Anger and rage aren’t the only tools for survival. Kratos must journey with his son Atreus to the highest peaks of the nine realms, in order to spread the ashes of his late wife. Along the way, he’ll fight gods and monsters, but also learn the value of patience. God of War is technically the eighth chronological installment in the series and was developed by Santa Monica Studio in association with Sony Interactive Entertainment. Considered a reimagining for the franchise, God of War is loosely based on Norse mythology, unlike previous games that were based on Greek mythology. I’m happy to say that the gameplay in God of War has been completely overhauled; in particular, a huge effort was put into making the game more accessible for disabled gamers.
One big change in gameplay was giving Kratos a magical battle ax (called Leviathan), instead of his signature chain blades that he used in previous games. Kratos wields the Leviathan to defeat draugrs, hit faraway objects, and solve puzzles. The Leviathan can be thrown at enemies and brought back to his hand at will. God of War also differs from past titles in the series by changing the core gameplay from a fixed camera hack-and-slash game, to a more third person action game. The developers added, RPG elements, to this particular game. So, you can upgrade Kratos’ and his son’s armor, weapons, and skill sets. Currency is essential for these features and it is doled out through trinkets you can find in sarcophagi and ancient chests; you can then trade them via dwarven merchants you find on the road.
God of War has made significant improvements to the accessibility in this newest game, including, a more robust choice of difficulty modes and customizable controls. There are four difficulty modes to choose from in God of War. They have very straightforward titles that range from, “give me a challenge” to “give me a story.” The latter is the equivalent of an “easy mode” which is light on combat and focuses on the story. In the options menu, you can choose from several different control configurations. The default setting has the X button to interact, the circle button to dodge, the square button to give directions to your son, and the triangle button to recall your ax. The left trigger buttons (L1 and L2) are used to aim and block, while the right trigger buttons (R1 and R2) are used for light and heavy attacks. However, you can choose from two other controller configurations that let you swap the trigger buttons with the symbol buttons’ functions, if you like. You can also customize certain buttons individually, like changing the quick-turn feature (which is the directional pad) and swapping the interact button for the dodge button. One of the new features that I am very pleased with is the ability to customize the “Spartan Rage” feature. “Spartan Rage” is an ability that puts you in a berserker-like mode, it gives you added strength and agility for a brief amount of time. In past games in the series, I had never been able to fully beat them (without help from an able-bodied person) in part because this feature requires you to press L3 and R3. This newest God of War lets you swap L3 and R3 for the X and circle buttons. It feels awesome to now be able to get into this powerful mode, during an intense boss fight, without any help. That is something I truly appreciate.
Interestingly, God of War now has a separate “Accessibility” tab included within the options menu. This includes great new features like replacing the chiseling door gameplay (which requires precise directional input) with just a single button press. Another great accessibility feature included in the section is being able to alter “repeated button presses”. The God of War series is known for its intense quick-time events during combat. Disabled gamers with fine motor skill impairments, like me, had an extremely tiring and challenging experience dealing with these moments to say the least. However, this new game allows you the option to press and hold a single button instead of having to tap the button repeatedly. This seriously reduces the amount of stress and effort that disabled gamers with fine motor skill impairments might have had playing the game. God of War’s gameplay isn’t perfect, though. Although the accessibility in the game has been greatly improved, for the combat especially, many of the puzzles still require timing, fast movement, and precision aiming. I had to manually go back to the PlayStation 4’s console options to change the controls several times just for the puzzle sections. There are also collectible runes throughout the environment, that require you to aim your ax and sometimes in a timed fashion. Many of these collectibles were too difficult for me to search for, but the good thing is, these items are entirely optional. Overall, the gameplay is much more accessible this time around for disabled gamers with fine motor skill impairments, and they shouldn’t have too much trouble playing this new God of War.
On the visual side of things, God of War lets you completely customize the Heads-Up-Display. You can stick with the default setting, have a more minimalistic setting that only has important HUD features displayed, or turn off the HUD completely if you feel it is too much clutter on the screen. Also, you can customize individual icons like the compass, enemy health bars, and gameplay notifications. For each of these, you can turn them completely off or make it so the touchpad is the only way to activate them. There’s also a brightness slider you can alter in the options menu. I didn’t notice any important items that were distinguished solely by their color so colorblind gamers shouldn’t have any trouble.
Deaf and hard of hearing players have a multitude of options to choose from in this new God of War. In the audio settings, you can raise and lower each individual volume level within the game. This includes: the music volume, the dialogue, and the sound effects. God of War also has subtitles available, and a surprising amount of ways to manipulate them to your liking. In the accessibility menu, you can choose whether you want subtitles to have a light background, or a dark one. You can also turn on something called, “subtitles speaker” which is similar to captions and lets the player know who is speaking, regardless of whether the character is on screen or not. At the time of doing this review, the developers added the option to resize subtitles, which was not a feature included when the game was launched. I heard that many players were having trouble reading the small font, so thankfully the developers responded to the feedback. Even so, some players reported that there were errors popping up with the resizing tool. However, as far as I know, the developers addressed these issues with a subsequent patch. After they listened to player suggestions and fine-tuned subtitle options, I don’t think there are any obstacles for gamers with hearing impairments.
God of War has made a lot of changes to the series. Kratos is now a father who has to take control of his emotions in order to keep his son safe in a completely new world. There are also many changes to the gameplay and accessibility, which seriously improve the experience for disabled gamers. I can’t tell you how great it feels to finally be able play a God of War game without help from an able-bodied person. The gameplay could still do with some improvements, but having easier quick-time events and customizable controls really made the combat less challenging for gamers with fine motor skill impairments. The HUD options give those with visual impairments more freedom to choose their experience. Lastly, player feedback helped deaf players get better subtitles, so they can enjoy the game without any obstacles.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: PS4
ESRB Rating: M