Gaming

God of War: A must-play for 2018

Like Kratos, this game has grown like fine wine

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I’ll try my best not to overhype this, but God of War is an easy, early entry for 2018’s game of the year.

Okay, I may have failed that hyping part, but that’s exactly how you’ll feel too after getting your ass kicked by the first semi-boss battle thinking this is the same game you conquered years back. After trying, and failing, to hack-and-slash your way through that battle, you’ll quickly realize how much more depth this game has compared to the God of War games that came before it.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the series-lead Kratos. He’s now bearded, looks older, and definitely acts wiser. Going through the first hour or so of the game, you’ll see that this is not the same vengeance-seeking beast that unleashed a vicious assault for one Greek god after another.

Kratos is now more measured. Retribution is no longer his single driving force. It’s more a sense of duty — duty to fulfill a promise to his wife who had passed and a duty to raise their son Atreus, who’s a key part both in the story and the gameplay.

Atreus is the man

The idea of a vengeful Spartan warrior fueled by rampage having a son seemed unimaginable at first, but bringing Atreus into the fold proved to be the perfect way to expand God of War. The passing of his wife leaves Atreus in his care; Atreus adds depth to Kratos.

At the beginning of the game, he teaches the child how to hunt. You can hear the frustration in his voice as the boy fails in his first attempt. Instead of going ballistic, he reigns himself in before providing stern and sound advice.

The interplay between father and son is present nearly the entire duration of the game. Their dialogue goes on not only in cinematic scenes but even as you go through the game whether you’re searching for clues, solving puzzles, or just trying to figure out where to go next.

Atreus aids you in battle. His arrow can stun opponents or take their attention off of you, and his proficiency and power grow as the game progresses. However, that’s not the only area where Atreus proves helpful. The boy is able to read ancient writings that provide clues on how you can solve puzzles or move on from a certain point.

One shot is all it takes

One of the biggest technical accomplishments of the game is how it’s a one-shot story, which means there’s absolutely zero loading screens. That’s a challenge both in game production and storytelling. From the get-go, it puts you right in the heart of the action being in the shoes of the central figures of the story. It makes for an ultra-immersive experience that will leave you invested in how their relationship develops.

It doesn’t feel like a straight-up tutorial, but the game uses the first 8 to 10 hours to show you the ropes. From attacking, using Atreus, upgrading your equipment, and many others. After that, it opens up to a slew of side quests that can be as satisfying as pushing the story forward. While it is by no means a true open-world game, it’s wide enough that it lets you explore, but not too wide that you feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities.

It’s still about Kratos

With all of that said, this is still a God of War game, meaning Kratos is still at the heart of it. In many ways, this new Kratos mirrors the game’s growth. In the previous era wherein he unapologetically laid waste to the Greek gods, Kratos seemed more one-dimensional. He had one goal and that was to exact revenge and the games’ hack-and-slash approach reflected that.

This older Kratos appears to have grown as he is forced into a situation where he has to care for his child. Fatherhood puts the Spartan warrior in an unfamiliar place. While there is still rage within him, he appears more subdued. At times he struggles with how to speak with Atreus and it’s that very struggle that shows a side of Kratos we likely have never seen before: a tenderness that’s somehow out of character.

Don’t let that fool you, though. There’s still plenty of raging Kratos here. What this game has masterfully done is retain the identity and history of the previous God of War games while infusing it with learnings from the games that have come during the franchise’s hiatus.

The easiest comparison you’ll see is how it’s a more casual-gamer-friendly version of Dark Souls. And while I did think that, the approach feels more derivative rather than a direct recreation.

Nothing communicates that experience better than Kratos’ new weapon: the Leviathan axe. Gone are the chain blades that devastated draugrs and gods alike. Kratos’ axe is infused with ice magic, able to stun opponents. One of the most badass parts of the game is how you can throw the axe and summon it right back. But don’t think for a second that Kratos will be helpless without the axe. You still have his shield and his bare hands, and that’s sometimes required to defeat certain foes.

The battle system still feels as satisfying as ever. It requires more thinking than straight-up slashing which should be a welcome challenge whether you’re a veteran of the franchise or you’re being introduced to it through this game.

God of War

Even though Kratos has aged, nothing about this game feels old. There’s still enough God of War oomph that endeared it to its long-time fans while adding elements that can easily be embraced by a newer generation of gamers looking to dig into the lore of the franchise.

This is by far the easiest single-player, story-driven game to recommend to anyone this year. If you have time to play only a handful of games on the PS4 this year, God of War should be on that list.

SEE ALSO: God of War: An older Kratos needs a wiser you

Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today

The thinnest gaming laptop of them all

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Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.

The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.

Powering the Zephyrus S is the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 24GB DDR4 memory. Storage options are from 256GB to 1TB M.2 NVMe SSDs.

The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.

ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.

Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.

As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.

SEE ALSO: ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

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Gaming

ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

Thanks to its super-slim bezels!

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After going hands on with the ROG Strix Scar II and reviewing the Hero II in full, we wondered what else could be done to improve this second-generation lineup. Well, it looks like ASUS just gave us the answer.

Discreetly launched today, the new 17.3-inch ROG Strix Scar II (model name GL704) is the most compact gaming laptop of its kind, according to ASUS. It’s basically a supersized variant of the already-available 15.6-inch version but with an even badder screen.

It may be worth the wait, because the color-accurate 17.3-inch 1080p display is able to fit into a chassis designed for 15.7-inch panels, effectively providing it a width of less than 400mm thanks to the slim bezels.

The wide keyboard and Aura Sync RGB lighting make a return, along with the fast 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time of the display.

In terms of specs, it can go up to an Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. A 256GB SSD plus 1TB SSHD combo maintains the speed and fluidity of the system.

It’ll be available by the end of September in official ROG stores. Pricing begins at US$ 1,699.

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Crystal Dynamics sets up studio dedicated to Avengers game

And everyone in the MCU is in it

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Square Enix and Marvel Entertainment teamed up to bring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a gaming platform. The companies announced back in January that there will be an Avengers game, but has seen little to no developments as of late. Fortunately, the completion of a new studio for Square Enix’s US-based subsidiary Crystal Dynamics can change all of that.

The Avengers Project is going to tell an original story based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The game will feature the characters, environments, and storylines that loyal fans of the franchise will love and enjoy. However, after the announcement, not much news came up about the development of the game. People were expecting news during E3 2018, but sadly the Avengers Project was left out of Square Enix’s conference.

Square Enix and its subsidiaries are best known for their work on the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex series. Marvel executives wanted to partner with Square Enix as a way for the entertainment company to do things differently with their most popular franchise. Jay Ong, Senior Vice President for Games & Innovation at Marvel, noted that the game will “bring Marvel stories to life in ways our fans have never experienced.”

With the new studio called Crystal Northwest, Crystal Dynamics hopes to have some headway in the game’s development. The studio will put much of its attention on the technical and graphical aspects of the game to provide a unique gaming experience. Hopefully, more news and details on the project will surface in the upcoming months.

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