Wednesday, 3 July 2013

God of War II

Post-Launch Review
God of War II (PS3 Saga edition)
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Released: March 13 2007 (PS2) / November 2009 (PS3 Collection remaster) August 2012 (PS3 Saga collection)


Having defeated Ares to become the new god of war, Kratos is shunned by the other gods of Olympus. Tricked by Zeus, Kratos loses his divinity and his life, but the titan Gaia intervenes and sets Kratos on the path to the Sisters of Fate, who can alter his destiny and allow him revenge on Zeus.

At Launch

God of War II received average review scores of 92%. Reviewers were impressed with its refinements on the already-strong formula of the original, praising the mix of combat and puzzles, as well as the new story and the scale of many levels. The only real negative point was that it didn't do much to advance the series' mechanics or gameplay.

Post Launch

God of War II was rereleased twice for PS3. The first reissue in God of War Collection (also included in God of War III: Ultimate Trilogy Edition) added trophies and remastered the graphics in high-definition anti-aliased 720p, rendering at 60 frames per second, and includes the God of War II bonus content. The second rerelease in God of War Saga is identical except that it comes with more games.

The Good

The first God of War had great combat. The sequel's is exactly the same but with a few tweaked attacks and new abilities. You get a choice of a couple of secondary weapons (once you unlock them) that play very differently from Kratos' blades: a hammer and a spear. Movement has also been improved: climbing and swinging are a little faster, and you unlock a gliding ability later on. These small refinements on an already solid formula make the game play very well... for the most part. I did take issue with some of the quicktime events, especially the last one.

I was a lot more interested in what happened during God of War II. It helped that I was actually experiencing most of it in the same way Kratos was: as it happened. Flashbacks occur only to show you some history, as opposed to Kratos remembering the interesting bits in a non-playable fashion like in the first game. The story isn't as much about Kratos as about the implications and consequences of his actions in the first game: all kinds of hints are dropped that Kratos spells doom for Mount Olympus, and the other gods are not happy with Kratos as the god of war.

Environmental Stuff
God of War II features more environments with greater variety than the first one: city, swamps, giant horses, island temples, lava caverns, and plenty of other stuff. The variation does a good job of making you feel like Kratos is on an epic journey across a massive area.
I also liked the music a bit more than the first game's, which had some weird out-of-place stuff towards the end. 

That was... pretty epic, and sets up a pretty crazy conclusion. Highlight for spoilers: Kratos beats Zeus but he gets away, so Kratos goes back in time to the end of the war between the gods and the titans. He pulls the titans forward in time to the "present" (when the games are set) and leads the charge against Olympus. I'm not a huge fan of the series so far but that ending actually makes me excited to play the third game.

The Bad

Setup (aka Kratos is an ass)
In the first game it's very easy to be sympathetic towards Kratos. He swore allegiance to Ares, who then tricked him into killing his own family to make him a better warrior. Kratos then served the gods for ten years under the promise that they would forgive his sins. After being jerked around with no clear timeline, he's told to kill Ares because the god of war has gone too far in his interference with the mortal world, and then Kratos' service will be done. When he finally kills Ares, the gods tell Kratos, well, we can forgive you, but we can't take away your pain because you did something no one should ever do. Sad story, and Kratos was played by everyone. 
As soon as the second game starts, though, I find out that Kratos has been rampaging and conquering worse than Ares ever did, so Zeus tricks Kratos into giving up his godhood for the threat he poses to the mortals and to Olympus. Kratos, of course, swears vengeance and sets out to kill Zeus. Did Kratos never think twice about doing the very thing that got Ares sentenced to death? Did he never think twice about becoming the monster that he hated in the first place? What an ass.
Also I think there were about 2 lines in the whole game where Kratos wasn't screaming. Overdramatic much?

Do What Now?
I'm not someone who needs every tiny objective to be spelled out and marked and yelled in my face. However, with God of War II I spent a lot of my time scratching my head and trying to figure out what the hell I'm supposed to do. One point of contention is the lack of health bars in boss fights. Some of the multi-stage battles alternate between the same stages a couple of times, and I wasn't sure if I was making progress or I had missed something and the fight was repeating until I found that thing. 

Final Quicktime
So I've beaten the final boss and I'm feeling pretty good about myself. It was a tough fight, and I won, and I'm awesome. At this point I expect to sit back and watch some cool cutscene. Oh, but hey, a quicktime event. Okay, I'll just - DEAD. Okay, try again... got the first button and DEAD. It took me like eight tries to get past the final QTE and it wasn't even very cool. For the very last one to close out the game, I'd expect it to be somewhat forgiving to let me bask in my awesomeness, but instead it was probably the fastest QTE in the game. For someone who's still learning what the hell button "square" is, that's really annoying and soured the ending a bit.

The Verdict

Recommendation: maybe.
If you liked the first God of War, the sequel is that but slightly better - you'll like this one. I'm still not terribly enthralled by the series, but that's personal preference. Mechanically it's very solid, and I found the story much more interesting in the sequel.

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