This is probably my greatest contribution to The Discourse so far.
God of War II, Pt. 2 (Final)
The problems with this game show up more clearly in its later parts. Once you reach about the last third of the game, suddenly there are a lot of those “push lever while getting attacked by critters” and “long hallway full of the same extremely spongy elements you’ve fought many times before” moments. It really drags the game down.
Which is a shame, because all in all, I think God of War II is a pretty solid action game. It benefits greatly from being compared to the first game - a truly miserable, ugly thing - but even without that, I think it’s perfectly fine.
That’s not to say it doesn’t share any of the first game’s problems. To the extent that this game features women, they are still mostly half-naked for no good reason, and now most of them are evil serpent creatures. But at least their deaths aren’t used to remind us of Kratos’ tortured soul or establish someone’s villany…? Well, not until the end, but more on that in a bit.
The game is also seemingly incredibly proud of its use of characters from mythology, and is desperate for you to notice. There’s way too many encounters of the form “Hello, it is I, [character from Greek mythology]! I am here to [thing that character is known for doing]! And while this really doesn’t involve you in any way, I will now attack you so that there’s another boss fight / QTE sequence at this point!” It’s pretty cringe-worthy.
But then, when the game shines, it really does shine. The boss fights against the Kraken, the Sisters of Fate and Zeus are both fun and creative on the one hand, and incredibly impressive set pieces on the other. This is in sharp contrast to the first game’s boss fights, which were few and far between and mostly bleh (except the fight against Pandora’s Guardian, which was pretty legit).
Like I said in my first post on this game, God of War II is, plot-wise, pointless, since the whole takes place during a time loop. We really didn’t need an entire game to establish a rivalry between Kratos or Zeus, or an alliance between him and the Titans. The only thing that came out of this is a return to the “women dying as character-building for men”, which comes in the form of Athena dying to save Zeus. She doesn’t even stay dead!
However, I’ll take a good, pointless game over an awful game that’s significant to the story arc! Speaking of which, we’ve got the next game directed by the first game’s director, God of War III, on the horizon… but first, we still have Betrayal and Chains of Olympus to get through. So far, Betrayal is not half-bad, and Chains of Olympus was directed by someone brand new so… maybe… good?
I’m very excited for you to get to God of War 3. I have a lot of complicated feelings about that one.
Shouldn’t be long! I’m sick, which sucks, but it also means I should have time to tie up both CoO and Betrayal today.
God of War 3 is probably my favourite of the series and also the the most distasteful. It’s… A Lot. Like one of the weird old Hollywood sword and shield blockbusters that had real fucked up ideas about gender but damn did they have the budget for props and extras. It’s a weird thing.
Correction: David Jaffe left the studio after the second game, and Cory Barlog (who was game director for the 2nd game and was directing the 3rd game) quit during its development. (Obviously Cory came back for the new game later; he did a brief stint at Crystal Dynamics.) The director credited on the 3rd game is Stig Asmussen.
I got the feeling while playing 2 that a lot of the mythology was being used either in a joking way, or a Marty Stu fashion – i.e. they were all there to either get killed by scrubs, or shown up by Kratos because Kratos is So Badass. That’s true of the series in general, but for whatever reason it really stood out to me in this game.
You are correct about Jaffe - my bad! Which is good, because it increases the chance I’ll like it. As for the mythological references, I think they’re there for both reasons you gave, but for me it just doesn’t work. It’s too explicit and proud of itself to be a good storytelling element.
Oh I didn’t say it was good; it’s just there to give Kratos more opportunities to literally kill mythology. It’s so transparent in what it’s doing that it ends up being a little silly.
Also … Jaffe not being there doesn’t stop the 3rd game from being what it is. I think a lot of the complaints about the series stem from the 3rd game just being too much … everything.
God of War: Betrayal - GoW Gaiden
If you look around the internet, or the information superhighway as we folks in the know call it, you’ll see a lot of God of War fans are not too keen on this game. Indeed, the whole thing feels like someone’s dirty secret: a Java-based mobile tie-in game for a AAA series - and this is 2007 mobile gaming, when Snake was like, cutting edge stuff - which few people know about, even fewer speak of, and which is even sheepishly talked about by its own lead desinger.
However, having played it fully, I gotta say - it’s not half-bad. OK, it is half-bad. But it’s also half-good! It is a perfectly mediocre, perfectly passable waste of time, which, in terms of the sort of mobile games we had back then, is pretty much top-tier. In fact, given how many faults it has in common with the first game, I’d say the hate it gets is due to contemporary condescending attitudes to mobile gaming more than anything else.
God of War: Betrayal takes place between the first and second games in the main series, a time when Kratos was the captial G capital W God of War, fighting and sowing chaos all over the land, much like his predecessor, and much to the dismay of Olympus. It’s almost like giving someone a position of authority based solely on the existence of armed conflict is a Bad Idea.
If you’re looking for more plot beyond that, you’re going to be disappointed, because I said that God of War II’s plot is pointless, but boy if this doesn’t make it seem utterly profound in comparison. Spoilers: the plot is that someone is killing Kratos’ men, but we never find out who, and never will, because apparently no one wants to recognize this game exists. No seriously, that’s it! The only consequence of this game’s story is that Kratos kills Ceryx, son of Hermes and an incredibly obscure figure in Greek mythology, which apparently the Olympian Gods give a shit about, and it’s cute that this game tried to claim a mandate to explain the events of God of War II.
However, all this silliness aside, I… kinda like it? Like, it’s not good, but it’s sort of like a very ugly dog. You don’t really want to pet it, but you’ll give it the time of day because it’s sort of adorable. Betrayal is, essentailly, a 16-bit demake of God of War, and the extent to which this statement is accurate is shocking even to me, the person making it.* Pretty much every single hitherto staple of the God of War franchise makes it into this game: the button mash-y combat, magic, leveling up, even finishing blows and the overpowered** combat when hanging from a rope. If nothing else, one really has to admire the attention to detail, both important and extraneous. For all of its limitations, it’s clear that the people who made Betrayal actually cared, and actually tried to give you that bite-sized God of War experience.
*The stellar art and animations were done by none other than WayForward! Well, stellar except for the animation of Kratos getting hit, which has more in common with Mario jumping out of a lava lake than anything in a God of War game.
**Seriously, it’s kinda ridiculous how much easier combat is when you’re swinging or wall climbing in these games. If only all opponents could be forced to dangle from a rope during a fight!
And for the most part, I think it kinda works. Clunky as it may be, combat is functional, and is no more trivial than in the original God of War. There are chests containing orbs, there’s awkward platforming, there’s (two) bosses, there’s everything you might think of!
In fact, there’s probably a bit too much. In thinking whether they could fit all aspects of a typical GoW into a throwaway mobile title, SOE Los Angeles - known today as Daybreak, makers of a surprising number of well-regarded MMOs - did not stop to ask themselves if they should. The result is a magic system that is very intricate and equally useless, for it requires players to stand still in the midst of combat, press a button several times to get to the specific magic they want to use, and then press the attack button to initiate a rather lengthy animation - no iFrames, naturally - which results in what is, to be honest, a borderline useless effect. There is also a secondary weapon and upgrades, all of which seem to be pointless all the same.
And yet, I can’t help but kinda like this game. It’s not good, and it’s certainly not worth money, but if a phone equipped with a copy of it just lands into your lap, there’s no reason to not give it a go for about 2 hours of toilet / bus / waiting room fun.
Actually, I can think of one reason. The final boss of this game is just unforgivably terrible. Beating it took me more time than probably any single level of this game, perhaps several put together. The problem is that you need to get him to the QTE portion three times to beat him, and that takes FOREVER, so every time you screw up the QTE sequence adds like, no kidding, 5 more minutes to the battle. It’s really bad, and is the only part of the game where I audibly swore at the screen.
The silver lining here is what also makes a lot of the problems with this game - and, like I hope is clear by now, there’s plenty of those - easy to forgive. This game, unlike the first game, has no pretense of being a badass, tightly-coded test of skill. It knows it’s kinda crap, and is therefore extremely forgiving. This is expressed in the fact that when you die, the game doesn’t reload the level so much as it teleports you to the last checkpoint, with every gate you opened and every enemy you’ve slain still recorded, kinda like Dark S-… heh heh heh. Well, you know. This is probably a trick to reduce loading times, saving the game the need to reload assets when you die, but hey, if it works, it works.
And that’s kinda the bottom line with Betrayal. As Jonathan Holmes once said of some zombie game (I think it was Zombii Attack?), it didn’t think it’s good, just a turd, for you - if you want it. And this turd, actually, I kinda want. Well, wanted. I’m not going to play this thing again. But it was nice while it lasted. Plus - and I have a feeling this is not the last time I’ll say this in this thread - at least it’s better than the first game.
That’s it for that! The next game on the chopping block is Chains of Olympus, which I’ve already beat as well, and words ARE coming - tomorrow.
God of War: Chains of Olympus - Doomfist Is in This Game
When @Navster asked me (in post #3 in this thread) if I’m going to only cover the mainline trilogy or the whole series, I must admit I hesitated. On the one hand, I wanted to get as much of the experience of a longtime fan as I could; on the other hand, those are like 20 extra hours I could use to go outside, spend time with my family, or more realistically, play Overwatch. Eventually, ass that I am, I decided to go all in. And at this point, man, am I glad I did that.
I’ve found things to like in in both II and Betrayal, but CoO is the first game in this series that I think is actually great. I loved this game. Being sick when I started it, I actually managed to get through it in a day, and man, was that a fun time. It’s got consistently good combat mechanics, actually manages to portray Kratos as somewhat sympathetic at certain points, and it benefits greatly from being more punchy than the mainline entries - in more ways than one, as we’ll see.
GoWCoO is a prequel, taking place after Kratos started his service to the gods but a while before the events of the first game. The game begins with the Persian army attacking Attica, and Kratos is sent to do some killin’. This part of the game is actually not great, and stands in stark contrast to the worst of it, with some of the worst moments in the game and indeed the series so far. Mechanically, it’s OK - the game is a simplified God of War, with mostly the same mechanics save for Titan Mode, but it doesn’t quite shine at this point. The things I really feel the need to call out have more to do with things that are said and done, and I will put these in a spoiler-tagged paragraph, with a heavy content / trigger warning for racialized / sexualized violence:
Again, serious content / trigger warning if you read this: the miniboss of this area is the Persian King, who is killed in a gruesome fashion by Kratos smashing a chest on his head repeatedly. When the deed is done, an achievement is awarded to you named, disgustingly, “Persian History X”. Then Kratos can engage in a “sex” minigame, reminiscent of the first game, with two women previously jailed by the king, because why should this game be any better morally than Ride to Hell: Retribution. Given that these women are already half-naked and imprisoned, this… well, I don’t need to spell out what this feels like, do I?
That’s all fucking disgusting, but at least it’s confined to this part of the game. The game still retains the series’ dislike of showing female characters with their chests covered, but this is the last time goes this low. It’s no excuse, but it does somewhat help focus on the good parts.
And there are plenty of those! The limitations of the PSP forced this game to streamline God of War’s traditional mechanics and to focus its usual progression to a shorter running time, and it benefits tremendously from that. Combat eschews all the gimmicky spells and mechanics and instead bases itself more on combos and timing. It also introduces the Gauntlet of Zeus, an unbelievably fun weapon which, yeah, Blizzard, I see where you got Doomfist’s moveset from now, and it’ll be an absolute crime if this game is the only one in the series to feature it.
The story is also surprisingly good for a God of War game. The game deals heavily with Kratos’ relationship with his daughter, and unlike previous games, where Kratos’ family was just Dead Female Character Motivation, here his daughter is actually… a character? One we see, and got to know a tiny bit, and with whose situation we can emphatize? Dammit, God of War, next you’ll have a female character with actual agency and understandable motives for her actions!
Oh, and it does. But that would be getting into spoilers. Suffice to say, the villain of this game is surprisingly good, and only slightly sexualized, which is I guess the best we can hope for from this series?
I do have some complaints though:
First, if there’s anything that’s consistently bad about this, it’s sound design. Certain things sound way too loud, and some things seem to be missing audio cues altogether. At times I found myself significantly lower my TV volume because the grinding noises that dragging things around made were just too much.
Also, the game has really fun, fluid mechanics, but that kinda unravels the traditional God of War formula that, in turn, the game doesn’t change enough to account for this. The result is that the game is a tad on the easy said, especially in the late game, where a maxed-out Gauntlet of Zeus can destroy most things in the game in a few hits.
Also, there’s a really annoying final thing needed to defeat the final boss, and if you miss your window of opportunity on it during the fight, it can take forever to get to it again. It’s actually better to just die and restart from the checkpoint if it gets to that.
And while I did praise the story, parts of it are still pretty bleh. One thing that stood out to me is when the game referred to Kratos’ daughter as “the only person he’s ever loved”, which… um… excuse me? Wanna mention the person he had that daughter with? (I was reminded of this by Jay Castello recently tweeting about how little the game talks about Kratos’ wives - follow @jayplaysthings on twitter, she’s awesome.)
But that’s minor stuff. On the whole, I absolutely, truly love this game. I’m thinking of buying a Vita just so I could play it on the go. I’ll sing its praises from the rooftops. If you’ve ever played a God of War game and thought, this would be good if it wasn’t so bad sometimes, GowouWu:CowoOWO is the game for you. If you have a PSP, Vita or PS3 and a few bucks to spare, I would really recommend going for it.
Of course, you might want to hear what I have to say about Ghost of Sparta (if you value my opinion - and if you’re reading this, then that seems likely) to see if you would be better served by getting the collection containing both games first.
And that’s that! We’re officially at the halfway point, and now it’s time for God of War III, a game a few of you seem to be curious to hear my thoughts about. Well, worry not. I expect to be done with it by the end of this week, and this being a main title, it might warrant multiple posts, so I might have preliminary impressions as early as tomorrow.
This thread has been a great walk down memory lane and it’s been interesting to hear your perspective on the series as a whole. I do feel a bit trepedatious at the fact that you seem to have been genuinely enjoying yourself with some of the games and that it’s all leading up to you sitting down with God Of War 3, which is just… so fucking much.
I’m glad you liked Chains of Olympus! The handheld games are both really good and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Ghost of Sparta. I’m curious how much your enjoyment stemmed from the brevity of COO. I’m of the opinion that the flaws of the series really get amplified in the back halves of the 15-hour campaigns. But a 6-hour campaign? It feels like it never overstays it’s welcome.
Aww, thanks! I’m so glad people are getting a kick out of this. I wouldn’t be too worried about III. From what I’ve seen so far, no matter how bad it gets, it’ll never sink lower than the first game.
I will say that while 3 is definitely more aggro about the graphic violence shit than damn near any of the other games, it is also the most dedicated to portraying the gods as completely irredeemable assholes. There’s very light in that game, almost none whatsoever.
Yeah, given that it’s the same devs, I’m also really looking forward to GoS. Hell, I might even play The Order: 1886.
I think the brevity of the game has a A LOT to do with my enjoyment of it, not because I necessarily didn’t want to spend more time with it - I’m actually looking forward to doing challenges and such - but because, say, God of War II’s worst moments feel like it’s really trying to artificially extend the running time, which leads to all of the “push lever while skeletons attack you”-style sections. CoO, by being forced into a shorter running time, has no need for those contrivances, which, combined with how much they fine-tuned the mechanics, leads to a consistently fun time.
The whole descent into underworld is a trope in a lot of ancient greek mythology (and therefore a lot of story telling as a whole). Again, based on my reading of various Greek myths, I kind of liked the direction the storytelling the first game took. I know that’s the equivalent of when a comic fanboy doesn’t like a movie because “no, the story goes against the original text”. The trope is called katabasis, you descend into the hollow and face a dark force and come out of it with a better understanding. It can be seen in a bunch of stories, Luke faces Vader on Dagobath etc. Granted Kratos doesn’t really learn anything, he just walks around these fleshy levels and has to navigate those terrible spining ‘bone’ platforms. Also, I think the descent into the underworld is pretty much used in all three God of War games - which kind of strips it of meaning.
But hey, I understood that reference…
It’s been good reading all this discussion.
Can’t wait until you get to the bit with Aphrodite in God of War 3… Just… Yeah… shitgoddamn…
That’s fine, but as you yourself say, they use the trope but not its meaning. That’s a lot of the plot devices in these games: they know how to use them in a cosmetic, shallow way, but they consistently miss their meanings.
Oh, and I know about Aphrodite. That’s actually the part I was most dreading and the reason why I thought the really nasty sexism doesn’t start until much later. Sadly, at this point it might be a lot less disgusting to me just because I’ve already seen some bad stuff. Hell, the worst scene in this vein is in the start of Chains of Olympus.
The Aphrodite scene is weird because they have her fucking handmaidens commenting over everything and I can’t think of a more uncomfortable experience I’ve ever seen in a game. It was almost worse because the original plan was to just have her turn into a monster and create a portal to hell at the end of the scene and she would have been a boss battle.
At least someone said no to one of the bad ideas in this game. Wish they said so for all the rest as well.
God of War III, Pt. 1 - Where We Find out if I Suck
A few people in this thread said they were looking forward to me getting to this game, which I can only assume means people expect me to really hate it or really love it. I’m going to have to disappoint statistically half of you: so far (I just beat the second major boss, Hades), I’m really enjoying this game.
First of all, let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way: I’m playing the PS4 version, and this game looks absolutely beautiful. I’m a visual person, and the sight of this game’s stellar art design playing out in 1080p and 60fps is something to behold. I know a lot of people adamantly hold that graphics don’t matter, but to me, getting your game to look fantastic is an artistic feat just like any other, and that has already secured some enjoyment with GoW III for me.
And yes, the art design is fantastic. The levels are breathtaking - so far, especially the opening - and the bosses genuinely look massive, menacing and cool.
Also, unsurprising given we’re three main series titles in, but this game is superbly polished. Gone are the weird dodges and clunky QTE timings of the past. Every mechanical aspect of III is buttery smooth, feels great, and while I would love to get rid of QTEs altogether, having them be this painless is the next best thing.
But that’s all very surface level. Is the game fun? I think so. Kratos still has the same chain-swords as his primary weapon, with what so far appear to be the same familiar combos, except they work much better. But there’s so much more besides that: a bow that allows weak but swift ranged attacks, spells that feel a lot more impactful and easier to use, a Titan Mode (called Rage of Olympus or something in this one, you know, the thing where you click both analog sticks and you go super sayan) that actually has a cooler move set than regular, and, my personal favorite, the ability to pick up an enemy and use him to ram down a bunch of others like so much bowling pins.
I’m just not sure what people dislike so much about this one, but I’m guessing it’s plot stuff that’s still coming up. Still, I’ve found a couple of problems. One pretty clear one, and this might be an artefact of the remaster, is that icons and menus look kinda small and dinky compared to the actual graphics. Past games, for example, had big icons and cool effects for when you got enough Gorgon Eyes to increase your health. Here, it’s just like, hey, 3 eyes, getcha health up. Even if the strangely small proportion of everything is due to strange things happening when porting to PS4, the lack of animations is probably something that the original version had as well.
A more serious problem, however, actually comes from all the good stuff I’ve mentioned so far, and I don’t remember if I mentioned this in connection with Chains of Olympus but I’ve had this experience there too. With a lot of the clunky nonsense out of the way, God of War becomes, to be honest, a bit too easy. I’m playing on normal, because that was the reasonable thing to do with past games, and I’m having a very easy time. I’ve barely died at all, and I beat the last boss I fought on the first try, with barely anything holding me back. It could be me getting the hang of the mechanics after playing so many of these games in short succession, but I doubt that’s the case.
I’m guessing there’s more hairy stuff down the line, because so far I’m seeing very little to hate about this game. I know about the Aphrodite scene and as @JKDarkSide mentioned, yeah, it’s uncomfortable, not to say disgusting, but I’ve already seen a worse one in Chains of Olympus. Maybe more terrible stuff happens, but if it’s confined to the story, then, given I’ve come to except all these as spiritually ugly, I’m not sure I’ll have as harsh an opinion of it.
We’ll see, though. I’m hoping to have a more firm opinion of this game within the next few days. I’ll probably do a midpoint impressions post tomorrow or the day after as well.
I cannot wait until you reach the ending.