Of all the games I expected God of War to remind me of, The Legend of Zelda was probably right at the very bottom of my list. I mean, how could the hallmarks of Nintendo’s flagship adventure franchise possibly be present in Kratos’ latest? This is a game about a paternal relationship, like The Last of Us. It has a cinematic third-person camera, like Uncharted. Heck, there are even thick, visually luxurious forests, like every Sony game ever according to one particularly short-sighted meme.
But no, the new God of War reminds me of Zelda – and old-school, Ocarina of Time-era Zelda at that. One of my takeaways while playing the title is that it’s got a very Nintendo-esque design philosophy to it. The ol’ Big N is brilliant at constantly introducing new systems and mechanics throughout the course of its titles, only to exchange them for something new and then reinvent them later on. God of War does that, perhaps not to the highs of, say, a Twilight Princess, but it’s there.
In fact, I find the overall structure of the game to be very Zelda-esque. Prior to release many people feared that God of War would be more Walk of War, as it attempts to ape Naughty Dog titles and elevate its story above gameplay. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: there’s virtually something to do every 30 seconds that you play, be it a minor distraction like a floating barrel that you can smash with your boat or something more designed like a rune puzzle that you need to solve.
Just like in Zelda, you don’t have to bother with these periphery distractions if you don’t want to – but you’ll be rewarded if you do. There are a wide range of different chests, containing everything from stat-boosting gear to in-game currency and more. Many of these chests you’ll be able to see but won’t actually be able to access until a much later date, when you have the requisite abilities. It’s like when you see a cracked wall in a Zelda game but have to wait until you’ve unlocked the bombs to blow it open.
Heck, even the progression feels similar in some ways. Without spoiling anything, completing boss encounters will generally reward you with new techniques, which opens up entire new portions of the map to you. And how do you get to these? You sail around, just like in Wind Waker. The actual water-based navigation is nowhere near as deep and involved as in Nintendo’s cult GameCube classic, but the sense of discovery as you dock at new beaches and buildings carries the same sensation.
Obviously the game does deviate from Zelda in some ways; God of War’s focus is on combat first and foremost, traditionally one of the weaker elements of Nintendo’s famous franchise. And there are no real dungeons to discover or boss keys to locate. But you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to find the Zelda in Kratos’ new campaign. And with even Breath of the Wild deviating from the traditions of the series, God of War may just scratch your old-school Zelda itch.
Do you think there are similarities between God of War and Zelda – or are we stretching things? Has Kratos managed to scratch your Link itch? Find the boss key in the comments section below.