God of War Anthology Pt. 1

Developer(s) SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher(s) Sony Computer Entertainment, (JP) Capcom

God of War
Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 (Collection and Saga)
Release date(s): March 22, 2005

God of War 2
Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 (Collection and Saga)
Release date(s): March 13, 2007
Genre(s) Hack and slash, action-adventure

In the year of 2005, before he stormed Olympus to seek its destruction, before he ascended to the throne of Ares, we were introduced to a game that would redefine the action genre, firmly setting its place as one of “the best action titles ever created.” And its hero Kratos will walk amongst those who have become the “greatest characters in gaming.”
The action game genre was defined by the release of Devil May Cry four years prior with its insane action and charismatic protagonist. Sadly Dante fell from grace with the release of Devil May Cry 2 in 2003. At the time, a new action star was needed. God of War came into the scene with combat that proved the just as crazy, if not crazier than Devil May Cry. The game features Kratos, a Spartan warrior who has been in service to the Gods of Olympus for ten years. They have set many challenges for him during that time. And he has completed their tasks with diligence, in the hopes of having the nightmares that plague him banished from his mind. But not before Athena has him complete one more task. Kratos must save her city of Athens from her brother Ares, the God of War. He would rather refuse but he must accept if he is to be rid on the unending nightmares that have haunted him for so long. And this is where the adventure begins.

Santa Monica began development of God of War in 2002, and unveiled it two years later at SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) Santa Monica Gamers’ Day 2004. The developers described the gameplay “as merging the action of Devil May Cry with the puzzle-solving of Ico” and noted that players would be able to “sunder enemies with a single move, such as by ripping them in half”. Game Director David Jaffe had said while the idea for God of War was his own, the concept owed a debt to Capcom because he had played Onimusha and said “let’s do that with Greek Mythology”. He was inspired in part by the 1981 feature film, Clash of the Titans, saying, “The real high concept for me was … merging it with Heavy Metal magazine”. He said he liked both “the kids’ stuff … with Greek Mythology” and the idea of adding more adult themes such as sex and violence. The [creative team’s] goal was to make the player feel brutal, letting their inner beast free and just going nuts.

The use of quick time events took out the Hydra.

The gameplay of God of War focuses on combo-based combat, achieved through the player’s main weapon—the Blades of Chaos—and a secondary weapon acquired later. Two systems of combat were developed for the game: a “macro” system, which gives players the choice between normal combat, magical attacks, or using the QTE feature to kill a foe; and a “micro” system, where players press a sequence of buttons to perform different attacks. The quick time events require the player to complete various game controller actions in a timed sequence to defeat stronger enemies and bosses. The player can use up to four magical attacks and a power enhancing ability as alternative combat options. These powers are gifts from the gods. The King of the Seas Poseidon lends Kratos his rage to bring the power of the storm upon his enemies. The lovely Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, gives him Medusa’s head; Lord of the Underworld Hades grants him the souls of the dead and Zeus gives him the power of his thunderbolt to smite his enemies. Kratos used these gifts to combat Ares’ army of Minotaur, Harpies and Cyclops in his quest to slay the God of War. Puzzles were implemented, including self-contained ones that incorporate up to three rooms of the game, and global puzzles that spread across four or five areas. Jaffe compared the game to the popular Prince of Persia series—which also incorporates puzzle and platforming elements—and said that while each puzzle in that series is a slight variation of the last, “each puzzle in God of War is its own beast. These elements play throughout the game and they are especially utilized in the Temple of Pandora where Kratos has to solve the temple’s intricate enigma of elaborate traps in order to reach his goal—the fabled Pandora’s Box.

But the real “meat and potatoes” of God of War is the action. Kratos swings his Hades forged chained-blades to decimate his enemies. It was amazing to watch the Spartan wrestle a Minotaur to the ground and ram fiery-hot death down its throat with the Blades of Chaos, mount a Cyclops only to jam a blade in its chest and slide down or ride the Guardian of the Temple of Pandora while it bucks Kratos like the bull of a Minotaur it is. Another standout feature is the sex mini-game. When he arrives in Athens, Kratos has the chance to nail two women sleeping in his bed. Give a good performance and he’ll be rewarded with a cache of red orbs.

The bar was set high after the release of the first game, making Kratos one of the most fearsome and recognizable faces in the industry. The terrible deeds and haunting past of Kratos captivated gamers as they sliced through hordes of mythical creatures in a quest to murder a god. Yet, even when Kratos ascended to the throne as the new God of War, his adventure was far from over.

God of War game director David Jaffe stepped down and became the creative director of its sequel. God of War’s lead animator Cory Barlog assumed the role of game director. In an interview with Computer and Video Games (CVG) in June 2006, Barlog said that while working on the first few drafts of script, he studied the mythology extensively. He said that the mythology is so large that “the real difficulty is picking things that really fit within the story of Kratos as well as being easy to swallow for audiences.” Although he loves the idea of teaching things through storytelling (in this case Greek mythology), Barlog said, “you can’t let your story get bogged down by that.” He said that in the game, players would see “a larger view of Kratos’ role within the mythological world.” He also said that he liked the idea of a trilogy, but there were no plans “as of right now” (thankfully this got changed). God of War II was released on March 13, 2007. Not satisfied with being the God of War, Kratos joins the battle with his fellow Spartans in Rhodes. Zeus sees this as an act of betrayal and tricks Kratos into draining his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus. He then kills Kratos, sending to the Underworld. However, the Titan Gaia restores the Ghost of Sparta’s life and sends him on a quest to the Island of Creation to seek audience with the Sisters of Fate in order to turn back time to the moment when Zeus killed him. Kratos fights his way to the Sisters, kills them and turn back time to the moment he died. Kratos fights but is unsuccessful in killing the King of Olympus. Using the thread of fate, he rewinds time to the Great War and enlists the aid of the Titans. Together, they storm Mount Olympus to put an end to the Gods.

Game mechanics remained virtually unchanged from the first game. The player still performs combo based attacks with the Blades of Athena and a secondary weapon which is acquired later in the game. Puzzle solving and platforming are still present but the number has been slightly increased. Platforming, Kratos can now hang from the ceiling, giving players a new perspective in transversal combat. The enemy sets have also been increased meaning that Kratos will be in almost constant combat. God of War II’s combat is bases the magical attacks on elements (e.g. air and earth). The combat system was updated so that it flowed smoothly between attacks and switching between weapons and magic. The developers were working for a similar balance of puzzle solving, exploration, and combat seen in the first game, and they used elements that worked in that game as a base for the overall balance. Unlike God of War where magic had a small role, senior combat designer Derek Daniels said that for God of War II, their goal was to make magic an integral part of the combat system and to make it more refined. Barlog said that it would feature new creatures and heroes from the mythology, and he wanted to put more boss battles in the game. There is four times the amount of bosses in the sequel. The first, as we fans remember, was the Colossus of Rhodes. The Hydra battle from the first game’s opener was already epic. Taking down a massive bronze statue was unbelievable. The size and scale of this boss is amazing. If you took time to peek at the character concepts after ending the previous title, you’d probably remember some the enemies that weren’t used in that game such as animated skeletons and different Gorgon enemies. They made their way into God of War II. Fighting the skeletons at Eurayle’s Temple is reference point to the 1981 film “Clash of the Titans” (for those of you that remember when the Berlin Wall came down).

Perseus' was modeled after Harry Hamlin who portrayed him in the 1981 epic "Clash of the Titans"

Other Greek heroes are met throughout the game. Theseus guards the Horse keeper’s Key to the Steeds of Time. Kratos battles him in a fight that requires timing in his attacks. He finishes him off in one of the most brutal ways I have ever seen in a game. Once Theseus is weakened, Kratos shoves him in the door and slams it repeatedly until his head is a bloody ruin. This scene was awesome. Prometheus is met in Typhon’s Lair still serving his punishment from Zeus for stealing Olympian fire and bringing it the mortals. Kratos sets him free and in return, he receives the Rage of the Titans. But the moment for me was Harry Hamlin reprising his role as Perseus for God of War II. The character’s appearance nearly mirrors how Harry looked when he portrayed the Greek hero on film. Who better to play him in the game other than the guy who made him famous? Corey Burton assumed the role of Zeus, who had voiced the character in the 1998 Disney animated film, Hercules: Zero to Hero, and in the subsequent animated series, Hercules.

In the first God of War game, we were introduced to the Titan Cronus who was made to wander the Desert of Lost Souls while carrying the Temple of Pandora on his back as punishment by Zeus. In GoW II, Kratos encounters three Titans. Linda Hunt, who serves as narrator, voices the Titan Gaia. She restores Kratos’ life and sends him on his quest to the Island of Creation to speak with the Sisters of Fate to change his fate. Typhon is met along the way. He has been frozen in a mountain and plotting his revenge against Zeus. Kratos digs a weapon out of the Titan’s eye. The late Michael Clarke Duncan lends his baritone vocals to the massive Titan Atlas. I was taken by this scene of Atlas supporting the world on his shoulders. No attention to detail was lost in creating this epic moment.

The Sisters of Fate-Lahkesis, Atropos, Clotho-guide the live all living beings in the world--man or god.

Both games displayed amazing graphics with the second pushing the limits of the Playstation 2. The ancient world of Greece is captured beautifully with a level of detail not yet seen in a PS2 game at the time. The textures are stunning and the environments are simply incredible. The scale of the places Kratos travels is unbelievably massive. The story of both these games is well written and gives new light on mythology of ancient Greece. However, as with any script, there are questions that need to be answered. If you recall, Atlas blamed Kratos for putting him in his predicament when Kratos encounters the Titan. How and what did Kratos do to Atlas? That question does get answered.

The story continues…

All cutscenes from God of War

All cutscenes from God of War 2

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