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God of War: Chains of Olympus Review Rewind


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On 01/25/2010 at 10:39 PM by Sam Wakefield

Sam gives us the lowdown (a lengthy one at that!) on Chains of Olympus for PixlBit's first Review Rewind.
RECOMMENDATION:

Despite some problems, this is a title that any hack-and-slash/God of War fan will want to pick up. Though great, it's probably not the ideal choice to be your first God of War game.

I’d like to start off saying that I have been a fan of the God of War series for years. Back in 2005 (I say it like it was ages ago), I remember sitting down, watching Cheat on television and being tickled by the concept of a game that seemed to combine punching things in the face with Greek mythology. In 2007, sometime before God of War 2 hit markets, I remember sitting down (at a different television this time) to introduce my fellow Pixlbit-er Chessa to the game that finally forced me to learn where the buttons on the PS2 controller were, all while cussing up a merry storm as she stood by, slack-jawed, at the token violence, random optional sex, and angry bald Spartan grunting.

Fast forward to now, and the latest installment in the series is God of War: Chains of Olympus, for the PSP. Sure, all us God of War fans are eagerly looking forward to the day in the near-future, where we can own the third proper chapter to the series but for now we have this. If you were unaware: Chains of Olympus, released back in early 2008 by Ready at Dawn Studios, is the prequel tale to the God of War series mythos. We find ourselves in the city of Attica, once again as our main protagonist Kratos, who at this point in time has “pledged himself champion to the gods of Olympus,” and has thusly begun his ten year period of servitude, as alluded to in the first game of the series.

Chains starts off in the same way that any other God of War game typically does: killing random things. Okay, okay, fine… perhaps, “learning the controls” is a better way of putting it but really: it is what it is. The game is quick to inform you that, since you’re currently number one go-to guy for all things heavenly and Olympian, you have been sent by the Gods to Attica to save it from the invasion of the Persians. Or, at the very least, an “unspeakable evil” released by the Persians upon Attica. All 300 jokes aside, Kratos lands upon Attican shores with about the same amount of grace that a parasailer sans parachute lands in the ocean blue… but hey, at least the Gods were nice enough to provide the transit. As like the other games in the series, your initial weapon is the standard but ever trustworthy Blades of Chaos: a pair of chunky short swords attached via chain to your arms, allowing you to do all sorts of acrobatic killing moves.

After smashing your way through Attica for awhile, fighting the same Joes and Steves (alternatively: Joeius-es and Stevieus-es) and occasional mini boss, you finally get to the point of the game: Kratos is angry! Oh fine, we all knew that. But this time, he’s peeved because his found that fighting one huge measly little dinosaur basilisk was certainly beneath his Ph.D in rage-fitting across the countryside. Accordingly, like all heavily tattooed freckled former Spartan generals, he expresses his displeasure in loud tones to the sky and glares at it in a cranky way… which makes the sun fall out of the sky. What?! Hey now, I want that ability.

So the sun falls out of the sky and the game quickly informs us that this is a Very Bad Thing. Kratos, bless his heart, figures that this event was most probably caused not by his very manly tantrum umbrage and like any good protagonist, decides to go check things out. Kratos makes his way to wreck via cutscene and our ever present narrator informs us that the god of dreams, Morpheus (and not “Neo, which pill will you take” Morpheus), is having a field day. Because, you know, it’s dark out and that’s when people generally sleep and stuff.

A bit more fighting here and there, we reach the temple of the sun god Helios, which is little more than a glorified chariot that his steeds use to help him haul the sun across the sky. Here, we also find our BFF from Mount Olympus, Athena, chilling about in statue form, as she’s prone to doing in this series. If your Greek mythology (or God of War mythos) is a bit shoddy: Athena is daughter of Zeus, goddess of strategic warfare, companion of heroes, and number one person to tell Kratos to shut up and drink his goddamn tea. Kratos, upon spotting Statue Athena, sets himself up for an epic 300 joke, which Athena regretfully doesn’t pounce on. After telling Kratos to simmer down, she gives you your main game objective: most of the gods (not Athena, apparently) are having serious narcolepsy issues with Morpheus running rampant. Logically, then, Kratos should return the sun to the sky… ‘cause, you know. Just do it.

No, really, it’s okay. These games are mostly linear anyway.

And there you have it. Now to break down the mechanics of this game: it is in my personal opinion say that this game looks pretty great. Despite the move to the “small screen” as it were, the environments and character designs are certainly comparable to the other games in the series to this point. Something I personally noticed was that the number of enemies on screen at any time is a bit lower than what you may have seen in past GoW games, clocking out about 5-7 at any given time… compare to the first two games in the series, where periodically being bogged down by foes means 15-on-1 action (notable is the upcoming God of War 3 game, claiming upwards of 50 enemies on screen at times). It’s really a matter of system capability and doesn’t take away from the gaming experience at any time.

The God of War soundtracks has also been pretty fantastic in the past and my only complain regarding Chains is the recycling of quite a bit of the music from previous titles. The voice acting is spot on, and TC Carson (of Mace Windu Star Wars fame) returns to reprise his role as Kratos. What kills me a little inside is that Athena’s voice is changed in this title (from Carole Ruggier to Erin Torpey). Critical? No: Athena’s role is somewhat minor, especially in this title. However, the working relationship between Kratos and Athena in the series as a whole isn’t something to be brushed over and the voice change threw me for all of the minute and a half speaking time she has on screen. (I also prefer Ruggier’s rendition of Athena and I’ll miss her in God of War 3, as I understand Torpey is to return in the role).

The controls also more or less work the same way as the previous games in the series: if you were unaware, “heavy” attacks are usually triangle based moves, “light” attacks with either square or circle, and by upgrading the Blades of Chaos (by expending collected red orbs) and using different alternating patterns of heavy and/or light attacks, you get your combo moves. The only time the controls change ever so slightly is later in the game, when you start to use magic attacks: since the PSP systems lack the R2, L2, and R3, L3 options, actions are adjusted accordingly. The God of War series boasts a fairly intuitive action system, so the shift shouldn’t be so difficult to adapt to.

Now a complaint: oh lord. I hate the PSP joystick. I have no idea if it’s because my PSP is one of the originals, so it’s naturally less responsive, but I find it difficult to wrestle with even on the best of days. Chains, like it’s predecessors, will allow you periodically to finish enemies in a more flashy manner through a series of quick-time events, for really no other reason than to drive it home how badass Kratos is. Periodically, like at the end of boss fights, the ONLY way to finish the fight is through a quick-time event. In these instances, more often than not, there’s some kind of twiddling/twirling that must be done with the joystick. I cannot tell you how many times I messed these up. Maybe I have delicate lemur thumbs or something but I could swear up and down that 65% of the game’s difficulty is borne from not being able to shove the nub fast enough in the right direction (that’s what she said).

…And I didn’t even get into the ever-infamous “mini game” that pops up in the God of War series. Long story short, I disappointed the ladies so many times. Damn. So much performance pressure.

In my heart of hearts, I have to ask myself if this is really a short-coming of the game though. I would hate to think less of this game because it’s an issue I have with the system. GoW 1 and 2 both use quick-time events exceptionally well and I can appreciate the same feature being in Chains… I’m just hoping that my general lack of expertise on the PSP in general that is causing the majority of my frustrations in regards to this. (I should also mention that I had no problems with any combination of the “square” “circle” “triangle” “X/cross” quick time events… it’s probably just me and my lemur thumbs.)

It’s not the only problem I had in the game. Later on, I experienced some technical errors: for instance, if I were to, say, punch an enemy in the face, causing it to go flying onto a nearby bridge, the game began to clip while the background music would stay the same. The rare couple of times it happened were always corrected by killing the enemy who was flung into a place that I suppose the game wasn’t anticipating. Another issue I perceived occurred while wall crawling: there are a few times in the game where you use your Blades of Chaos to latch onto and climb up rocky cliffs. Occasionally, enemies spawn on the walls and try to kick you off. I found that, regardless of my health bar, a few sure kicks to the face, and Kratos would be tumbling off the wall dead, regardless of height. No, seriously: if you stand close enough to a climbable cliff-face, Kratos automatically latches on. Out of curiosity I waited for the enemies to spawn and let the kicking begin. What do you know: another death.

I actually complained about these issues on Twitter, which caught the attention of the Ready at Dawn people. A bit of back and forth later, and I learn the former is an “optimization error,” (wait, are they saying that it’s a problem with my system or the game?) and the latter isn’t an error at all… which is funny, because I don’t remember this particular feature in the previous titles. However, in order to prevent enemies from kicking you in the face requires some more nub twiddling (that’s what she said again), meaning that the problem could be entirely on my end and, not having joystick issues on a PS2 controller, I never allowed it to happen in the past. In either case, I applaud Ready at Dawn’s team of unanticipated ninja customer service.

Something else that myself and many a person before me has noticed is how short this game is. This game, like its predecessors, rewards those who do a little bit of exploration but even for me, an exploration freak, Chains took a scant five and a half hours to play. Fear not, dear reader: this game also holds some replayability. Part of the ever lasting charm of the God of War series are the outfits you unlock for Kratos when you beat the game on a certain mode, or you go a number of arena challenges (in this game called “Challenges of Hades”) where you kill a number of enemies under certain limitations. The Challenges of Hades themselves are an unlockable (by finishing the game on any mode) and yes, you get to bring all your weapon and magic upgrades into the arena with you. In my playthrough on normal, besides unlocking the Challenges, I also unlocked the “Spud of War” costume for Kratos.

Yes. Spud of War. Meaning on a replay game (of normal or easy… never on hard mode until you beat it once as “normal” Kratos), I can run around, eviscerating my enemies… in a potato costume. The coup d'état is that the Blades of Chaos turn into potato peelers and I can tell you: Kratos makes the most glorious angry ‘tater ever. And those of you who are mortified for our main protagonist, fear not: the costume also gives you infinite magic use.

I realize that amongst you there are likely God of War virgins, who may be wondering that if one has never played a God of War game before, if this is a good place to start with the series (it being a prequel and all). I, overwhelmingly, believe you should at least play the first game before touching Chains. There’s quite a bit that the first game alludes to and explicitly explains, that while it shouldn’t spoiler anything if you play Chains then GoW1, Chains is set up with the underlying sense you know something of Kratos’ background and how he got to the point he’s at. God of War 2, in turn, is far less necessary to play beforehand.

On the overall, this is a strong title for the PSP. The plot is fantastically done and for the love of God (of War), watch the credits to the very end. The game really shows off some of the more impressive things the PSP can do, system wise, and on the overall, plays very well. It’s a well made and deserved addition to the God of War mythos and is definitely worth checking out if you have not done so already.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


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