Warning: If you’ve not played God of War yet and intend to do so, turn back now, as I will be spoiling the first proper boss fight. You have been warned.
God of War is a special game.
It’s spectacular on so many levels, but it’s not totally without criticism. Take the first proper boss fight that it throws at you, for example. While it truly is a spectacle, it’s also groan worthy. I’m not talking about your first run in with a troll; I don’t really consider that a boss. I mean when you come face to face with ‘The Stranger’, a mysterious man who comes knocking at your door.
It’s over 9,000
Now, I’m fully aware that God of War is a fantasy game so pretty much anything goes, but still, I like a line to be drawn somewhere. The first fight with The Stranger crosses that line. Goading you into combat, fists are thrown. Eventually it gets to the point where The Stranger and Kratos are punching each other into the air and over a small house. Honestly, it’s like watching a Dragon Ball fight, and it irks me.
They’re Gods, I get it. But it’s overblown and unnecessary. It makes a mockery of the game’s consistency, too. If I can punch a God over a building, why do I need to use a fancy axe to beat normal enemies? If I can grab a log and swing it in a story scene, why can’t I do it in-game? It’s one of those stupid things in video games, that’s why.
Anyway, you fight The Stranger, and as you pound him down to his last bit of health you think you’ve won. But you better think again. It’s one of those fight where you actually need to beat him numerous times, each one less interesting than the last thanks to your limited moveset (it is early in the game, after all). Finding himself on the losing end for a short while, Kratos heals himself by clenching his fists gritting his teeth. We have to kick green stones to do that in-game. He also punches a huge rock so that a boulder the size of a house falls on The Stranger. Still, it’s not enough.
Kratos the chiropractor
By this point, things have just gotten way over the top. The Stranger and Kratos are engaged in a battle that seemingly has no end. The Stranger is apparently impervious to damage, while Kratos… well, he’s just Kratos. The land around them is more battle-scarred than either of the two pugilists. But inexplicably, after depleting The Stranger’s health bar for the third time, the battle is won when Kratos snaps The Stranger’s neck. After all they’ve gone though, simply snapping something which has already been crushed and jolted does the trick. Or does it?
Your first proper boss fight with The Stranger is all I hate about action games. Characters performing cool moves and actions in story scenes that you can’t replicate in-game. Being forced to fight a boss multiple times, with little variation in their attack pattern. Your main character being able to endure untold pain and yet still carry on when it suits the game. The Stranger hit me with enough force to plant me in a rock, but I survived. I didn’t survive my first encounter with some standard big dude clad in armour though.
Ultimately, God of War’s first proper boss fight is tense and entertaining, but the preposterous nature of it is at odds with the game’s otherwise serious tone. Other boss fights are grand and have moments of death-defying antics, sure. But not in the way that your fight with The Stranger does. For your fight with The Stranger, spectacle is given more importance than adhering to a believable, consistent world. In the long-run it doesn’t really detract from the game at all, but only because the rest of it does a much better job of keeping the action grounded and somewhat believable. It’s a blip, albeit an irritating one.