God of War PC Review
need to know
What is that? RPG family road trip
Expect to pay $50 / £40
Developer Sony Santa Monica
publisher Playstation computer
reviewed in RTX 3060, Ryzen 7 5700G, 3.8GHz, 16GB RAM
connection official site
God of War is a computer game. Still weird to say while I finished my second play during the holidays. Not much above it in my Steam library is another game, “War” by a different master — Gears 5. Just a few years ago, two support threads on the same device were impossible. Now they share a virtual shelf.
Sony’s latest Angry Dad game is proof that the PC is the ultimate video game unifier, and a great reminder of how the platform brings out the best in gaming. I’ve killed my way through Midgard at 30fps on PS4 and 4K on PS5, but I don’t think I can go back to either after 24 hours of buttery smooth monster chopping at 90+ fps. This is a very good port, at least on a high-end PC.
If you skipped God of War 2018 or never touched the series, this is the God of War game you should play. All you need to know is that Kratos was the best murdered man in Athena until he was betrayed and decided to kill all the gods (including his father, Zeus). This soft reboot picks up after years. At that time, Kratos left the now godless Greece and roamed the Scandinavian lands, where he obtained a wife (she just died at the beginning of the game), a son named Atreus, and a glorious beard.
God of War is self-control. It’s a small story set in a world of giant characters. Kratos and Atreus are not out to save the world—they just want to spread the ashes of their wives/mothers on a large mountain. They’re not looking for a fight, but end up going to a group of them because, apparently, Midgard has been a nightmare land of vicious trolls, toxic witches, and zombies for the past century or so. A large part of the game is essentially carving a path through this broken world, unraveling the little divine drama that led to its ruin.
There’s plenty of The Last of Us and Uncharted in its baffling moments – lifting little Atreus up a ledge to kick a rope and shoving ramshackle beams to create a bridge are the pages of the Naughty Dog playbook – but these familiar puzzles arrive to have loads of fun with Kratos’ superpowers.
It’s fun and funny at the same time how often Atreus ponders how to cross a gap just as Kratos lifts a beam the size of six cars or spins an entire building like a toy wind. Where Nathan Drake searches for a chain to hoist an old reel, Kratos simply throws his ax at the gears so hard that they spin. For a character who used to show off his power by killing every living thing in the room, it’s nice to see Kratos throw his weight around the world itself.
Hiking up big rocks wouldn’t be fun without joking back and forth with Atreus (or as he’s often called “the boy”). It’s not an entirely new narrative ploy to pair a strong silent type with a curious young man, but unlike the evolving relationship between Joel and Ellie, Atreus and Kratos actually have a multi-layered relationship that continually frays over time. It’s clear from the jump that the two are not close. Atreus is determined to prove he’s ready to make the trip and pressures him to meet Kratos’ high standards (“Don’t be sorry. Be better,” Kratos tells him after taking a reckless shot at a deer). Meanwhile, Kratos is an emotionally elusive father, and brings his own issues to other people.
Their relationship develops organically as they face the world together, but Sony Santa Monica was smart to let the side characters do some of the heavy lifting as well. One character introduced in the middle of the road is easily the best part of the game, a very wise character full of useful tips and stories to fill the dead air while the triple boat is around Midgard.
Given the quality of God of War’s characters and stories, my strongest memories all revolve around one of the greatest weapons in video games: the Leviathan Ax. The ax is your primary weapon and multi-tool that does everything throughout the game. He can open doors, destroy obstacles, freeze machines in place, or throw them the length of the football field to grab hard-to-reach loot. In combat, Leviathan is a satisfying balance of heaviness and speed that strikes much more powerfully than Kratos’ ancient Blades of Chaos. Here, again, Sony Santa Monica takes advantage of Kratos’ supernatural power to let you do impossible things with an axe, like slash three enemies in half with one movement.
Then there is another advantage of Leviathan. You may have seen great gifs of Kratos throwing the ax at Drager and remembering him back in hand like the hammer of Thor Mjolnir. It feels just as great as it looks and doesn’t stop being great for dozens of hours. The ax fight translates well to keyboard and mouse as well: left and right mouse are standard attacks and you have to press Ctrl to get ready to throw. It was a good sign of God of War’s default keybindings when I instinctively summoned the ax by pressing the standard R key to reload and it worked just fine. However, reaching for Ctrl can become a hassle after a while if you don’t have a pinky of steel.
You can throw the ax like a boomerang for a quick attack that bounces off enemies or throw it over your head for a stronger hit that sticks and freezes in place. It often made sense for me to leave this pinned enemy in place, because an axless Kratos could still fight with his two Latin fists.
Since nothing in God of War is lost, unarmed combat is an entirely different beast with its own skill tree and advantages. Sharp blows don’t deal as much damage as an axe, but they fill up amazing enemy meters at breakneck speed. Once he’s completely stunned, Kratos can seal the deal with instant execution straight from Doomguy’s library of killing glory. The scene kills are so satisfying that I was constantly looking for an excuse to lose the ax and go full-blown boxer. Atreus supports at all times a backup, and has a dedicated button to instruct it to shoot arrows at whoever you target.
The in-flight weapon exchange creates fun improvisational brawls that complement every fighting style. I can keep spamming a light attack, or I can go into the whole brain of the galaxy by pinning the biggest guy in his place with the axe, hitting the zombie feed into the pulp, and remembering the ax in Just Correct angle to cut the enemy on the way back. When the stars line up, I sequence the moves into an actual combat ring. Everything counts at the same time, even if you only managed one trick with the ax during most of the game.
You get more and more cool as the story progresses, and it’s better to see for yourself, that I was overwhelmed with choice in the back half of the game. I tried so hard to make the most of every great way to kill things, yet Atreus kept scolding me for not telling him to fire arrows enough. I’m sorry boy, I got carried away with axe hits and forgot your weak arrows sometimes.
My second play in God of War was my best gameplay, and it had everything to do with the higher frame rate I enjoyed with this PC port. Like Days Gone and Horizon: Zero Dawn before it, God of War flies on a good PC. On the RTX 3060 at 1920 x 1080, I was able to bump the fps to 90 and mostly stay there with the Nvidia DLSS set to quality. I noticed that things got a little more choppy during the entrance transitions to the open world lake area, but the frames were flat after a while.
God of War also works well without DLSS, although at this point Nvidia’s upgrade technology is pretty good, and I’m not sure why you’d heart it when it’s available. Small issues that plagued previous versions of DLSS (like the weird shadow effect you see on small floating particles) are being cleaned up nowadays, and what remains is an AI-developed image that I can hardly distinguish from an original 1080p image. The magic trick might be less convincing if you scale it down to balanced or ultra performance, but quality is a safe bet for 1080p gaming. As for 1440p or 4K, I’m unfortunately not equipped to try that.
DLSS isn’t the only flavor or upgrade that God of War supports either. Alternatively, you can flip the ultra-precision AMD FidelityFX. I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but I’ve noticed more confusion when set to quality. It still works well, and as an avid frame player, I’d still play it if it were my only option.
I’ve also played around with individual graphics options here and there, many of which God of War has but doesn’t have everything You can order it, although I am satisfied with the simple presets of the game. The game defaults to the oddly named “original” preset (which I assume means the original PS4 look). I mostly played on the Original and it looked great the whole time, but I noticed the textures are much sharper and the post-processing on High and Ultra. My Kratos looks so good that I can reach out and touch his wrinkled face.
It’s exciting to think about what the landing of God of War on PC could mean for the console exclusive status quo. Sony has a tag dedicated to publishing on PC now. As the company gets more serious about PC ports, will we ever get to the point where its PC games are released months after their release instead of years? Can it even Microsoft drag and drop everything on the PC at the same time with the console?
Perhaps this is a stretch, but God of War is a positive sign. The best game on PS4 is now one of the best on PC.
I was one of those people who made fun of Dad of War when it was announced. I thought we’d get The Last of Us with an axe, but instead we’re getting an RPG complete with tiered loot and skill trees expertly woven into a story about strength, violence, and bad parents. It’s an impressive departure from the festive slaying fest that this series used to be and a necessary change if it’s ever going to come back. The mountain of money, talent, and time it takes to reboot the relics of this twenty-first century into something worthy of being today is evident in every moment. Four years later, God of War is still a triumph.