Our wacky anti-hero Kratos is at it again as his insatiable appetite for vengeance and bloodlust is unlikely to ever be satisfied. It seems trouble is afoot in the world of Olympus as darkness threatens to envelop everything. It's a tale that has all the trimmings of a side-story and the game itself serves as a decent little stop-gap for those who can't get enough of the Ghost of Sparta.
Knowing my thoughts on the series I had no intention of buying this game, however since it came with the PSP I figured I'll do a good turn and give it a run-through. Clocking in at a hefty five hours even 30+ year old gamers with wives, children, and full-time jobs should be able to find the time for this adventure. The pacing is really solid with only some minor back-tracking and while many instances could be due to the hardware limitations of the PSP it's appreciated all the same. There's quite a bit less wandering, the puzzles aren't nearly as time-consuming, and tedium is kept to a minimum.
The controls are expectantly the most difficult aspect of Chains of Olympus. The analog nub just isn't all that great for QTEs that require moving in circles and dodging is done by holding both triggers and moving the nub. Still it's not saying much when like the previous games, CoO is very accessible. The QTEs in general however simply have to go. Most of them are tied to finishing off the various denizens of the underworld and most of them aren't even required. They're a bit of annoyance however as the button-prompts can be fumbled pretty easily if the player accidentally hits another button just after initiating the QTE. It's nitpicking probably but considering the length of the game even little things can account for something.
The framerate in particular is the worst thing about the combat in this game. It can vary anywhere from 60 to 10 fps and even with the generous timing for performing certain commands like parries it can make things a bit troublesome. This might also be the reason why Olympus is a fair bit easier than the first two games. The enemies are very one-dimensional in this installment has several can fall for repeat grab-attacks while others can be shut-down easily by a parry. There are a few bosses to contend with but these guys actually fare the worst due to the simplistic combat as they repeat the same few moves and get hammered as a result. As with the other God of Wars there are multiple difficulty settings though I figure it just means Kratos takes more damage from everything.
The highlight of the combat is the Gauntlet of Zeus. It seems like every time this game is talked about this weapon is brought up. There's a good reason for that as the Gauntlet is really fun weapon to use. It basically consists of punches and charging attacks but the impact feels really solid and it's fun just knocking enemies around. Only problem is that it's awarded with maybe 30-40 minutes left in the game. At least it can be taken along on subsequent playthroughs.
One odd thing that I noticed about combat is that the enemies will cease their attacks for a few seconds when one of their own has just been finished off with a grab-move. I'm not quite sure if it's a bad thing as it is kind of nice getting free time to wail on enemies, especially more annoying ones such as archers as they will simply stand around in shock and horror upon seeing their comrade get their intestines ripped out. It is a strange thing though, I guess maybe it was a workaround so that enemies didn't attack to interrupt QTE finishes and such.
As far as the puzzles are concerned the only one I actually got stuck on -- and I'm embarrassed to admit this -- was in one section where I had to pull out some stepping stones and then run behind an alcove that was revealed. It turns out I was simply going in the wrong direction. Other than that though the most convoluted puzzle just involves some basic light-source reflecting and it's more tedious than anything as it involves shuffling four statues around. I'm actually kind of glad there's a whopping one section that requires being underwater in the entire game. It's good that even when games are in the same series different ideas are thrown about in regards to emphasizing particular ideas and sections.
For being a game I might have never given a look otherwise Chains of Olympus turned out pretty alright. If nothing else it got me interested in considering God of War 3 and the new PSP game for a future purchase. I'm not sure how much I can recommend the game otherwise but hey if it falls in your lap somehow or another you may as well give it a go.
Game Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars
Comparing this game to other entries in the series is a bit unfair I think. It's a solid entry for what it sets out to do and while its lacking in extras and other aspects that would give it a lot of replay value it's a serviceable game for the five or so hours it takes to complete. Still I guess while it has some good ideas in regards to pacing and such it doesn't do all that much to differentiate itself from the other games. Not that this is a really bad thing as more of a good thing can't be hurt but somehow I think it would have benefited from some different direction or maybe some fresh ideas.
My Rating 3 out of 5 stars
Still there's nothing I can suggest myself. As much as I'd like to believe that I'm a fountain of creativity it feels like every good idea I've thought of has already been used in or was taken from an existing videogame. Like the other God of Wars I may find myself bored attempting another playthrough of this edition and yet I'm at a loss to think of things Ready at Dawn could have done differently. Still for what it is it serves its purpose well and I guess that counts for something.
I gotta say though I could have done without Kratos whining like a spoiled brat when he doesn't get his way. I think at one point he crossed his arms and scowled like mommy just took his Nintendo away. Yeah his life sucks and all but he's supposed to be living the dream of the alpha-male. All the women want him, all the men fear him, and he pretty much gets a free pass to kill and sex whatever he likes. The attempts to give him some sort of depth, character, emotion, or well anything of that sort tends to fall flat. Now I'm curious as to how he acts in God of War 3.