The Run Down
If you’re looking for a throwback game to play this summer, check out the God of War franchise. God of War is an essential pastime for all mythology geeks. It became a breakthrough game for Playstation 2 due to its stunning graphics, cinematic storytelling, gruesome violence, and first-ever prompt battles — context-sensitive, quick time event gameplay where the player must press specific buttons on the controller after an on-screen prompt (right before Kratos executes an enemy, the player can mash the circle-button to rip their limbs off, or Helios’s head as pictured above, in true gory fashion). This makes the game more dramatic and allows players to vanquish enemies in awesomely gruesome ways. In terms of prestige, IGN, a renowned gaming and entertainment website, ranks both God of War and God of War II in its “Top 100 PS2 Games” (specifically, God of War in the top 25 and God of War II in the top 5). God of War and God of War II are also among the list of top-selling PS2 games with over 8 million sales, and God of War III for PS3 has sold the most games in the franchise with over 5.1 million copies.
God of War is an action adventure game that encompasses hack-and-slash combat, gory quick time events, and in-game puzzles. Each game contains numerous mythological beasts and monsters, including cyclopes, gorgons, chimeras, minotaurs, satyrs, griffins, harpies, and more. Additionally, Titans and Olympian deities of Greek mythology are prominent throughout the game’s narrative arc. Utilizing vengeance as its central theme, God of War is reputed for its epic boss battles that begin and end the game. Take God of War II, for example, which has the most notable opening in the series; after Kratos becomes the new God of War, he decides to wage war against Crete with his Spartan army. Zeus intervenes by animating the reimagined Colossus of Rhodes to stop Kratos. The player then must battle a bronze statue as immense as the Statue of Liberty to advance through the game.
The overall plot of the game (without giving too much away) centers around the protagonist, Kratos, a Spartan warrior who serves Lord Ares, the Greek god of war. Kratos serves many different gods in each game who become antagonists, and Kratos becomes more enraged toward the Olympians. In a nut-shell, the series explains why there are no more Greek myths through Kratos seeking the demise of Olympus. The franchise consists of seven games total: a cell-phone game (God of War: Betrayal), two PlayStation 2 games (God of War and God of War II), two PlayStation Portable games (God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta), and two PlayStation 3 games (God of War III and God of War: Ascension). God of War: Ascension (2013) is a prequel to the entire series, while God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008) is a prequel to the original God of War (2005). God of War: Ghost of Sparta (2010) is the next game in the series with God of War: Betrayal (2007) following. God of War II (2007) is the penultimate, and God of War III (2010) is the franchise’s final game.
The graphics in God of War are known to be groundbreaking and amazing. Compared to high-definition systems such as PS4 and PS3, looking back at PS2 games seems a bit archaic. But, these classic games really are artistically wonderful (despite their age), featuring incredibly realistic depictions of fire, flowing water, and other three-dimensional textures. Both PS2 games also feature incredible CGI for their in-game storytelling. God of War III for PS3 pushes the envelope even further. Not only is the game fully rendered in high-definition, but characters are made up of 20,000 polygons (three-dimensional “pixels” that comprise a video game) instead of the 5,000 on PS2 (which was initially a lot for its time) — players can now see the details of veins when Kratos flexes his muscles or blood on his face when he slaughters enemies. Kratos can also navigate moving levels during gameplay while battling enemies on top of complexly designed Titans. This type of gameplay necessitates vast scale differentiation and creates a more dynamic playing experience since the environments become so versatile; Kratos is the size of an ant compared to the giant Titans he is battling. In God of War III, for example, Kratos must defeat many enemies as he navigates the forests of the Titan Gaia, while she simultaneously climbs Mount Olympus. Moreover, the in-game camera system remains fixed throughout the series, so it can’t be controlled during gameplay. This makes for a more unique gaming experience and yields breathtaking cinematography.
Although the God of War franchise is strictly Sony-based (it’s only available on Playstation, sorry, Xbox fans!), it is a must-play game. It’s not every day that a franchise wins such acclaim through three different consoles in a timespan of eight years. It’s also a great way to interact with a modern retelling of Greek mythology, and there’s no going wrong with top-of-the-line graphics and great gameplay. What makes this series especially unique is that each game’s plot is interwoven in a greater story that echoes the interrelated stories of Greek mythology. Just as the Greeks were innovators of their time by crafting a creative mythology that has influenced the culture and literature of the Western world for generations, God of War is a breakthrough of its own — it successfully reimagines Greek mythology for a present-day audience.
Image via IGN/Gamespot