Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Dec 032018

I’ve now played four games in the God of War Saga, since after completing Chains of Olympus, I moved on to God of War III.

The first thing that struck me when I started up God of War III was its graphics. It was the first God of War game made for the PS3, and the jump in technology was obvious.

Everything looked so much more realistic and different than the previous three that it actually took some getting used to. Of course, the increased realism also makes everything much more brutal and violent, so this was by far the most gruesome of the series so far.

The last time we saw Kratos (chronologically, since Chains of Olympus is a prequel), he’d brought the Titans forward through time to wage war against Olympus. All right! Epic battles! Gods vs. Titans! Kratos and the Titans razing Olympus!

…is what I expected.

Instead, it quickly becomes apparent why the Titans lost the war, as the gods just start taking them out. Then Gaia tells Kratos he was just a pawn, which I didn’t expect to be revealed that early, and he falls into the underworld to lose all his powers and begin his newest journey of revenge.

(Again, the developers must have really loved Hades.)

The ghost of Athena tells Kratos he needs to find Pandora’s Box again to claim the one power that remained inside of it, to have the ability to kill Zeus.

And so, Kratos sets out on a journey to find both the box and Pandora herself, who is the key to opening the box now that Zeus has it well-guarded.

Gameplay-wise, it felt pretty good. I might favor the second game’s combat slightly more because of how God of War III ties magic to weapons instead of keeping it separate, but aside from that (and the freefall/dive sections, which I wasn’t a fan of), it might have the most polished gameplay so far.

It also felt like a return to the first game’s style in a few ways, particularly how there were notes scattered around that contributed to the overall story/worldbuilding. It had fewer puzzles, but I really liked the weird optical illusion puzzle in the garden.

Everything fits together neatly into the story God of War III wants to tell, and it really feels more like a story that fits with Greek mythology again.

Click for God of War III spoilers
Hercules is the biggest missed opportunity, though. It’s not just the name–although I was disappointed that a game that loves Greek mythology so much didn’t call him Heracles–but his portrayal.

Kratos is a parallel to the mythological Heracles: sons of Zeus who killed their families due to a god’s meddling and spent years performing tasks for the gods as penance. It feels like Kratos was based on him (rather than being based on the mythological Kratos, oddly enough).

So for the actual Heracles/Hercules to show up… what an opportunity! How will they interact? Do they recognize their similarities?

Instead, Hercules just fights Kratos because he’s jealous of him, apparently at the behest of Hera even though she should be his enemy. His own role in mythology is quietly ignored.

Their conversation does suggest they’ve interacted before, maybe more amicably, so now I really want to see more of Kratos interacting with the gods during his time as the god of war.

But what stood out to me the most is that while Kratos’s hatred for Zeus and the gods takes center stage, there’s a lot more going on in this story. Kratos’s longstanding tradition of sacrificing innocent people to solve puzzles continues, and he kills every god that gets in his way, but he doesn’t always want to. There are multiple scenes where he tries to find a peaceful outcome, but is either forced or provoked into fighting anyway.

God of War III shows Kratos at his most violent, but it also shows his humanity. The second game only touched on it lightly, but here his conflicting nature is back in full force, starting with Hephaestus reminding Kratos that he used to be a father.

This undercurrent runs through the entire story, especially as Kratos begins to interact with Pandora. However, I do think it could have used a few more of those interactions, to make it feel a bit smoother.

Click for God of War III spoilers
Escorting Pandora felt so obviously like the game was shouting, “We’re going to make you care for this character, okay?!” when I would have preferred to see a few more scenes between her and Kratos.

He forms a major attachment to her, and while he’s partly conflating her with Calliope, I think it would have felt more natural as a gradual change.

The dual nature of Kratos as both a vengeful god-killer and a tragic man haunted by his past reaches its peak in the ending sequence. While I wasn’t entirely sure about the ending at first, the more I thought about it, the more I’ve come to like it.

Click for God of War III spoilers
Athena demands that Kratos surrender the power of hope to her. Instead, he stabs himself and hope is scattered across the world.

At first, I wasn’t sure why he did that. Was he trying to redeem himself? Was it another suicide attempt, especially with some of the parallels to the first game?

But Athena’s final cry that humans won’t know what to do with the power on their own made me realize that this was Kratos’s way of trying to free humanity from the gods.

The gods have done nothing but make Kratos’s life miserable. He’s not giving them, even Athena, that sort of power again. Instead, he gives it to humanity to decide their own fates. I like that ending. It’s a fitting conclusion to the saga.

And the whole sequence before that, with Kratos being haunted by voices from his past, the idea that he has to forgive himself to be forgiven, and finally the revelation that he was carrying hope inside of him and that hope is what lets him finally win… it was brilliant.

The first game still has my favorite symbolic portrayal of Kratos trying to overcome his past, but this one is a close second.

Overall, I enjoyed God of War III a lot, and I was surprised by its story. I expected this to be the game that would highlight my earlier impression of the series as “angry Kratos kills everyone,” but instead it gave him a lot more depth than I expected him to.

One last game remains in the God of War Saga collection, so I’ll be moving on to God of War: Ghost of Sparta next… and trying to decide if I should buy Ascension or not.

What did you think of God of War III?

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