'God of War: Origins Collection' Review

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In case you were wondering (oh, you weren’t?) the God of War Collection is one of the best game collections you can own on PS3. It took two of the best action games from PS2, and brought them over to PS3 in glorious HD fashion. Players now had slicker visuals, trophy support, and the fact that you had God of War I & II for a very cheap price. Without question, if you hadn’t jumped into the God of War experience yet, there was no better place to start than right there.

Guess what? God of War: Origins Collection brings a similarly awesome experience, with God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta offering even more chaotic and bloody fun. The main difference between the two collections is that the two games collected here were originally PSP games rather than PS2 games. As you can imagine, the process of porting a handheld game to a console compared to porting a console game to a newer console is very different. Luckily, the games look fantastic on the big screen, with Ghost of Sparta even surpassing its PS2 counterparts in many regards.

Chains of Olympus was released after God of War I & II were released, but it serves as a prequel to those games. Kratos is in service of the Olympian Gods and is sent to the city of Attica to help defend it from the invading Persian Army. However, things soon start to take some unexpected twists as Kratos begins to hear a haunting flute melody that he recognizes to be the same one that was played by his deceased daughter. What begins as a simple tale of war becomes a tale of finding answers that would shed light on Kratos’ dark past.

This game is probably the weakest in terms of overall plot, but there is no question that it is an absolute blast to play. The combat is ramped up, the enemy encounters are intense and the orbs you get to enhance your abilities never seem to stop flowing. In fact, I would say that Chains of Olympus rewards you with the most orbs out of any God of War game up to this point, which puts an even greater and more frequent emphasis on skill and weapon enhancement. I liked this a lot, as it made me feel like I was consistently working towards a new ability to learn or a new weapon to increase. The Gauntlet of Zeus is also introduced during the course of the game to shake up the combat, and it quickly became my favorite weapon added to the series thus far.

Ghost of Sparta really ups the ante in terms of plot, offering a story that is much more personal and emotional for Kratos that takes place after the first God of War game. An oracle foretold that the demise of Olympus would come by a marked warrior, and we learn from a series of flashbacks that the warrior was Kratos’ brother, Deimos. When he and Deimos were young, Ares and Athena interrupted their training and kidnapped Deimos to prevent the demise of their home. Kratos tries to stop them from taking his brother, but is not nearly powerful enough to match Ares and Athena. From that point on, he believed that Deimos was dead. All is not what is seems, however, as Kratos’ mother returns to him and tells him that Deimos is still alive, and her dying wish is for Kratos to save him.

I loved that this game had a story that was even more personal to Kratos, and even though it still isn’t as focused as the combat it is, it made everything seem a little more meaningful. Kratos is probably one of the most unlikable protagonists you’ll come across in any major gaming experience, but after the events of this game you really do feel bad for him. The ending is both epic and heart-wrenching, and even though I knew the outcome it was still very sad. For the first time you get to see what Kratos was like as a child, and you even get to witness the event that resulted in one of his now famous facial scars.

From a gameplay standpoint, Ghost of Sparta was even more intense and varied than Chains of Olympus. The environments were more impressive, the combat was relentless and the boss fights were constantly jaw-dropping. As mentioned above, the finale was electrifying, and is honestly my favorite boss fight that the entire series has offered up to this point. What’s most interesting, however, is the fact that you get much less orbs this time around. It seems like each enemy and treasure chest gives you far less than what you got in Chains of Olympus, and by the end of the game I had many weapons and magic that I was not able to max out. I took this as the game making the player more strategic in what categories they wanted to be better in, instead of making you a freakin’ monster in all facets of the combat.

An interesting addition that Ghost of Sparta brings to the combat is Thera’s Bane, which infuses Kratos’ blades with fire. This ability is given its own meter and replenishes after a few seconds of waiting, and is necessary to defeat many different enemies in the game, such as ice monsters and automatons. This adds a nice bit of strategy to the combat, as it doesn’t allow you to just jump into any battle and smash the square button. This fire also makes the regular battles easier, creating a more powerful impact that causes a greater recoil on some enemies. This is accompanied by the typical magic meter that is now a staple in the God of War games, which offers a variety of different spells such as lightning and vortexes that replenish when you acquire blue orbs. The added variety to the combat is refreshing, and even though it doesn’t completely change the game, it does make the many different battles more interesting.

Just like with the God of War Collection, this set packs all of the special features that were originally packaged with the games. You get a bunch of behind-the-scenes videos, image galleries, bonus costumes and more that reward subsequent playthroughs. Chains of Olympus has a cool feature called “Inside Ready at Dawn Studios“, which shows a brief and often funny snippet of everyone belonging to the studio backed with the epic God of War music. There’s also a video showing some levels that didn’t make it into the game and a video documenting the creation of Attica. Ghost of Sparta brings some more cool features with a mode called Challenge of the Gods, which subjects the player to a series of challenges asking you to do things like, “Open all 6 chests placed in the arena without dying” and “Kill all the enemies without taking a single hit”. There’s also a combat arena that lets you fight enemies from the game at a variety of different arenas, The Temple of Zeus which is used to unlock new features for the game, and plenty of videos and galleries detailing just about everything you would want to know. The amount of bonus material at your disposal here is exhaustive, and is really unusual and welcome for regular versions of video games.

The biggest knock against both games is that they are very brief. I beat both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta in under 6 hours each, and in both cases I was saying, “No, I want MORE!”. Seeing that they were originally PSP games, I knew that they would be quicker games, but the quality and production values were so high on both games that you can’t help but crave a longer playthrough. Still, the amount of replay value that each game packs will certainly dull the pain when their stories comes to an end.

Other than that, though, it’s hard to find anything at all to knock against the God of War: Origins Collection. Both games offer some of the most fun and rewarding gameplay available today, and it still shines in comparison to games that were released years after them. Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica Studios have created a foundation that is so solid that it appears that they could throw Kratos into any kind of story and it would come out the other side being awesome. If you have a PS3 and haven’t played these games yet, then this a no-brainer. Even if you did play them on the PSP I’d say get this collection anyway, because now you get to experience them on the big screen, which has now made both of these epic games even more epic.

CONDONE

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