I’ve never played God of War. It’s one of PlayStation’s most iconic brands, featuring one of its most recognisable and potentially interesting protagonists and it has spawned multiple sequels across numerous platforms. It leaves a gaping hole in my gaming history.
I have dabbled with the series at various times. I vaguely remember trying God of War II on the PS2 many years ago. I played bits and pieces of one or both of the PSP games (I can’t recall), Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, on the PSP but no more than an hour or two. I played the first few levels of God of War III shortly after it came out and quickly lost interest. I bought the first HD collection in the US before it was released in the UK and never took it out of its cellophane before giving it away.[drop]I’m sure everyone has these holes in their gaming history that leave others aghast at how you could pass up such a classic. Sometimes a game or an entire genre just doesn’t appeal. I have several gaps in my own CV of gaming but perhaps we’ll talk about those later. For now, let’s focus on Kratos’ adventures and why I may be a fool for missing it.
I just don’t connect with games of this type, which is fine – there are plenty of other great experiences for me to enjoy and God of War has enough fans that it won’t miss me.
I didn’t enjoy the Devil May Cry games, Dynasty Warrior games or even more modern touchstones of the hack-and-slash action genre like Dante’s Inferno or Bayonetta. Even though I’d generally be inclined to anything that uses historical periods or ancient mythologies as a basis, I couldn’t get over my general lack of enjoyment for this genre. But that’s not what I want to dwell on, it’s clear that I’m the odd one out here – the God of War games have all been very good.
So I would rather focus on what I might have missed. What does God of War have that nothing else does quite so well? Why has this series cemented itself so firmly in the hearts of PlayStation fans around the world?
One of the most obvious things, and something that I can enjoy without even picking up a DualShock, is the graphical accomplishment of each of the games. God of War was beautiful, God of War II surpassed it and the two PSP instalments were home to some of the most attractive visuals that the handheld console saw. God of War III is a couple of years old now and still wouldn’t look out of place on a list of most graphically impressive games. Partially I think that’s about the lighting, modelling and textures but I also think there’s a sense of scale in each of the God of War games that is unrivalled anywhere else.
The narrative of the series is also something I can enjoy, albeit in a diluted state. In this age of discussion boards and copious internet post mortems (not to mention excellent comedic abridgement), I can enjoy the general twists and turns of the series’ plot without playing the games.[drop2]So what else is there, aside from the gameplay which I’m purposefully avoiding? What about character attachment? Reading about the developing plot is fine for knowing what happens but I miss out on forming any attachment with the characters that can be built by things like visual cues (settings, facial expressions, etc.) or dialogue delivery.
That’s something that I generally really enjoy about games – the emotional response they can incite. Does God of War do that especially well? Does it have moments of crushing, painful despair and instances of sheer elation?
Is there a thread of humour weaving through the series that any cold plot summaries I could catch up with are missing?
In spite of knowing that I simply don’t enjoy the gameplay mechanics on offer from God of War, I do still feel that I’m missing something. Perhaps it’s only the cultural connection with so many of my fellow videogame enthusiasts that I miss? I don’t have that shared experience, which is so widespread, so my associations and references will forever be slightly out of kilter in this area.
What am I missing?