As I’m sure we all remember from stories and school lessons, Ancient Greece was not for the faint of heart, nor the weak willed. With Gods who’d eat their own children in fear of being over-powered, mythical monsters terrorizing innocent people and tales of epic naval warfare, few were safe from the dangers of the time. Even our protagonist, the battle-hardy Kratos struggles to keep his Minotaurs in a row, in this classical antiquity based action-adventure.
Kratos was a vastly celebrated Spartan captain, swift and merciless, he fought bravely on the battlefield. Until he came upon his demise at the hands of the Barbarian King. However, instead of accepting his death, Kratos called upon the God of War himself, Ares and bargained a deal. Kratos sacrifices his free will and vows to serve Ares, sparing the lives of his brave soldiers. This is where Kratos receives his first and primary weapon, the Blades of Chaos, a pair of blades fused to chains that wrap around his arms. Kratos follows Ares for years, and eventually his loyalty takes him to a small town, with orders to eradicate. Unknown to him, Ares had moved Kratos’ wife and child to the town’s temple and in his furious, berserker-style attack Kratos accidentally kills them both. Although Ares believed this would free him, allowing him to become the perfect soldier, Kratos, fraught with guilt and misery, refuses to serve Ares any longer. The oracle of the now destroyed town curses Kratos and binds the ashes of his murdered family to his skin, earning him the spooky nickname ‘Ghost of Sparta.’ Kratos now plagued with nightmares and flashbacks of his awful misdeed pledges servitude to the other Gods, in hope of forgiveness and a cure to his visions.
This is where we join Kratos. After ten longs years of serving the Gods, he grows weary of his plight and after defeating the Hydra for Poseidon, he summons Athena, the sister of Ares. She tells him that he must complete one final act to be forgiven and cured. He must kill the God of War, Ares. She guides Kratos to the city of Athens, which is besieged by the colossal Ares. The oracle tells him the only way to defeat a God lies within Pandora’s Box. And thus begins his journey of vengeance to find the mysterious box, defeat Ares and take the throne as the new God of War.
Released in March 2005 (on my birthday!) for the PS2, God of War boasted a rich, in-depth storyline, featuring typical Ancient Greek tragedy and an awesome hack and slash, combo-based combat style, which had you feeling like some kind of God from your first kill. Kratos utilises not only weapons but also magic. Early in the game, Kratos is given an ability called the Rage of the Gods, which grants brief invulnerability and a juicy boost to attack damage. As he progresses through the story various Gods will gift him with different powers, such as Poseidon’s Rage; which brings lightening to strike enemies in a circle around Kratos or the Army of Hades; which summons undead soldiers from the Underworld to fight on your behalf. The combat also features ‘quick time events,’ to be used once Kratos has weakened an enemy. Players must quickly press the button shown on screen, when done correctly the enemy will meet their end but fail and Kratos will take significant damage. Upgrades are also an important aspect of gameplay, and collecting red orbs found in chests or by defeating enemies, will allow the player to upgrade their weaponry and magical abilities. There are also special pick-ups, Gorgon eyes and Phoenix feathers. Hidden within unmarked chests the player can collect six of each, which will increase the size of the health and magic bars respectively.
I spent a phenomenal amount of time on this, getting stuck on puzzles or slicing and dicing my way through hoardes of Centaurs, Harpies and sirens. It grants a certain satisfaction once the path is clear, a feeling I can’t quite recreate in any other game. So strap on your gladiator sandals, head down to your nearest game store and invest a few denarii in this brilliant gory, Goliath of gaming.