102nd played so far
Sometimes, thanks to the order in which we obtain these games, we have to play them out of order in a series. We’ve seen it before with games like Super Mario 64, where we played it before many of its Mario-related predecessors. We haven’t been able to play Metal Gear Solid in order – although to be honest, that’s just because that way we get it over with. In the end, it doesn’t matter – while we’d be able to judge more progress, we have that issue anyway playing these games out of order.
With some games, it’s more annoying, and with the God of War series, we can say it’s unfortunate we play it out of order. God of War II, which we played, is a near direct sequel to the first game in the series, in story as well as gameplay. While your power gets drained early in the game, there are many references back to the first game. Unfortunately, we don’t own the first (yet) and borrowed this game from Chris, so that’s how the order ended up being what it is.
In this game, you play Kratos. He’s the god of war, having gained this title after killing the previous holder of title (some Ares guy, also known as a chocolate bar). You want to conquer Mount Olympus in order to kill its inhabitants or something like that… it’s mostly about killing big evil god(like) creatures. Yay!
Right, let me get this game reference out of the way, as we’ll mention it more often: Bayonetta. In fact, Bayonetta with a muscled painted godly man instead of a skintight catsuit witchy woman and less guns.
Just like how Yahtzee used to use “like God of War but…”as review shorthand we may end up using “like Bayonetta but…” since that was the first game we covered in the blog featuring this form of gameplay. We are not completely ignorant to the fact that God of War predates Bayonetta (well duh) or that this resembles the third-person hack and slashing found in the original Devil May Cry… but this is how the blog apparently works.
To be honest, I think this game agreed with me more than Bayonetta did. It might be experience, it might be personal preference, but I think it’s mostly the lack of many different required button combinations that did it for me. Your basic attacks already work well enough against your massive enemies, even though I don’t know the PS2 controller well enough to handle the quick time events. You are right there for the most part. As you progress in God of War II (since we don’t own the original…yet) more moves are unlocked which require button combinations but you can still get away with the main buttons. However, I do take issue with analogue stick based QTEs… they only work at annoying gamers and serve no extra purpose. Then again I have never seen the point with them at all so this argument is somewhat moot. I suppose it sort of fits in here, being exclamation points in the action, but with how they slip in there, you often don’t get them until the second time playing through the sequence.
That is unless you are very well acquainted with the layout of the buttons then not getting them on the first attempt is embarrassing. I clearly don’t have much PS2 experience. I’m a console, you’re a PC? Sure.
Anyway, this is only a small criticism of a game that, in the end, is simultaneously quite accessible and addictive and at the same time hellishly tough to play. Quite a bit of challenge in this comes not from the action elements – you can often hack and slash your way through, at least on the difficulty levels we played at – but from the puzzles. Getting to the next stage of a battle always makes sense, but you do need to figure it out first.
One prime example of this being the Blade of Olympus, which you get early on, in stages, but obtaining it requires several different combinations of attack that won’t always be immediately obvious. I loved an earlyish puzzle where you need to cross a wire in the head of the Colossus of Rhodes without being hit by the ‘laser beams’ which form the eyes. It isn’t too tricky to work out since the lever is right in front of you but I liked the nifty use of a pendulum.
However, the thing that I loved most about this game was the opportunity to play my way through my own myth. If we had covered the original God of War game first this would have been some gushing that would have occurred then but… there we are. I have always been a huge fan of Greek mythology to the point that as a seven year old I remember being mildly annoyed by the sheer number of mistakes in Disney’s Hercules. However, I do appreciate a fresh take on mythology and Sony managed to take just the right amount of liberties with the gods and monsters of Greek mythology in order to make a fantastic game which still hits the G-Spot (the G meaning Greek mythology obviously. Obviously.)
Side note: Zeus: Master of Olympus is a great and grossly overlooked game combining excellent city building and mythology… it still plays very well a decade later.
The setting is marvellous, and adds to the feel of the game. You don’t need to know it all (and at times the games give more exposition than I really needed… I know who Prometheus is, thanks), but the names, as obscure as they are sometimes, add a bit extra, and could even be said to give a hint as to what you get. Then again the myths themselves are explained very well in cutscenes so even a complete philistine (sorry) won’t have an excuse about not following the story. Then again it helps if you have played the previous game first… oops.
Add to that a gorgeous design of the creatures you encounter, gigantic gods that look like you expect – strange but like what they represent. This was called the PS2’s swansong by reviewers for a good reason. It was one of the last major releases that on the console and as such were able to really stretch the console. Aside from a slight slowing in the cutscenes every now and then they really were able to get the best out of a redundant console. I can only imagine what the HD makeover for the PS3 looks like. My mouth is actually watering at the prospect. We’ll have to track it down. Another entry in the list of good games we found thanks to this blog. Thanks Chris!
I have little to add to this. It’s a gorgeous game, where environment and enemy mix and the game is a combination of battle and puzzle solving. You defeat enemies, but in the end you defeat the bosses just as much with their help as platforms, having them throw you to the next area, and leading you on a path… while killing the insignificant flunkies in the mean time.
It’s fun. It’s fast, furious, at times unexpectedly evil, but mostly it’s just great fun to play – and if we get addicted to it, we’ve done something nice.
Also, happy birthday Pong and Beyond! One year old now, isn’t it beautiful?