Following our list of the 50 best games of 2018, we are now counting down our top ten releases across the year and reflecting on our time with each game. At two it is the exceptional return of Kratos in God of War. Let us know your experiences with the game, if it deserves its slot and what might have taken its place. To join the conversation simply log in to your Telegraph account or register for free here.
If there was an award for the single most satisfying game mechanic of 2018, Kratos’ boomerang axe from God of War would win at a canter. Your magical, frosty Leviathan axe, can be hurled at any time, spinning and crashing into trolls, setting off explosives or triggering gears. And with a stab of the triangle button, can be recalled, hurling back with a whoosh, crashing through beasts on the way to Kratos’ casually outstretched hand. Thump. Ready to bring raining down on any mythological monsters nearby.
It is brilliant. So much so that I would often find myself just chucking the axe as far as I could in quieter moments as I strolled through Midgard, recalling it mid-air just to watch it come spinning back. There is a terrific blog from a lead systems designer Vince Napoli about the amount of work that went into that recall. To make it feel as good as it does. It is well worth a read.
It is that attention to detail that makes God of War such an extraordinary game. Be it in its combat, exploration or narrative, director Cory Barlog and the Santa Monica team pored over every detail for the five years of the game’s development. And it shows in one of the most impactful blockbuster games in recent memory.
It is a redemptive game for Kratos, of sorts, a character whose tilt into full-on bastard in God of War 3 made the Spartan god a somewhat tiresome creature. And even if his Greek deity-squishing adventures were still spectacular, they had begun to lose their sparkle.
So off Kratos goes to the snows of the Nordic mountains, marries and has a son. Juggling his fury with his newfound desire to settle and his duty as a father is the cornerstone of God of War. It’s fascinating because it never excuses or diminishes the past, only that the future can be bolder and better. It is a theme that is explicitly explored both mechanically and narratively, and blends the two with a master’s craft.
The combat is incredibly fierce, Kratos dispatching beasts with shuddering force. The lean into deeper role-playing is a success, too, and a suitable fit for a more open path of progression. This is a lengthy game –around 30 hours to complete the main story at a run, with much more to explore besides– and it gives the developer the space to elaborate.
The relationship between Kratos and his ever-present offspring, Atreus (a developmental banana-skin if there ever was one), is one that is wonderfully curated. It gives an anchor to the game’s exceptional brawling and exploring, unfolding a rewarding, funny and heartfelt tale with a whip-smart cast of characters and a fine, if admittedly fast and loose, use of Nordic mythology.
And that’s it, isn’t it? From the detailed mechanics to the broader strokes, God of War is a real triumph. There is something deliciously confident in its finale, too, an understated but shudderingly impactful denouement that suggests there is much more to come. I can’t wait.
The Telegraph’s best games of 2018… and now it’s time to have your say
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
2. God of War
3. Tetris Effect
4. Monster Hunter: World
5. Return of the Obra Dinn
6. Into the Breach
7. Forza Horizon 4
8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
9. Dead Cells
10. Marvel’s Spider-Man
What has been the standout game for you this year and why? We want to hear what your top picks are from 2018 and why it made your year. Fill in this form for a chance to feature in our readers’ rundown. We will tally up the votes and run a Telegraph reader’s list alongside our 50 best games and our critic’s pick of the top ten games of the year.