December 8th, 2010
And to round out my mechanical overview, I present an analysis of God of War III‘s secondary and peripheral mechanics.
The Golden Fleece is retained from God of War II and is still great little mechanic. If the player shields (L1) just as an attack hits Kratos, Kratos will glow and the player has a short window of time to re-divert the attack back at the enemy. The technique adds another form of interaction to on-coming attacks (dodge, QTE, attack first, get hit). The counter-attack fires out like a projectile, so the counter isn’t limited to the offender.
I’m not sure if there is any stage in God of War III where use of the fleece is compulsory. Since the fleece requires some skill to use, the pay-off for using it is worthwhile and it’s, going by memory, never made mandatory, the fleece is also a difficulty altering device. Good players can scale the combat by using all enemy attacks against them. Other players can avoid attacks through staying out of range, which makes the combat draw out for longer and offers a reason for advanced player to tune the difficulty. As further persuasion towards mastering the advanced move, the power from the fleece is often strong enough to stun enemies, acting as an opening move into combos.
Icarus’ Wings are also retained from God of War II, adding a float to the players fall. In God of War III, Kratos can now use the wings to do an aerial dodge which I don’t think was available in God of War II. Since Kratos is never suspended in air for too long (let alone, vulnerable in the air, as in not attacking to keep himself afloat), there is little chance that an enemy would attack Kratos in this period of time, rendering the aerial dodge mechanic largely irrelevant. The animation sprouts and withdraws Kratos’ wings in a matter of seconds, only filling the screen with a rapid assault of visual clutter. Further, the fall back to the ground creates a surprisingly wide gap for Kratos to be attacked.
There are another 2 new moves, the Icarus Strike and Icarus Ascension, however, I can’t remember using these moves and since I don’t have the game on-hand for reference (it’s in Australia, I’m in China), I’m afraid that I can’t comment on it.
The following mechanics are referred to as “items” and they are mapped to L2 in conjunction with 3 of the face buttons. Items have their own yellow energy meter that refills over time, limiting the use of the 3 mechanics.
Apollo’s Bow is similar to Typhoon’s Bane in God of War II, but is now an item and not a spell. This time the bow fires faster which further aids in rather varied forms of interaction, such as:
- maintaining the flow of combos
- letting the player adjust the rhythm of combat through counteracting enemy attack animations
The trade-off, however, is that the rapid bow shots are fairly weak and must be charged to be powerful. When charged, the arrows are fired up, adding an elemental effect, so now Kratos can burn enemies in combat as well as shoot at vases of oil to create explosions and reform the terrain. This rebalancing broadens the functionality of the bow in a naturalistic manner (rapid fire and charged shots) without adding complexity. The charge builds risk and reward, while filling in dead space within the gameplay.
Head of Helios
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Remember at the end of the God of War III live demo at Sony’s E3 press conference in 2009 where Kratos rips the head off one of the soldiers? It’s a pretty dreadful scene, but nonetheless the head becomes an item itself.
The Helios’ head can be charged to unleash a solar flare, blinding all nearby enemies. I find this mechanic to be a little self-defeating as it is most effective in times when the Kratos is swarmed by foes, but the charge required leaves him open to attack. Walking away from the volatile enemies only weakens the effect of the attack once released. So really, what this all amounts to is an imbalance of risk and reward, where it’s almost better to not use the mechanic. Furthermore, it can be difficult to determine the effectiveness of the flare based on enemy types and proximity. Some larger enemies appear immune to the solar flare.
Out of battle the head can be used to light poorly-lit areas, but even here it seems like a needless diversion. Where Helios works best is in revealing hidden sparkling areas in the environment. The mechanic acts as a reward for more observant players.
As with the other items, Hermes Boots has use both inside and out of battle. In battle the boots are used for a linear sprint dash in combat situations, sending enemies up in the air as Kratos rushes them for open slather attacks. Like Helios’ head and the wing dodge, Hermes Boots are poorly tuned making them pretty unremarkable. The issue is again to do with the few potential opportunities to take full advantage of the mechanic and the imbalance of risk and reward due to the vulnerable position it leaves Kratos in. The boots are best used when the enemies are standing in a straight line which is problematic as 1) Even rough straight line formations rarely crops up 2) When it, such as in narrow hallways, its just as easy to get caught on a wall. Even when the mechanic can be used to success, it likely won’t hit every enemy which is bad news as, again, Kratos is very open to attack for entirely too long at the end of the animation. If attacked, then the player can’t reign openly on the enemies flung up into the air by the attack. The sprint itself is also pretty short as well and will fail to send the more powerful enemies skywards, again, leaving them in a decent position to attack Kratos. Like Helios’ head, you can never really tell whether Hermes Boots will be all that effective, making it a rather unstable mechanic that won’t get used often.
The boots allow Kratos to run along certain marked walls out of combat too. The key word being “certain”, limiting the use to one dimensional “it only works here and you only press the button and then do the action” scenarios.
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Beast riding has been expanded sligthtly to give the player more control over the beasts. That is, the 3-headed dogs can breathe fire in the initial part of the game.
Rage of Sparta
Rage of Sparta, God of War’s “rage mode”, has been significantly altered for God of War III. The explanation from the God of War wiki is quite a comprehensive overview:
“When the rage is active you can use only the Blade Of Olympus. In rage mode, Kratos’ attacks and overall running speed become faster, his defence rate increases, and his attacks deal much more damage and even infinite health. The camera zooms in slightly, and all colors desaturate, except for Kratos’ tattoo and his enemies, which both glow red. The Rage Meter can be filled by collecting Gold Orbs. Activating the meter causes a significant startup drain that prevents the player from abusing it too much, around 1/8th the meter is drained automatically once activated.”
The Blade of Olympus (a giant sword), which can only be used exclusively in this mode, puts a new spin on what was originally just a temporary stat boost. In fact, considering how different the sword animations are from the derivative primary set of weapons which are all modelled on the Chains of Exile, it’s baffling that the sword wasn’t given its own spot next to the chains.
Another change is the odd limitation applied to the use of the Rage of Sparta. I found these sentiments from an IGN forum member to ring quite true:
“Is it just me or does the Rage of Sparta mode in God of War III seems a little bit underdeveloped?
I mean in God of War I and II, the Rage modes were so over the top and overpowered. It was literally a big help in higher difficulties in tough and long fights. The moves were just awesome and during those 10 seconds, Kratos truly unleashed hell. It was chaos. It doesn’t really feel that good and special in God of War III, at least in my opinion.
Also, it’s the only mode where you can use my favourite weapon in the series: the Blade of Olympus. That weapon is supposed to be the reason why the Great War ended and it’s the most powerful weapon. Besides Pandora’s Box, it’s the only weapon capable of killing a God. It killed Athena in one strike. But while in Rage of Sparta mode, the Blade of Olympus doesn’t feel that powerful.
When I started God of War III, I played it in Titan mode (Hard) immediately and I must say the Rage of Sparta helped me at times, but I was using it more because of the stats increase and the near invincibility instead of the Blade of Olympus power, controls and style.
The colors were awesome though. Felt like you were truly in a bloodlust.”
The tight time window that the player has to play with the blade trivialises the blade’s very inclusion. There’s hardly enough time to become familiar with the blade that the emphasis is put on the statistical increase and not on effectively using the new weapon. Therefore, these sequences aren’t about developing mastery, but rather letting the player mash buttons.
Kratos also acquires another “passive” upgrade similar to Poseidon’s Trident, Hades’ Soul, which allows Kratos to swim in the River Styx without being attacked by lost souls. This upgrade is a poor excuse for a key card.