Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I am dangerously hyped.

And I didn't see it coming.

I was thrilled when God of War was revealed at E3… 2016, I wanna’ say?  The notion of Kratos on sexy new-gen hardware is automatically approved by my unconscious processes, but even so, I was apprehensive.  Distant, and a bit cold.  The last game in the series, Ascension, following the generally-excellent God of War III, really felt like the point at which the series’ premise, setting and mechanics had worn thin.  And I quote:
"This is your Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time.  This is your Tomb Raider: Underworld, your Devil May Cry 4.  This is the point at which your formula - which was excellent, once - has exhausted itself, and you need to put down the Kool-aid and step away. 

Take some time off, go out into the woods and just chill for a bit.  Reflect on what's important to you, what would actually inspire you, what you would feel genuinely passionate about.  Find something you would really get excited about - because it's not this.  Not any more.  It's time for a break.

After fighting another army of goat-man soldiers and another bunch of three-headed hellhounds who've had their color palettes tweaked a bit... I know I'm ready for one."-review-

But with all that said – as different as it seems – I only found myself passively interested in the new game.   It looked, for all the world, as stiflingly linear as the series has ever been, and that odd over-the-shoulder melee combat did not look very engaging.   News that Cory Barlog was returning to helm the game was a definite plus!  He directed God of War II, an excellent entry, and wrote the scripts for Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta on the PSP – both above-par stories, for the franchise.  But that gameplay just looked very meh, to me.

Then the games media went hands-on with it.  Then the reviews came out.  My fear that the mashy, stylish-looking combat seemed less about sweet tactics than looking really cool has been laid to rest by critics who’ve been describing a game that sounds like a brawl-centric variation on the slow-paced but tactical and hugely absorbing combat of The Last of Us.  Armed with the details of how tactical and satisfyingly crunchy that axe is, the combat now looks to be the sexy love child of God of War, God Hand and Dark Souls.  Methodical, thoughtful, challenging and satisfying.

The game that all reviewers have described sounds like the game I’ve been waiting for a Sony first-party studio to make for years.  I’ve been wanting it since Uncharted 3, in fact – I just didn’t expect it would come from Sony Santa Monica.

The staggering production values that Sony can bring to bear on titles like inFamous: Second Son, Uncharted or Horizon: Zero Dawn - the well-realized characters, the gorgeous graphics, the solid writing - always seemed, to me, ideal for a Sony Version of Zelda.  Or some sort of ambitious action-RPG.

Honestly, I thought we were as close as we'd ever get to that imagined game with Horizon: Zero Dawn.  Very actiony, lots of RPG-ness, impeccable presentation, but the more I hear about God of War... it sounds so wonderful.  It sounds like the game I've been waiting for Sony to make for a long time - I'm just really surprised it's called God of War.

The structure of the game, as described, is very Zelda-like.  And not big empty open-world Breath of the Wild Zelda - I'm talkin' Zelda in the Darksiders/Okami/Dark Souls/Ocarina of Time sense - a collection of bespoke, kinda-linear areas that reward exploration, fold back in on themselves, can be explored in any order you wish (with minor lockteasing) and are replete with optional areas you can completely ignore if you just steamroll the story path.

Critics have loved talking up these huge, optional swaths of the game - the term "side quest" has been thrown around - and my mouth is watering at the thought of rich story beats and rewarding combat encounters, simply there to enrich the world and experience.

The combat sounds tactical, expressive and very deep, with tons of customization and a-la-carte special moves, and everyone has been wonderful about not spoiling the story, only insisting that it legitimately reconciles modern sensibilities with the two-dimensional rage that defined Kratos for his last five adventures.  Fear that this game, with its mostly-locked perspective, would lack the definition-of-epic grandeur that put the series on the map have been allayed.

"Can you kill something that big?"

And those reviews, dude.  Let's take a peek at Metacritic - it's currently sitting at 95, with 92 critics weighing in.  That is insane.

And I'm hyped.  I'm so hyped.  I'm too hyped.  I've been listening to every podcast I can find that discusses the game without spoilers.  I've watched the gameplay that I ignored upon its release.  And then I watched it again.  And again.  And then I hunted down the same footage without commentary over top so I could hear all the dialogue and sound effects and music.

Hype of this caliber has only happened to me two times that I can remember - I consumed every stream I could find for Darkest Dungeon the week prior to its release, and probably thirty hours of the opening bits of Horizon: Zero Dawn before it appeared last year.

That's a pretty exclusive club.

And now, I have two short days to wait.  Two sleeps!  TWO MORE SLEEPS!

I've finagled a day off on Monday, meaning I'll have three glorious late nights in a row to dive into Midgard, I have a plan that involves a great deal of terrible snacks, and I've told my brother Overwatch isn't happening this weekend.

It's gon' be guuud.

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