Review: God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta
- Worth The Time?Yes, to major God of War fans.
- Things LovedThe smooth and fun gameplay, the amazing graphics, the fact that the game actually manages to be a good interquel with regards to story.
- Things HatedThe lack of features compared to previous games in the series - including Chains of Olympus, the uninteresting magic spells, the fact that there is nothing at all new.
- RecommendationIf you're an absolute God of War fan, then you probably won't go wrong with Ghost of Sparta. However, if you're content with your God of War experience and aren't interested in playing a lesser game in the franchise that is just more of the same, then skip this.
- Name: God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta
- Genre: Action Adventure, Hack & Slash
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PSP Exclusive
- Developer: Ready At Dawn, SCE Santa Monica Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R255-260
- Reviewed On: PSP
Ready At Dawn are the developers responsible for 2008’s God of War: Chains of Olympus, which stands today as one of the best PSP games ever created and a complete God of War experience. It was both admirable and very impressive how Chains of Olympus managed to capture, on a handheld platform, everything that truly made the series great. Now, two years later, we’re seeing the very same developers out God of War: Ghost of Sparta, the newest entry in the franchise. After giving the game a full play-through and getting to see all it offers, despite having enjoyed the experience we have to honestly say that we’re left with one sad and disappointing realisation: the God of War series is finally showing its age.
Ghost of Sparta is an interquel that takes place between the first and second games in the series. Kratos, now the God of War after having defeated Ares and acquiring his throne, is still unable to escape the horrors of his past, and is haunted by visions from them. This leads the Kratos to travel to the city of Atlantis, seeking out the Temple of Poseidon, against the wishes of the goddess Athena, in order to explore his distant past. This journey will take Kratos through a more personal experience than before, and will eventually see him return to Sparta, his home, as well as venture forth into the dark realm of Thanatos, the God of Death, in search of something once lost.
For the most part the story is really well done, which is pleasantly surprising giving the fact that it’s an interquel, delivering a more personal and emotion driven God of War experience that we’ve missed from the previous rage-filled bloodbaths. The fact that it’s fully equipped with great voice acting and the epic musical themes expected from the franchise only serves to better the main story. One might initially find the transition from the monster Kratos featured in the second and third games in the main series to a more human version of him unsettling, but the overall story does well to add depth to his character, and provide more reasoning for his anger towards his enemies and the Gods of Olympus.
If you have played any other God of War game, then Ghost of Sparta will be nothing new to you at all. In a nutshell, you’ll basically be making your way across a variety of linear locations filled with dozens of enemies to slaughter, light platforming and puzzle solving sections and fantastic eye-candy. However, as good as all of those things usually are with God of War, this game actually feels like a step back from previous entries in the series, and especially from its PlayStation 3 older brother. Of course there are naturally limitations on a handheld platform and this is to be expected, but the area of focus here is primarily with features and content. There is virtually nothing in the game that feels fresh or exciting. While we know that the series has already reached its peak and that the gameplay has more or less been perfected, Ghost of Sparta overall just feels like more of the exact same, but quite a bit less of it. It does not feel complete like Chains of Olympus did, but rather like a ‘light’ God of War experience.
The reasons for this is basically because we’ve just seen it all before, and the game lacks features. As normal, you begin the game with the Blades of Athena, and will acquire weapons and magic spells as you progress, all of which can be upgraded using red orbs acquired throughout the game. However the Blades only go up to Level 4, which means there are less moves overall. There is only one other weapon to obtain, the magic spells are mostly uninteresting, and the boss fights are just tame – compared to previous games – and forgettable. Furthermore, the rage mode has been replaced, and instead now you’re able to add fire to your primary blades using a power called Thera’s Bane. It can be activated at will by holding down a button, and its usage is governed by a third meter underneath the magic bar, which replenishes itself over time. While the concept is cool, all it does really is add extra damage to your blades and a burning effect to your attacks, which means you’ll just be using it as you get it. It is, however, used for other purposes, such as to destroy doors, obstacles and certain enemy armours, but again, this just amounts to using it whenever its needed.
The extra weapon in the game is a classic spear and shield weapon combo called Arms of Sparta, and it’s actually a pretty diverse and interesting weapon as it’s used for both melee and ranged fighting. You’re able to throw spears for ranged attacks, fight up close with stabs and shield bashes and move while blocking, enabling you to get past environmental hazards or close in on enemies attacking from a range. This is what we would have liked to have seen more of in Ghost of Sparta, but unfortunately the magic spells don’t share the same intrigue. There are three in the game, namely Eye of Atlantis, Horn of Boreas and the Scourge of Erinys. The Eye is basically just a multi-hit lightning attack that isn’t all too powerful or unique, the Scourge is just a ball of energy that follows enemies around and attacks them for a short while and the Horn is simply an area of effect spell that can freeze enemies. None of the spells are overly useful, unique or exciting, and will probably be forgotten as you play.
One redeeming factor is that Ghost of Sparta borrows certain elements from God of War 3, such as combos, the quick-time events where the button prompts appear in the positions they are in on the controller and the blood effects for Kratos when his body is bathed in an enemy’s red juice. Other appealing factors are the absolutely gorgeous graphics, complete with amazingly detailed environments and character models, fantastic and excessively gory animations and an absolute smoothness in gameplay. The game also never has to load for longer than a couple of seconds, which is always welcome. Simply put, when considered on a graphical level, Ghost of Sparta is one of the best looking PSP games to date, proving that the handheld console still has some fight left in it.
Completing the game will take you between five to six hours, and once you’re done there are some unlockables and additional challenge modes to take part in, as usual in the series. A new mode titled the Temple of Zeus has been added, where you can use red orbs to unlock extras such as bonus costumes, concept art, videos and more enemies to battle against in the game’s new Combat Arena, where you can set up your own battles and brutally murder countless weaklings as you please. These features are nice additions and can add some extra playtime to your bid.
In the end, God of War: Ghost of Sparta is still a fun and enjoyable experience, and it’s a pretty solid game that has nothing much wrong with it. However, it just does very little, apart from its story, to set itself aside from previous entries in the series, and after a long line of increasingly phenomenal God of War games the series has just more or less reached the end of the road, and has now begun to finally show its age and lose its innovation. This may still be God of War, but it’s a step backwards, and doesn’t quite fit into the category of excellence that the franchise is well known for. Ultimately, we’re at a point where God of War needs more than simply its name to be a great game.