December 11th, 2010
Remember those NES games whose endgame boss totally abandoned everything you’d spent learning for the past several weeks, maybe even months, only to replace it with some cheap, unexpected gimmick boss battle with mechanics you’d never used before? Those games were great weren’t they? I totally remember looking upon those games fondly.
Sarcasm aside, it’s sad to think that such a design philosophy which counteracts the inherent properties of games could still exist today, but alas it does and God of War III is a spectacular example. Spectacular because it doesn’t just include one gimmicky battle with foreign mechanics, but several.
God of War 2.5D
Battle begins at 5:50
The first is an off-kilter battle against Zeus which retains the regular mechanics, but changes the viewpoint to resemble a 2D fighter, limiting the battle arena to a 2D plane. The limitation focuses the fighting onto the player’s defensive manoeuvres as they have one less dimension to contend with. This makes sense as Zeus attacks Kratos at a greater frequency and with more power than the other enemies in the game. So moving to a 2D plane makes it visibly less troublesome to pick up on attack animations and hit boxes while also being an easier space to navigate. Without the hassles of 3D space, the combat can roll faster. Furthermore, interplay between the two characters can flow more freely in this space. So, this chunk of gameplay is more reactive than most of the game.
If the animations and effects were tidied up and there was more environmental factors then this capsule of gameplay be absolutely cracking model for a PSP alternative (as opposed to a current wannabe, status of the PSP games; more on those another time though).
Back to God of War III
This starts at 2:00
Some cutscenes later and it’s back to 3D. What’s instantly apparent in this unfinished battle is just how much the 3D loosens up the tight form of the previous battle. As you can see in the video, there’s too much lost space where the two men are trying to connect up for a confrontation. Zeus also has an unfair amount of invincible frames. Gaia cuts the battle short which is probably a good thing. It’s worth adding that this sequence was originally intended to be longer, but time constraints sadly limited the production. You can read more about these cuts, along with video here.
^3:50 in the Youtube video above
There’s a minor interluding retread as Kratos makes his way up to Gaia’s heart and then proceeds to pummel it. This sequence is a nice reprieve before none other than Zeus floats his way onto the scene. This battle is a lot tighter than the last because of the smaller fighting area, the charge interaction with Gaia’s heart (both players can zap her heart for health in the down time) and Zeus’ expanded moveset, namely his minions, the sprint charge and lightning bolt. Each of these attacks alleviates the issues that come from the 3D space. The minions fill the dead space, while the sprint charge and lightning attacks are linear and auto target to Kratos’ current position reducing the 3D space to a linear war path. The golden fleece allows for some nice interplay as well. There’s a pattern of linear attacks in this sequence with Zeus’ sprint charge, the lightning attacks and the face-on QTE at the end.
Starts at 3:05
More cutscenes; now they’re back on top of Mount Olympus, Zeus has Kratos on the brink of death, the camera enters Kratos’ mind through his eyes. Probably not what many players were expecting. This weird dream-like area has Kratos walking and swimming his way forward, helplessly watching the tragedies of his life unfold before him. The use of colouring here is awesome, but the sequence only uses the walk and swim mechanics, making it largely passive and difficult to be too affected by. If you didn’t gather, blue represents the hope with Kratos.
First Person Brawling
Starts at 0:50
Ok, this part is pretty embarrassing. The viewpoint now shifts to first person and Kratos is free to beat Zeus in the face for as long as they see fit. Like the person in the video, I kept bashing him until I realised that I had to stop for the game to continue. As silly as this sequence is, I’ll admit, that the last trigger (the game proceeds once the player stops bashing Zeus after his death) was quite a revelation. I mean, I stopped the violence because there didn’t seem a point to it, while Kratos, similarly, was likely having a similar epiphany.
As the Extra Credits video just below points out, after this sequence Kratos goes back to his old ways and there is no redeeming value to be had. It can be said that the same is true of the confused, wishy-washy ending that I’ve analysed.