‘God of War’ provides an excellent mythological brawler

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

Greek mythology maintains the weirdest of spots in Western media adaptations. It can simultaneously be acceptable for a Disney children’s movie, with the likes of “Hercules,” or tween book report novels, like “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” 

At the same time it can be the vehicle of violent action movies like “Clash of the Titans,” or in this case an extremely brutal action title by Santa Monica Studios for the Playstation 2.

There seems to be no concrete place in pop culture for mythology amidst its constant adaptations — along with everything else in the public domain not nailed to the floor — but either way, “God of War” knows exactly what it wants to be, and it hit the ground running all the way back in 2005.

Released in the final years of the mega-hit system, “God of War” is a third-person, fixed-camera brawler akin to the “Devil May Cry” series, with a mythology facelift and an original character. 

Following Kratos, a spartan warrior who has a deal with the god of war, Ares, to save his life, leaves him betrayed and seething with vengeance, the game has this man wake up and choose violence upon everything he comes across. The vocal performances are great across the board, from the titular character to the various gods of Olympus the player will butt heads with.

Now, this being the first title in the series is interesting given that, without any prior knowledge, the game’s plot is very confusing. Being told in an nonlinear fashion, the first moments of the game follow Kratos committing suicide, before flashback upon flashback of his battles to save the city of Athens from the Hyrdas, serpent creatures and spooky skeletons in his quest to kill Ares.

Eventually, with each memory Kratos has, his full story and motivations are clarified, but with the vast majority of modern Playstation players having the 2018 sequel as their first experience with the series, it makes for an interesting experience watching the plot unfold, knowing what Kratos came to be, but not exactly how.

The gameplay is shockingly smooth for a 2005 title — granted this is the HD port to PS3 — but the core mechanics are the same. The combat is the simple combo of light and heavy attacks, but it remains engaging with the various combos unlockable across the storyline.

New weapons and magical items taken can be mixed with combos and have devastating effects, such as freezing enemies with Medusa’s head to stop certain enemies, destroying them instantly and lightning bolts that can be used as a range weapon and puzzle solver.

The enemies can be ripped apart and slammed into the wall, with grab attacks never getting old. The environments are good looking — if held back by a fixed camera — not the worst implementation as it keeps focused on the action most of the time.

Puzzles aren’t fun as much as they are breathing room between encounters, but they are creative enough to hold your interests. Several hours of the game’s middle act involves solving a single, castle-sized puzzle, although later encounters like the infamous spiked wall of the underworld is going to put your rage-quitting tolerance to the test.

It goes for a solid 7–8 hour journey across a variety of dungeons and creative set-pieces, topped off with a borderline anime ending, including a giant flaming sword fight.

Overall, if you are looking forward to “God of War: Ragnarök” in the coming days, it’s a great time to dust off the PS3 and give the origins of the franchise a try.

“God of War” is available on PS2 and PS3.

 

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