Last year I bought a PlayStation 3 to discover all the exclusives I missed so far, God of War was one of them. At first, it wasn’t particularly interesting to me, I never really enjoyed the genre (nor the Greek mythology to be fair), but Kratos seemed to be an important character in the history of the console. I had to experience the game.
God of War is truly an exceptional, visionary fantasy action game. Beautifully realized, but also immensely frustrating. I’m not going to lie: I had to quit several times because I just couldn’t bear all the insane traps and puzzles between the exhausting fights. The controls and camera angles didn’t help the situation. I’m not saying they’re all wrong, but after a smooth session of Ratchet & Clank, it was quite different. Difficult, too. The Challenge of Gods is some kind of insane punishment for buying the game, I suppose.
It’s an agressive, brutal, angry game, just like its protagonist. Kratos was a mortal, but then he became the servant of Ares. With his new powers, he conquered whole armies, slaughtered innocents in the name of the god of war, but ultimately, the price was too high. Kratos choose to be servant no more. We learn much about him through tortured flashback-scenes, but it’s a pretty straightforward story of vengeance and anger.
You could argue, that the game has some issues with sexism (it has a “sex minigame”, no kidding), but that would be misleading, because women who play more active roles in the narrative, are quite authentic and well written.
In the game, he’s fighting hordes of mythological creatures, greek soldiers, undead soldiers, and the set-pieces are spectacular. Their vast scope is just incredible. There’s no free camera movement, but the angles are quite cinematic, they give the game a unique look. There’s a “making of” featurette on the disc that reveals just how much artistic effort was put into the game. Naturally, it was a stunning experience.
However, I did have some issues with all this cinematic framework. First of all, the cutscenes cannot be skipped. This is a minor annoyance, because obviously one has to experience the story at first. More problematic was that the game just doesn’t have subtitles. There’s no option for closed captioning. Now, although my mother language isn’t English, I had no trouble understanding the dialogue, but a few years ago, I would have. Also, what about those who can’t hear? The sound controls were also a bit glitchy, even when I set the volume to very low, some of the narration remained extremely loud. These were minor issues, but they added up quickly, and the experience became imperfect. For a first party studio of Sony, this was a bit odd.
Apart from that, it was a powerful game. TC Carson is worth mentioning too, he does some insane voice acting here, really memorable. The music is as epic as it can get with that chorus. It just stays with you.
There isn’t really much to say about this game. It’s not overly complicated, there isn’t really much depth in the story, nor in the gameplay, but the production values are excellent, the world-building is unique, it’s not your regular Greek mythology imagery. That only should be a reason to experience it.
Playing God of War II wasn’t all that different, it expanded on the first game with clever narrative touches but as for me, I’m glad that I didn’t have to purchase it separately. It works well as a full-length expansion, rather than a sequel that takes a leap forward. The HD conversion is mostly convincing, but it has some issues: cutscenes remained low-res (understandable), but it seems that even the gameplay part stretches the image a little bit.
Overall, I’m glad I tried it, but somehow I didn’t feel that it was a deep and satisfying game, its neat mannerisms of anger and mythological beauty wear off quickly, and the frustrating puzzles didn’t improve my attitude (luckily GoWII is much better in that regard). I recommend the collection for newcomers, God of War has aged quite well, it’s smooth and very playable even today.