God of War: Chains of Olympus Review

Title: God of War: Chains of Olympus
Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

Greek Mythology has an interesting place in our minds.  Back in school, the only mention of it were in books like The Odyssey as well as some media titles like Disney’s Hercules movies.  As the years go on, there are more and more things that we can think of when we look back on the tales of Zeus, Athena, and everything else that is involved with Greek Myth, even Dante’s Inferno.  What many people think of now are brutally violent video games, the franchise known as God of War.

The God of War franchise is still relatively new.  Having spawned in the PlayStation 2 era, it has spanned six main games, along with a Mobile game.  That’s a pretty good track record for a series this new.  It has gotten two original titles on each of the PlayStation system it has been on, thus far.  God of War and God of War II on the PlayStation 2.  Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta on PlayStation Portable.  God of War III and Ascension on the PlayStation 3.  The story of Kratos and his struggles has become almost iconic with PlayStation fans and, to others, is starting to get a little stale.

The PlayStation Vita is due to get its own version of the HD Remasters of the original two God of War titles sometime next year.  As with all anticipated releases, many gamers want to know a little bit about the series before diving in, though God of War is a great way to start the series.  The PS Vita has access to two God of War titles already.  The PSP titles are available for download, and we have official coverage from the first.  Here is our review of God of War: Chains of Olympus.

Story

The storyline of the God of War franchise spans quite a long time.  There are games for earlier in the life of Kratos, during his service, during his ascension, afterwards, and towards the end and his own method of retribution over those who mistreated him and used him.  This game is a good one to start with, as it is one of the first games, chronologically, of the series.  Ascension takes place before Chains of Olympus, but this is still a nice place to start.

At one point of the life of Kratos, he swore an oath to the Gods of Olympus and essentially became a mercenary and messenger for them.  Having his body coated in ashes, he’d pledged himself to Ares, the God of War, and found himself in the servitude of Mount Olympus.  This entailed many this, some of which was supporting armies and taking out enemies, other just to merely send messages, though sometimes the latter ended up including the former.

Chains of Olympus begins with Kratos being sent to the City of Attica to help defend it from the Persian Army and the monster known as the Basilisk that has been unleashed upon it.  Upon defeating the Basilisk, the sun disappears from the sky and Morpheus, God of Dreams, find himself in power.  Using this power, he purges Olympus and the world of Man in darkness and forces most of the Gods of Olympus into a deep slumber.  With Athena as his guide, Kratos must find where Helios, the Sun God, has gone and return him to the sky to end the endless night that Morpheus has instilled on the worlds.

While most of the games delve deep into Kratos’ hatred and vengeance for sins of the past, Chains of Olympus takes a different approach.  In this game, Kratos is more of a servant to Olympus, and the game slowly dives into his past, specifically about one member of his family.  His search for Helios continues and slowly becomes a search for a long, lost loved one whom he thought to be passed on.  All while the journey takes him from the Temple of Helios to the dark-depths of Hades, his end-goal seems to be set both on saving the world and finding this loved one.

The story isn’t the best story in the series, but it is good for what it is.  It takes the balance and conflictions of saving the world along with personal emotions and loved ones.  As you play the game, you can understand Kratos a little better and, by the end, connect with him, especially if you have a family of your own.

Gameplay

The gameplay of God of War has always been its most redeeming and attractive quality.  The games are known for having action-packed combat with every imaginable monster from Greek Mythology thrown into the mix, and Chains of Olympus does not disappoint with that.  There are harpies, a basilisk, Cyclops, minotaur, and more coming at you.  What’s your mission?  Slice and Dice and take them out.

You have the signature Blades of Chaos in your arsenal for combat, which are large blades that were fused onto Kratos’ arms when he made his pact with Ares.  They have chains and can extend and retract at will.  This allows for some very acrobatic attacks that are mostly the same and taken from the past entries in the series.  At the time, the only God of War games were the first two, and Chains of Olympus takes most of the button combinations from those games.

This game’s arsenal is also unique in the side-arms and magic available to the player.  As you play through the game, you will acquire additional skills that can be used, particularly magic spells.  You can acquire items like the Shield of Helios to parry enemy attacks to the magic spell Efreet, which summons Efreet for a quick fire attack.  If you’re wonder, yes, it is very similar to the summon Ifrit from the Final Fantasy series.  They are both based on the same mythical creature.  You gain several pieces of equipment and magic as you go throughout the game, each with their own use.

Progressing through the game requires you to traverse areas and platforms, as well as solving puzzles to get to your next location.  All the while doing this, you are fighting seemingly endless hordes of monsters and warriors.  In certain areas, there are barriers up that prevent you from going forward until you have defeated all of the enemies that game throws at you.

There is a certain amount of exploration and missable items in the game.  While you go through the game, there are some hidden areas, as well as various chests that are available to you, whether on land or underwater.  Chests are important because they contain Health, Magic, Orbs, as well as Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers.  Gorgon Eyes can be collection and, when you have enough, will increase your maximum HP gauge.  Phoenix Feathers do the same thing, but for your magic gauge.

Orbs hold a different purpose.  Orbs are created and obtained from chests as well as destroying damageable objects, defeating enemies, and creating combos.  Combos are an important part for Orbs.  If you can get enough hits in a certain amount of time, each kill will give you extra orbs.  In some areas, it is smart to keep enemies close so you can perform kills quickly to take advantage of all the extra orbs.  You want as many as possible, as orbs are used to upgrade weapons and magic to give you new attacks and more powerful attacks.

When fighting enemies and bosses, there will be times where a button prompt will appear above an enemy.  This is for a Finishing Move.  When you activate this, you go into a cinematic sequence where button prompts appear on your screen and you must put the correct button in to complete the sequence and finish off an enemy.  While you can defeat enemies without this, completing these sequences will net you more orbs.

As far as how time-consuming the game is, its got a relatively short campaign.  Traveling through the game your first time on the normal difficulty will likely take you about 6 hours or so, which should gain a few hours if you plan on going for the harder difficulties.  There are also some extra modes and unlockables to enjoy once you have completed the game.  All in all, though, it’s a fairly short game.

Controls

Controls are a very interesting part of this game.  Before I actually go into the combat and exploration controls, I would like to mention something.  If you are playing this game on an imported PCH-2000 from Japan, you will notice that the button configuration for menus has been altered.  The prompts and buttons for confirming a selection is Circle instead of X, and going back is X instead of Circle.  This is one of the games that the 2000 can alter those settings for.  It doesn’t affect anything other than menus, but it is still there.

Now, exploration is done with pretty much all of the buttons on the system.  Movement is used with the Left Analog Stick and jumping is done with the X Button.  You use the Square Button to attack with a physical weapon, and you can hold down R and one of the face buttons to use magic.  The Triangle button is used for a Heavy Attack, normally a finishing attack in a combo.  Circle is used for grabs which can deal damage to most enemies, but is mostly used for finishing sequences.

Guarding and Dodging are done with the L and R buttons.  Holding L down by itself will let you guard, which works against some attacks, but not all.  If an archer shoots an arrow at you, you can use L to block it.  If a Cyclops is about to pound you with its fists, that’s not going to cut it.  If you hold L and R down and move the Analog Stick, you can dodge.  This is useful for combos as some combos start much faster if they are performed in the middle of the end of a dodge.

The controls are a little complicated at first, but once you start playing the game for awhile, or the series for awhile, you will have it engraved in your brain.  I picked this up after more than a year of playing it and I remembered all of it.

Presentation

The presentation of this game is both excellent and a little choppy.  Back when this game was first made, it was inconceivable that the gameplay and depth of God of War could even be done on a portable platform.  Ready at Dawn Studios took the task of throwing the detail of the series into the game and they did it well.  Every area and stage and level are very detailed, just like the PS2 games.  This was a great feat at the time, but now, the game suffers a little on the PlayStation Vita.

On the PS Vita, PSP games are stretched a little beyond their native resolution.  Because of this, jagged edges on models and environments are very noticeable.  When you play this game, the depth still looks really nice, but there are a lot of jagged edges, and they’re pretty much everywhere.  While the major scenes look crisp and smooth, the gameplay is jagged-heaven.

The gameplay is not hurt by this, though.  I encountered very little lag, but when the game was suspended and I went back to it from the Vita’s Home Screen.  All in all, the game plays smooth and fluid, just as it did on the PSP.

The music of the game lives up to the series’ expectations.  There are many symphonically-active tracks that spark up into fast beats when you’re in the middle of a fight and calm down when the mood and areas are more calm and peaceful.  There are remixes of the theme music of the series that play throughout the game and, although, nothing other than the theme will stay stuck in your head, they did a nice job on the audio.

Overall

All in all, Chains of Olympus was a good first-entry of the series into the handheld market.  Although the graphics have a lot of jagged on the Vita’s screen and the game is short, it is a lot of fun and a great way for Vita fans to prepare for the upcoming release of God of War HD Collection.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network rates God of War: Chains of Olympus a 7/10

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