Back to Reviews

Reviews Comments: This Should Not Have Been a Franchise God Of War whole series review by Pannic

So God of War is a pretty good game. It's got a big shiny presentation, a nice balance of flashy combat, puzzles, and a story that doesn't suck. It was actually a pretty good story, considering the medium, and it introduced Kratos, an anti-hero protagonist who was fairly complex and somewhat sympathetic while still being a badass.

It was a really good game. The story, while it wasn't mind-blowing, was decently-told for what it was, and it had a very nicely-defined beginning, middle, and a conclusive ending that put a nice little bow on Kratos's story.

Then they made sequels. Of course they did - the first game was a huge hit that everyone loved. But the problem is... God of War shouldn't have had one. For one thing, God of War's gameplay mechanics weren't very unique. They weren't supposed to be. The design philosophy called for a very streamlined experience that polished existing gameplay ideas (a spectacle combat game a la Devil May Cry) rather than coming up with new ones. And the sequels continued with this by contributing nothing gameplay-wise. Sure, you'd get a different set of spells and some new weapons, but for the most part, the games are all pretty much identical.

But that's not the problem. The problem is the story sucks.

In the first game, you have to stop Ares, because he's stomping all over Athens. But Kratos has a personal stake in it because of his own past and relationship with Ares. Come the start of the second game, and Kratos is doing exactly the same thing Ares was doing in the first game. It's a small detail, but it undermines the first game by showing that at the end of all that he learned absolutely nothing, and the entirety of the second game is him trying to get revenge against people who were only stopping him from murdering people.

That sums up why the sequels stink: they take what was one of the most acclaimed new video game protagonists in years, and turn him into one of the worst characters in the medium. Goodbye, tormented history and arduous struggle for redemption, hello being a whiny crybaby throwing an extended temper tantrum.

To say nothing of the series's shameful treatment of classical mythology or how the entire third game is drawn out and only possible because the protagonist is an idiot.

In short, a decent game followed by pointless, stupid sequels.

Comments

  • Codafett
  • 9th Dec 13
I really don't see how he's a whiny crybaby. Whiny crybabies can't be evil beserkers at the exact same time.
  • doctrainAUM
  • 9th Dec 13
Why not? I've seen plenty of people go berserk while whining about how bad everything is.
  • Tuckerscreator
  • 9th Dec 13
^^Anakin Skywalker is often cited as an example.
  • Bionicman
  • 9th Dec 13
Indeed, the Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum page has plenty of them.

The review perfectly describes the series. I remember seeing a video in which the project leader for the third game was asked what new gameplay ideas it would have, and he admitted he couldn't think of any.
  • Theokal3
  • 10th Dec 13
"To say nothing of the series's shameful treatment of classical mythology"

Could you please develop this aspect? I am curious about it.
  • Pannic
  • 11th Dec 13
Alrighty, then.

Okay, look at the first game, and think of the enemies you fight in it. Mostly it's monsters from Greek mythology… and zombies, for some reason. The Big Bad and end boss of the game is Ares. This is a pretty clever touch, because Ares stands out in Greek mythology as an asshole that nobody liked, moreso than the other gods, who while they did have their noticeable parts of dickery, were still respected and revered.

So the first game has a bunch of monsters and then the end boss is something of a very sensible target among the Greek Pantheon.

But in the sequels, things start getting more nonsensical. In God of War 2, you start fighting against more gods and some of the other heroes of Greek mythology. This by itself isn't particularly bad, but often times it reeks of contrivance and if you know anything about the source material it doesn't make sense. For example, the battle with Theseus… Theseus is the fucking founder and king of Athens. Why is he a glorified stable boy when you meet him? He's pretty much In Name Only. This seems to apply to almost all of the classical heroes we meet in the games with the exceptions of Perseus and Hercules (more on what's wrong with Hercules later).

The series also forgets its own rules. For one, the Greek gods were immortal. They literally couldn't die. That's why the entire plot of the first game involves Kratos searching for a MacGuffin that will allow him to kill one of them by bestowing on him the special powers necessary.

But then more stuff comes up in ways that don't make sense. A prequel game comes out where the ending villain is Persephone, and you have to kill her. Yet this is before Kratos gets Pandora's Box. But then there's another plot contrivance there. The second game introduces the Blade of Olympus, which also has god-killing powers, so we're told. Then there's the Flame of Pandora, which can also kill gods. It keeps coming up with more and more god-killing artifacts, but they needn't have bothered seeing how Clotho could be killed with a fucking axe to the face. Because that makes sense. For that matter, why didn't Clotho just cut Kratos's thread? Sounds pretty fucking simple. Snip thread, no more Kratos trying to murder you. And you have Hermes who apparently dies if you cut off his legs. Because that makes sense. Not to mention gods who Kratos kills with his bare hands, or Hephaestus who dies by getting stabbed with a thing. But I guess that can be chalked up to the "hope" bullshit.

Speaking of Hephaestus, why is he all giant when you meet him? The other gods aren't giant like that unless they make themselves that way. And how come when he dies there aren't volcanos exploding all over the place? When the other gods die there are big calamities, but the writers apparently forgot about that with Hephaestus?

And on that note, how come the death of Hera causes the death of all plant life? Hera was the goddess of womanhood and marriage and being Zeus's main wife and shit. She doesn't have anything to do with plant life. That was Demeter's shtick. Maybe that could be explained by Demeter quitting after Persephone dies, but they didn't establish that so that's just shitty mythology.

A few paragraphs ago I mentioned Hercules. Let's talk about him for a bit. He, like many characters in the series, is introduced and then killed off in a boss fight immediately afterwords. First off, his name isn't Hercules. It's Heracles. Hercules is the romanization of his name. The explanation the debs gave for that is that they did this because people would be more familiar with the incorrect name than the accurate one, so they rolled with Viewers Are Morons. This actually applies to some of the other things in the series, for that matter, like how Perseus is modeled pretty much solely off of Clash of the Titans (in many versions of the myth, his blade is a sickle rather than a straight sword).

But the problems with Hercules go beyond simply using the wrong name. For those of you unfamiliar with the story about Heracles, let me explain a few things:

One of his twelve labors (which, by the way, were things he was tasked with doing while being a slave as penance for murdering his family when Hera drove him crazy, so the fuck is he complaining about having ignominious shit to do? He was a slave!) was that he was supposed to clean out the legendarily filthy Aegean Stables. Like, mountains of shit. Literally. He accomplishes this by redirecting two nearby rivers to wash it out. The whole incident where he had to retrieve the golden apples involved getting Atlas to retrieve the apples for him, and then tricking Atlas into putting the sky/world back on his shoulders.

What am I getting at here, you may ask? It's simple: Heracles was actually pretty smart, for the most part. And how do you beat him in the game? By him being an idiot who turns his back on you to brag to Hera, someone who hates him and has caused most of the problems in his life. I don't see why he'd want to become the god of war himself. After his death he just started living it up with Hebe, goddess of youth.

I should also mention that Heracles is just a better character than Kratos if you look at the mythology. When Heracles accidentally murdered someone he was actually kinda repentant, even when it wasn't actually his fault.

So yeah, pretty much everything relating to Hercules/Heracles in this game is stupid.

There's also other stuff that's inaccurate, like Icarus being an old man despite dying as a teenager, and then later his father is alive even though considering Icarus's age I would've expected him to have kicked the bucket a long time ago. In the third game there's this whole shtick about Zeus lying to Daedalus by promising to reunite him with Icarus that doesn't make any sense in that context.

And of course, I'd say a fair bit of it is pretty mean-spirited, even aside from the whole thing about murdering everything in classical mythology. For example, Jason dies ignominiously off-screen. Kratos smashes Perseus's weapons and equipment. Those come to mind.

Pandora doesn't make much sense, either. It got the detail about her being constructed right, but in many versions of the myths she was a fully-grown woman who even had a husband. Here, she's a little girl. But Pandora's a terrible character for reasons other than mythological inaccuracy.

Also, got a kick out of the multiplayer stuff in Ascension. Okay, so we got Odysseus, a figure who's notable for his intelligence/cunning/strategic ability. I know, let's put him in the multiplayer component, and make him a generic musclebound hulk in stupid armor. That's totally true to the mythology!

This is all fairly minor nitpicking, but as someone who loved reading this stories as a kid it was really annoying to see the series just use it as an excuse to shove in their adolescent power fantasies with no regard to whether not any of it was accurate or made sense.
  • TheRealYuma
  • 11th Feb 18
I am 100% certain the PS4 game will change that.
  • Theokal3
  • 12th Feb 18
Wow... I had heard these game didn\'t respect Greek Mythology, but.... wow. As someone who loves Greek Myths as well, I fully agree.
  • Elmo3000
  • 12th Feb 18
I\'m cautiously optimistic of the PS4 one because it looks like they actually made Kratos into a sympathetic character now. But I\'m also vaguely aware that its new theme is Norse Mythology, which... it looks like it could just end up being God of War But This Time You\'re Fighting Frost Giants And Eventually Loki Or Something!

I also really like Greek Mythology, by which I mean I spent my childhood playing the city-building game Zeus: Master of Olympus, and it was absolutely wonderful to read through this 4+ year old but very thorough takedown of how shittily the God of War franchise has treated the rich tapestry of stories it contains. And even without the literal butchering of Mythology, the story is a garbage, plothole-ridden mess that gets worse and worse the longer the trilogy continues. My favourite gripe - at the end of God of War 2, Kratos finds his \'thread\' of life, which can be rewound to any moment in time. He uses this to go back to the beginning of the game and beat up Zeus (only to be stopped by Athena, who sacrifices herself to save him, only to show up 10 minutes into God of War 3 and announce that she will help Kratos kill Zeus, which she literally just died to prevent from happening - okay, maybe I have more than one favourite gripe) but... why doesn\'t Kratos just rewind his \'thread\' to go back and prevent himself from killing his family in the first place? I feel like Kratos is maybe the kind of person who is constantly thinking about how his family are dead and that he would give anything to have them back.
  • SpectralTime
  • 12th Feb 18
The Extra Credits guys, in the early days of their show, once literally did an entire episode on how the first God of War was a pretty good game and story, but the sequels were just terrible narratives from both a storytelling angle and a design angle.

I have never played any God of War games, but I have read a great deal of corroborating criticism of the sequels with little dissent. As someone who's enjoyed largely-panned media, I should really try them for myself... but eh. Not really my bag. Even if it makes me a bit of a hypocrite, honestly. As evidenced by my presence here, following an act of dread necromancy.

In order to post comments, you need to

Get Known
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/review_comments.php?id=11052