Archive for April, 2010
Mount and Blade: Warband has a spectacular addition to the combat of the first.
This doesn’t seem like a huge deal at first, but when you’re locked blade to blade in close combat, it can give you the space you need to swing a bigger weapon, or get a good thrust.
Or you could be like me and accidentally drop your two handed sword in the last round of a tournament facing an opponent on horseback with a lance. Which sounds like a recipe for disaster, of course. But it wasn’t.
I got off my horse, let him run into a corner, and buddy, I kicked that horse hard. I kicked and kicked until it buckled as my foe launched thrust after thrust, unable to hit me. He hit the ground and started dodging, using his superior speed as best he could, but I wouldn’t give him a target. He’d wind up, and I’d step to the inside, around the lance, and I’d fucking KICK.
I kicked him into a corner of the arena, mercilessly delivering boot after boot to the nethers.
It was a drawn out battle, and he landed a few true strikes between the weak blunt taps at face to face range, but was almost completely unable to use his weapon.
If Mount and Blade: Warband had a crowd, it would have been cheering. Women would have been throwing handkerchiefs and, dare I say it, entire corsets at me.
Wercheg would have erected a bronze statue in my honor. It would show me in mid-kick, steel booted foot in the air. My opponent’s face was hidden by his helmet, but his eyes would show terror and pain, a confusion as to how he started in this noblest of tournaments and ended up in a world without dignity. His spear would be thrust outward, under my arm, effectively harmless. His shield facing down, but unable to lower enough to protect him.
It would be inscribed as such.
“HERE STANDS MONUMENT TO THE GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS OF SLASH OF CALADRIA, WHO FELL KING RAGNAR IN THE FINAL ROUND OF THE GRAND TOURNAMENT OF WERCHEG WITH NAUGHT BUT THE SOLES OF HIS FEET AND THE ENDLESS DETERMINATION OF THE HEROES OF LORE. FROM NOW UNTIL THE END OF TIME SHALL HIS EXPLOITS BE KNOWN, UNTIL THE LORD GOD DOES END THE WORLD SHALL CODPIECES WITHER AND FOLD MERELY BY HIS PRESENCE.”
It’s really, really disappointing.
God of War has declined since the first title, which only really had the flaws of repetition and the Hades sections.
God of War III has a lot of flaws and a few shining moments, ending up closer to Dante’s Inferno than God of War.
Graphically, there’s no question of the quality. And that may be the biggest flaw. So much is going on at all times on-screen that Kratos disappears into the middle of it, it ends up being difficult to tell just what’s going on sometimes. There’s not enough truly defined outlines, maybe an artificial outline should have been added. A little specular shading and rim lighting, for example, as used in Team Fortress 2 would have provided clear definition against the backgrounds and enemies that isn’t there.
It does manage spectacle at an unrivaled level, in gross detail. Everything about the game’s fights is huge. Kratos swings big swords in a 30 foot radius, the enemies he fights are 30 to 300 feet tall, and the methods of dispatch are nothing short of gruesome.
Unfortunately, the game itself falls to the spectacle. Combat isn’t solid, it’s loose and repetitive, button mashing being as advantageous as any strategy. There’s no sense of actual contact with an enemy, blades just spin in circles regardless of what they hit. Walls, blocking enemies, the sun, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Rather than feeling like an unstoppable monster, you just feel like you’re floating through the world.
Except when jumping. When jumping between platforms, players are forced to doublejump, immediately and always. Though any jump can be a double jump at any point in the jump, if it’s not done instantly it won’t count, and it’s back to the last checkpoint. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t help anything, it just annoys. Who knew that Dante would be the better jumper than Kratos? Not I, but both have been taking lessons from Simon Belmont. Six feet up, one foot forward. Yay.
Rather than fix the complaints of the QTEs, God of War III misses the point completely and moves the prompts to the side of the screen. It’s almost a good idea. At the top, triangle, bottom, x, you get the idea. The problem is players end up having to stare at the sides of the screen, and it’s particularly bad on a large screen, when it’s in peripheral vision instead of just a bit to the side. The other issue comes with it not always being immediately clear players need to mash the circle button, and the stick twisting prompts are often marred by the game being unresponsive to the input. The QTEs are hard to spot and don’t give a good window of time. Alas, if only they’d taken some cues from the excellent Heavy Rain.
The game’s camera has a tendency to be in the wrong spot as well, a real problem since players have no control over it. It likes to zoom in too close or too far, but always in a way that makes it hard to see Kratos, or hard to see what’s going around. Not that you always want to. Frankly, Kratos is the worst protagonist ever at this point. In the past he’d managed to inspire some sympathy at least, but now he’s just a psychopathic asshole and completely unlikeable. A good revenge story requires something people can get behind, and this doesn’t have it anymore. The story weakened in the second game, and in the third, well, it’s terrible.
In other bad changes, weapons and spells are tied together, though three of the four weapons have very few differences except for being a different spell, and one lets you hold the attack button to use a combo extending finisher, Bayonetta style. Aside from that, three are your standard chains, and there’s one set of big fat punchin’ gloves that really fail to satisfy.
There’s a few annoying escort sequences, though they end mercifully fast. Unmercifully long are the flying sequences, where Kratos heads up or down a ridiculously long tunnel, dodging debris awkwardly. It’s not fun, it’s not exciting, and it’s not really challenging, it’s just annoying and happens far too often. So do instant kill traps and pits. The game loves to kill players without warning in a way that requires ESP not to die. There’s a few puzzle-race sequences like that, where players WILL do them three or four times most likely to succeed, and they’re never short sequences. It’s always a drawn out series of lever pulls where anything short of perfection means starting over. Yet another flaw in a sequel full of them.
God of War III gets two stars. It’s not awful, but it’s more bad than good, and at the point it gets good, it’s over.