[Read on for a description of every God of War game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.]
2013 is an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make an effort to do even more of them from here on out.
I hope that you have learned a bit about the franchises I've covered so far, as my plan is to inspire others to share their thoughts and feelings with the series of their choice as well (which many of you have done!).
Why God of War?
I've always been a fan of Greek mythology. I almost took up an additional major of Ancient History in college, as a matter of fact. While I played many Roman-themed action games like Rygar (both of them) growing up, God of War was the first game to truly re-create the insanely violent mythos.
Game after game, I would be excited to see who Sony would incorporate next. Icarus? Hephaestus? As loose as these adaptations were, it was still interesting to see how characters would be incorporated, and if possible, how they would meet their end.
The fantastic set-pieces were also a major factor in the God of War series' appeal. Riding on top of titan's back that comprised an entire level was one of the greatest moments in gaming, among many other jaw-dropping moments in the franchise.
I don't think any of the games are that deep from a pure combat perspective. Outside of the occasional parry (which you don't really need) and pinpoint dodge, you can basically use a few select combos and still best the vast majority of confrontations. But that doesn't mean that they aren't extremely fun, and don't offer some of the most entertaining fights and bosses in the entire genre.
If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now.
God of War - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]
God of War kind of came out of nowhere. I had just wrapped up my Master Ninja playthrough of Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), and the Dante Must Die difficulty in Devil May Cry 3, when Kratos came along. Can you believe Devil May Cry 3 and God of War came out in the same month?
The game mesmerized me with its amazing set-pieces, breathtaking graphics (at the time), and interesting characters. While it wasn't the deepest story in the world, Kratos' tale of revenge was a good enough motivator to keep me going and tear through fight after fight until I came to the conclusion -- then I played it again, and again.
The Hydra fight was one of the biggest "holy shit" moments in all of gaming, and developer Santa Monica managed to stuff a whole lot more into the package that kept you entertained and wanting more.
I distinctly remember spending an entire evening in college beating the game on the God Mode difficulty just so I could get the final secret -- an actual phone number to a hotline where you could call Kratos.
That's pretty much a clear-cut finalist for the "best extra ever" award.
Today, the game doesn't hold up nearly as well as some of the others in the series. But at the same time, it's still worth playing, especially with the HD version on the PlayStation 3.
God of War II - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]
To date, God of War II is my absolute favorite in the franchise, and one of my favorite action games of all time. Somehow, it contains one of the most well-paced campaigns in the history of the genre, in the sense that it constantly keeps you interested at every waking moment. In fact, if God of War II had half of the boss fights it does, it would still be in the running for some of the best single combat experiences of all time.
One of the crazy things about the release of God of War II is that it actually came out a few months after the release of the PlayStation 3. It was one of the better swan songs in recent memory for a console, and really helped send off the PlayStation 2 in an amazing way.
I generally dislike the claim that a sequel "is better than the original in every way," but that really is the case here. It has a more compelling story, better bosses, better combat, and more unique abilities. I've played this game so many times that many of the locales and fights are burnt into my memory.
Tiny nuances like being able to slide down walls quicker, and a much better learning curve helped cement the game as one of the best starter action games for new fans who wanted to learn the ropes without getting too frustrated.
The only major flaw of God of War II is that it doesn't truly innovate -- it just does everything better. In that sense, people who absolutely hated the first game probably won't find solace here. But at the same time, if you truly dislike God of War II, I'd have a hard time finding you a more accessible action game.
God of War III - PlayStation 3 [Owned]
Plain and simple, God of War III is the only weak spot of the entire series for me. Something about it just didn't sit right, even if, mechanically, it's very similar to the quality of the first two games.
Part of the reason is because Kratos has progressed from a sympathetic, somewhat justified tragic figure, to a complete asshole. After the strides that Chains of Olympus to humanize Kratos, God of War III pretty much throws all of that out of the window, and then absolutely crumbles at the end with one of the weakest endings in all of gaming.
From a pure action standpoint though, III is pretty much one of the most insane games ever made. In an almost senseless effort to top itself and its predecessors at every waking moment, you basically end up fighting everything left on Mount Olympus, and then some. The graphical upgrades are nice, but the set-pieces just don't really measure up to the first two games.
But because of how high it aims, the final confrontation is a complete letdown, and the cliffhanging ending that still hasn't been addressed was a terrible way to treat the franchise. If you must see how Kratos predictably gets his final (?) vengeance with cutting-edge graphics, you should still probably play God of War III.
God of War: Chains of Olympus - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]
Chains of Olympus is a quaint little side story that blew people away (at the time), considering the sheer fact that it was one of the first portable games to recreate a faithful home console experience.
Taking place before the original God of War, Chains of Olympus deals with Persephone, the reluctant Queen of the Underworld, and Atlas, a titan who appears in other God of War games.
The plot is a little by the numbers, but make no mistake: this is still very much a solid God of War game that entertains from start to finish, with no real glaring faults.
Playing it on the Vita with a remapped second analog stick or on the PS3 with the DualShock is the best way to experience it, but the original PSP controls are by no means poor.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]
Ghost of Sparta is one of the better games in the series. From the get-go, things get fairly personal for Kratos, and this adventure actually has a justification, rather than Chains of Olympus, which was mainly a fluff piece.
The gist of Ghost is that Kratos finds out what happened to his brother, who is part of the reason why he is who he is during the course of the games, and the person who inspired his trademark red markings on his face.
It gives a bit more meaning to the character before he's ruined in III, and the set-pieces are worthy of the franchise, starting things off with a bang in Atlantis. You finally get to deal with Kratos' family, and see him at his most vulnerable since the brief cutscene where he murders his wife and daughter in a fit of rage.
It's also a bit more fleshed out than Chains of Olympus gameplay-wise, featuring new weapons and powers, which puts it on par with the console games in terms of a fully featured experience.
If you're looking for a good starting point for the series, playing this in between God of War 1 and 2 is a great idea.
God of War: Ascension - PlayStation 3 [Owned]
Ascension is an interesting game, to say the least. It fluctuates from insanely easy to fairly difficult on a whim, and offers up a hefty balance of backtracking and brand new beautiful set pieces.
It doesn't really offer anything new story-wise, and honestly, outside of the experience, it's fairly inconsequential to the franchise as a whole. Ok, so we sort of understand how far Kratos is willing to go to beat the odds -- but we get that in spades in God of War III, so it's not really unexpected, after all.
If you aren't a God of War fan, this won't do anything to sway you. Still, Ascension is a fairly solid action game through and through, with decent pacing, and some neat weapon mechanics that let you switch elements on a whim (but not mid-combo, sadly).
On the higher difficulty levels, the game is occasionally one of the more challenging entries, which made me extremely happy. Whenever the press at large is addressing its concerns over having trouble beating the game, you know it's going to be good!
Oh, and that part that people had a lot of trouble with? Also known as the Trial of Archimedes? I completed it on my third try. I'll have a guide out soon to help out people who aren't able to do it. It wasn't that bad, so don't think the game is impossible or broken or anything -- just power up your blades first and foremost to maximum and you should be good to go, as always.
As a general rule, I'm ok with an added multiplayer component if it doesn't interfere with the single-player experience. Thankfully, it doesn't, and online play offers a fairly enjoyable Power Stone-esque experience.
While it doesn't blow me away enough to get me addicted like some recent games, I can see myself jumping back in occasionally to beat up some fellow gladiators. I joined the cult of Hades, which allows me to use some of Ascension's trickier abilities and spells, and had a great time.
Ascension needed to do something drastically different, as the formula is starting to wear a bit thin. At its core, the game is a prequel to a prequel (Chains of Olympus), which sounds pretty absurd on paper. Sony Santa Monica has tapped this well fairly dry, but apparently, it was still full of just enough spring water by the time they got to Ascension.
Pretty much all of the games hold up, especially considering that Sony has made the entire franchise available on the PlayStation 3 through HD remakes.
If Sony treated most of their franchises half as well as God of War, you'd see a lot less failed Sony IPs and closed studios today. They take great care of the franchise, and for good reason -- they're still system sellers, even to this day.