Welcome back to “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”. Part 22 will focus on the first few games that make up the God of War series. Even the most casual gamer has at least heard of God of War. Some love it and others (usually the self-labeled “hardcore gamers”) think it’s a button masher for casual gamers. I disrespectfully disagree with that claim and will even go so far to say that it’s total crap. Yes, some enemies can be defeated through button mashing, but the majority of tougher enemies and especially bosses require strategy, good timing, and knowing the best combos and weapons to use against the appropriate enemy. The God of War games aren’t as difficult or fast paced as the Devil May Cry games, but they are still intense and are just plain fun to play through. Slaughtering all sorts of mythological creatures has never been so fun, and the series’ story is certainly better than most of those in other similar hack and slash series. Plus, say what you will about the use of QTEs, but the way they were implemented in the GOW games was nothing short of spectacular. Whether Kratos was tearing off an enemy’s head, preventing a giant from crushing him, or pleasing the ladies in the sack, the QTEs made each experience more cinematically engaging and memorable.
The debut of the Spartan warrior Kratos was a truly historical time in video gaming history. This man was not your typical mythological hero out to save a damsel in distress or protect the innocent from deadly monsters. No, Kratos was a selfish, power hungry, and supremely angry warrior who wanted nothing more than to slay those who he wished to exact his revenge on, no matter what the cost. And when I say no matter what the cost, I mean it; Kratos has no qualms about sacrificing others and even cutting down innocent people who just happen to get in his way when he’s slicing up monsters. You kind of feel bad for Kratos after seeing how it was he lost his wife and daughter to Ares’ treachery, but the guy is so brutal and ruthless that it’s actually quite difficult to sympathize with him. Still, you’ve got to admire his dedication and the fact he’s basically unstoppable. Let us begin discussing the games in this mythical series.
God of War (PS2)
The first game in the series isn’t quite my favorite, but it stands the test of time and is still one of the better games in the series. Kratos is under the service of the gods of Olympus, slaying all manner of beasts for them when they command it, and the game begins with Kratos slaying a massive Hydra in the Aegean Sea amidst several wrecked ships. Afterwards, he is tasked by Athena to kill Ares, the God of War himself, a mission Kratos is all too eager to undertake. To accomplish this mission, Kratos will need to make full use of all the weapons and magic abilities he receives from the gods of Olympus. Aside from his famous chained blades, the Blades of Chaos, Kratos will use the heavy and strong Blade of Artemis, as well as a number of magic abilities: throwing lightning bolts (Zeus’ Fury), releasing an area of effect electric explosion (Poseidon’s Rage), turning enemies to stone with the severed head of Medusa (Medusa’s Gaze), and summoning the souls of the dead (Army of Hades). His Rage of the Gods ability energizes him with a bolt of lightning, granting him with increased attack damage and durability. All these abilities make Kratos a force to be reckoned with, to say the least.
Kratos will need all these abilities to survive the many battles he will have against all sorts of creatures like undead soldiers, harpies, minotaurs, gorgons, cerberus hounds, cyclopes, and many more. Tearing these enemies apart never gets old. There are only three bosses: the aforementioned Hydra, a giant, undead minotaur, and Ares himself. The first two bosses are visually impressive and showcase giant monster battles like I had never seen before at the time, and while they weren’t especially difficult, they were still fun and entertaining. The final battle against Ares, however, was a true challenge, to say the least. I would even go so far as to say it was the most difficult and intense boss battle in the entire series. It was a three stage battle that required many retries on my part before I found myself victorious, and damn was it satisfying putting the kibosh on that flame-haired bastard.
There are also plenty of puzzles in this game, a couple of which actually had me scratching my head or fearing a grizzly, sudden death. One puzzle where Kratos has to move these large stones around and fit them together into empty parts on a wall was more time consuming than I thought it’d be. Another puzzle, or more appropriately an environmental obstacle, had Kratos quickly pushing and kicking a stone block to a specific spot so he could climb up a high ledge before spikes shoot up from the ground and skewer him; this one still gets me all riled up and clenching my toes when I play it. And let’s not forget that hair raising journey through Hades’ Underworld where Kratos must balance himself on bladed poles and jump from platform to platform over the rushing, blood-filled River Styx. I still hadn’t even mentioned the impressive scale of some of the environments like the burning city of Athens, the Desert of Lost Souls, and the Temple of Pandora sitting atop the back of an unbelievably large titan.
All these elements, the fierce combat, the awe inspiring environments, the grasping puzzles, and not to mention the epic musical score, really bring things together and make you feel like you are taking part in a legendary quest of titanic proportions. I was initially unimpressed with the hype towards this game when it was first released, but as far as I’m concerned, the game lived up to the hype. It wasn’t perfect though, with certain parts of the game proving to be somewhat of a slog at times, mostly in Hades’ Underworld and certain parts in Pandora’s Temple, but overall it’s a great game and still holds up to its sequels even today. God of War gets a score of 92%.
God of War II (PS2)
As impressed as I was by the first God of War, its sequel absolutely blew me away and ended up being my absolute favorite game in the series. Taking place some time after the first game, Kratos has become the new God of War, and a far more brutal one than even Ares before him. Earning the ire of Zeus and the other gods of Olympus, Kratos’ godly powers are taken from him, then he is forced to battle against the gigantic Colossus of Rhodes, a battle he barely survives. Zeus himself becomes involved and finishes Kratos off, sending him back to the Underworld. Fortunately, Kratos is revived by the titan Gaia, Mother Earth herself, and then sent on his way to get to Zeus so he can kill him and have his revenge. When it comes to providing an epic backdrop with even more impressive visuals than those in the first game, God of War II takes the cake. Kratos’ latest journey will have him going through environments like a snow-covered mountain housing an imprisoned titan, a magma-filled furnace, ancient ruins, and the like as he battles his way through tons of enemies before he can reach his destination.
The enemies he faces include the usual undead soldiers, gorgons, and cyclopes, as well as newer versions of older enemies like satyrs and cerberus hounds, and even all new ones like armored juggernauts and skeletons. There’s also a larger collection of boss battles against enemies both large and small like the aforementioned Colossus of Rhodes, legendary warrior Theseus, Kratos’ old enemy the Barbarian King, Medusa’s morbidly obese sister Euryale, the other more legendary and more popular warrior Perseus, a Kraken, the Sisters of Fate, and, of course, Zeus himself (and I didn’t even mention the two stronger cerberus monsters that serve as sub-bosses). While the first game wasn’t what I would call unfairly difficult, some parts were frustrating, but in this game the difficulty seemed perfectly balanced. This is because combat was smoother than before overall, and the different combos available to Kratos were more effective against different enemies.
His larger collection of weapons was certainly a contributing factor, which includes his newer chained blades, the Blades of Athena, the slow yet strong Barbarian Hammer, the long-reaching Spear of Destiny, and the all around effective Blade of Olympus (though this one’s only available in two specific set-pieces). His magic abilities include using a magic bow that shoots wind blasts (Typhon’s Bane), releasing lightning orbs (Cronos’ Rage), using the Head of Euryale to turn enemies to stone (again), and smashing enemies with earth cracking shockwaves (Atlas Quake). The Rage of the Titans ability has Kratos bursting into flames and granting him increased attack power and durability, but it’s improved over the previous game’s Rage of the Gods since it can be activated and deactivated at will as long as the corresponding meter isn’t completely empty. Kratos even has extra items to help him in his mission like the Amulet of the Fates, which can greatly slow down time when used near specific statues to get through obstacles, the Golden Fleece, which can deflect enemy projectiles and attacks, and the Icarus Wings, which allow Kratos to glide.
As before, the different types of lever pulling and environmental puzzles return, along with the appropriate music that perfectly sets the tone for Kratos’ mythical journey. My only real complaint would be that the game is over a tad too quickly, it feels noticeably shorter than the first one. Despite its brevity, it’s an intense and memorable action/adventure title and a standout of the series. God of War II gets a score of 95%.
God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP/PS3)
For some time I was unable to play this game and the other PSP title released afterwards (which I will go over next week) since I don’t own a PSP. I never liked not knowing what happened in these games, I felt like I was missing out on some very important lore, not to mention gameplay, of the God of War series. So intent was I on finding out what happened in these PSP games that I went to Youtube, fully intending to watch an entire walkthrough of God of War: Chains of Olympus, and then later God of War: Ghost of Sparta, so I could be fully caught up with the series’ lore and know everything there is to know about it. As I waited for the first video to finish loading, I glanced at the comments section and found some very exciting information: According to a commenter, a collection was being released on the PS3 that would have both of the PSP GOW titles together in one bundle. After confirming that the commenter was not talking out of his ass, I canceled my Youtube walkthrough marathon and waited with great anticipation for the release of the God of War: Origins Collection, which I, of course, bought and played.
The first game in the collection, God of War: Chains of Olympus, was quite frankly one of my least favorite games in the GOW series, however that does not mean I disliked it. In fact, given that it was a PSP game, I was surprised at how well it held up on the PS3. Taking place before the first God of War, Kratos is still in the service of the gods of Olympus and finds himself battling a Persian army in the city of Attica. After killing the army’s king and the Basilisk they sent to attack the city, the sun (or more accurately, the God of the Sun, Helios) falls out of the sky and is taken to the Underworld through unknown circumstances. Athena then tasks Kratos with bringing Helios back from the Underworld, otherwise the rest of the world would fall into a deep, eternal sleep under the dark fog of Morpheus which was no longer being kept at bay by Helios’ light. It should be mentioned here that the story takes a surprisingly personal turn when we find out more about Kratos’ deceased daughter Calliope, and this really helped in making Kratos appear as more than just an angry, vengeful murderer.
Kratos battles more undead enemies, cyclopes, larger and stronger minotaur enemies, gorgons, and new sabretooth tiger enemies, among others. The bosses include the aforementioned Persian King and the Basilisk, followed by the Boatman of the Underworld, Charon, and an appropriately challenging final boss battle against the goddess Persephone and the titan Atlas. As for his weapons and powers, Kratos still possesses his original Blades of Chaos, then later acquires the ability to summon a fire demon to incinerate surrounding enemies (Efreet), the ability to throw searing blasts of light (Light of Dawn), the Sun Shield to deflect enemy projectiles and attacks, the Gauntlet of Zeus to crush enemies and obstacles with smashing strikes, and the use of a mask that launches green fire capable of continuously damaging enemies (Charon’s Wrath). Puzzles make up a decent portion of the game as well, no surprise there.
This game had all the parts that make a GOW game great, but it did have some more noticeable flaws, mainly less smooth controls and a more limited combat system. Context sensitive actions like activating levers and switches, and even accessing save points, were kind of iffy and wouldn’t always activate when you expected them to. The controls worked well, but overall felt more limited than they did in the main console games. This game is also the shortest in the series by far, plus it’s not that challenging until you reach the later stages. Still, it’s worthy of the God of War title and offers plenty of the same old monster killing fun that fans of the series can appreciate. God of War: Chains of Olympus gets a score of 77%.
That is all for this week’s “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”, so join me next week for Part 23 if you’re curious about what I thought of the other three God of War games. While you wait with barely contained anticipation, read these other fine articles from our site:
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