God of War (2005) is a character action game made by Santa Monica Studios and published by Sony. I bet you can't guess when God of War (2005) was released. It depicts the revenge of the Spartan Kratos against the Greek god of war, Ares, for wronging him in the past.
If we disregard the sequels to GoW (2005) (much like how GoW 2 disregarded the ending of GoW (2005)), the game has a perfectly trimmed plot with a great tragic ending. Every proper scene is in service to to the story and I believe there is very little you could cut without harming it.
I'm not up to speed on my Greek mythology, but I believe Kratos' brutish nature is appropriate to the setting. He is singleminded and willing to murder anyone in his path. Ares took advantage of this to trick him into killing his family, which becomes the motivation of his revenge.
It doesn't excuse his behaviour, but it does explain it, ezpecially since the game periodically expands upon a flashback of his past. It's a bit difficult to relate to him, but seeing as he doesn't massacre as many innocents nor destroy the world in this game, it isn't impossible.
The game gets major points for its interpretation of ancient Greece. Death is everywhere and there are awesome monster designs around every corner. Even simple zombies get improved when you slap armor on them. And the way Kratos murders things is just delectable. Hell, the architecture is a treat as well.
While I'm pretty sure the tales of Greek debauchery were mere propaganda, it does serve as an amazing setting for an action game.
There is also the matter of sex in the game, which plays a small part. Women and female monsters have exposed chests and I'm pretty sure that the cyclopses got their testicles dummied out in an earlier version of the game. The poor lads.
Having killed his wife, it should come as no surprise that Kratos is sexually frustrated. This is explored briefly in the optional sex mini-game.
It feels like a joke on the part of the devs. It's executed via QTEs and there is no sense of intimacy in the act. It's a good way to convey that what Kratos lost cannot be brought back, yet he tries to replace his wife partially anyway. It became a staple in the series, but I think it was only relevant in the first game. But I suppose I appreciate how ridiculous it became come Ghost of Sparta.
Really, Kratos is an avatar of the setting. He's an engine of sex and death, and wouldn't look strange next to other Greek characters of myth who have similar stories to his. It's cool to see a main character embody the setting like Kratos does.
GoW (2005) manages to do something incredible with its combat. It's simplistic, yet highly engaging. This is why the game was copied to hell and back for years after its release. Good to see such a lengthy development cycle pay off.
There is a bit of complexity to be had (if you care) but the basic stuff is frankly more efficient. Kratos' blades (of Ares? Athena? War? Olympus? Chaos? I don't care which one it is in this game, they're all the same) only have three important types of attacks.
There's light, heavy and ”modified” ones. The meat if the game is using a string of light attacks and then ending them with a heavy attack to properly stun foes. It sounds boring, but the animation, sounds and kinesthetics sell it very well.
Modified attacks are what I call the 4 attacks you get by holding L1 and pressing a face button. They all serve a different purpose and are fun to mix in with the regulat stuff.
You also get a greatsword to play with, which controls the same as the blades, except it's slower, stronger and has fewer moves. It's fun, but not fully realised.
The magic system is simple, featuring only 4 spells, but they all feel different from eachother. They're also pretty powerful, so the game doesn't let you use them much. But when you find the perfect moment to do so, it's really satisfying.
The defensive options (a roll and a block) are pretty easy to exploit, with the only depth being a parry with extremely forgiving frames.
The aerial game is weak. The moves used to launch enemies are quite slow and there are no guns to juggle foes with like in DMC, so you have only to slash a bit at whatever you manage to launch. Also like in DMC, there's a super mode, but it's kinda lame. It takes ages to save up meter and it drains fast. So it's just something you can bring out during hard fights every hour or so. The tackle and the grab aren't that impressive either, but the spectacle is nice.
And frankly, that's sorta the point. Character action games are often called spectacle fighters. And GoW (2005) really sells its spectacle. I think the size of the health bar was actually a deliberate decision to make you feel invincible. When you get hit, the damage barely registers, since it takes up so little UI space.
It really puts you in the mindspace of Kratos and makes it a joy to smash Greek monstrosities to the ground. The intro level really solidifies this. You feel indestructable. Which is why I don't think the game works on higher difficulties. Especially when enemies take so long to kill.
Kinda wish combos didn't break so fast though.
In spite of its brutal visage, GoW (2005) manages to strike a fine balance between action and downtime. There's loads of puzzles and traversal sections to break up the pace and make the next battle extra sweet.
The puzzles aren't complex (for the sake of pacing), but there are a few that require at least SOME thought. And if nothing else, the puzzles are pretty nice spectacles too. They often involve manipulating gigantic machines, which is impressive for PS2. So is the streamed loading actually.
Platforming is also pretty simple, with a few sections that go into hairpulling territory if you're impatient. I could've done without some of the harder beam balancing sections. The game asking to lower the difficulty due to something unaffected by difficulty mode also sucks. Ignoring falling deaths isn't hard to code!
If GoW as a series has a lasting legacy, it's convincing developers that they can easily implement QTEs in lieu of gameplay. And I say that because the QTEs are usually very good in the series.
As previously described, the combat system is solid. But even so, it doesn't have space for all of the contextual actions related to finishing bosses. They could've made the finishers cutscenes, but I think they wanted to keep the brutal immersion going.
The actual implementation is where the series differs from its followers. As soon as a button is visible, you can press it, no timing required. Other games *cough* Bayo & Web of Shadows *cough* aren't so kind. QTEs are also only combat related, which means that they leave you alone in cutscenes.
This makes them easier, which is what we want, lest you risk replaying hype animations, which kills them hard. An effort has also been made to match the buttons with the actions, which I appreciate.
The only part I dislike is how you have to mash R2 to open doors as the game is loading. It's quite awkward. Just holding the button would've been better.
In spite of being so linear, GoW (2005) is stacked with small secrets to find. There's treasure chests everywhere, many containing either items to boost stats or Red Orbs (DMC says hi) to upgrade weapons and spells.
What's good is that you get multiple chances to find the 18 gorgon eyes and phoenix feathers that you need to max out Kratos' health and magic. And if you find them all as soon as possible, the remaining itme chests become filled with red orbs, further rewarding those that explore.
The upgrade system using Red Orbs is fun, but I find it a bit faulty. Across all the games, it's always best to upgrade the blades to max first and then upgrade the final spell. Spending orbs otherwise isn't really worthwhile. The moves the blades grant you, coupled with the extra power is just too good.
This isn't an RPG, but some more balanced choices would have been nice. I'm thinking that the DMC route of letting you buy specific moves would've been better. The issue of power could've been solved with a generic EXP meter perhaps.