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God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) artwork

God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) review

"Chains of Olympus isn’t necessarily a bad game. It just lacks creativity."

Just like every God of War installment, Chains of Olympus introduces itself with an epic flair. Using a monster more akin to a dragon than a basilisk, the Persians have laid siege to the city of Attica. Foolishly believing that this will somehow be the action that frees him from his past, Kratos lunges into battle with infamous brutality, slaughtering Persian and Grecian alike. His Blades of Chaos easily tear through human flesh. Not even the Persian king stands long in the way of Kratos’ fury. The basilisk takes a little extra pounding to kill, but eventually it succumbs to its injuries in typical gory fashion. During the final encounter on the bridge leaving the besieged city, Kratos slams the beast’s mouth shut as it charges a fiery attack. The resulting explosion sends bloody chunks everywhere and allows Kratos to finally leave the city.

As the Ghost of Sparta looks upon the city of Marathon, something rips the sun god Helios out of the sky, plunging the world into darkness. The god of dreams, Morpheus, takes over, summoning a dense, black fog from which his minions appear to harass you. After battling with skeletons brandishing glowing weapons, serpentine banshees and corrupted sphynxes, you’ll soon realize just how unoriginal this installment would be.

From enemies to level design, nearly everything feels like it has been done before. Banshees attack exactly the same way as gorgons. They slash at you with whip-like tails, and stun you with high-pitched wailing instead of a stone gaze. The sphinx, while unique in design, attacks similarly to Cerberus, even down to its blue (not orange!) fire-breath. Minotaurs have grown immensely and acquired a broadsword. They will bull-rush you, tossing you around like a ragdoll if you get caught, but otherwise lack complexity. Cyclops makes an appearance as well, but he hasn’t changed at all, except maybe to don a skirt of bronze armor in later levels.

Once you reach the Temple of Helios, enemies become a bit more interesting. Fire guards dance around with surprising dexterity, vaulting forward to deliver an aerial downward strike strong enough to knock you to the ground. Should you avoid the initial blow, they’ll follow up with several quick dual-bladed slashes just to keep you on your toes. Satyr grenadiers lob fire bombs then leap backwards to evade your inevitable counterattack. Their grenades not only explode upon contact, but burn steadily for several seconds, forcing a different route in restricted areas. Yet, while these foes may bring some freshness to combat, the temple’s design will feel vaguely familiar.

Your task inside the temple is to awaken four horse statues representing the four winds. This involves a fair amount of backtracking, not unlike with Pandora’s Temple in God of War I. This would be fine, except that this temple doesn’t possess any of the complexity that Pandora’s did. With perhaps one forgettable exception, there are no death rooms. No challenges where you must defeat everything before a lethal trap triggers. No tricky platforming sections featuring narrow planks, sawblades and bottomless pits. What we get instead consists largely of two battles on an elevator and an underwater detour. In between that, throw in a few easy statue puzzles that may or may not involve reflecting sunbeams, depending on whether you’ve found the Sun Shield.

Once you awaken the horses, they’ll take you for a ride on the sun chariot as they race towards the location of their master, only to dissolve upon reaching the boundary between the living world and Hades. In a vain and pitiful attempt to humanize Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta changes his mission from rescuing Helios to finding his daughter. Trekking through Hades means slaying a host of “new” enemies. Such as: skeletal warriors brandishing glowing weapons, serpentine gorgons and corrupted satyrs. Harpies make another appearance, too, but this time dive at you with unblockable talons. And the Minotaurs gain a coat of armor just like their brutish Cyclops allies. We’ve definitely been here before.

Things pick up a bit when you reach the River of Styx. The fight with the Charon provides a decent distraction from the otherwise predictable and effortless confrontations to that point. Blocking his scythe and reflecting his energy balls is simple, but once he loses enough health, the pace heats up. He’ll teleport atop the ship’s upper deck and slowly summon a huge wall of fire. Without the Gauntlet of Zeus, this attack is unstoppable. It’s also fatal. With the heavy weapon, you should have enough time to destroy the pillar holding the ferryman, thus breaking his concentration, but this doesn’t make the battle any easier. Now he’ll breathe ghostly fire on you. This both stuns you and slowly drains your health. It’s also difficult to see the attack coming, making it difficult to roll out of range.

Bring Charon to his knees and Kratos will deliver a finishing blow, driving him into the wall with his own scythe. Just when you think it’s over, however, your enemy removes his own head and floats around the arena, throwing energy balls. Defeat him a second time, and Kratos smashes the detached skull into the ground until it stops moving. As a reward, you now can flash the severed head at your enemies, lighting them afire and stunning them for a few seconds. The new ability feels remarkably similar to the stone gaze of decapitated gorgons in previous titles, but the effect is refreshing and new.

On its own, Chains of Olympus isn’t necessarily a bad game. It still has all of the elements that made God of War so popular. It continues the trend of ruthlessness, gore and exaggerated violence that fans love about the series. It also hasn’t lost the intuitive controls or seamless transitions between levels. However, when compared to the main trilogy, it lacks the challenge of the others, and its overall its structure has become exhaustingly formulaic.


wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (September 01, 2014)

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