"God of War III": Story Review

WARNING: This review is only concerned with the story of a game. Even though the story is an important part of a game, by no means is it the defining component. A game with a horrible story may very well be one of the best games ever produced. It's just that my reviews are not about that.

SPOILER WARNING: The following text may contain spoilers for the people who have not finished the game in question yet. Reviewing the story sometimes makes such things inevitable.  


 

Idea:

God of War III goes back to the original plot element of Pandora's Box and questions the connection the whole series has with the original myth. Exactly how did Kratos kill Ares? What exactly was in the box? It's the classic story of the son rebelling against his father and eventually destroying him. As a symbol of change and progress fueled by hope, Kratos' journey seems like it would provide a good metaphor. However it's the inconsistencies that undermine this miasma of loosely related and not terribly original ideas. Apart from the impressively destructive consequences of the deaths of gods, there is nothing terribly interesting here. Putting ideas into Pandora's box is an interesting concept. So technically there is food here for the talented writer. However Asmussen fails to capitalize on these smaller ideas, and without a powerful central idea God of War III simply feels like it's missing something. 
 
Rating: 1 out of 2 
 
 

Setting:

God of War III takes place in ancient times, mostly in the area we know today as Hellas. This is a classic greek mythological tale in its more modern and brutal form. Instead of idealizing gods, it highlights them as petty, immortal beings of great power who see humans only as pawns in the cosmic game of chess which eventually proves to be quite shallow.  
 
Greek myth features one of the more humanized pantheons among the polytheistic religions of the world. It is one of the oldest soap operas in existence. At the time the people rooted for their favorite characters in the form of worship and followed their adventures intently. These stories provided the society with larger than life situations they can relate to. The setting of God of War may seem different but in truth it's the modern, revised version of the original setting for our own darker and cynical society. 
 
Its Achilles' Heel then is its blurry nature in terms of period. Simply put, the setting is pretty inconsistent with the original stories we have read from Homeros and Hesiodos. Is this taking place after all the myths we know, or is it a re-imagining of the whole myth? The setting relies on our knowledge of Greek myth but then casts Herakles as a petty, brainless brute. Hard to follow what the intent was. 
 
There are also a lot of inconsistencies between God of War III and former titles in the series. Several Gods look and function in a completely different way.  And now we learn that gods can have ghosts? Where was Ares' ghost all this time?
 
Rating: 1 out of 2


Characters:  

For a classic video game protagonist who murders anything that moves, Kratos was established as a pretty interesting character in God of War. There was a reason to his madness. This is a guy who carries the ashes of his family on his skin. He has the right the go insane... Yet Kratos had a purpose. He was in the service of Olympian Gods in order to redeem himself and the gods in turn were merely using him. Remember how the first frame of this story displayed Kratos right before he committed suicide.  
 
Barlog's story was more about what Kratos is doing than what Kratos is feeling. There was the sense of betrayal and the explanation to the reason why Kratos is capable of the things he does, both good and evil.  
 
Asmussen's Kratos feels insane. This Kratos is angry. He always was angry but this time it's different. Kratos' anger was rooted in a tragedy. This time he feels like a teenager who's just angry for the sake of being angry. He is the kind of guy who would burn a village just because he's cold. It is very hard to relate to a character like this. Back when we have first met, Kratos was a husband and a father who had accidentally killed his wife and kid, because of his own obsessions and disregard for sensitive advice. Normally the protagonist should evolve. Kratos here makes less sense than he ever did, even though he's still the iconic video game anti-hero he always was it is safe to say that he has devolved.
 
The antagonists and side characters do not fare better. Zeus does have sensible advice for Kratos but his method of delivering that advice is so stupid that it actually makes Kratos even more angry. One might argue that Zeus wants Kratos to kill him.  
 
The rest of the gods behave like homicidal maniacs or psychopaths with a disassociative identity disorder. Herakles especially behaves in a very uncharacteristic way. Greek myth describes him as more than a strong guy. He might be strong but most of his stories are about his intellect complementing his might. Just read the story about him and Atlas. Here he appears and attacks Kratos for an absurd reason. Of course there is a true reason behind this deformation of characters. Their sole purpose of existence is to get killed by Kratos.  
 
See, the story is structured as one long action scene. But more on that later... 
 
Rating: 1 out of 2 
 
 
Plot Structure: 
God of War III literally starts where God of War II ends. Kratos is climbing the top of the mountain and is about to face Zeus. That is his goal and the final destination of our story. Which is what God of War III is all about. Really.  
 
Here is the basic structure: Kratos climbs, Kratos slips and falls (into the Underworld... They really need to install a revolving door for him), Kratos climbs again. On the way he kills whoever is stupid enough to stand in his way.   
 
It is one man's journey to kill some other man. And that he does... He kills the father of all Gods and all the other Gods. Isn't it curious then that he needed Pandora's Box in the first game to kill Ares? Again the most important problem in this story is consistency. Conflicts raised in previous chapters get resolved in ways we could never have guessed. However the twist in this case is not a good one.  
 
Things do start in a promising way though. The moment Poseidon dies the seas swallow most of the earth. So we learn that each God represents their domain and when they die something happens to the world. Then we ask, why didn't anything like this happen when Ares died? Did Kratos instantly inherit his title? Like a walking cataclysm, Kratos kills each and every single god unleashing a natural disaster on the global scale with each kill. Despite the inconsistency, it's really a great hook. The audience wonders what will happen to the world after Kratos is done killing all the gods. This adds an additional mystery to the story. Obviously it's going towards some clever resolution. Or so we think... The parallels between Pandora and and Kratos' own daughter strengthens our hope.
 
In the end the world is almost destroyed, Kratos kills Zeus (more than once) and it turns out that the illogical behavior of the gods were caused by the fact that they are infected by the evils placed inside Pandora's Box along with Athena's own power: Hope.  
 
This resolution is problematic in many levels.  
 
For one, this is the first time the audience understands that abstract ideas can be placed in a box in this setting. We knew that Gods represented ideas but the thing in the box is literally an idea, not the personification of it. The audience had no way of knowing this. The mystery is resolved by a previously unknown and alien factor.  
 
More problematic is that the whole thing invalidates all of the character conflicts between the end of God of War I and God of War III by saying that all the important characters basically went insane when Pandora's Box was opened. So why were we following this story again? 
 
Rating: 0 out of 2 
 
 

Craftsmanship:  

 
Inconsistent design choices aside God of War III is artistically quite good. The writing will not give you anything to remember but there is also nothing to cringe at. That being said, Kratos' always angry voice starts to get annoying.  
 
God of War III cleverly retains the catchy theme melody and adds a new epic soundtrack. The music helps a lot in dressing this average story in a more epic armor, but is ultimately unable to save it from mediocrity. 
 
Part of the reason why the writing is not spectacular is that it doesn't have any opportunity to be so. In the few, less action heavy, emotional scenes Kratos gets, the writers fail to add more gravity to the situation by writing some exceptional dialog.  
 
When all is said and done the craftsmanship in God of War III does its job but nothing more. 
 
Rating: 1 out of 2 
 
 
 
OVERALL: 4 out of 10
(0-3= BAD, 4-6= AVERAGE, 7-10= GOOD)

Already Reviewed: "Infamous", "Batman: Arkham Asylum", "Wet", "Planescape: Torment", "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves", "Brütal Legend", "Heavy Rain",  "Alan Wake" , "God of War 3"

NEXT REVIEW:  Final Fantasy X
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