As brushed upon in my more recent God of War review, this was a series about anger if there ever was one. Kratos has his one complexity pushed aside for personal gain fairly quickly after the original game so that by time the player is here in God of War 3, you’re meant to be steeped in gooey, bloody aggression alone. The early PlayStation 3-era was one of a lot of angry, screaming characters, thanks in no small part to Call of Duty on the multiplayer side and God of War in single-player. Anger is a simple driving force that a lot of the world soaked up in a relatable, digitally-content way.
Coming to the brim of Mount Olympus, Kratos has roused his army to kill the last bastion of gods left in the Greek pantheon. Titans such as Gaia, Atlas, and Kronos play a huge role in filling time between the last lords of the land, all combining to create the last mythical features left in this ravished world. The name of the game for Kratos is, as advertised, killing Zeus and the rest.
Going back to officially give up on my Titan difficulty playthrough, I realized something so very demoralizing about the largest setpieces in the series: they’re basically the same as Asura’s Wrath. Gaming was still in love with quick-time events around this time, leading to your character doing some amazing scripted things on screen that boil down to an unrelated button press. To be clear, I’m not talking about “hit X to punch” types of input. That has a clear definition of what is possible when I hit X in a situation and what outcome I’m going to see. The QTE shade comes from that disconnect; I don’t really know what X will do in QTE form, and the game is implicitly telling me that this action is too complicated to perform without a pre-scripted scene. I don’t know too many buyers of that kind of premise in long-term gaming.
In Asura’s Wrath, this concept was boiled down to a simple round arena, a bar, and a rage burst that basically moved you to the next scene. Santa Monica Studios, while dressing it up in ways I’ll come to commend later, hashes this exact same concept across several more hours of game. The combat is still smooth and accessible, but it becomes apparent very early on that the only flavors added here are going to be the various, voluntary weapons you gather along the journey. Otherwise, it’s boiled tofu surrounded by sparklers and spotlights.
The fixed camera still works well as everything is automatically contextualized in front of your eyes for more framed dangers and obstacles. The box puzzles, climbing, and basically anything outside of combat still engage me with the exception of a small, specific handful that just go on too long.
In the newest God of War review, I talked about the dissatisfaction I had with the reuse of the same “boss” model over and over, especially when they were built up as something special or new. The interesting advantage I’ve found when thinking over God of War 3’s bosses is that, beyond their pomp and circumstance, there’s hardly any build up needed. Even for Atlas or Hercules that only appear in this entry, there’s no extended introduction to what their abilities are; you visually absorb that Hercules is strong and Atlas is large enough to hold the world. I’m not advocating that this is a net positive on all designs, but it’s something that the lesser of the new God of War boss fights could’ve learned from to avoid coming up short by projection.
I’ve played all the other main-console God of War entries and the third is, by far, the most vertical of them all. Mount of Olympus has many slices and pits, of which you’ll fall down and climb up a fair number of times, and the vertical scale that’s lent there comes out shining in the end. There’s a spherical feel to each section that creates a grandiose biome for you to visually experience as though all these worlds are separate when you’re really just working your way up an iceberg spire. No other studio has had quite the same mastery of condensed scale as Santa Monica with this being their crowning example.
To that, I say that the God of War series is better than ever now that it’s stepped away from this model. I don’t really enjoy the combat in God of War 3 as the window dressing of the blades and blood isn’t enough to keep me focused or entertained. On the other hand, I can’t get enough of the scale in this visually arresting, crafted world. Santa Monica and Sony did well to make this one of the cutting-edge trends of the time that revamped action genres across the board, but I could not be happier that the series grew into its own…8 years later.
God of War 3 Score: