Killing Gods and Taking Revenge: A Celebration of God of War
Some of gaming’s heaviest icons arrived early and have stayed late into the current day. Other companies attempted to field icons in hope of catching on like the Marios, Sonics, or Master Chiefs only to fade into obscurity. Kratos is an icon that arrived late to the party and made his presence known, riding to fame on the backs of dead Olympian Gods and Titans in his bloodthirsty quest for revenge. Since its release, God of War has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs and media outside of video games. The games are regular fixtures in Top 10 lists and Game of the Year conversations and all of it began with the original release of God of War back in 2005.
From God of War’s original conception when Santa Monica Studios began developing the game back in 2002, the goal was to build a game with high octane action, but also strong puzzles and platforming. Inspiration was drawn heavily from action titles like Devil May Cry and Onimusha and puzzle games like Ico. Of course, inspiration was also drawn from films like Clash of the Titans. In fact, Game Director David Jaffe cited this inspiration in a 2005 interview with Eurogamer, saying that “the real high concept for me was taking Clash of the Titans and merging it with Heavy Metal Magazine.”
And merge he did. God of War was an action-packed and visceral adventure. It tells the story of a Spartan Warrior, the aforementioned Kratos, who is bound to servitude by the God of War, Ares, until he tricks Kratos into murdering his wife and child. Kratos renounces his service to Ares and is cursed by an oracle to wear the ashes of his loved ones in his flesh. Kratos turns to Athena, who tasks and aids him with the murder of Ares, who is waging war against Athena. He finds that the only way to kill the God is with the mystical artifact known as Pandora’s Box. Thus, starting as a simple pawn at the beckon of Gods, Kratos begins his path of vengeance and ascendance.
Kratos fights enemies with the iconic Blades of Chaos: two cleaver-like swords attached to chains bound to Kratos’s arms. Combat is fast paced with a combo system allowing for a multitude of long range and short range attacks. Kratos also gained magical ability such as the powers of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades in order attack multiple enemies at once. The only other weapon Kratos gets is the Blade of Artemis, which is a large sword. It’s odd to think that in a series that offered many weapons later on, there were only two actual weapons in the original game, but it worked well for the time.
Probably one of the more well-known aspects of combat in God of War were the Quick-Time Events. There were QTEs before God of War, but this was the series that certainly popularized them for better or for worse. Players would arrive at points where cinematic action would occur, requiring a timed button press or rapid tapping of a button in order to succeed. It would become a regular fixture in special enemy fights and boss battles throughout the God of War series. Aside from combat, there was also a series of platforming and puzzles that broke up the combat. Some puzzles were rudimentary, but others would require scouring an entire area or coming back later with the right skills or items to finish the puzzle.
God of War took a lot of things from a lot of different places and meshed them into one solid and amazing spectacle. It became one of Sony’s go-to franchises for years and was the game many players would think of when they thought of PlayStation 2 and 3 much of the late 2000s. Kratos became a face of Sony and appeared in several games outside of his own franchise, not the least of which was the PS3 port of Mortal Kombat 9. The game’s mechanics were implemented nearly flawlessly, so much so that it set trends other developers attempted to imitate and still do to some degree. Love it or loathe it, God of War was the face that launched a thousand Quick-Time Events. For that and much more, it has a notable place in the gaming pantheon.