Sunday, July 17, 2011

*Backlog Buster* Review: God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP)

Kratos returns, but this time, in a prequel to his adventures which first were released on the PS2 and later re-released as part of the HD God of War Collection on the PS3, and the acclaimed God of War III.  Sony added Ready at Dawn Studios (Daxter) to help, which after playing for a while, seems like the right decision.  Originally released in 2008, this game still looks and plays great today.  Being that I have owned a PS2 and PS3 since launch, and never played a God of War title (shame, shame), and this was chronologically the first adventure, it seemed like the proper place to begin.  Does it live up to it's console predecessors?  Can a portable version of classic series make the grade?

The game opens on the shores of Attica, and Kratos is serving the Gods of Olympus, by defending the city from the attacking Persians.  Armed with his trusty Blades of Chaos attached to his arms, Kratos is thrust immediately into action, battling a combination of men, ships, and a huge basilisk.  While the battle is no easy feat, after the Persians are defeated, Kratos' adventure really begins.

Kratos happens to see the sun falling from the sky, and does what any self-respecting hero would do: investigates and signs on to retrieve it.  Following the bit of light he can see takes him to the city of Marathon, where it seems Morpheus (God of Dreams) has put the land under some dark spell.  Kratos must now, not only ward off dark beings, but must grab Helios' Sun Chariot to ride to the Underworld to end the madness and return the sun to it's proper place.

In the Underworld, the game really shines and the plot becomes more than just a fetch quest.  The subtle differences in the locales and enemies kept me plugging through when the game had gotten a bit repetitive above the surface.

The combat is action packed, with a variety of enemies, from small Harplings, to various medium sized Satyrs, to much bigger Death Knights.  That's not even including the bosses, who are quite cool, in their own right.  Kratos' Blades of Chaos really feel responsive and can do a couple of different attacks, based on the buttons pressed.  There is also a magical-type attack that Kratos uses, and all of his acquired weapons can be upgraded to more powerful versions.  The deaths of enemies are actually quite gratifying, whether with weapons or fists.

What would a God of War be without blood, and there is plenty to speak of here.  The game really earns its M rating (but probably more for a particular mini-game).  Some of the bigger enemies can be finished off with a Quick Time Event (QTE), which involves pressing the correct buttons within a certain time frame, while others can be grabbed and disposed of quickly.  I enjoyed the close-up fatality views (who doesn't love stabbing a cyclops in the eye) and thought they were well done,  but any that involved moving the analog nub in a certain direction, usually took a few tries to master correctly.  That was a big drawback for me.  I dreaded seeing the arrow, instead of a button to press, as I knew that it would most likely take me some time to do correctly, and the loss of precious health.

I also at first enjoyed the vagueness of some of the puzzles, as I tried to decipher them, but on a couple of occasions was completely stumped on what to do or where to go next.  Luckily, save points were strategically placed and if I did die exploring or mis-jumping, I didn't have to repeat much.  The prevalent use of "invisible walls" around cliff and in areas, usually led me to the right spot (but I still wish I could have thrown enemies off of cliffs).  Though, I sometimes tended to forget that Kratos could destroy pillars or walls to open up new areas.

The Underworld was my favorite section of the game, and especially thought that the representation of the Titans and Charon's boat was magnificent.  Additionally, the enemies not only become more difficult as the game progresses, but also a tad smarter.  If you do not time your jumps just right, the archers' aim follows you.  If you do not break shields, enemies use them wisely.  Random button mashing typically won't yield the results you're looking for.

The final battles were just what I'd hoped for.  The weapons I'd procured throughout the game were not useless, but necessary, and the Bosses were legendary, not just some overgrown guard or creature.  The plot also get a bit poignant at the end, which was a bit of a welcome surprise for me.

Amazing for the PSP.  I almost went out and bought the PSP component AV cable, just to see this game bigger.  Both gameplay and cutscenes are engaging and you don't feel like you're combatting a bunch of pixels, there is quite a lot of detail for the tiny PSP screen.  Load times are virtually non-existent and the whole experience was very smooth and seamless.

Being that this is my first foray into God of War, I must say that Kratos' voice kind of bugged me.  I realize the guy is intense and extremely angry, but every word out of his mouth was way too dramatic for me.  I found it kind of cartoonish, instead of passionate.  The other character voices were much better and not so much over the top.  The background music blends well with each situation and adds to each scene instead of overpowering it.  

Replay Value
The game is somewhat short, I finished in just over 8 hours on Hero (Normal) mode, but surprisingly didn't feel too short.  I probably wouldn't go back and play the game in one of the harder modes, but there are different costumes to unlock, as well as some Challenges of Hades levels to unlock more Treasures.  I'm definitely ready to move onto the God of War collection on my PS3.


I completed God of War: Chains of Olympus on Hero (Normal) difficulty in just over 8 hours.  The game was purchased for $19.99.

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