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05/17/2018 17:43:03 •••

This Should Not Have Been a Franchise

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.

12/09/2013 00:00:00

I really don't see how he's a whiny crybaby. Whiny crybabies can't be evil beserkers at the exact same time.

12/09/2013 00:00:00

Why not? I've seen plenty of people go berserk while whining about how bad everything is.

12/09/2013 00:00:00

^^Anakin Skywalker is often cited as an example.

12/09/2013 00:00:00

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.

12/10/2013 00:00:00

"To say nothing of the series's shameful treatment of classical mythology"

Could you please develop this aspect? I am curious about it.

12/11/2013 00:00:00

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.

02/11/2018 00:00:00

I am 100% certain the PS 4 game will change that. Also, who's the real idiot? The "idiot protagonist" or the idiots that keep pissing him off and end up unsurprisingly dying as a result?

02/12/2018 00:00:00

Wow... I had heard these game didn\'t respect Greek Mythology, but.... wow. As someone who loves Greek Myths as well, I fully agree.

02/12/2018 00:00:00

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.

02/12/2018 00:00:00

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.

02/20/2018 00:00:00

Elmo 3000, have you seen the trailers or read anything on it? The RPG elements alone prove that it\'s going to be quite different from its predecessors. Both you and Theokal seem to ignore two points: 1. It\'s a DECONSTRUCTION of Greek Mythology. 2. The games actually capture a number of elements of Greek mythology rather well. For an example, Ares represents the unpleasant aspects of war and in God of War he is war personified. He was never popular with men or immortals, which explains why he had Kratos raze a village that worshiped Athena. He usually suffers some form of humiliation in the mythology stories and in God of War he suffered death at the hands of the monster he created. Spectral Time, you must have specifically looked for reviews that would be negative towards it as there are a number of reviews that praise the game. Not to mention it received several Interactive Achievement Awards.

02/21/2018 00:00:00

1. It's a DECONSTRUCTION of Greek Mythology.

Bullcrap. For starter, that word gets thrown around all the time lastly, you can't just call "deconstruction" any single story that takes a theme but makes it as dark and pessimistic as possible. But more importantly, deconstructing something means applying it with more realistic consequences to see how it works in real life. Try telling me with a straight face that a single moron with oversized knives being able to slaughter with ease multiple Physical Gods who are explicitly stated in the original support to have Complete Immortality (to the point they can't even kill each other and the ones who get defeated like Chronos usually just get imprisonned instead) is a more "realistic" approach. And finally, "deconstructing" Greek mythology doesn't justify getting so many details about it wrong. Frankly, friggin' Percy Jackson is a better deconstruction of Greek Mythology than these games, because it actually tries to explore all the consequences and effects of Greek Mythology in interesting ways rather than just exaggerating the negative aspects to make it edgier and justify the protagonist killing them all.

The games actually capture a number of elements of Greek mythology rather well. For an example, Ares represents the unpleasant aspects of war and in God of War he is war personified. He was never popular with men or immortals, which explains why he had Kratos raze a village that worshiped Athena. He usually suffers some form of humiliation in the mythology stories and in God of War he suffered death at the hands of the monster he created.

Yeah, right, they get Ares right, and probably a few others here and here. Surely that excuses the many other details they get completely wrong. Also, funny that you take an exemple from a character who only had a major role in God of War 1— you know, the only one in the series that this review praises.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

Really, no one gives a crap. Sorry if that sounds harsh or flippant, but it’s the truth: no one who plays these games pretends to play them because they give profound insights into Greek myths or because they have good stories. It’s a The Theme Park Version of Greek mythology, and... that’s fine. The God Of War series are great popcorn videogames and the appeal comes from the over-the-top violence, the tight gameplay, the great visuals and the crazy, imaginative setpieces that’ll make you wonder « Okay, what are they gonna do NOW? ». That’s something they do exceptionally well, and I dare say that few games have managed to top 3’s opening setpiece in terms of coolness. They’re wonders of game design and rhythm and that’s why they’ve been critically and commercially successful. You fight and the goddamn Kraken. You rip Helios’ head off and use his head as a goddamn lamp. That’s memorable and one of the reasons why people tune in. You asked why Hephaestus was a giant? The answer is: why not?

You mention the sequels not innovating much: that’s because the formula didn’t need to be changed and worked extremely well already. It’s the same game... but BIGGER and CRAZIER and BLOODIER every time. It ain’t broke and they didn’t attempt to include stupid gimmicks in the name of pointless innovation.

Also, did someone in this thread refer to the Go W series as having been « panned »? What the hell, they’re some of the best-reviewed games of the last two generations and frequently make it onto « best games of all time » tops.

It’s a shame if you couldn’t enjoy the games because of their stories, but it honestly sounds like you don’t get the appeal and are laser-focusing on a minor point that the games don’t even pretend is their draw.

Your opinion of the first game is all over the place, too. Is it « pretty good », « really good » or merely « decent »?

02/23/2018 00:00:00

GKG, you can argue the story is superfluous and just an excuse to buttress the gameplay if you like. That\'s not an illegitimate line of defense. Street Fighter, for instance, isn\'t exactly Shakespeare, but people like the gameplay and fun characters, so it doesn\'t necessarily hurt the title.

But, from a story perspective, yes, the God of War sequels are universally-panned. Even you pretty much outright say while defending them that they\'re all about providing extra spectacle rather than actual narrative.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

I believe there\'s a difference between \"universally-panned\" and \"not really important so no one gives a shit\".

02/23/2018 00:00:00

@GKG: Just because you don\'t give a shit doesn\'t mean nobody does; the very fact this review (plus plenty of others) exists proves some people do. And really, it doesn\'t matter if people don\'t give a shit about it; if they think it\'s not important, then clearly they don\'t bother giving a clear opinion on it. The ones who do generally agree the story is bad.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

\"And really, it doesn\'t matter if people don\'t give a shit about it; if they think it\'s not important, then clearly they don\'t bother giving a clear opinion on it.\"

How is \"it doesn\'t matter and we don\'t really think it detracts from the overall experience at all\" not a clear opinion on it? It\'s about as clear as you can get.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

How is "it doesn't matter and we don't really think it detracts from the overall experience at all" not a clear opinion on it? It's about as clear as you can get.

It's a clear opinion on the importance of the story and the impact it has on the game, yes. Not on the quality of the story itself. These are two distinct things. If you don't care about the story to begin with, then clearly you don't have a clear opinion on its quality, or at least don't express one.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

See, his argument is essentially that focusing on the story in God of War, and its weaknesses thereof, is like focusing on the story in a Street Fighter game: wrong-headed and not really what the game is about anyway. And, had all three God of War titles had weak stores that were merely vehicles for some carnage and spectacle through Greek myth, I\'d accept that unironically. It is not an unfair argument in a vacuum.

But, games don\'t exist in a vacuum. And by all accounts, the first God of War, which had a different director from subsequent titles and a stronger internal artistic vision, actually did have a good plot that worked well with the tropes of Greek myth to tell a good ol\' fashioned Greek tragedy that worked as a self-contained story, and which subsequent games utterly failed to properly evolve forward from in the name of just doing the same thing over and over, milking the cash cow and only increasing the spectacle while letting the plot and characters circle the drain.

So, while I don\'t think he\'s wrong for wanting to enjoy his brainless popcorn game in peace, I do think his trying to do so by arguing the story doesn\'t matter is fundamentally misunderstanding the negativity in this review and this comments section.

02/23/2018 00:00:00

Yeah, uh, there’s a reason why every mainline Go W game was better-received than the last. So no, they weren’t milking the cash cow or « failing to evolve ». They focused on what people actually remembered and enjoyed. That being the spectacle, the gameplay, the music and the carnage, which they refined to such a degree that it borders on the sublime. It’s honestly a bit insulting to put this in the same bag as things like Call Of Duty, because there’s a series that actually milked the cash cow and didn’t give a shit. The various spin-offs are another matter entirely.

The griping about the games not respecting greek myth just feels like nitpicking. Well, yeah. They decided to follow it very loosely. So...? It doesn’t claim to be accurate. It’s not a strike against the sequels that they decided to play it looser. No one gives a damn that the Japanese appropriate Western culture for tons of stuff, I don’t see why people should care about this either.

I saw someone complain about the Gods being less powerful in the sequels: there’s an actual explanation for that in 3’s story, but I suppose the loremasters here must have skipped it. (Hint: it’s got to do with Kratos opening Pandora's box and keeping its power)w

02/23/2018 00:00:00

  • shrug* That\'s not what I remember. I remember each successive sequel getting diminishing returns, and 3 in particular getting called out for being more of the same. Yeah, they sold better, because they were each one a sequel, but sales success =/= artistic success. People were complaining about Kratos being an unlikable fuckwit and the story being a degraded, badly-written excuse plot when the third game came out. This is not a retrojection of later analysis onto the game itself.

If you never cared about the story and were just there for the disposable empty spectacle and visceral gameplay thrills... fine. Sincerely. That\'s your right as a consumer. But, again, the first God of War is now and was at the time frequently held up as a narrative success in addition to a gameplay triumph, and the sequels are now and were at the time seen as water-treading, or even retrogressive narrative failures that just did more of the same without meaningfully moving on from where God of War 2 starts. Heck, even the gameplay was called out for just hitting the same notes as the first title, with the weapons getting less creative and turning into more and more variations of \"blades on chains.\"

And, if you don\'t want to count the spin-offs, fine. It does not change the fact that the reason there has been a great gap between 3 and 4 is that the Kratos character was massively overexposed, shoved into every PS game as a crossover character and given many, many spinoffs, until finally the property started to sink and they had to put it to bed. I call it a cash cow because it was indeed, as you put it, milked by people who didn\'t give a shit until it ran out.

...Also, first, I literally have a review on file complaining about the Japanese appropriating Western stuff and doing a shit job of it, and second, again, the argument is essentially that the first game did do a decent job of adapting the source material and the sequels did not.

04/18/2018 00:00:00

Oh, I\'m eagerly looking forward to seeing what the new game does with it. If it does something interesting it\'ll be neat to see what it is.

I do need to address this one point, however:

It\'s a DECONSTRUCTION of Greek Mythology.

I\'ve heard this before, and I think that it needs to be corrected. Deconstruction is not just going \"X but X is bad and grim.\" That\'s darker and edgier, but it isn\'t a deconstruction. A proper deconstruction looks at the tropes in play and looks at the implications and consequences of those tropes. To go to probably the most famous example, Watchmen deconstructs superheroes by looking at how a culture would change with their presence, from geopolitics to popular media, in addition to probing the psychology of its characters. Spec Ops: The Line deconstructs military shooters by showing the toll that the endless violence in those games would take on a human being, as well as showing the negative consequences of US involvement. Knights of the Old Republic II presents experience and leveling literally, as you gaining power by feeding off of death and by solving peoples\' problems for them.

A proper deconstruction of Greek mythology would take a look at concepts like the Divine Right of Kings, Great Man Theory, or the Myth of Redemptive Violence. But God of War doesn\'t really do that. It even shies away from actually being a look at the consequences of its deities\' actions by making Zeus\'s villainy in III a result of Pandora\'s box, for some reason. The best it can aim to do is make it a grimmer look at how \"greek heroes were defined by violence,\" but it does that in the first game, going essentially nowhere in its sequels.

05/14/2018 00:00:00

I find God of War (at least the first one) to be a great modern adaptation of the aesthetic of Greek Mythology.

Are the beat by beat mythological facts accurate to Greek Mythology? No, of course not. But let's look at it this way: even the Ancient Greeks couldn't really agree on their own canon. Is Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus or the 'daughter' of Uranus? You won't find much consensus there in the ancient texts. Was Hephaestus born from Hera alone or was he the child of Zeus also. If you talked to Athenians, Ares was a bit of an unlikable asshole; if you asked the Spartans, they revered him as their favored war god.

So facts aren't really as important as the general expression/personification of certain concepts in Greek mythology. Here I think the first does an excellent job of portraying the fate as a seemingly fickle, unknowable burden on humans, or the ancient hero as a somewhat dangerous figure whose glory comes hand-in-hand with his potential to absolutely harm or destroy even his own allies.

That said, I don't really care for the sequels either. After a certain point they started contradicting the series's own logic and themes. Ancient Greek Mythology contradicted itself all the time, but at least kept its own tune relatively consistent. With the series, the many times Kratos could kill gods, heroes, and divine entities in the prequels just stopped making sense. It became more and more apparent that the encounters were just there as an excuse to fight a cool boss.

Regarding whether or not Go W is a deconstruction of Greek Mythology: it's really not? It's just a pretty straight adaptation, but modern tastes and sensibilities make audiences want to think that the Greeks couldn't have been this cynical and/or brutal.

05/17/2018 00:00:00

Kinda agree, but also think that some of 3\'s elements could have worked in 1.

Namely Pandora is ALSO in the temple. Kratos bonds with her, and she helps him with his guilt. They reach the flame, which after all the obstacles is the final test. Kratos struggles but one of Ares\'s brood (Phobos) comes in (having followed Kratos) and in the ensuing scuffle Pandora is killed. Kratos fights Phobos and nearly kills him before Phobos traps him in the fear dimension of Kratos reliving the murder of his family. Pandora\'s ghost however tries to help him and she helps Kratos finally forgive himself. This helps Kratos break through the illusions and defeat Phobos. Kratos than takes the box\'s power and goes to confront Ares. At this point they engage in an epic multiphase battle that ends with Kratos defeating Ares.

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