Kratos doesn’t like you. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re alive, and somewhere in the general vicinity of his goal, you’re probably going to die. That’s because Kratos is the ultimate vengeance fantasy, a guy who makes Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris look like pussies.
Kratos has a lot of history. He’s been in the service of the gods for tens of years, he’s tired, he’s upset, he wants something very specific, something the gods aren’t inclined to give him – peace, solace, respite. Things any average guy might want, Kratos has to do without, because the gods, well, they just have other plans at the moment.
But so does Kratos.
God of War started simply enough – Kratos was tasked by the gods to kill the god of war, Ares. He did, but was still denied his reward. In God of War II Kratos finally realized what bastards the rulers of Olympus were and decided the whole house of cards just had to come down, and enlisted the help of the mighty titans. In what has to be the one of the most blue-balling climax in history we see Kratos, at the end of God of War II, scaling the cliffs of Olympus to exact his revenge, titans in tow. This is where God of War III begins.
Kratos has the backing of the titans, he has the power of Olympus in his hands, Zeus is scared to death of his titan son, and here comes the destruction of the very gods who rule the world. The titans, specifically Gaia, however, had a different plan in mind. Kratos is cast from the battle, discarded as the pawn the gods and titans always believed him to be, and now it’s up to him to prove to them how very, very wrong they were.
Kratos begins the siege against Olympus with the aid of Gaia, who soon enough allows him to fall to the depths of Hades. Kratos doesn’t mind, because he needed to stop by anyway. Why? To kill a god, of course. That’s what God of War III is all about, and the game wastes no time getting you to the heart of the matter. Hades, Poseidon, Helios, you almost have to guess who ISN’T in Kratos’s wake as he slogs through hostile terrain to exact his revenge.
In the process, Kratos will of course lose all his might. It’s a staple of the series, and a notable detraction in God of War III (how many times can the mightiest being in all Olympus lose everything he has!?). Soon enough, however, he’s about his business, busting out of Hades and on his way to a showdown with the man himself. Before he gets there, however, he’ll have to accumulate some hardware.
One sore point of every previous God of War game has been the tools Kratos has at his disposal. In God of War, you got the Artemis Blade, and in God of War II, you got the Spear of Destiny. Both were fun, but neither were practical. In God of War II you will acquire three specific weapons that not only have practical applications to certain situations, but are also fun as hell to use. The Claws of Hades (guess who you get those from) can rip souls from enemies and turn them on your foes. The Nemean Cestus packs a Herculean punch worthy of its previous owner’s namesake. The real treat, however, the payoff, is the Nemesis Whip. It is the first cancellable weapon in the God of War series, and the first that allows constant combos strings. Learn to use it, and nothing, not even Olympus, is beyond your destructive power. You’ll have to use all these weapons to meet your goal, but for the first time in the God of War franchise, you’ll actually WANT to use something besides your normal blades. God of War III is a game that encourages experimentation and makes it easy with quick, real time switching even in combat.
It’s a great thing that the game allows you to plow through enemies in new and exciting ways, because the overall mechanics of God of War III, even with the new weapons, remains largely unchanged. There’s still a large focus on crowd control combat as you have several enemies as once looking to make you lunch; therefore, it’s a damn good thing you have so many ways to serve them up on their own platter. The varied ways in which you can dispatch your enemies more than makes up for the fact that they’re still basically the same enemies you fought in the first two games.
Where God of War III really distinguishes itself is the presentation. Yes, it’s a known fact that the franchise stakes itself on cutting edge presentation, but no game presents itself like this. No other game presents you with the totality of what you’ve done so much as God of War III. You’ll directly see the effects of your destruction, you’ll be presented at every turn with just how much you have done/undone as you wreck the entire world you once loved.
You won’t care, though, because God of War III drives home, more than any other game ever made, just what you are doing and why. You will revel in the absolute destruction you create, not because you are a supreme vandal but because, dammit, the world deserves it. The gods have forsaken you, humanity cannot appease you and the titans are non-players in your tragedy. The world is yours to destroy, and it WILL be destroyed by your hand, and goddamn is it pretty when you do.
No other game world moves and breathes like God of War III. Sony Santa Monica once promised ‘an oil painting brought to life’ and for the first time I can remember, such a claim becomes an understatement. The world of Kratos is so richly created that even the most grizzled gamer might find themselves a bit queasy when Kratos rips out the eye of a Cyclops, or eviscerates a minotaur. The visuals in the game are only surpassed by the motions that bring them to life, and when it comes to either, God of War III is as brilliant and graphic as it gets.
Where God of War III really makes its mark, for better or worse, however, is the story. People don’t like Kratos, he is a brutal, unsympathetic man. He is, in many people’s eyes, a monster. He is singular in his cruelty. He has a single, violent purpose that he will fulfill, one that he has had since the original God of War. Many will find Kratos too much to bear in this game, they will find him unsympathetic, vicious, even psychotic and delusional. Others, by the end, will empathize, and will relate to his suffering. Either way, the ending of God of War III is not a grey area for most people, but that’s what makes it so great; was it worth it for what Kratos wrought? Was he really a villain all along? Can Kratos find redemption?
The game, knowing why people play God of War in the first place, smartly leaves those questions for the player alone to decide.