Friday, June 27, 2014

God of War: Chains of Olympus (PlayStation Portable) Review

Since I fixed up that PSP, I've gotten my hands on quite a few games. This happened to be the first that I finished. I had played God of War once, probably back in 2006, on a friend's PS2. I remember thinking it was a pretty impressive, if slightly generic, game. Fast forward to 2010 and everyone is calling Castlevania: Lords of Shadow a God of War knock-off. This was curious to me in a few ways, but I didn't seek out a God of War game to see what they meant because I didn't really feel the need to. Beat-em-up games are all pretty similar; you've usually got a weak attack, a strong attack, a block, a dodge and maybe some magic. God of War has that, Castlevania has that, Devil May Cry has that, Dynasty Warriors has that, Rygar (PS2) has that, Anarchy Reigns has that, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has that, so on and so forth. See what I'm getting at?

So why did Lords of Shadow become a God of War rip off? I'm really not sure. Maybe it's because stylistically, Gabriel's whip looks (and functions) similar to the Blades of Chaos? That's just about the only thing I can think of, because there's really not a lot going on in games like this. 

I think we've established that beat-em-up games aren't exactly beacons of originality, so let's get down to it. This game is a prequel to the existing story, which I knew nothing about. I figured it would be a good place to start with the series. Not really. This isn't an origin story like most prequels are. It's just a prequel. Who is Kratos? Why does he do what he does? I didn't learn it in this game, I learned it from Wikipedia. 

God of War takes place in a sort of alternate version of history where all of the Greek gods are real, and each does their job as you'd expect. That means that the sun is a horse drawn chariot driven by Helios, there's Olympians and Titans, and everything else falls into place accordingly.

Kratos is sent to find Helios after the sun falls from the sky and... he never does.

I'm serious. A little past the midpoint of the game, Helios' sister tells you where he is and you get the horses and carriage back in the air. You go to get him, fight the last boss... and the game ends. I sort of forgot what it was even about and I had to check a plot summary to make sure that was what it was about. That's all the focus I'm going to put on the story since this paragraph has more exposition than the entire game.

The gameplay is tight, but the content is a bit shallow. I finished the game quite quickly, which was sort of a let down. You only end up having two different equippable weapons, with three different magic attacks. They can be upgraded, and I figured that the game would have quite a few upgrade levels and that you'd have to play through it a few times to max out the weapons. Nope. I got everything maxed out before the end of the game, and managed to find all of the health and magic meter extensions as well. That was a big letdown, because I really enjoy games of this type and I was looking forward to being able to come back to it and work on powering everything up fully. Now there's not really any genuine reason to come back to it. There's some sort of challenge mode and higher difficulties. Personally, I don't much care for replaying games on higher difficulties. It's not that I can't, it's usually just not worth it. Some games do it right and the enemies are smarter and there's more of them. Some just give the enemies way more health, which is lame. 

Chains of Olympus feels like a full fledged console game. The production values are good, the control is on point, there's some well done music and the environments are really well done. While the graphics are good, they're a bit odd. The PSP has a 333mhz processor and prior to this game's release, it was locked at 222mhz. The developers managed to convince Sony to unlock the additional horsepower to have better lighting effects in this game.

You can see there that the lighting is great, but it makes the quality of everything else stand out. The graphics are pretty jaggy, and the textures are a little bit flat. The extra 111mhz did wonders for the lighting, but the game was still held back by a lack of RAM and not enough power to do any anti-aliasing. Running the system at 333mhz drains the battery significantly faster than any other game I've played as well. I was actually pretty surprised at how long the PSP holds a charge, so it makes sense that Sony wanted the system running games at 222mhz.

The game itself is fast and brutal and it wouldn't be unfair to call it a mythological beast torture simulator. Got some harpies bugging you? Grab that winged harlot out of the air, put your foot on her back, and rip her fucking wings off. Cyclops salting your game? Pull his eyelid open, stab him in the eye, then stomp your blade into his skull.

Reach in and pull the blade out afterwards, though.

There's a huge focus on chaining hits and the combo system flows pretty well. It's not impossible to get 100+ hit combos and it feels fucking great when you do. The only thing that's really bothersome about this game is the QTEs

Unfortunately, the Dreamcast's best known contribution to gaming.

Every. Fucking. Thing. is a QTE. It's so excessive that it actually becomes hilarious right before the end of the game. In an effort not to spoil anything, there's a small child at the end of the game who is hanging onto Kratos' leg. Now, a cutscene would suffice here. This hypothetical cutscene would have Kratos pushing her off, and then continuing on his way. Totally reasonable right?

HAHA, no.

You have to tap the circle button until you push her off. You just have to do that once though, right? Nope. I think you have to do it around five times before you can actually continue. It's fucking ridiculous. Opening a door? QTE. Turning a lever? World's most obvious QTE. Killing a boss? QTE. Having sex with some random women in the middle of a battlefield (seriously)? QTE. That fucking kid weighs as much as Kratos' left nut and you have to QTE her off of you. Now, I get that the story implications are more serious than I'm making it, but that doesn't excuse the scene. Way to take any drama out of it by making me sit there like a jackass and mash a button.

I realize I'm nitpicking, but it's a fucking issue.

Aside from nitpicking, there's not really a lot of bad with this game. It's well done, it's fun and it seems like it all goes by too fast. There's not a huge reason to return to the game once you've finished it though, which can hold a beat-em-up back.

The Score: 8.5/10

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