When I was getting ready to play the first hour or so of the new God of War, I was psyching myself up for a hack and slash action-adventure. However, the game quickly put me in my place and showed me I needed to think a little and not just mindlessly slash.
During a media preview in Singapore, we were told this new God of War game is built on three pillars: narrative, combat, and exploration. The game has indeed evolved in those three areas — an evolution fit for today’s gaming scene.
If you didn’t already know, God of War is a gaming franchise launched in 2005. It has so far released seven games featuring main character Kratos rampaging through Greek mythology. The creators of the game are now calling that the first era, with this new launch marking the start of the second era wherein Kratos will now face off against Norse gods.
Quite the twist in this game is that Kratos will be joined in this latest journey by his son, Atreus. Yes, Kratos has a son. Atreus will play a key part in both the gameplay and the story.
Speaking of which, the story of the latest God of War game is set in Scandinavia. An undetermined time has passed since Kratos laid waste to the Greek gods, and now he finds himself going through the Norse wilds, teaching his son how to survive while also learning how to be a father along the way.
In previous iterations of the game, the camera had a focused third-person, fixed cinematic perspective. This is where a large part of the experience will change for most players who have grown used to what the previous games had to offer.
From fixed, the developers decided to make the camera “unhinged” giving you free reign to look around and soak in the Norse wilds. This helps as you move around and look for items you might need to unlock more of what Kratos and Atreus can do in the game. Some of the exploration involves having to look for certain stones that unlock chests containing items that will provide boosts for the Spartan warrior.
The core system demanding you to explore, loot, craft, and upgrade is still there, but the ability to control your view adds another layer to it that feels updated for the gaming landscape today. Predictably, this change in the camera has an effect not only on how you interact with your surroundings but also with how you battle.
“We wanted to kick the player’s ass in the beginning of the game,” is how God of War Marketing Producer Aaron Kaufman described their approach to tweaking the combat system.
In a lot of ways, the combat also reflects this new Kratos’ demeanor. While there still remains some of Kratos’ iconic brand of rage, this older Kratos appears wiser and more measured. That same demeanor is how you should approach the combat.
One of the more exciting things in this new game is Kratos’ weapon: an axe. But it’s not just any axe. It looks pretty basic to start, but it has some magic in it and one of its best features is that you can throw it around giving Kratos a bit of an extended range on his attacks similar to his previous blades. So how do you get a thrown axe back? There’s a button to summon the axe and it comes back to Kratos similar to how Thor, the thunder god in Norse mythology and also a well-known superhero these days, summons his hammer.
However, like I mentioned earlier, there’s more to doing battle than swinging and throwing a weapon around. Some enemies won’t be fazed by the axe and you’ll have to straight up give them a taste of Kratos’ fist. Some enemy attacks are so powerful you’ll need to defend before you can land an attack. While others require that you use Atreus’ arrows before Kratos can deliver a beatdown.
It’s a gotten a lot trickier than it used to be, but there are certain elements to it that still feels very distinctly God of War. For instance, there’s a stun meter under opponents’ life meter. Once it reaches critical, it allows you to perform perhaps one of the most brutally satisfying ways of finishing off enemies.
The upgrades are also quantified now. At the pause menu or when you speak to the smiths of Kratos’ axe, you can upgrade the items and weapons equipped to both Kratos and Atreus. There are now numbered indicators of how much a boost each item can give you. This should give you a better idea on whether to have an item crafted now or wait until you have more materials for perhaps a better item.
All of these contribute to a more challenging battle system without completely alienating the hack-and-slash element that endeared a lot of people to this franchise.
Release date and availability
The game will officially launch on April 20, 2018 across the world. Pricing details are as follows:
Philippines — PhP 2,799
Indonesia — IDR 729,000
Thailand — THB 1,890
Malaysia — MYR 229
Those who pre-order will receive three shields as well as an XP boost.
Collector’s Edition contains the following physical items: 9-inch Kratos and Atreus statue, 2-inch Huldra Brothers Carvings, Exclusive Lithograph, Cloth map, Special necklace, and drawstring bag. It also has the following digital items: Death’s vow armor set, Exile’s guardian shield, Dark Horse digital comic, Dark Horse artbook, and Dynamic theme.
It’s priced as follows:
Philippines — PhP 7,699
Indonesia — IDR 1,899,000
Thailand — THB 4,990
Malaysia — MYR 549
There’s also a limited edition God of War PlayStation bundle that include an original design PlayStation 4 Pro with 1TB HDD, one original design DualShock 4 wireless controller, God of War software with premium digital content, voucher code for digital contents, three-month subscription voucher card, and a PlayStation one-year extended warranty service.
Pricing are as follows:
Indonesia — IDR 7,249,000
Thailand — THB 17,690
Malaysia — MYR 1,999
As of posting, the PlayStation 4 bundle has no pricing and availability details in the Philippines.
ASUS ROG Phone review: A true gaming phone done right?
Undeniably a phone built for mobile gamers
We received a lot of questions about this phone. Is it the best gaming smartphone today? How is it different from other flagship phones with similar specs? And, how much value are you getting out of it?
To answer all those, here’s my review of the ROG Phone. You know the drill, let’s start with the phone’s physique.
Its AMOLED display measures 6 inches diagonally
It features stereo front-facing speakers
The physical buttons are on the right side
The left has the card tray and side-mounted USB-C port
Another USB-C at the bottom along with a 3.5mm jack
The back looks aggressive with the ROG logo
The phone is pretty angular with lots of unusual shapes
In case you’re wondering what ROG means…
There are two rear cameras and a fingerprint reader
Obviously designed with gaming in mind
One look at the ROG Phone and it already screams that it’s a gaming smartphone. Unlike other game-centric phones from Honor and Razer which have subtle gaming looks, the ROG Phone belongs with the rest of the ROG laptops and peripherals that are made by ASUS.
When there are a number of phones on the table like in our office, it’s not difficult to differentiate the ROG Phone from the rest. The front of the phone has a distinct copper accent on its front stereo speakers, and the back is uniquely ROG. If you own an ROG laptop or desktop and use ROG-branded peripherals, the ROG Phone should be part of your collection.
Like with other 2018 phones, the ROG Phone has a glass back using Corning’s tough Gorilla Glass. Don’t expect things to be symmetrical here because the dual rear cameras and the LED flash are housed in an unusual shape. Even the fingerprint reader is slightly positioned to the right of the phone, but don’t worry, it’s still reachable using either index fingers.
The ROG Phone’s bold design doesn’t end there. The back also has a futuristic styling using lines and an ROG logo that lights up in virtually any color you want. To top things off, the phone even has an exterior for its cooling system.
Encased in a metal frame, the ROG Phone is premium all around. It certainly feels more well-built than its ZenFone cousins. But of course, the loud design is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some gamers might even find it too much, but ASUS is not following Razer’s design choices.
Apart from the phone’s body, there is also a lot to talk about the phone’s display. The 6-inch display is not just your ordinary AMOLED panel. Apart from producing deep blacks and vibrant colors, the display is capable of a 90Hz refresh rate with 1ms pixel response time. Basically, you can play with the phone in uber-smooth motion. On top of that, it supports HDR and has a wide color gamut that’ll please professionals.
The fastest Android gaming phone today
The ROG Phone is powered by a Snapdragon 845, which is practically found on all high-end Android phones that came out this year. To place this gaming smartphone ahead of them, ASUS threw in an overclocked variant of the already-powerful chip and paired it with lots of memory and speedy flash storage. The result is one of the fastest Android phones available today.
Android Oreo runs the show, but it’s customized by ASUS to make it one of their own. Being an ROG device, it comes with a combative theme. Turning on the “X Mode” will even make everything red, which means that the ROG Phone is performing at its peak.
Like with ROG notebooks and desktops, the phone has a command center where you can closely monitor the phone’s condition. The Game Center is as aggressive-looking as the phone’s body. Here you can check the CPU and GPU speeds, the battery’s temperature and remaining power, the setting for the RGB light customization, and the fan speed control for the external cooler.
The configuration I have for review has 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. If you find 128GB not enough for all your games and personal files, there’s also a 512GB model. Without a doubt, the ROG Phone is insanely fast. Coupled with a 90Hz display, this will be your smoothest Android experience. The 120Hz display of the Razer Phone 2 is more fluid, but the eyes can already appreciate what the ROG Phone has.
Keep in mind that not all games take advantage of the high refresh rate, but popular titles already do. My all-time favorite, Asphalt 9: Legends, is more enjoyable when it’s rendered in 90fps. Other graphics-intensive titles like Free Fire (which comes pre-installed) is fully supported and PUBG: Mobile is playable in the highest settings without lag, as well.
Also, the AirTriggers, which are ROG’s virtual shoulder buttons, aid in mobile gaming. Basically, the sides of the phone are touch-sensitive. They are kind of gimmicky in a way because they are pretty difficult to reach during gameplay. When you get used to it, you’ll have an edge against other players using regular phones.
It even comes with fun cameras
The ROG Phone is not just fun in gaming, but it’s also a good picture taker. It won’t match the likes of the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 Pro, yet I am impressed with the phone’s cameras. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it to be this good?
It’s got dual rear shooters. The main one is a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization, and Dual Pixel autofocus. Of course, the phone’s camera is powered by AI that detects the scenes and adjusts the settings accordingly. Thankfully, there’s no over processing going on like with other AI-enabled shooters.
Here are some photos taken using the main sensor in Auto mode:
They aren’t bad, right? Although, ASUS didn’t put much attention on the 8-megapixel secondary shooter with an ultra wide-angle lens. I’m a fan of wide-angle secondary cameras, so I enjoyed shooting GoPro-like shots. Too bad it’s got no autofocus and the quality isn’t at the level of the main sensor.
Here are some samples taken using the main sensor and the wide-angle camera for comparison:
Moving to the front, we have another 8-megapixel shooter but it’s just wide enough to take spacious selfies. It comes with an f/2.0 aperture, so low-light shots shouldn’t be a problem — at least on paper. You can also apply bokeh effects to your selfies for added depth.
No one is buying the ROG Phone for photography purposes, but those who are interested in it will be able to take great photos. The use of an ultra wide-angle secondary lens is also a good choice by ASUS. Why? Because it’s more fun to take wide shots.
Incredible power takes a toll on battery
With all the features the ROG Phone has, a trusty 4000mAh battery keeps the lights on. But, it is enough? Based on my usage, no. If you wish to enable the phone’s highlighted features such as the 90Hz refresh rate, you should make sure to have a power bank around.
The phone didn’t last a full day as my daily driver. I usually get fewer than three hours of screen-on time. My usage includes typical work duties with the phone constantly connected to either Wi-Fi or LTE, and lots of gaming in X Mode.
When I set the refresh rate back to default (60Hz), I was able to get better battery life. The ROG Phone was my secondary device during my four-day business trip to Singapore and I only had to charge it twice. I mainly used the phone for taking photos, checking out web pages, uploading IG stories, and, of course, for playing mobile games once in a while.
Speaking of charging, the ROG Phone comes with a super-fast charger in the box. In just 15 minutes, I was able to charge the phone from zero to 26 percent. The charging rate slows down when you’re nearing 100 percent, so a full charge takes about an hour and 40 minutes. That is still very impressive, though.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The ROG Phone is a premium device from ASUS with all the bells and whistles of a gaming smartphone. Some might argue that regular flagship phones are already good at gaming. Yes, that’s true but they are not meant for it. That’s where gaming smartphones, such as the ROG Phone, come in.
It has the fastest available processor, super-smooth refresh rate, loud front speakers, optimized software, and extra hardware features such as shoulder triggers and both passive and active cooling systems.
But, everything comes at a price. When the ZenFone 5Z came out earlier this year, we were in awe at how ASUS is offering a flagship-specced phone at an affordable price. It’s even cheaper than OnePlus in some regions, but not as affordable as a Xiaomi flagship. Things are different with the ROG Phone and ASUS is asking quite a lot of money for it, but at least it’s not your usual Android phone.
The ROG Phone has an official starting price of US$ 899 for the 128GB model. In the Philippines, it goes for PhP 49,995, which is not far from the international pricing. If you want more storage, you can get the 512GB model for US$ 1,099. You can also get the top-tier model for PhP 61,995 in the Philippines, SG$ 1,598 in Singapore, and NT$ 31,990 in Taiwan where it’s the cheapest.
If you wish to complete the set, the ROG Phone is being sold along with all of its accessories but the asking price puts it in the league of gaming laptops, so you might want to think carefully before purchasing any of them.
Razer Game Store hits Malaysia and the Philippines this weekend
In time for Singles’ Day
Remember that partnership between Lazada and Razer to bring a new region-centric digital game store to Southeast Asia? Well, it’s finally making its way to Malaysia and the Philippines.
We first reported about this back in April when the Razer Game Store arrived in Singapore. An expansion for the rest of the region was promised then, but we’re only seeing it come to fruition now.
Beginning November 11, which happens to be Singles’ Day and the start of Lazada’s major 11.11 sale, anyone with access to the online store in Malaysia and the Philippines can purchase from a wide selection of PC games.
This adds to the aforementioned Singapore store, as well as the one offered for Thailand, bringing the total in the region to four. Teaming up with Lazada means there are multiple ways to purchase the titles, minus the hassle of exchange rates and uncertainty with authenticity.
Razer Phone 2 review: Gaming and nothing else
Needs to be more than that
It should go without saying that the Razer Phone 2 is designed for mobile gaming and nothing else. Ever since we first laid our hands on it, there’s nothing else worth doing on this device aside from playing games — and a little media consumption on the side.
For one, this thing is big and blocky. Never have I used a phone as daunting as this. While it feels fine during landscape mode with two hands, going single-handed can be a literal pain to one’s hand.
You can get a better feel of it in our initial hands-on video:
It’s essentially the same brick as the original Razer Phone. The gaming company definitely applied the don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke mentally here. I’m honestly fine with it since it delivers an unmatched screen-speaker combo, but I imagine small-handed users having a problem with this.
That’s mainly because it owns a 5.7-inch screen with a traditional ratio of 16:9, which means it isn’t as slim as those with the newer 18:9 panels. However, the dreaded notch is still nowhere in sight, and there’s more vertical space when playing in landscape orientation.
And since the stereo speakers are placed in front (where they should be), there’s no way of blocking them while gaming. That’s important, because you wouldn’t want to cover these grilles. They’re the absolute loudest, clearest speakers I’ve ever experienced on a smartphone, and could even beat some of the laptops I’ve reviewed in the past.
But from start to finish, it’s the display you really want. It’s an unmatched 120Hz LCD with a 1440p resolution. There’s really nothing like it in the market; it’s unbelievably smooth when scrolling and incredibly sharp when pixel peeping. Only the ROG Phone’s 6-inch 1080p AMOLED with its 90Hz refresh rate comes close, but I could definitely feel Razer’s extra pixels and hertz.
So, how does all that translate to actual gaming? Mostly hits for sure, but I must point out some misses to make this a complete review.
First, the good. Even though Razer doesn’t advertise it, the faster 120Hz refresh rate applies to practically all games that involve scrolling or movement. That means you get on-screen motion that’s twice as smooth as the usual 60Hz on 99.9 percent of all other phones ever made. It’s tough to describe in pictures or words, but you can take my word that it’s tough to go back to anything less than this.
Combined with the Snapdragon 845 chipset and 8GB of RAM, this is the best mix of hardware you can find until the next flagship Snapdragon gets announced, which may be as soon as next month. It’s a shame really, although this chip is more than enough to power the demanding screen. You can even boost performance further with the Game Booster app, which allows you to customize individual settings per game. I just keep mine on Performance mode to be safe.
My only concern is the heat management. Even though it’s been proven that the internals are cooled by a vapor chamber, I can’t say it’s effective in keeping heat away from my hands during intense gameplay. For comparison, it gets as warm as the vapor cooling-less Pixel 3, and doesn’t maintain temperature as well as the Mate 20 Pro, which isn’t even a gamer-centric phone but does own a more advanced 7nm Kirin processor.
The display’s biggest drawback has to be its poor brightness even at the highest setting. This poses a problem for games like Pokémon Go wherein you gotta go out in daylight to play. It was close to unplayable for me when the sun was high — something that never bothered me whenever I stayed inside my cave.
Speaking of going outside, I also can’t say that the 4000mAh battery capacity is enough. While it may seem ample on paper, I noticed the Razer Phone 2 easily burns through it in a few short hours. I would peg average use on a single charge at five hours of screen-on time tops; about an hour less if you use it purely for gaming. I could probably improve battery life by adjusting the refresh rate to 60Hz, but why would I hinder the phone’s best feature?
And yet, despite these minor complaints, I can’t take anything away from the audio-visual experience the Razer Phone 2 offers. Having powerful stereo speakers and a desktop-grade 120Hz 1440p LCD is unreal, and I don’t understand why more brands aren’t copying this. The era of 60Hz needs to end already, and it should start with smartphones.
With the gaming aspect out of the way, what else can this smartphone do?
For one, the Razer Phone 2 has wireless charging unlike its predecessor. Razer offers an RGB-lighted fast charging pad of its own, and it matches well with the customizable illumination of the phone’s rear logo.
Yeah, that RGB logo really puts the game in gamer! The built-in Chroma app is where the magic happens; there are lots of options to adjust colors and how they radiate. Of course, leaving it on too long drains the battery immensely. My preferred setting is a glowing logo while the phone is on, and totally off when the unit’s asleep.
What else is there to know? Aside from all the upgrades over the predecessor I’ve mentioned, the Razer Phone 2 also comes with IP67 water and dust resistance, meaning it can handle unfortunate situations (like dunks in a toilet) more easily. Unfortunately, the 3.5mm audio port has once again been excluded, which is a head-scratcher on any sort of gaming device.
Oh, and the camera performance isn’t that good. As expected of a gaming phone, image quality isn’t a priority, but it gets the job done when daylight is plenty and you have nothing serious to shoot. I also appreciated the 2x optical zoom of the secondary lens. Take a look at some samples:
Is this your GadgetMatch?
If it isn’t clear by now, the Razer Phone 2 is fantastic for gaming, and not much more. Its blockiness and general lack of focus for anything other than raw performance makes it a rather niche product in a sea of versatile smartphones. You could easily buy a different Snapdragon 845-equipped handset for a fraction of this phone’s US$ 799 price, and you’d likely gain other features like better cameras and a modern look, while still getting gaming-level speeds.
However, those would lack the amazing 120Hz display, extra-loud speakers, and all-around customization. At the same time, last year’s discounted Razer Phone has become a little more lucrative, especially since it looks nearly identical to its successor and offers mostly the same signature features.
When all’s said and done, the Razer Phone 2 is a fun little machine. I wouldn’t use it as a daily driver, but whenever a hot new mobile game comes out, this would be my go-to match.
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