Title: God of War

Consoles: Playstation
Released: 2018
Fixes: Norse Mythology, Father/Son Bonding, Unconventional Sidekicks

Welcome back to MAS Effect, the new gaming series from me, Mandy W., And Stephanie! (Yes, we will eventually stop pointing out our punny acronym, but NO, NOT TODAY.)

Similar to my YA reading journey, I dabbled in video games in my youth, but then took a longggggg hiatus until 2021. For gaming context, I currently have a PS5, and the consoles before that were a PS2, PS1, and the original GameBoy LOLOLOL.

I used to watch my cousin play video games more than playing them myself — basically, IRL livestreaming before it was even a thing. But when I did play, my mainstays were Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. (And also Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution; I even had the home mats, but just not the dance dance skills.)

Nowadays, I’ve branched out a little, and maybe will do so even more with MAS Effect! However, I do have one non-negotiable that might not grant me any gamer cred but honestly I do not care: I will always play on the easiest mode possible. Life is already hard enough, y’all! I don’t need to struggle in my entertainment! (Aka why Elden Ring is extremely NOT FOR ME.)

If I could play every game in god mode, I WOULD. Although, technically, I suppose every mode would be god mode when you play as a god. Which brings me to this entry of MAS Effect: God of War.

The Download

In Midgard, the surly and mysterious Kratos and his young son Atreus are mourning the death of Faye, the beloved matriarch who had held their family together. Kratos and Atreus set out to fulfill Faye’s dying wish of scattering her ashes atop the highest mountain peak — all while navigating their shared grief, mending their fraught relationship, and surviving the many foes they encounter along the way.

It’s-A Me, [Protagonist]!

A semi-retired warrior with a shadowy past and questionable literacy, Kratos is proof that men will literally climb the summit of the highest mountain before going to therapy. He’s voiced by Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1), who also performed the cinematic motion capture.

Portrayed by actual child Sunny Suljic, Atreus is pleasantly not annoying, with a sunny (har) and adventurous personality in contrast with his gruff dad. I love when Kratos says not to panic while Atreus is having the time of his life.

Atreus isn’t exactly playable, but he’ll perform limited commands for battling, reading, or getting into spaces that Kratos can’t. The perfect YA hero!

NPCs: Notable Paramours & Chums

Y’all — the main characters are a grieving widower and his young child. Romance is nonexistent, unless you count how deeply the loss of Faye is felt. But, like, no developing swoon in which to participate.

This game doesn’t have a huge supporting cast, but the few side characters it has are definitely memorable. My faves are the unabashed asshole shop owner; the big ally who lives in the Lake of Nine; and the new companion* who joins the journey partway through.

* Pay attention to where they are when climbing into a boat, or just really at all times because it’s always a visual treat.

Finish Them!

  • There’s an early encounter with the Big Bad, and ODIN ALMIGHTY did I want to shut him up. He’s portrayed by Jeremy Davies, who’s played creeps in most things that I’ve seen him in since being a non-creep in Lost.

  • Common creatures include draugrs, elves, and animal-like beasties. The most annoying ones were those that WOULD NOT STAY STILL AND LET ME KILL THEM, like Nightmares, which are like giant flying eyeballs, but thankfully pretty weak and killable; and Revenants, which are basically corrupted witches who can teleport.

  • Somewhere between the run-of-the-mill encounters and the boss fights are tougher enemies like ogres and trolls, as well as boulder monsters known as Ancients.

Leveled Up

  • Just like the previous game that we highlighted, this one is super cinematic. It also seamlessly integrates gameplay into cutscenes, to the point that I’d often be caught off-guard that OH SHIZZ I need to do something.

  • The gameplay itself is fairly linear, but that’s probably why the story works so well and is, you know, cohesive. Even though there’s a sequel, this first installment is a self-contained story that leaves the door open for MORE.

  • Likewise, the puzzles are pretty straightforward. There’s only one way forward, so you just have to figure it out. (Not that I usually noodle out the solution on my own, since I do heavily rely on walkthrough guides. I just don’t want to miss anything!)

  • However, the world is still open-ish; you can definitely deviate from the main plot to explore. The available areas aren’t that big, but they’re cleverly designed to unlock more items upon gaining certain skills, so it’s easy to collect everything if you’re a gaming magpie. (And I am.)

  • Different weapons are gradually introduced, but one ability is available from the start: SPARTAN RAGE. (What does a Norse-based story have to do with Ancient Greece? I did say that Kratos has a complicated past!) Think of it as hulking out during fights.

  • On the subject of Norse mythology, there are plenty of stories if you pay attention (I did not always lol), although I became more familiar with the nine realms than the actual gods, since there are only a few prominent deities within the game.

You Have Died Of Dysentery

  • THE FUCKING BELLS.* Some of the loot chests have to be unlocked by ringing three bells — with one usually being frustratingly further away — but you have to hit them all before they stop ringing. If that seems like a very narrow window, IT IS AND I HATE IT. I don’t mind if a game is challenging but not the the point of infuriating. The most I’m willing to try is about 3-5 times, and then I’ll move on instead of CONTINUING TO FAIL.

* Shoutout to Game of Thrones fans, who might also feel this feel.

  • There’s an ability that becomes available around halfway through the game that also has a timing aspect. It’s not quite as bad as THE FUCKING BELLS, in that it shouldn’t be a hinderance in the main story for most people. But there’s this one loot chest that haunts me,* and I GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL, DAMMIT.

* The Legendary Chest on the bridge in the place where you learn to use the ability. (For those who don’t care about spoilers, it’s Legendary Chest 2 described here.)

  • These timing mechanisms make me wonder about accessibility in gaming, which I am woefully uneducated about but something that I do pay attention to in games.

Press “F” To Pay Respects

  • The skill tree is pretty straightforward and easy to level up, and I am all about being all-powerful without excessive grinding. (Although I would still grind because I prioritize being all-powerful above all else. And now I’ve used the word “grind” far too much in quick succession.)

  • Armour is customizable but weapons are not, although new ones get unlocked as the main storyline progresses.

  • One fun aspect is being able to collect health items during an active fight, like the game gives you plenty of opportunities to stay alive. Also, if Kratos dies mid-fight against a boss, he’ll respawn with full health but the enemy’s will still be partly depleted. Literal life hack!

  • As someone who loves to level up through side quests (known as favors here), God of War has plenty of extra content without being overwhelming, unlike some of the big sprawling games that I’ve played that probably overstay their welcome.* My total gameplay for the main story and most of the side quests was around 40 hours. (In other words, I spent an entire work week playing this game, which is on the low end for games I’ve completed.)

* I’ll elaborate on those in future MAS Effects lol.

  • Regarding the side quests themselves, my faves were probably the ones that involved DRAGONS.

  • Labors are achievements that will earn rewards, which is pretty standard operating procedure for video games. However, I was positively tickled with delight when I completed Troll’s Toll and the name popped up. (“You gotta pay the troll toll…”)

  • There are optional challenging realms and boss fights, if you’re into that sort of thing. (As we’ve already established, I am not.)

Why You Should Pick Up The Controller

I actually picked up God of War because of the buzz over the recently released sequel, God of War: Ragnarök. And because I’m very outside of the loop when it comes to gaming, I had no idea what GoW would be about, aside from being one of those franchises that I’ve been peripherally aware of because of a catchy title.

Imagine my indignation when I started this game and realized that I had no choice but to play as a man?!? AUDACITY. The fest? SAUSAGE. Bechdel Test? NEVER HEARD OF IT.*

* Just to be clear, I am being completely facetious. Passing the Bechdel Test isn’t the defining indicator of quality, but it is true that this game does not have two women interacting with each other.

Despite my misgivings, I forged ahead and had an absolute blast. There’s a good variety in the gameplay to keep you on your toes, and this story-driven game is immersive without requiring a huge time commitment for a satisfying ending. Best of all, there’s already a sequel if you can’t get enough!

After The Credits

  • The aforementioned sequel God of War: Ragnarök was released in November 2022, and YOU BETTER BELIEVE I’ll be getting my grabby little hands on it. (After-the-credits pro-tip: there’s a teaser for it in this installment if you go back to Kratos’ home after completing the game.)

  • There’s also the first set of God of War games (2005-2013) which was based on Greek mythology, although the original series is apparently very different and only God of War III has been remastered for the PS4.

  • A live-action adaptation recently received a series order from Prime Video, and I am cautiously optimistic. There’s definitely great potential, although as with most adaptations but ESPECIALLY this, it’s going to live and die by the casting. My first instinct for Kratos was Dave Bautista, although Steph thinks that’s played out, so maybe someone like David Harbour? (Apparently, my main requirement is a name that starts with D-A-V.) For Atreus, that’s going to be a tough one; Jacob Tremblay has unfortunately aged out of the preteen roles, and that’s basically the extent of my knowledge of child actors in that age group.

Have you played God of War? Do you have any suggestions for a future MAS Effect? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.