands and facing them with unique challenges, rather than one short journey that is constantly interrupted.
Small Rocks and Invisible Walls
Maybe I have been spoiled by Breath of the Wild but I was constantly frustrated by the amount of invisible walls and obstacles in God of War. There were plenty of times where I knew I had to climb up a wall, but I couldn’t find the specific yellow mark that essentially said “climb here.” So I would wander around aimlessly, pushing against the wall until I figured it out. This sort of pixel hunting gameplay went out of style with the PS2 and it should have stayed out of style.
Unfortunately this was the solution to a good half of the puzzles in the game. Sure, there were points where I had a real “Eureka!” moment, like when I figured out how to freeze rotating sawblades in order to get past them. However, I had many more “oh come on!” moments, like when the cliff I had to climb up inside Jormugnandr was hidden behind a stack of wood that I didn’t know I had to break. Guess it was my fault for not mindlessly destroying everything around me, huh?
There were just as many paths that were blocked off my small piles of rocks, and these were by far the most frustrating obstacles in the game. These rocks usually meant “find another way around.” However, they should have been easily stepped over. The only thing preventing Kratos from hopping them was the fact that they weren’t painted yellow.
God of War’s combat system is awesome. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough enemies to really put it to use. Most of the enemies in the game were just Draugr recolors that could be easily combo’ed to death. Every so often Kratos would encounter slightly bigger enemies like werewolves and ogres, but these enemies could just as easily be comboed to death except every so often Kratos had to dodge roll. The only enemies that required slightly different strategies to overcome were mid-bosses and there were only a few of those.
While the combat wasn’t necessarily a mash fest, it did feel a little mindless, even on higher difficulties. I didn’t necessarily want the combat to be harder, rather I wish it was more tactical. For example, it would have been nice if stunning enemies with shields could let you rip their shield away. Similarly, the only creature whose execution gives you an in-combat bonus is the Ogre, which you can ride around. Once again, the only choice I found myself making was “do I use fire against ice enemies or ice against fire enemies.” A little more combat complexity would be welcome.
General Lack of Choice
It’s entirely possible that this pet peeve of mine cannot be remedied, but it’s worth bringing it up. God of War is a morality play about how Kratos chooses to live his life now that he has a son. Unfortunately, morality never really plays into the game in a mechanical context. Kratos is never given the choice to walk away from battle. Many section of the game are gated by combat encounters, and unless Kratos murders everyone, there’s nothing he could do.
Since your stats were tied to your equipment and you could earn XP by completing sidequests and labors, there was no real reason to railroad you into combat. Granted, this is God of War and combat is exactly what we want to see, but giving the player a choice to not kill enemies, to not fight battles, and to have an impact on who Kratos is, would have been remarkably powerful storytelling. Then, as Atreus grows older, we could feel as if his behavior is a direct consequence of our actions, rather than of actions we were forced to take.
This is especially relevant in the game’s ending, where it feels as if Kratos betrays every single moral choice he has made up until this point, just to set up a sequel… not that I wouldn’t mind a sequel of course.
Well those are all the flaws I found in God of War. It’s still an amazing game and certainly a contender for game of the year. However, it’s worth remembering that no game is perfect, not even God of War, and with any hope the next installment will be even better.