There’s no denying Sony happened upon a much needed new icon with Kratos after the success of the first God of War on the PS2. David Jaffe’s vision for the modern action game become the benchmark - and blue-print
- by which so many other games would follow and was arguably only topped by its own sequel, God of War II (though many would argue that crown belongs to Resident Evil 4).
With the release of the series’ PS3 debut still aways off, Sony needed to fill in some financial gaps and empty release slots to keep the plebs happy and their wallets full, from these desires (and plain good old strategy) the PSP’s God of War: Chains of Olympus was born.
That isn’t to say Chains of Olympus isn’t an awesomely brilliant game in its own right, but apart from being portable, the formula here is nothing new to this series and with a system less
powerful, we’re not really
the God of War series could
be now, are we?
But for fans of the series, having a portable Kratos in your pocket is in no way a detrimental thing to your life. Chains of Olympus is set some 10 years before the first two games as a prequel and begins with the Gods shipping our purple anti-hero off to Attica where he tackles a giant basilisk while attempting to save his fellow Spartans from the invading Persians.
Familiarity kicks in immediately when we’re given control of Kratos as he not only has to take out oncoming bad-guys, but also use a huge Ballista to stall the invading Persian fleet. Typically this is a case of utilising Kratos’ signature weapons to carve up the Persian soldiers while attacking the ships has you pulling back on the analogue stick (well, thumb pad dealie) to launch a devastating giant flaming spear from the Ballista (only on God of War).
As mentioned, the formula is pretty recognisable – you’re essentially clearing areas of Persians with Kratos’ Blades of Chaos
with the same button layout as we’ve come to know so well (Triangle for heavy attack and to launch opponents, Square for light, Circle to grab or finish off weak enemies quicker while X is used for jump), before usually having to solve a boxed puzzle, fire off a weapon or activate a device and eventually fight sub-bosses and then the real thing. That said, as you would expect this game is wrought with massive boss-battles replete with all the quick time events your brain and thumb can handle. The first major boss, the aforementioned Basilisk is a bit tricky, but once you nail those QTEs, it’s all pretty easy; the giant lizard standing as a great introduction for newcomers to the franchise.
Once the trademark epic first mission is out of the way, Kratos stands witness to the sun falling from the sky. The world is suddenly shrouded in darkness but on the horizon the God of War can see a faint light – this is his destination, and where the true story of Chains of Olympus begins.
Obviously, given that this is a prequel, it’s not at all paramount to have played the other games. So, if you haven’t, own a PSP and could care less about all the ‘familiarity’ I keep mentioning, by all means pick this baby up – it’s easily one of the more competent games on the system (though far from perfect
as many reviews would have you believe), and a great place to get your God of War heritage on (even though it’s the latest, but chronologically… meh, you get my drift).
For the uninitiated, gameplay in the God of Wars series is a pretty simple affair. It actually borrows a lot from the Devil May Cry series with over-the-top combos, a red-orb collection system (used to upgrade moves and the like), locked battle areas (clear X-amount of bad-guys to unlock and proceed), simple puzzles (pick this dead body up here, drop it on that switch there, etc) and item collection (again, for upgrades). The pacing, narrative and presentation then, are what separate this game from so many others, and are conceivably the sole reason the God of War name has become so popular. Indeed Kratos’ plight, conviction and sheer tenacity are the stuff of ancient Greek legend (though he, himself is fictional), and it’s this marriage between modern character design and real-life mythical
stories - and characters
makes this series so engrossing.
Still, despite everything the game has going for it, as a portable version of two impressively massive PS2 titles, God of War: Chains of Olympus feels somewhat tacked on to the franchise.
There is plenty to love here, and Ready At Dawn studios have done a bang-up job of recreating the visual and action splendour of the game’s home console counterparts, but there are obvious omissions in scope and the overall length of the game lends itself to more of a morning commute experience than one of sitting at home all hopped up on limb severing in front of the tellie. The frenetic action and potential for button-mashing also works against the game (it’s truly the first time I’ve absolutely hated
the positioning of the Power Button on the PSP), you’ll often lose sight of what’s going on for constant shifting of the console, and at times the screen’s size is detrimental to the game’s art-direction which is often times drab and dark.
All that said, however, God of War: Chains of Olympus is still a grand old purchase for anyone with a PSP, and if you’ve been thinking about picking one up, it’s not a bad reason to do so. It won’t change your portable gaming life, and there’s bound to be a game in the not-so-distant-future the PSP works better for, but as a side thought to the series, or something to hold you over until Kratos kicks Titan arse on PS3, you could do a lot worse than the God of War’s latest tale on PSP.