Friday, September 9, 2011

God of War: Chains of Olympus

File:God of War Chains of Olympus NA version front cover.jpg

In 2009, Sony released God of War Collection in anticipation for the then-upcoming game, God of War III. This collection packaged remastered versions of both God of War I and II on a single disk, allowing newcomers to experience the series for the first time before the release of the third game the following year. Later this month a similar collection, God of War Origins Collection, will feature similarly remastered versions of the PSP installments, God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, along with updated control schemes. To prepare for this new collection, I have decided to dust off my PSP to replay the first of the PSP games, Chains of Olympus, originally released in 2007.

A prequel to the first God of War, the story centers around Kratos as he seeks to take down Morpheus, the God of Dreams, who has enveloped the world in darkness after Helios' chariot falls from the sky. Or so you think. Halfway through the game, the story becomes about Kratos taking down Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, who wants to rule all of mankind with the help of a Titan, Atlas, who has been released from his chains in Tartarus. Not to worry, the first plot thread is resolved by the end, though the explanation seems a little offhanded.

Aside from that strange plot detour, the game is amazing. The visuals are good for an early PSP game and the environments are fairly detailed for its limitations. The cut-scenes are also good for an early game, and it's amazing to see it able to use high-quality clips from the first installment without fail. The soundtrack sometimes sounds kind of stock, yet somehow it fits perfectly, especially during battle, and really helps maintain the overall atmosphere.

Along the way, Kratos receives new weapons and magical abilities to aid him in his quest. Along with the Blades of Chaos, there is the ability to switch between them and the Gauntlet of Zeus, a powerful weapon handy for destroying shining objects and dealing mass amounts of damage when charged. Magical abilities include the Efreet, a spirit that burns enemies in a certain radius; the Light of Dawn, a long range attack in the form of spheres of light; and Charon's Wrath, an attack that can instantly deal heavy damage to a foe.

The controls are laid out pretty well for a PSP God of War game, and it's easy to switch between the aformentioned weapons and powers. However, since the system only has 1 Analog Stick, you must hold down both shoulder buttons in order to dodge with the stick. Aside from that mechanic, it seems well thought-out.

Another good aspect of this game is that we get to learn more about Kratos' personality. During the game, part of his mission is getting to be with his daughter Calliope again. Once he achieves this, things start to become worse, but he had given up his abilities. It is then that he must make one of the toughest decisions of his life and give up being with his daughter in order to save mankind. This shows that although he is essentially a rage factory, he is very selfless in his motives and is willing to make such sacrifices if it means helping the greater good.

Chains of Olympus may have a few shortcomings, but it's still a great entry in an epic franchise. It adds something to Kratos' backstory and it's nice to see how it connects with later games, such as why Atlas holds up the Earth in God of War II. With the PS3 remaster on the way, it's a good time to replay this game, if you (still) have it, until that comes out.

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