God I'm Bored: A God of War Series Playthrough Thread [Spoilers] [See CW In First Post]


#1

My personal history with the God of War franchise is fairly recent and not very positive. I borrowed GoW II from a friend who lent me his PS2 so I could play some Final Fantasy XII, but neither game really held my attention. Before I could even be repulsed by any misogyny or edginess, I fell off due to the uninspired combat and the miserable quick time events. A bit later, I borrowed GoW III from the same friend and again failed to be impressed by it.

However, the new God of War will release in two days, and its critical reception has been… quite something. With a Metacritic average of 95, it sits comfortably in the #50 spot on the site’s list of the best (read: highest rated) games of all time. Its only competition from this year, Celeste, with one point less, has only found itself at #94. Even if we look one year back, only three games have surpassed it.

And so, cool, trendy guy that I am, I have decided to see what all the fuss is about and make my trip to the video game store this Friday to pick up my very own copy of God of War IIII.* However, as God of War is known for its uh, unique storytelling, I have decided I would be doing myself a disservice if I played it without first playing through the original GoW trilogy. And since I am jealous of @VulpesAbsurda’s Souls Series Playthrough thread, I have decided to share my impressions here with you fine folk.

Besides, it’s Israeli “Independence” Day. I might as well play a series about hateful, militaristic violence.

*Get it? It’s a Call of Duty reference!

Content Warning: I’m not really sure what’s coming, but from what I’ve seen already, there is plenty of violence and sex. And while I have neither the desire nor the intention to discuss any gory details either way, be aware that I will mention these things when they happen - in as little detail as possible, I assure you, but still, tread carefully.

Also, not sure if this counts as a content warning, but from what I’ve seen of the older games, I expect to be fairly negative until at least III. I’m as tired as everyone else of the “angry gamer guy nitpicks games” schtick, and I have no intention of being overly ranty. I aim for this to still be thoughtful critique. However, there are some things I absolutely hate about these games, and it’s going to show, so be mindful of that.

Spoiler Warning: Plenty of these, naturally.


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#2

God of War I, Pt. 1 (And Perhaps Final Because Lord This Game Is Bad)

I’ve yet to play the first God of War, so this is my first experience with the game (the PS3 HD remake, to be precise), and it uh… sure is something. The years since 2005 have not been kind to any of us, but this game puts ugly on a totally different level, and this is from a guy who regularly replays Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII.

But if only the visuals were responsible for the entirety of this game’s ugliness. God of War is an ugly game through and through - in many ways, but first of all, on a spiritual level. This is a series seemingly infused with the spirit of an adolescent 4channer, except it was created by a man in his 30s.

I don’t mean to sugarcoat how modern games treat women, because things are still really bad, but it’s at least reassuring that we’re not at this level anymore. Now halfway through this game, I have yet to see one sequence where a woman didn’t face some gratuitous brutality, often killed, often half-naked.

That probably shouldn’t surprise me, but I always thought the game’s sexism was relegated to specific, notorious scenes. Not so. The very first thing you see after the tutorial is Kratos, still in full battle gear, waking up next to two women in bed.* You can then walk up to these women and initiate what only a cynic would a “sex minigame” where if you get a few quick time events right, sounds are heard, and then you… get some experience points.

Sigh. No comment.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with fully consenting adults doing their thing, but in context it’s pretty awful.

But the problems don’t start there, because before it gets to anything else, this game is ugly on a mechanical level. As you are thrown into the first level, you will find yourself walking across beam, apparently a series staple that is as awful to navigate with PS2-era controls and camera as you would think. Once you get past that, you start engaging in the messy, boring combat that involves mashing the square and triangle buttons a lot until everything on screen is dead.

Later combat requires more attention, but only in that it allows enemies to no-sell your attacks and stun-lock you, so you have to use the dodge a lot more. There are big lizard bois who will arbitrarily decide that you’re not allowed to hit them and just push you away, and fighting them effectively requires use of this game’s uniquely terrible dodge mechanic.

Speaking of which: oh, this dodge! It accomplishes the impressive feat of, at the same time, being too slow and too wide, meaning it’s useless to avoid things you’re not explicitly meant to use it for - namely, the big critter heavy attacks - and it also annoyingly puts you out of range to quickly take advantage of an opening. Bloodborne’s dodge also covers a lot of ground, but it lets you go back quickly. Darksiders has a pretty slow dodge, but it at least keeps you within swinging distance. This is just the worst of both worlds.

And “just the worst” is really the sum total of my experience so far. I am honestly floored that this series is so beloved. Even if you ignore all the hateful, reactionary themes of the work - which you shouldn’t do, but let’s imagine you did - it’s still an unpleasant game to look at and move around in. I’ve already fallen off three times, and the only thing that keeps me going is this perverse desire to see how much worse it gets.

Well, that’s not true. In fact, I’m starting to understand why I’m still playing, and why so many people have been playing this series for so long. But more on that next time.


#3

Love the idea; can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Question: are you going to do the mainline trilogy only, or are you going to check out the handheld ones as well? What about Ascension? If you have the means to do so Ghost of Sparta might be the best game in the series.


#4

Sigh. I really loved this game back when i was 14 and have not played it in ages. I know it’s bad in so many ways but watching Kratos impale a Hydra on a broken mast was quite literally one of the most inspiring things my teenage brain could exerience. I’m looking forward to reading this as well as kinda trepadatious, because I just don’t have the heart to go back myself and hopefully this playthrough will offer up some perspective on a game, that I deep down probably already know is bad, but, like, need to see it put on paper.


#5

Fair question. I was originally only planning on skimming the main trilogy, but since I’m going all in - and since I already have Ascension through PS+ from a while back, and the PSP re-releases for the PS3 are really damn cheap - I figure in for a penny, in for a pound. The only game I’m not going to cover is Betrayal, which, by all accounts, is unavailable, unimportant, and not worth the hassle required to contrive a way to play it. (I also had no idea it existed until I scoured Wikipedia for info on the series.)

Obsession tingling

OK, maybe I’ll find a way to cover Betrayal.


#6

In this sense, the next part might be cathartic for you - I know what you mean and it kinda ties in to what I mentioned about why I’m still playing.


#7

Mad respect if you end up buying a Motorola Razr for this quixotic quest.


#8

Oh absolutely. Like, I still have incredibly fond memories of the game but they’re just that: memories. It’s been so long since I played the game that I have a hard time speaking on the game as a holistic experience. It’s more a manner of sensory recollection of how I felt back when I played it, but those were also the emotional reactions of a hormonal teenager. Let’s just say that it was pandering pretty hard to my demographic.

I do still think that the way that game handled scale for it’s time as well as spectacle was kinda revolutionary for and while the merits of the aftereffects of that trend are debatable to say the least, I do think it’s pretty commendable just how much they manage to squeeze out of the PS2.


#9

Man I’ve had a hard time playing through a series I largely adore(d) for something like this let alone a beat em up series that most don’t even like all that much anymore :wink:

I admire the commitment though and look forward to seeing how you feel about, the things, that happen. I gave up midway through the first HD port due to I think a puzzle involving a door on a timer and a box I had to shove under a door. Which is better than using some random women that was hanging out I guess so glad I missed that


#10

That was falling-off point #2 - indeed quite terrible. It’s at that point that I had to look around to make sure I wasn’t being pranked, that this is actually the game series so many people loved so much.


#11

I always understood 2 to be the one people actually like and 1 was always the one that started things but not perfected it. And then later I heard that one had the better story and was a more personal game and two was just a cash grab. And then three came out and everyone was like, “wow, we sure did like this huh? I guess it’s still good…”


#12

Well I suppose I’m… deep sigh… about to find out!


#13

for your sake, I implore you…please do this on Easy


#14

No ultra hard or bust!


#15

I’m doing macho douchebag easy, i.e., normal. Believe me, knocking it down even to that was a struggle.

In my defense, though, I believe critique does require some level of difficulty, at least if you want to thoroughly critique mechanics. Easy modes make it hard to appreciate how well the tools given to you function.


#16

as someone who beat 1 on Hard and played half of 2 on Hard before admitting to myself this series sucks: good luck! the worst part of combat was how ineffectual I felt, and on Hard, how spongy the enemies are. but I’m a huge Ninja Gaiden fan, so maybe GoW’s kind of wide-swath, high-combo-counter combat is just not for me.


#17

God of War I, Pt. 2

I just got through one of the most terrible parts of any video game I’ve ever played. It combined beam-walking, with the terrible PS2 camera-controls combo, with spinning blades you can’t reliably jump over. It was basically a case of getting lucky more than anything else to get over that part. My god, this game is awful.

Oh wait, I was supposed to be positive this time. Sorry!

So at this point, having gone through just over three quarters of the game, I can say: I see why some people like this game. Just last night I pretty much gave up on it, and decided to read the story of GoW I and II before going on directly to III. But something bothered me. Not that the story was any good - in fact, it’s all terrible, derivative nonsense. But weaved into this nonsense story were a lot of cool-sounding setpieces, and I couldn’t help but think - man, I bet it would be awesome to witness those with my own two eyes.

Because God of War, more than anything else, is about spectacle. The plot is terrible and the combat is mind-numbing, but you just know that if you persevere, if you get over the next section, you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before in a video game, or anywhere. Something big, and weird, and kinda awesome. Maybe it’ll be an actual god, towering over a battlefield, literally throwing soldiers around. Maybe it’ll be a giant, crawling across a desert, carrying an actual, traversable building on his back. Either way, it’s going to be… unique.

And that, paradoxically, leads me to dislike this game even more. This style-over-substance thing has been all over video games ever since the PS2 era. It’s actually a big part of why I stopped following contemporary gaming for a few years at around that console generation. Only recently, with indie games becoming more of a presence in the mainstream, has this trend been partially rolled back. It’s fine to want to see stuff you’ve never seen before, but wouldn’t you rather - and god am I going to sound pretentious here - feel, or play, stuff you’ve never had before?

But hey, at least I can’t fault the game for not being ambitious.

Back in positive stuff: I’d argue that a big part of why GoW continues to hold my, and many others’ attention, is that it’s just so rewarding. There are a lot of difficult, not to say frustrating, moments in this game, but the game as a whole isn’t hard. Checkpoints and replenishments are plentiful, and around every corner there are chests containing extra XP and special items. This is a game that desperately wants to be played, and that’s evidenced by how much it gives you back for every little thing you do. You might swear at the screen for the bullshit fight you’re thrown into, but you can always rest assured it’ll be followed up by plenty of good stuff to make the effort seem worthwhile.

I also honestly think there are moments of game design brilliance here. For one, considering how bone-headed the game is as a whole, it has surprisingly clever puzzles. They’re not frustrating, but they do demand your attention. They do just enough to stump you while giving you everything you need to solve them. Honestly, if this game was all puzzles and cutscenes, I probably would’ve had a much higher opinion of it.

It doesn’t end there, either. At one point in the game, a cutscene shows Kratos confronted by some sort of stone-beast puppy. It’s a puppy, everyone! Maybe Kratos befriends a doggo and regains some humanity? Naturally, no. The puppy transforms into a cerberos-looking thing, and you have to fight it, along with a bunch of other puppies. If you leave the puppies alone, they also become cereberuses. Cerberi? Cerberes? Anyway, they become big and mean, so you have to deal with them quickly. Of course this game would have you killing puppies, but the point is, that cutscene does a great job of explaining how an enemy behaves without having to say or write a single word.

And this, I think, is the charm of this game: it’s a spectacle, it’s rewarding, and it communicates well with its audience. So I feel like I have a far better understanding of why it still captures so many hearts and minds.

And yet, I despise it. I hate it to my very core. But we’ll get to that. Next part will be my final God of War I update, and then we’ll move on to game two, so help me, uh, god.


#18

1’s core story of what turned Kratos into a monster is actually really good, but it’s hampered by terrible framing and direction. The game was supposed to be one and done, with Kratos jumping to his death at the end because he accomplished the only thing he had left to live for, but Sony saw potential and here we are.

The idea that Kratos is the new god of war was such a bad idea, especially considering that goes out the window at the very start of game two. There was still potential in the narrative though, but then 3 tossed out the titans as soon as they arrived and they came up with the dumbest bullshit with Athena that also served to undercut the big thematic moment of 2 where Kratos accidentally kills her and becomes even more consumed for revenge.

And don’t even get me started on the prequels.


#19

This is basically why I’ve been gritting my teeth and pushing through it – I realized watching the cutscenes that not seeing the set pieces meant effectively missing out on the actual cool parts of the game. Though I probably would’ve been better off watching a Let’s Play.

My main concern in trying to push through the main 3 games is actually getting the context for exactly how terrible Kratos is, and how that might play into whatever potential redemption nonsense might be happening in the new game.

Also: I agree with basically everything you’ve said, except for liking the puzzles. Those suck too. Most of them involve using incredibly broken mechanics (fast swimming, block kicking) on incredibly short timers. It’s like the game wants to rub your face in how terrible every mechanic is.


#20

I have the same basic motive here. Some conversations on Discord got me thinking that I need a lot more context to judge how well 4 really redeems Kratos / the series.

As for the puzzles, I know the ones you mean and they are bad. In fact, thinking about it, I may have been overly charitable - looking back at the full list of puzzles, they are indeed quite awful.