Godless

Originally Published 10 September 2010

The week before last, I finished playing through God of War III. If you’ve been living in a hole for the last two gaming generations, you might be unaware that the God of War games are a series of third person action games from Sony and exclusive to their platforms.

At this point, I think most people are familiar with the gameplay of the God of War series and this iterations doesn’t deviate substantially from the mold. That said, the gameplay does remain solid, even if new innovations are mostly absent. Controls are tight and the translation from PS2 to PS3 hasn’t had any particular impact.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this game and how I’d review it. From a purely technical perspective, the game is quite good. My concern is that the game didn’t engage me the same way that it’s predecessors did. I think this is mostly due to the tone and pacing which means that there are spoilers ahead.

This iteration picks up right where the second game ended: Kratos riding the Earth Titan Gaia up the side of Olympus with muderous intent. Honestly, I think this was a brilliant ending to the first one which was just enough “over the top” to be powerful. The problem I found is that the game seems to try to continually top itself, but at some point, it feels as though they’re just trying to hard. The game opens with a fight against Poseidon and this is somewhat endemic of the problem. When you start by fighting one of the three Greater Gods of Olympus, there are only so many places left to go. This most notably manifests itself in the later fights against Hermes and Apollo which feel more like curb-stomping than legitamite foes. Worse still is the non-fight against Hera who is killed in a cutscene by Kratos simply grabbing her and snapping her neck then using her body to weigh down a switch. That sort of general trivialization of the gods also shows up with Apollo whose head, after his defeat, is carried around to be used as a glorified flashlight.

All of this taken together makes it seem as though the Gods of Olympus don’t really represent a threat to him which is a dramatic shift in tone from the previous games. Thus, when you finally end up in the final encounter with Zeus, he seems less like a larger than life, existential threat to Kratos and more like a minor tyrant struggling to hold onto his kingdom. A battle that should have felt as epic and tenuous as the first game’s battle against Aries instead feels like just another boss fight.

Where does this leave us, though? If you played the first two, you should probably finish the story. If you didn’t, I’d suggest the first one (available in a PS3 collected edition on a single disc with the second game) instead as it is a more compelling game. Trying to start playing the series with this game would be the wrong thing to do, though.

God of War III: 0

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