Down Write Daily – April 1, 2010

by Mitchell Dyer

I wrote a little letter recently about all the grief I get for disliking certain games. As you might expect, it brought about more grief. One such menace was an editor of  mine. Gary poked fun at my disdain for God of War, a series that never really did anything for me. I disliked the combat, characters and puzzles. Up until that conversation, I’d tried to play the original twice, failing to get much further than halfway through Pandora’s Temple, and I’d completed the PSP version, Chains of Olympus, for review back when. For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, Gary’s casual ribbing made me consider a third go-round with Kratos’ original adventure.

I promptly blew through it, and its sequel, in under a week.

Not an April Fools.

It took me about 20 hours to finish both GoW games in the God of War Collection. As I write this, I’m still trying to discern why I went back, and what was different, because I absolutely fell in love.  Why? Well, first off:

I took advantage of the combat system

The first time I played God of War it was with DownWriteFierce contributor Derrek Lucas. He got a brand spankin’ new copy, if I recall correctly. Even then, when it was the hot new shit to be into on PS2, it didn’t click. It felt like Square Button: The Game. I found it embarrassingly easy to plow through the entirety of the enemy army using simple square-button combos. Why did I bother to ignore the stronger triangle-button attacks, magic powers and secondary powers? Well, because it was simply easier to cut through crowds with the big, basic combo. It didn’t make any sense for me to bother using aerial attacks or slow, sweeping swipes when I could just play.

Yeah. That was dumb.

Caution: Will block EVERYTHING

This time around, I realized that Kratos’ combos serve specific purposes based on what you’re fighting and how many you’re taking on. It’s inefficient to fight a minotaur without lifting it in the air or knocking it on its ass. Gold-armored drones catch on to your button-mashing tactics and will subsequently block any patterns they catch onto. And, as I learned when I encountered them this time around, satyrs will mess you up if you’re not fighting smart. These guys will counter, dodge, block and otherwise clobber the crap out of you if you’re not rolling out of their way and timing your strikes.

As you move along, you also end up fighting a higher density of stronger enemies. This leads to lots of lightning mixed with uppercuts and air combos. I frequently found myself using the gorgon’s gaze to petrify my foes just to slow down the surrounding mob, and modified attacks — like the L1+square spinny-thing. Damn that’s a great move — to clear out clumps of anyone dumb enough to leave themselves open.

It’s also just satisfying. Something about the combat, especially in God of War II where the animation and audio is so remarkably improved, just feels brutal. Enemies fly backward when a particularly devastating smack in the face lands right; Kratos’ grab executions are filled with gross bone-crunching or gnarly dismemberment; and the button-prompt events comprise cool camera angles that give you a better line of sight on a stomach-stabbing finisher. It’s great.

By taking advantage of all the combat options I got a better sense of what the games were trying to achieve from a cinematic perspective, and had an all-around better time beating bad guys’ asses. The wide variety of attacks look fantastic and unique, and it makes you feel like a pro when you pull of a sweet string of moves. I can dig that.


I played God of War II on Easy

Deal with it.

I reviewed God of War III recently. It seems to be getting some backlash in spite of its rave reviews. I still love it like mad, and will play through it again — something I will never do with either of the other GoW games, despite my recently discovered love of ’em.