What I’m Playing – God of War

I want to talk about God of War. Not the new one, the original one. And the second one. And maybe the third one later; but not the new one, I don’t have a PSP. I’ve been wanting to talk God of War for a few weeks now, but I’m like five years late to party, I realise that, so it does feel a little bit weird.

I spoke about how I got a PS3 in my earlier post about Scott Pilgrim. With my birthday on the horizon, I scoped out some gaming stores to seek out the best deal. The release of the PS Move was proving to be a small hiccup in my plan: I didn’t want one (until they release games that I might actually play more than once, ever), the 320GB consoles were bundled with one – like it or not, and the 120GB consoles were sold out in favour of the release of the 160GB – due a week after my b’day.

But the light at the end of the tunnel was Game Traders, who were offering the 320GB console for a set price – as long as you bought a game. I made a deal with my parents, they would buy me the console, and I would pay them back for the game I chose. Not knowing what games on the PS3 I’d really like, I asked Twitter/Facebook for some advice. It took some back-and-forthing, but we landed on a suggestion that took my fancy: Sony Entertainment had produced HD versions of God of War and God of War II playable on the PS3. GoW looked like my kind of game, and I could start at the beginning – deal!

I really liked God of War. I’ve just finished GoW II, and I’ll soon (eventually) be starting on GoW III, which I bought while I was playing GoW because I was enjoying it so much (plus it was the shiny-shiny collectors edition).

God of War represents pretty much everything I enjoy in a game. Kratos’ Blades of Chaos are melee (no aiming required), they have an AoE effect (once you get them whirling), they provide some crowd control (depending on the combos you use), and you can apply them with simple button-mashing techniques. Saying that the progression is linear would be like calling a ruler linear – you can’t miss anything because the story won’t advance until you’ve walked all the way down the one-way corridor. There are secret areas where you occasionally have to choose one path, but if you go to the secret area it’s always a dead end, and you can never screw the game by missing them. The only time advancement wasn’t as plain as the buttons on my controller was the necklace puzzle where you had to jump over some rocks and go past a tree, and it honestly looked like an “edge”, not a path.

Experienced gamers might find this annoying – the game almost discourages exploration, and you can’t backtrack once you’ve left an area. There are no maps, which is not a big deal because you can’t actually get lost in the GoW world, but they would have been nice to help solve my “Y-junction: which way is a secret area, which way advances the game?” dilemma.

Your opponents don’t have health bars, which adds to the immersion of the game, but hinders me as a player because I can’t tell if a strategy or technique is working, nor if my enemy is closer to death than I am and whether I can hang in there or not.

The game is peppered with quick time events, which – up until the end of the second game – I haven’t minded. Most enemies have a quick time “finisher”, you play the mini-game (often just one button, but occasionally none other than O to start the event), and the enemy dies in a spectacular and gory fashion. GoW II introduces a special species of cyclops that, with a successful mini-game, you could collect their eyes for a bonus.

Typical of most games, mini-game/quick time event things were included in most boss fights, and I was completely fine with this. With my reaction times, I didn’t always succeed, but the worst that happened was that you might take a little damage and you either had to try again, or kill your opponent the conventional way. No big deal, for non-boss fights you could ignore it completely if it made you feel better.

GoW II totally lost it at the end, however. I struggled enough with the final boss fight as it was – even being offered a reduction in difficulty because I couldn’t get through the third combat stage. But, I managed to make it (on Easy), and suddenly PRESS X TO NOT DIE happens.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, even if I got through the PRESS X TO NOT DIE event, it was then followed up by a mini-game/quick time event where I first had to tap the buttons shown on the screen, but them asked me to do the “rapid-tap O strength contest”. Which I kept failing at, because I could switch from the “react to screen” to “rapid tap” mindset fast enough. I did get it in the end, but I’m still kinda pissed that I only have completion at the Easy level because of that one stupid stage in the last major fight.

The story of GoW, however, was what really enamoured me. Once I’d played it, I knew that II and III would never live up. The story is well thought out, it’s well played out, revealed in cut scenes and flashbacks. Kratos was a character with motivations and development, and I wanted to know more – how the story went, where the story was going. It was a real joy to play.

My second favourite thing in GoW would have to be puzzles that made sense. Sometimes, while playing a game, and the only way to get through is by climbing a half-ruined wall, I start to wonder “who designed this place? Why would you design it like this? Who puts rolling logs with blades attached to them in hell just in case someone wants to try to escape? How does that make sense?” Much of GoW is set in Pandora’s Temple, and every time the challenges seemed a little ridiculous, I was able to comfort myself in the knowledge that someone actually did design it to be that way – it was meant to be physically and mentally daunting. It was a huge boon to my state of mind when I was trying to kick a wooden block over a spike-trap for the 20th time.

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~ by ghostwolfe on October 12, 2010.

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