So as the title says, I recently sat down and went through God of War 1, 2, 3 and 2018 in sequence (I highly recommend trying the original two on PCSX2, they're a joy to play in upscaled resolution and 60fps), and there's a few things that stood out to me among them and how each one iterated on the other in terms of gameplay.
GOW: Now, this wasn't the first game in franchise that I played, that would be GOW2, but when I think back to the original trilogy, this is the one that stands most vividly in my mind. Each distinct level (shipwrecks, athens, the desert, the temple, hades) had such a strong visual identity was striking in its own unique way. And playing 2 first did not prepare me for the surprisingly touching way in which Kratos's story was unraveled, and the notes of Pathos Verdes III throughout Pandora's temple that mark his slow descent into madness, is probably my favorite instance of environmental storytelling in the game. Gameplay-wise though, this game is definitely the weakest of the lot, especially on higher difficulties. Most enemies do not get interrupted by any attacks apart from the slams, and some not even from that, and Kratos can be interrupted during every single point in his combo chain, which means you either need to keep rolling and chipping away with light attacks, or just spanning the light-light-heavy combo until you're done. Similarly, thanks to the above reason pretty much all L1 combos are useless in most cases. Magic is both extremely overpowered and extremely rare, which makes you automatically hyper careful with using it in case it's required for the next big encounter. Same for Rage of the Gods, extremely powerful, but can't be toggled and fills up slow. All in all, a fantastic game, but frustrating to play on higher difficulties.
GOW2: By far the best improvement this game got was the magic system. All magics cost less bar, and do less damage, but tactically are much more feasible to use in regular encounters. Cronos's Rage is in my opinion the best spell in the original trilogy just because of the simple utility it has: stunning enemies and opening them up to longer chain combos. Most enemies will still poise through regular attacks and interrupt you but utilizing spells enables you to pop off an occasional L1 combo and not feel like an idiot about it. And this might be me, but the QTE button timings in this one felt more forgiving a lot of times, and this could be due to the designers realizing that there should be some allowance for the player to actually enjoy what's happening on screen instead of frantically searching for the next prompt.
GOW3: In many ways, GOW3 feels very representative of the PS3 era. It contains so many of the things that were absolutely annoying in most cases but the developers felt obligated to add to every game. On the rails flying sequences, and an actual fucking musical rhythm game (wtf). This was also the first time they added an interactive companion for a short duration, but Pandora was pretty much the Ashely Graham of the game, getting caught in one trap after another and needing to be saved. It goes without saying that Atreus is an astronomical improvement. For gameplay, the L1 combos are shorter which makes it easier to execute and control them in combat, which is nice. Linking magic to weapons was an interesting touch, but none of the other weapons ever felt interesting or intuitive enough to be worth using, especially in tougher situations. A very annoying exception to this, of course, was the Nemean Cestus, which the game forced you to use whenever there were shield grunts, and in a boss fight as well. That was another problem with the game, it contains a bunch of gimmicks that it never really knows how to utilitze properly. The Nemesis Whip is used in exactly one area immediately after using it and never again. Helios' head is used to reveal illusory walls but barely any are in the game, and so on. The Blade of Olympus is also the least satisfying Rage mode in the games, it never seems to pack quite as much of a punch as the others did. All the complaining aside, I did enjoy the game, and it also introduced the troll riding and battering-ramming segments, which are a personal favorite of mine.
GOW(2018): Needless to say, this one is different from the previous three in several, very obvious ways. But what really struck me was how much was actually still similar, particularly where the Blades were concerned. Pretty much every variant of the original's moveset is still there, and turning L1s into Runics which are uninterruptible but still let you take damage is an excellent change. The quickstep is a much needed addition to the dodge roll that allows you to continue a combo while also avoiding attacks from uninterrupted enemies. Each subsequent game in the series has been better balanced for higher difficulty levels, and the borrowed Soulslike elements in this one has enabled it to be the best in this regard. The other big thing that this game changed was the removal of the jump, but honestly, I never really missed it that much, particularly since I was never much of a fan of the trilogy's platforming puzzles in the first place, especially where every one of them came with insta-death conditions. The puzzles are still there, but they're more deliberate and interesting this time, and jumping rarely added much of a tactical advantage anyway, so I'm good with it.
Anyway, those were my long, rambling thoughts about a series that I've loved since I was a kid, and love it and enjoy talking about it now more than ever. Thoughts, comments, disagreements? Love to hear it all.
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