When it came time to make a recommendation for DAGERS Editors’ choice, I was faced with a decision that was more difficult than that which I’m accustomed to when choosing a game. This is simply because more emphasis was placed on accessibility in games in 2018 than any preceding it. This year had so many good offering it was nigh impossible to pick just one, but I ultimately settled on God of War for the PS4.
Sony Santa Monica not only gave the franchise new life, but it also changed my perception of what a God of War game, and accessibility within it could be. I had always been a fan of the previous titles, but was deterred from them due to the frustrations brought to visual accessibility by fixed camera angles. These sometimes prevented progress by obstructing the player’s view of the correct path. The newest game intelligently rectifies this by shifting to an over the shoulder camera that can be rotated at any time all the way around ensuring that everything the game has to offer is visible at all times. Another aspect I personally found useful visually that I think more games should employ is that the game’s compass turned gold when near an objective, all of these things created an experience for me that was not only a visual feast, but insured I didn’t head in the wrong direction for long.
Combat has always been integral to God of War as a franchise right along with platforming, however these two aspects also acted as deterrents from the originals to me due to overuse of quick-time events. The newest iteration is made more accessibility-friendly because it does away with platforming aspects and jumping, in favor of context-sensitive jumping and thereby erasing death by pitfall because a jump’s distance was incorrectly calculated. Quick-time events can be changed to holds instead of rapid presses, erasing the issue of not being able to progress because Kratos cannot lift an object. The combat has been rebuilt to resemble Dark Souls, but without the unforgiving difficulty if you so choose. I personally found this to be the best feature, since I love this combat style, but find the Souls games to be entirely too unforgiving. The option to have Spartan Rage on face buttons as opposed to simultaneously pressing both sticks in is another feature I found incredibly useful because I can now efficiently use the full range of abilities afforded to me by the game instead of avoiding it because of an inability to press the buttons. Games like Shadow of War have a tremendous reliance on their Spartan Rage equivalent, and have no remapping of any kind available. They could learn from God of War.
For me as a gamer, the story is the selling point of a game. I view it as being just as important as accessibility within any title. A game can have the most responsive and polished control and accessibility in existence, but if the story it tells doesn’t keep you invested, there’s nothing to keep it from becoming a boring slog. God of War not only features hands-down my favorite story told in 2018 within any medium, but I also found it the most relatable. Perhaps this is because we’ve all at some point dealt with the pain of losing a loved one, but what is presented here is so potent, well-acted, and believable that its hard to believe that such a grounded tale could be told within fantasy when all is said and done. The motion capture and acting on display here is second only to Red Dead Redemption II. The closer camera-angle I mentioned above lends itself perfectly to the more somber tone since it focuses on Kratos’ face during his most impactful moments. Kratos himself who for the majority of the franchise was depicted as the embodiment of pure unyielding rage, was depicted more vulnerably than ever I thought possible. It was my favorite aspect of the story, and everything came together to create an experience for me that wasn’t only accessible, but unforgettable.
God of War’s latest iteration is a game that is by no means perfect, however the developer’s clear awareness and desire for accessibility cannot be under-stated. A franchise I had mostly avoided for 13 years returned with one of the best titles of this generation, and that is by no measure a small feat. The riveting and relatable story of an aging God learning against all odds to be a father is one I’ll praise for years, and this is why it’s my editor’s choice.