Chains of Olympus in , when I have a big backlog of highly praised current generation games and not nearly enough time to play them? I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would, and I also like the fact that I was able to play through it in essentially one day.
Even then the game felt padded at points, especially towards the end where it tosses lengthy arena sections in cramped quarters back to back to back, obviously re-using assets in order to ship a game that was more than 5 hours long.
What is notable about GoW: CoO is how irrelevant it feels in the culture. This was once a huge release, intended to drive the PSP to even greater heights in the West. But video games age differently than most media, and playing Chains of Olympus feels like excavating an artifact of the past.
Not the game experience itself, which remains competent, but its place in gaming history and culture. The first parts of the game felt very low-poly and ugly, and while I appreciated the big set-pieces they were going for and was impressed by some of the animation, I was definitely feeling some generation shock in the first hour or so.
However, in an effect not unlike eyes adjusting to a dark room and making it seem brighter, the game looked better and better as I played it, to the point where I barely noticed the blurry textures and simplified architecture in the later parts of the game. CoO definitely proved that point to me.
I was able to accept the game on its own merits and even find it impressive in places, while PS1 games mostly just look like a mess. I know this was a PSP showcase at the time, and they cleaned it up for the PS3 release, but I was still surprised at how little the dated graphics bothered me just a few hours in.
What had looked low poly and ugly 24 hours before now just looked like video game graphics to me, nothing particularly wrong with them. My expectations had adjusted to fit what I was playing and I was able to take it on its own terms. While the graphics held up okay for me, and the gameplay was fine, there are some choices that must have felt questionable in and 9 years later are flat out cringe inducing.
I would have shut my system off immediately if I had gotten to that part while playing on the train or bus. There is additional female nudity later in the game, and all of it feels gratuitous and skeezy.
Also, I had to try the sequence like five times to get it right, and only did it for the trophy, which I guess makes that literal trophy-whoring. Stories have never been the best part of God of War games, but the beginning of this game is almost at SNES levels of simplicity and suddenness.
The story does improve later, but it curiously seems to assume the whole time that the player is a God of War fan and already knows why Kratos is in servitude to the Gods and what his sins were.
In addition, despite the threadbare nature of the storytelling, there are times where the game overexplains itself, like when the narrator tells the player they are standing on the chariot of Helios and then Athena manifests to explain…that you are standing on the chariot of Helios.
The combat is okay, with enough magic abilities, combos, dodges, and parries to be engaging. The way Kratos kills the Persian king; smashing him in the head with the very chest of treasure he offered as a bribe, is both poetic and visceral.
Playing as Kratos has always been heavy on the power fantasy; where size or magical power can be overcome and conquered through sheer force of will and rage. That comes through in GoW: One thing the game is light on is true spectacle.
I am guessing this was a function of budget and PSP limitations. You have now gotten everything you need from this game story-wise. CoO today is how it shows the disposability of certain kinds of games. Chains of Olympus feels like just a little more ash on the wind.