Developer: Ready At Dawn Studios / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content] / Played on: PlayStation 3 / Price: $39.99
With God of War: Origins Collection Sony has taken the two portable games in the series (God of War: Chains of Olympus & God of War: Ghost of Sparta) and collected them on one action-packed Blu-Ray disc boosted by HD graphics and 3D support.
I feel as though the God of War: Origins Collection should be retitled God of War: Family Ties because you get to learn more about Kratos’ family and past here than in any other game from the series.
In Chains of Olympus, which takes place before the original PS2 game, Kratos is helping repel a Persian invasion only to discover a plot set in motion by Persephone (Hades’ bitter wife) to use the god of dreams Morpheus and the Titan Atlas to destroy Mt. Olympus. Kratos is tasked with stopping her plan and his journey will bring him to discover painful memories from his past.
Ghost of Sparta takes place after God of War, and sees Kratos searching for answers behind his horrific recurring nightmares, specifically about his mother and brother. He is tasked with journeying to the realm of death, controlled by god Thanatos, to retrieve his long lost brother Deimos.
The gameplay in all God of War games is sublime, and there is no difference here. The capable folks at Ready At Dawn (they also developed the fantastic PSP game Daxter) have shown plenty of respect for Sony Santa Monica’s cash-cow. They know what they’re doing, and you’ll love it despite still completing various quick-time finishers and collecting gorgon eyes and phoenix feathers.
Chains of Olympus slightly downgrades Kratos due to the fact that the game takes place before the original and the developers didn’t want to create any paradoxes in the series pertaining to his moves. Essentially, you get the same move set as Kratos from God of War. However, you do get to play around with three new magic spells and the incredibly fun Zeus Gauntlet. It’s rare when a weapon upstages the Blades of Chaos, but the Zeus Gauntlet will have you pummeling enemies instead of slicing and dicing them.
Ghost of Sparta’s placement in the saga’s timeline allowed the developers more leeway in Kratos’ move set and as a result, he’s much more lethal than he is in Chains of Olympus. One huge addition is that Kratos can now charge and tackle certain enemies. Execute the move effectively and you close on the enemy very quickly. He also acquires three new magic spells.
However, one element drastically changes gameplay: the acquisition of Thera’s Bane. This ability ignites Kratos’ Blades of Athena with a molten fire that is needed to destroy armored enemies and certain items in the environment. Kratos also gets a secondary weapon called “The Arms of Sparta,” which is a spear and shield. Compared to the Zeus Gauntlet, the weapon is quite boring and only useful for ranged attacks and blocking environmental hazards. Thera’s Bane takes center stage. There’s nothing better than engulfing enemies in flames while eviscerating them.
One of the main issues that caused some God of War fans to avoid the original portable games was the finger cramping PSP control layout. Ready At Dawn has kept the controls as tight and responsive as possible. Now that it’s controller friendly these games are more enjoyable than ever before.
When I was tasked with using the PSP’s nub to perform QTEs I often failed, but that wasn’t a problem here. Also, you’re now able to dodge using the right analog stick, an action not possible with the PSP. Kratos moves and attacks just as fluidly as he did in the original console games, which coupled with the game’s smooth framerates of 60 fps makes control a dream.
The one minor flaw is how magic is handled between the two games. In Chains of Olympus you hold R1 and press a face button to initiate a magic attack, which feels a little clumsy. In Ghost of Sparta, the magic is attached to the directional buttons on the D-pad. This is a better system, but sometimes I accidentally used magic when I didn’t need to.
In reference to Jurassic Park’s Dr. Hammond, the folks at Ready At Dawn “spared no expense” when creating the music, voice acting, and sound effects for both games. Both Linda Hunt and TC Carson return in full force as the narrator and Kratos, respectively. The swooshing of the Blades of Chaos/Athena sound suitably deadly on consoles and the magic sounds enliven a sense of divine power.
The God of War themes are fully orchestrated and sound great on a respectable sound system that belittles the PSP system. The Ancient Roman-inspired tracks fulfill their jobs of making you feel like a God-killing badass.
I put this last for a reason, folks. Let me tell you that I beat both of these games originally on the PSP, and at the time they looked incredible (and still do). However, the games do suffer when upscaled in high-resolution 1080p, especially Chains of Olympus, which was released three years ago. The textures look flat and muted, while impressive details are sparse. This was a handheld game, people.
Chains of Olympus looks much better and is similar to the HD version of God of War II. The game was released last year and it shows just how far Ready At Dawn has come with the power of the PSP. In this case I expect you came here for the story and gameplay, not the graphics.
God of War: Origins Collection is a great deal with a combined completion of 12-14 hours, and packed with plenty of extras. However, if you’ve played both games, there is no real reason to go back, unless you’re a diehard completionist. For those who didn’t experience these games because of the Carpel Tunnel syndrome-inducing PSP controls, then this is a pack that can’t be missed by any true God of War fan.