Disclaimer: I’m gonna be talking about God of War. Mainly part 3. In detail. No whining.
I recently did my first run through God Of War 3. There’s always been kind of a love/hate thing going with me and that series. Played the first, up the desert sequence, and lost interest. Skipped the second. Yes, I know GoW2 was amazing. I’ve been told. But at this point, I doubt I’m going back.
After I got my PS3 last year, I noticed part 3 was on sale for ten bucks one weekend, and thought why not. It looked amazing beautiful in a way that few games to this day are able to pull off. As I’m busy with my day job of making comics, and I also do reviews for PN, the game went in to my back catalog. About two weeks ago, I finally got around to it.
While yes, it is beautiful, and controls almost pitch-perfect, my time with GoW3 put into focus something I haven’t been able to articulate about a problem with almost all video games. But where as most other titles hide it somewhat convincingly, God Of War wears the issue on its sleeve.
There’s an over saturation of scale in GoW3 that detracts from the overall experience.
So, we open with Kratos and the Titans scaling Olympus, before the remaining gods all retreat to their domains, and Kratos is sent hurtling down into the river Styx. Ok, first of all if the Gods individually are a tough challenge for Kratos, why would they split up? Why not just stick together, wait until he reached the summit, and then beat on him so hard his family could feel it? I know the answer is BECAUSE VIDEOGAMES, but still.
End of the trilogy, big opening fine, I get it. But then the game strings me along into confrontations that include Hades, Hercules, Hermes, and a Titan, among others. You single-handily take down a Titan! Here’s where that over saturation thing comes in. When you start a game, the levels themselves are filled with run-of-the-mill enemies you have to dispatch in order to proceed, and that holds true in GoW. The problem is that when I’ve literally beaten Hercules’ face in, and left him dead in a sewer, five or six zombie soldiers standing between me and my next objective don’t seem that compelling, or intimidating.
It’s in this scenario that game devs usually fall back on a crippling tool: just throw more at the player. Lots more. It’s at this point that the game stops being challenging, and becomes just a grueling slog to the finish. And that’s about when I check out.
Remember that Titan? The battle was so epic, so grand in scale, that when it was over, I was sitting there thinking to myself “oh, great now I have to go back to killing these regular enemy types over and over.” Then the moment I checked out happened: Constantly spawning cyclops on top of a confined area (the cube/vault/area… place). I just killed a Titan, dudes you’re not a challenge. Oh wait, because you’re not a challenge, I’ve gotta kill something like six or seven of you in a row, no breaks.
Nah, I’m good.
Took the game out, and sold it that same day.
I realize something that big in scope is difficult to design while maintaining some sense of balance, but God Of War 3 completely fell to pieces for me, even though I know I was practically at the end. Challenging is fine, but grueling isn’t why I play games.
I don’t know that I have the answers, seeing as I’m not a developer, but if anything, I hope my thoughts contribute in some way to conversations that must be taking place in development studios all over the world, or at least I hope my thoughts serve as something of a cautionary tale.
Because, if I can drop a game cold like that, I’m sure plenty of others out there do too.