Without indulging in the hyperbole too much, the combat of the new God of War is a marvel. It retains the combo juggles of its roots while also providing a dynamic sense of energy, heightened by the use of dramatic camera angles that give everything a real sense of impact. It feels very much like you are in fact a god.
It’s been so many years since I picked up a God of War game; I played the originals, lightly, in the rerelease for PlayStation 3 put out ahead of God of War 3, but skipped Ascension. It’s a treat to experience the more modern sensibilities the series has been adapted to all these years later. One thing I didn’t expect to enjoy in terms of action is a combat technique I’ve been refusing to use across several games for years. This game has made me enjoy blocking.
You’d be surprised how many games feature blocking as a major part of their combat system and then let you completely ignore it. To be honest, I heavily avoid using it even in fighting games, which may have you asking, “Um, how do you even play fighting games then?” Answer: I’m not good at them! I guess this comes from old playstyle habits; I used to absorb games a bit more passively and didn’t like having to think so much when it came to hacking and slashing my way through a hoard. I was more fond of button mashers and games that let me use buffs and boosters to protect my character and overcompensate for my refusal to otherwise defend myself. I’ve gotten over this slightly in my efforts to get better at Dragonball FighterZ (I will never be good at Dragonball FighterZ), but it’s God of War that seems to have made blocking entertaining enough for it to stick. The sheer force of Kratos’s shield as he backhands an opponent makes me almost giddy with adrenaline.
In that sense, the block attack is rewarding to perform outside of its tactical merit. And for me, it’s a more powerful incentive. It was particularly fun to use at the start of the game on a mouthy Norse god when he started talking shit during the game’s opening showdown outside Kratos’s house. As a diminutive Norwegian shit talker myself, I feel enormous loyalty to the god, and yet pummeling his face with the combat equivalent of a manhole cover was just too good.
If I’m honest, the game actually doesn’t give you much of a choice in blocking; there are enemies that can’t be hit unless they’re stunned first with a well-timed parry, and some of them are so powerful that it’s all but impossible to defeat them without deflecting at least some of their attacks. But if a technique is going to be essential, then it should be enjoyable. It’s a laborious pain in the ass to start giving more thought to what I prefer to be a mindless experience, but I give in. I love it. Thank you, God of War. I feel like a big angry Captain America.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.