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Monday, August 20, 2007

Olympus Yawns

Note: This post is written about God of War 1, I've yet to play its sequel. Apologies that this blog's material is often archaic. I have a lot of catching up to do with my playing of console games and learning how to write good.

I don't like God of War. Let's get this promptly out of the way: I'm not very good at it, I got up to the part with a wooden floor that, if you battle too long on top of it, drops you to the detriment of your continued existence, and then (after several replays with accompanying new plans) I quit.

As I played God of War, early as the first locked door on the assailed ship, I realised that GoW's developers had one simple rule for their players: 'Do it our way, or fail'. 'Don't bother thinking about bashing that wooden door down with your brutish oaks of arms, gamer', the developers would say to me, 'just follow our chore-list and you'll have lots of fun, we promise'. And so I carried out my tasks like a good demi-god. It wasn't long until Kratos was directed into another room of the house, this time hoovering in Athens, then dusting in the desert. I was already tired by the point I was ordered to polish that wooden floor within a strict time limit, my meager skills and withered frame were simply not up to the task. 'Yet you must persist', said the developers, 'There's a key in that room, and you can't progress until we let the red barriers down, and we won't do that until all the enemies are dead'. So I hurried and all the enemies died along with me when we fell madly into the dark room below.

'Oh, another job', confessed the developers as they speedily reassembled Kratos' corpse, 'We couldn't put you back together in that room because of, you know, the floorboards being the way they are and all, and we couldn't begin the procedure in the room before that either, you see, the enemy AI is as crooked as Atlas' back and, you know, it couldn't be helped but, sometimes they keep on spawning and jam into that room and - oh, I expect you noticed the evil-flavoured jam when you tried to get into the floorboard-trap area, is that why you're cut as well as smushed? So anyway, the job, well, we need you to run across this contraption of giant saw-blades and then along a conveyor-belt with crushing spiked blocks that move unpredictably and then climb a wall. You probably remember doing this before your death, right? Well, all we need you to do is keep repeating this perilous run until you've worked out how to kill all those enemies in a cruel rigid time limit. See you soon!'
'You've properly stitched me up this time', I thought.

My complaint isn't simply that GoW is linear, I think it's lacking even the most spartan smidgen of ambition. The enemies, for example (barring their AI, which is basic yet functional), are reminiscent of Robotron: the player knows exactly how they're going to behave based on their appearance, they're incapable of evoking surprise or projecting a sense of individual character, they're drones. The difference between Robotron and GoW (besides the volume of memory that their respective developers had to play with) being that Robotron placed the player in combat with entities that we'd expect to display drone-like behaviour (being that they were, in fact, drones), yet GoW's beasts, such as the Cyclops, should be inherently selfish and individualistic. When I see a young Minotaur throw its youth away as a slave to such uninspired development, I weep.

Another thing, developers, if you're going to develop such a limited set of rules and situations and call them a game, at least make them consistent. If I try to jump over a ledge to reach some goodies and find that I can't, I don't expect that I then will fall to my doom when I try it over some foreboding precipice. The opposite is true, if you prevent me from callously throwing myself off a cliff I might well assume I can't take an aerial root towards nearby goodies. That, and Kratos looks like he's found footing on an invisible Mario-block each time he performs the double-jump upon which so much of GoW's platforming depends.

GoW is definitely the worst game I've played since Armed Assault.

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