I have not played previous God of War games, but they do sound like hack and slash games. This new one, however, is definitely more of a story focused action/adventure game, although there is still plenty of combat.
Kratos, after killing all the Greek gods, has settled down in Midgard with a family. The game starts after his wife has passed away, leaving him and his BOY. While Kratos is waiting for BOY to be ready, they are attacked by a powerful stranger at their home. This forces them to undertake their quests of scatting BOY’s mother’s ashes from the highest peak in all the realms.
This being Midgard and all, this is heavily based on Norse gods and mythology. You will travel through multiple realms, to dwarven ruins, across high mountains and a large lake. Everywhere looks outstanding and has a light “Metroidvania” aspect were some areas are explored again later, with you being able to discover new paths due to abilities unlocked throughout the game.
The dialogue between Kratos and his BOY portrays a realistic father/BOY relationship, and there are some fun characters you meet along the way. Combat is great fun, the main weapon being the Leviathan Axe. It has frost powers and can return to its owner (a bit like Mjölnir), and is the closest you’ll get to an amazing Thor game. BOY helps out over time with his bow, becoming more adept as the game goes on.
The camera also deserves a mention. It’s kind of a “one shot” style – throughout the entire game (of you don’t die), the camera makes zero “cuts”, it follows you throughout the game but moves on its own during cutscenes. It means the entire game is one long “flow” and all loading screens are “hidden” behind tunnels, with a “tree of life” hiding fast travel loading times. The music from Bear McCreary is also one of the greatest soundtracks in a video game.