Review by Herugrim
"Excellent prequel to the series!"
The God of War franchise has become a very well known entity in the gaming community. As such I figured it would be a good idea to through in my own two cents and provide a set of reviews for each game in the series starting in chronological order.
One of the most interesting things about Chains of Olympus for the Playstation Portable system is that it's a prequel that in both functionality and presentation. While the graphics and gameplay are easily cutting edge for the PSP, they still slightly pale in comparison to the original games which take place after it. As such it functions very nicely as a prequel and is as good as any place to start getting into the series.
Chains of Olympus recycles many of the epic scores of the original game. These themes still set an excellent tone for the game and really contributes to the feeling that you are partaking in a classic Greek Epic. The only problem would be that if you've already played the other titles, the scores will seem somewhat tired. The game is one of the very few PSP titles to feature full voice acting. Most of the main cast returns to reprise the role of the main characters with the notable exception of Michael Clarke Duncan playing Atlas, it's Fred Tatasciore (probably most known as playing the Hulk in various animated marvel productions). Aside from that the game is a solid delivery in the sound department, and as such it easily ranks among the best in this category for the PSP.
God of War Chains of Olympus looks almost as good as the original Playstation 2 titles, which is pretty amazing, especially given that it features full voice acting and fully animated cut scenes, both rarities in the PSP library. As such it's easily a graphic juggernaut among PSP titles, and since it makes the original games look good, it's an excellent starting point for anybody who's looking to get into the series. Many of the high resolution scenes (specifically the various flashbacks) have actually been copied directly from the PS2 titles but others tend to use a combination of in-game graphics with two-dimensional renders which resemble the same dramatic ancient Greek styling used in the original God of War spliced together seamlessly. The regular in-game graphics feature all the splendid gore and fairly fluid animations that have become synonymous with the series in general. Many of the enemies will look a bit bland, but given the limitations of the system it doesn't come as a surprise.
Naturally there are some inherent limitations when making a prequel title. God of War I and II had already been released and this title takes place before either of them so the developers had to stay away from messing with the established storyline and also didn't want to step on anything that was planned for use in the third God of War title. That leaves them very little room to negotiate. The one element that was given specifically for use in this game was explaining how Kratos had first met Atlas, since the meeting that took place between the two of them in God of War II suggested that not only did they know each other, but it was Kratos that bound Atlas there. In this game, you finally get to find the answer to that question.
The story starts off as Kratos is sent to save the city of Attica from the invading Persian army who brought a mythical pet with them to do some major damage. After clearing out the threat, Kratos is astonished to see the sun plummet from the sky which releases the God of Nightmares, Morpheus, to slowly but surely take over the world as well as the Pantheon of Olympic Gods. What transpires is an epic quest to save the world and to force Kratos to face his own inner demons as well as to question his faith in the Gods.
And those who are new to the series fear not, because this prequel won't spoil the story in future installments for you at all. It's safe to play this title before the others. Despite being given only one piece of material and burdened with several restrictions, Chains of Olympus has a very solid story on it's own and is an excellent addition to the overall story arc.
One of the parts fans were most concerned about prior to the release of this game was if the gameplay itself would remain faithfully intact. The PSP is naturally more limited then the PS2 controller so some design aspects were going to have to be compensated. Compounding this anxiety was the fact that a different company would be developing the game. Whereas Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) uses it's own Santa Monica Studio to program the original games as well as the then upcoming third, an exterior company called Ready At Dawn was tasked with programming Chains of Olympus. New programmers meant the increased chance of dramatic alteration to core gameplay, and fans were rightly worried.
However not only did Ready At Dawn prove faithful to adapting the system for the handheld PSP, they also remained extremely faithful to the core gameplay aspects of the titles. You would never be able to tell that the game wasn't designed by the same studio just by playing it. All of the classic God of War gameplay elements remained as the core of the system, and some new aspects were introduced to establish other features.
As with other God of War titles the core of the combat in the game is based of two sets of combos that can be unlocked and a handful of special moves. These combos and moves can be mixed along with being performed in the air to make for some really dynamic juggling combos. Enemies can also be grabbed (although some will block it until you stun them by hitting them enough) for brutal instant-kill attacks or sometimes to be tossed into other enemies. Sometimes grappling certain enemies when they are stunned will initiate a small set of quick time events that can not only brutally slay the monster but grant you specific orbs like those that replenish health or magic upon successful completion.
The quick-time-event system, also got within the titles Context Sensitive sequences, remain a common feature in this title of the series. Usually at the end of a boss fight or during specific events button prompts will appear on screen and require you to press them in time in order for Kratos to successfully perform a scripted action. These play out like interactive cut scenes that have been around since the days of Dragon's Lair, an arcade game produced by Sega many years ago. It's a system that allows for extremely dynamic and dramatic action sequences that are specific to the situation. Of course the downside to this is that you are so focused on hitting the button prompts correctly that you aren't really paying attention to what's going on.
The enemies in the game are the same commonplace mythical monsters that are involved in all the other God of War titles, and they function largely the same. If you've played the other titles previously, then get ready for more of the same. If this is the first God of War game that you've played, then make sure to pay special attention to the behaviors and attack patterns each enemies uses. The strategies you develop for taking them down will serve you well in the following installments.
God of War Chains of Olympus offers gamers a brand new set of mythological bosses for you to ram horns with. Each boss is unique when compared to the others and each one provides for an amazing encounter. Because the game is shorter, you won't come across as many bosses as you do in parts 2 or 3, but it's still plenty of fun to keep you occupied.
The game also introduces a new weapon to switch up gameplay style, the Gauntlet of Zeus. This legendary weapons was used to chain the Titans to Tartarus following the Great War. It provides a very unique fighting style complete with it's own special moves and combos and was a very impressive weapon. I was really hoping the gauntlet would return in God of War III perhaps to be able to use alongside the Blade of Olympus, another weapon crafted by Zeus for the Great War. Alas it was not to be, and this title is the only time you get to use it. Replacing the Golden Fleece that Kratos would not acquire until years later, the Shield of Helios facilitates the defensive combat systems that were implemented with the second God of War. You can use it to parry melee attacks and to deflect ranged attacks back to the source. It plays a major role in the story and it actually does return though only as a special effect item in God of War III.
All in all, Chains of Olympus is an excellent entry in the God of War series as is as great a starting point as the original game for those interested in getting into the series. It stands on it's own as an excellent game. The only downside would be that it plays a very small role in the overall series. There are only a handful of events in other titles that make minor references to the events that take place in Chains of Olympus, and the game itself does very little to connect with the rest of the series. You could easily enjoy the entire main story without buying this game, but it's still a great title to have and I highly recommend it to anybody who already enjoys the series, or who thinks they might be interested in it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/20/10
Game Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (US, 03/04/08)
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