Jeremy Jastrzab
15 Apr, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus Review

PSP Review | Can you defy the God of War, when he's in your hands?
After bursting onto the gaming scene in 2005, the God of War series has grown to be quite popular amongst gamers, and added another feather to Sony’s exclusivity cap. While the game didn’t truly excel in one area, it did a lot of things very well and put them altogether in a highly stylish and enjoyable package. A sequel followed in 2007, and it was received just as highly as the first. As we wait for the third title, likely to appear sometime next year, we’re treated to a PSP prequel, God of War: Chains of Olympus.

Set in the same highly stylized world based on Greek mythology as the previous titles, players reprise the role of Kratos, and the game takes place close to the beginning of his 10-year servitude to the Gods of Olympus. Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta, has been sent by the Gods to the city of Attica to fight off a Persian invasion. Even though he ends up being successful, Olympus is plunged into darkness, as Helios’ chariot (sun God) falls from the sky and Morpheus (God of dreams) tries to impose his world of dreams by putting everyone to sleep. Obviously, it’s up to Kratos to stop Morpheus and reinstate Helios back to his rightful place.

As far as prequels go, God of War: Chains of Olympus explains a few little aspects of Kratos’ past and sheds light on some of the occurrences from the first two games. However, the story itself is relatively weak when put next to the originals. Again, we were impressed with how the Greek mythology was implemented, but we did get confused once the story took another path. There are a couple of gaping holes that don’t really get resolved and there is little development into the character of Kratos, as we would have expected from a prequel. Still, despite the story themes, the character of Kratos portrayed on screen has never been deep or one that you can really sympathise with.

Kratos and his annual trip to Hades.

Kratos and his annual trip to Hades.
But we’re guessing that’s not really the reason that his games are such talking points. Interestingly, the God of War games never contained the most sophisticated combat, the most ingenious puzzles nor the best exploration. However, it was a combination of these elements that were considered ‘good’, as well as aiming for the lowest common denominator and a great style that elevated the games to being better then the sum of their parts. For the most part, Chains of Olympus very successfully replicates most of the good aspects of the PS2 games.

Combat is almost identical to what it was in the PS2 games, which is actually great. Using your Blades of Chaos, you brutally cut through anything that gets in your way. While it is hack-and-slash at its core, you do have a series of combos and special moves to earn along the way. Even though mandatory hacking through hordes of enemies can be a little monotonous, you’ve got a brute dominanting persona and magic abilities at your disposal. There are few hack-and-slash games that really let you feel like you’re actually cutting a swathe through the enemies. And one magic ability that you get late in the game is extremely good for combo building.

It’s quite impressive that the combat engine has come over with very little concession, and even though you’ll only ever have the two weapons, they can be switched on the fly. The main concession that has been made is that you need to press L and R at the same time to roll. As we mentioned in a previous preview, the element that this brings to the game is that you have to time your dodges, as they’re no longer easy to perform through reflex. This breaks up the flow in the combat slightly, as you can no longer get away with a lot of one-way beating and dodges require a reasonable amount of skill under this set up. Essentially, you need to be more methodical in your beating ways than in the predecessors. Sometimes the combat field is a little large for the PSP, making the action hard to see.

As brutal as ever.

As brutal as ever.
The other aspects that have been common to God of War have also made it through. In between the beatings, you have a number of puzzles that need solving, in order to continue. It’s a rather familiar blend of block/statue/crate pushing, as well as corpse carrying, lever pushing and pulling. Nothing new, but at times it can be a tad obscure and a tad frustrating. Namely when you’re forced to call upon unknown or obscure abilities that you only end up using once, which doesn't work well for a portable title. There is a considerable amount of traversing, swimming and clambering across steep surfaces as well. You could argue that there’s a little too much for a portable title. Thankfully, the save points are fairly generously interspersed, though the generosity wanes as you reach the latter stages of the game.

And that’s where God of War: Chains of Olympus becomes a conundrum. As far as a PSP title goes, there is very little available on the system, let alone the same genre that comes close to matching the quality of gameplay. It is a title that stands out very easily. However, as far as a being compared to the original games, it’s even more shallow and now faces the issue of being too derivative and not doing enough to distinguish itself. In some respects, it falls into the trap that a lot of PSP titles fall into, by trying too hard to emulate their console predecessors. However, it still manages to be one of the best examples of how to bring a console title to the PSP. Chains of Olympus is primarily held back by being so heavily based off its PS2 predecessors and a weaker design, rather then being let down by a poor conversion.

While God of War: Chains of Olympus clocks in at around six or so hours for experienced players, we weren’t too fussed by this. Namely because it felt like the right length of the game, and filling the above mentioned gaps wouldn’t have taken that long anyway. Maybe an extra boss or two on top of what is essentially three bosses would have been welcome. You can always play through again to unlock a few bonuses, as well as take on the Challenge of Hades. At the end of the day, it seems that God of War: Chains of Olympus has been made primarily with fans and the lowest common denominator in mind, so not straying too far from the established formula could work for it.

Did we mention that Kratos is brutal?

Did we mention that Kratos is brutal?
God of War: Chains of Olympus is meant to be one of the first PSP titles to utilise the unlocked clock speed; and the game does indeed benefit from using this, by utilising more complex lighting, animations and running speed. The God of War games on the PS2 were frontrunners at the backend of the generation, so the PSP title would have to do a bit more to compete with them, but as a PSP title, the game looks great and completely retains the series’ unique style. In terms of sound, the game sounds just like it does on the PS2, though there probably are a fewer number of tracks due to size space, and at times the sound effects are noticeably compressed or sometimes seem like they're missing. Still, put on some headphones and you’re unlikely to complain.

Apart from a patchy story and derivative design, as far as action or hack-and-slash games on the PSP go, God of War: Chains of Olympus is unparalleled on the platform. And unless the long awaited Devil May Cry actually makes an appearance, this is unlikely to change for some time. However, as a game to extend and build on a franchise, it seems more like it’s just filling time until God of War III. Regardless, so long as you aren’t expecting a total reinvention or something radically new, God of War: Chains of Olympus is among the best portable action games that you can get.
The Score
God of War: Chains of Olympus is a great portable action game and a fine portable distraction until the real deal comes around.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 years ago
Its games like this that make me wish I still had my PSP.. Looks like a brilliant title.
6 years ago
This game looks great. Makes me wanna go buy a nice silver psp bundle right now.. but unfortunately im flat broke icon_sad.gif.
6 years ago
It's definitely a system seller. Up until Crisis Core it was the top PSP game from my point of view.

Good review.
6 years ago
I keep forgetting to buy this. From the demo I actually prefer the PSP control layout. Mainly because it does away with the godawful R-stick rolling from the console versions. Right stick is for camera, left stick is for movement.
6 years ago
Found the game a bit on the short side, but the experience is really quite spectacular.

Graphics are amazing and it controls very well. Just wish the PSP had better speakers as sometimes it's nice to not have to use headphones to appreciate decent sound quality.
6 years ago
Nice review Jeremy, pretty much same oppinion as me. I thought that the controls were good and found rolling not as bad as everyone made it out to me. It was too short though and a little bit on the easy side. I know there are different difficulaties, but I still thought it was easier than GoW1 and 2 on comparitive settings.

It was a nice gap-filler before GoW 3's release next year.
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  27/03/2008 (Confirmed)
  Sony Computer Entertainment
  Action Adventure
Year Made:

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