Blast From the (slight) Past- God of War 1 Review!

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It has been eight years since God of War was first released.  In that time,  I’ve only played it once, long ago, when my thumbs were still uncalloused.  This time around, I was a hardened gamer, with years of rage management under my belt.  It was time to conquer this beast yet again.

oh yes, everyone break out the red paint and wrist chains.  Its time for some Kratos
Oh yes, everyone.  Break out the red paint and wrist chains. It’s time for some Kratos.

Now, for this play through, I used the Remastered PS3 bundle edition that features both God of War and God of War II, re-released for the PS3 in sweet, sweet HD.  And, it totally looks like a PS3 title.  There are a few moments of chunky, blocky, old schoolness, but they’re not too huge.  And, even better, this is just one of the high points of the game.   Where do I even begin?   How about detailing the combat.  Swinging around deadly blades of destruction, mowing down piles of enemies.  Or maybe using that bad ass purple sword to just wreck dudes.  Or maybe the different magics that can do everything from mass electrocution to unleashing a small-scale zombie apocalypse.

Rise my minions!  Pwn those bitches!
Rise my minions! Pwn those bitches!

Additionally, for every thing you kill/destroy/potentially open, you gain experience in the form of red orbs.  You can spend those orbs to upgrade your weapons, earning more combos, more damage, and just more awesomeness.  If you’ve already read my Dante’s Inferno review, and this is sounding familiar, keep in mind that God of War came first.  Anyway, you should have accumulated enough experience throughout the story to be able to pimp out every weapon, and probably most of your magic abilities, so don’t worry about being frugal.  Go crazy with it.  Unleash that rage on everyone.

Unleash it through the majesty of a blade to the face!
Unleash it through the majesty of a blade to the face!

Now, under all of this orb collecting and weapon upgrading, what are you actually doing in this game?  Well, you play as Kratos, a god-aided spartan warrior who did some bad things some time ago, and is now seeking redemption by trying to kill Ares.  We’ve all been there.  One thing leads to another, and now you suddenly find yourself swinging chained swords at a group of axe-wielding Jackal-Bulls.    And, understandably, Kratos’ path to that redemption involves killing a Hydra, destroying legions of undead warriors, splattering morbidly obese creatures of Greek myth onto the stone, and just all around mayhem.

The Wilford Brimley of his day.
The Wilford Brimley of his day.

In addition to all the hack n’ slash, there are plenty of puzzles, some that just pissed me right off.  But they were all cleverly rewarding, especially after slamming your head against the wall for a few minutes while you try to figure out how to make it through all those spikes.  (Hint:  Kick the box!).  Additionally, there are plenty of hard to reach ledges, doors, passages and so on that contain chests, besides the experience/health/magic chests.  These will contain raven feathers and gorgon eyes.  No, these aren’t Greek street drugs.  Though, they do have enhancing benefits…  Collect enough and you’ll increase your magic and health, respectively, until you’ve got the strength of a god!

Now, with it being a hack n’ slash, it does a great job maintaining momentum despite a decent story length.  I never felt like the action was slowing down, or that the puzzles were becoming too repetitive.  In fact, I constantly found myself wanting to run headlong into yet another group of enemies, just so I could destroy them again.  Combine this with the number of attacks, combos, and weaponry that you’re packing, and each playthrough should be different enough to avoid the feeling of a grind session.  The combat and puzzles are rewarding time after time, which allows you to constantly “run and gun” without hesitation, Kratos style.

There are a couple negatives that I found despite the game’s deliciousness as a whole.  The ending kind of slows and falters a bit.  For being such a big, pivotal showdown, it feels kinda meh.  It’s still tons of fun, but with everything that you’ve done to get to that point, there was a tiny part of my brain acting like Waldorf and Statler, complaining that I wasn’t able to dual-wield a couple Krackens. (You kill a Hydra.  Surely you could persuade Poseidon to toss you some Kracken teeth, at least…) In addition to that, I wished that I could’ve had a true ranged weapon, instead of Zeus’s Lightning Bolt.  Or maybe a sword and shield.  Or a spear.  Why?  Why not, I say.  (Yes, I have played God of War II, but I’ll get into that later.)  I’d like to be able to rain down death from a distance, without having to drain my mana.  Finally, while it has decent replayability because of the various opportunities to upgrade your abilities, there’s only one ending, and one way to get there.  Sure, you’ll be able to try on higher difficulties, earn some trophies, and so on, but if you play through it once, you’ve seen just about everything there is to see.

Possibly more than you wanted to see...
Possibly more than you wanted to see…

Despite that, God of War is a superb example of a hack n’ slash done right.  Its story is driving and steeped in Greek mythology, and provides plenty of challenging combat and puzzles to keep you surging into mobs time after time.  Your assorted and upgradable weapons and magic allow for various techniques and styles of playing through the multiple locations.  Additionally, as a remastered edition of an eight year old game, it looks and sounds great, with little to no real-time slowdowns and fluid movement throughout.  Despite a small drop in the action at the end, and its “hack n’ slashy” lack of deep replayability, God of War secured itself as a leader in the genre by literally twisting your neck around in circles until your head pops off and a bunch of blue orbs spill out of your torso hole, earning it a high B+.

Pros

  • Deep into Greek mythology
  • Beautifully updated and smooth (only a few instances of lag)
  • Nice assortment of weaponry and magics, and the ability  to upgrade each for more power and damage.
  • Challenging puzzles and combat
  • Real time prompts that aren’t soul crushingly frustrating, but require some timely choices

Cons

  • The final minutes of the game seem to arrive too fast
  • Would have preferred more weapon choices
  • Final fight doesn’t feel quite epic enough, despite everything that you’ve killed to get there. 

Scoring

Gameplay: 5/5

Graphics: 4/5

Sound: 4.5/5

Story: 4.5/5

Replayability: 4/5

Overall: 4.4/5 B+

Beer Pairing:

Deciding on a worthy beer to compliment this game took a little extra time.  In fact, I didn’t even know which beer I would suggest until I recently bought a Magic Hat sampler pack. One of the beers inside was HI.P.A, part of Magic Hat’s rotating I.P.A line up.  Like all India Pale Ales, this one is all about hops and bitterness, combining the piney tones of hops with citrus peel, along with the traditional (although subdued) malts that support the flavor from a distance.  While not the most bitter I.P.A I’ve ever had, or even the tastiest (though it is quite delicious), there was one distinguishing feature that I’d not experienced in almost any other I.P.A. 

Under all of that harshness and its bitter facade, there was a touch of warmth and sweetness, hidden and repressed in such a way that finding such characteristics required time and patience.  Why does this make it a perfect combination for God of War?  In several ways, the beer is like Kratos (stick with me here, we’ll get to the drinking in a minute).  Kratos is a harsh, bad ass, giver of zero shits kinda guy.  But, as the game progresses, you realize he’s really just a big, god-powered softy.  I think he even cries near the end! 

With this beer, after drinking almost 2/3’s of it, I realized there was a little sweetness dancing around on my tongue (which I guess is like crying, for the sake of this argument).  And, this beer might have killed someone as well.  Maybe they choked on it, I don’t know.  The point is, despite harsh exteriors and streaks of red body paint, there can always be some tasty mysteries hidden underneath.  If that’s too gentle a reason, here’s an angry, bad ass reason…

Both the beer and Kratos will grab your tongue, tear it out of your face, and slap you with it until you admit to liking them!! 

So, give Magic Hat’s HI.P.A a try while you punch a harpy in the neck.  If nothing else, the bitterness of the beer will just increase your anger and make you smash buttons faster.

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