Kratos murders everything he sees with his signature weapons, the Blades of Chaos, which were given to him by Ares. They’re basically two jagged swords, attached to chains that are wrapped around his wrists. Kratos attacks by throwing the blades, and swinging them around with the chains. With the single tap of a button, you can bear witness to incredible feats of dexterity, which become trite and mundane as you chain the attacks together into combos. He also uses these blades to climb walls, and pull down faraway objects. Sometimes, these objects are so far away, the chains seem to stretch unnaturally to reach them. It often makes me wonder where all that chain is coming from.
While you’re running around, murdering everything you see, you will find oodles of cloudy red stuff. It’s not quite blood, but more like collectible blood. The game refers to them as “red orbs”. You can use these orbs to upgrade the Blades of Chaos, as well as most other equipment and magic that you find. Upgrading an item improves its strength, and adds new abilities or combos. Once you’ve selected an item to upgrade, you pour all your red orbs into it, and then you use your newly-upgraded item to gather more red orbs. You can even earn red orbs from breaking stuff! It’s like we’re encouraging and rewarding Kratos for his habits. There are more than enough red orbs in the game to upgrade everything to maximum, so it’s not necessary to just go around, ruining everything. However, Kratos is very angry, so everything is going to be destroyed.
If there’s a caveat to the tried-and-true upgrading system, it’s that the first upgrade for the Blades of Chaos unlocks an ability that turns out to be a liability. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if you could decide not to use it. However, the game designers have made your decision for you, by means of sinning against intuition with their control scheme. Allow me to illustrate:
There are two issues with this control scheme, and a major problem results from the existence of both. The first issue is that once you start twirling, you can’t stop it. With most other attacks, you can cancel the move by blocking or rolling, but Kratos just doesn’t want to stop twirling unless he gets hit. The second issue is that this move is simply way too easy to execute accidentally. When up against stronger opponents, often the best strategy is to guard against an enemy attack, and then immediately counterattack before they strike again. This means you would be alternating between pressing L1 and Square. Since you need to react quickly, there is a good chance you would press Square before letting go of L1, which will result in an accidental dance that you cannot stop. The enemy, unfazed by your twirling attack, will hit you while you are spinning, and you cannot do anything to prevent it. The irony that this indefensible state was triggered in part by the block button makes this situation even more painful. As loath as I am to admit it, this happened to me more times than it should have.
The God of War series loves to prompt you to push buttons. Whenever a strong enemy is close to defeat, a peculiar giant O button will float above it. Pressing the O button (on the controller, not the floating one) will begin a quicktime event, prompting the player to push a series of random buttons to finish off the enemy. The God of War series started in a time when quicktime events were rising as a trend. Nowadays, a lot of people seem to hate quicktime events with an exaggerated level of passion, backed with some solid reasoning. While the quicktime executions seem nifty at first, they begin to wear their welcome as we realize that we’re performing the same execution moves over and over. The only thing that changes each time you engage the execution event is which buttons you push. While I can appreciate the random buttons as a means to keep the player alert, they ultimately distract the player from the execution itself. In one moment, I’m in combat, instinctively pushing buttons to attack, and reacting to my surroundings. Suddenly, I need to be shown what buttons to press, and all other visual stimuli becomes meaningless as I wait for the next cue. Everything I had paid attention to up until this point is now a distraction, and the immersion is broken as a result. It would have been better if the button prompts weren’t random, especially if the chosen buttons were more in context with what those buttons did in the rest of the game.
Throughout the game, numerous chests lie in wait. Most chests glow with a bright red, green, or blue. When Kratos painstakingly opens one, orbs matching that chest’s color will pour out and smother him. Some chests don’t have a glow, and these usually contain a gorgon eye or phoenix feather. Collecting five gorgon eyes will increase your maximum health, and five phoenix feathers will increase your maximum magic. These items have been around since the original God of War, and their function seems just as backwards as ever. A gorgon is a hideous creature that magically transforms people into stone people. A phoenix is a bird that comes back to life after burning to death. Why does the function of both body parts bear the properties of each other’s creature? Most likely, a designer demanded that their functions be more associated with their colors, rather than by logic. Once you collect a set of five, you immediately sacrifice them, presumably by twirling them about while chanting the name of Steven, God of Convenience. There appears to be way more chests containing these items than are required to fully upgrade your health and magic. Opening one of these chests after the final upgrade will yield an assortment of orbs instead.