God of War III picks up where God of War II left off, in the middle of a grand battle. Kratos, fully powered up, starts the game on Gaia as the titan scales Mt. Olympus. The titan’s body is a living environment and while you’re walking on her limbs cutting apart lesser enemies Leviathan, a watery hydra-like creature attacks. The fight begins with Kratos firmly on the ground, but Gaia and Kratos rotate during battle. You have to defeat Leviathan while climbing and hanging with the Blades of Athena as your only support. The twisting, constantly shifting battle is an impressive start. And it’s just a start. After Leviathan, Kratos scuffles with Poseidon who is the first of many top tier Greek Gods that will die in the hands of Kratos.
But, not before Kratos falls into Hades and loses most of his power when souls in the River Styx hungrily consume his energy. God of War III has a hint of Metroid syndrome. After the intro level you’re given the Blades of Exile (basically, Blades of Athena 1.5) and have to collect Gorgon Eyes all over again. Kratos’ “new” weapon has a magic spell attached to it which summons a phalanx of phantom Spartans to stab everything around him. The Army of Sparta spell is good for crowd control, especially elevator fights. Unlike past God of War games, each weapon has a built-in magic spell. Hades’ claws (guess who you get that from) lets Kratos summon a ghostly chimera and cerberus to attack for him.
In God of War III, Kratos can also carry items, which have their own energy meter. The yellow bar underneath the magic meter is for items. It increases when you collect Minotaur horns and rapidly refills when Kratos is idle. Apollo’s Bow is the first item you get. When you hold L2 Kratos can shoot arrows or charge the bow to release an fiery blast. Other items Kratos obtains include a “flashlight” that reveals hidden chests and boots that allow him to dash.
Here’s a list of weapons and items Kratos collects. Since this is filled with spoilers you have to highlight the text to read it.
Blades of Exile – the standard chain blade weapon with the Army of Sparta spell that summons a phalanx around Kratos as spears and arrows skewer enemies.
Claws of Hades – chained hooks that also allow Kratos to rip the souls out of enemies and summon creatures with his magic meter.
Nemean Cestus – gauntlets that shake the ground, disarm enemies carrying shields, and launch enemies in the air with the Nemean Roar spell.
Nemesis Whip – a swift weapon made by Hephaestus. You can keep the blades on the end spinning by holding square or triangle. Nemesis Rage, this weapon’s spell, shocks nearby enemies with electricity.
Bow of Apollo – shoots flaming arrows. When you hold square down the bow can launches a fiery blast that ignites enemies and certain background objects.
Head of Helios – this acts like a flashlight for dark areas and can reveal secrets when you shine the beam on spots with bits of gold dust. In battle, the head can stun enemies with a blinding light.
Boots of Hermes – lets Kratos launch enemies into a body slam and air dash.
There are also hidden relics to collect. These keepsakes from various Gods such as Zeus’ Eagle (infinite Rage of Sparta) and Helio’s Shield (triples the hit counter) can power up Kratos after you beat the game. God of War III has costumes too, which change Kratos’ stats and disable trophy collecting.
Players can switch weapons in real-time, but three out of the four tools of destruction Kratos obtains are chain blades. The Nemean Cestus, a pair of lion-faced gauntlets, are the odd weapon out and sacrifice distance for pure power. Kratos’ most basic weapon, the Blades of Exile, borrow moves from past games such as Tartarus Rage. Even some finishing sequences like where Kratos rips the eye out of a Cyclops are exactly the same. God of War III is familiar, maybe a tad too familiar, but there are few twists to the formula. God of War III has an on-rails vertical flying mini-game where you dodge structures and debris by moving Kratos side to side with the analog sticks. There are also a few elements that feel like a nod to other Sony developed games. One puzzle is a perspective bending area reminiscent of Echochrome and a small part at the end reminded me of Ico.
God of War III’s greatest moments are still grandiose boss battles. Each fight closes with a string of quick time events and a brutal death – often from another perspective. At the end of the first adrenaline pumping battle with Poseidon you watch, from Poseidon’s eyes, as Kratos pummels Poseidon into oblivion. It’s visceral, arguably the most violent death in the God of War series until you get further into the game. At the end of another fight, the camera shifts into first person when Kratos deals the finishing blows. Each time Kratos kills a God mankind suffers. Poseidon’s death makes the sea rise and flood cities. Will this stop Kratos’ lust for vengeance? Maybe not, but God of War III shows a less bloodthirsty side of Kratos through flashbacks to previous events all leading up to a fitting conclusion for the Ghost of Sparta.