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  1. Puzzle 2 of 9 Thanks PSNP, that was a valiant effort! There were some blistering speeds in the solve of that first one. I have seized Jane's laptop and brought it back to my office. When I entered the password, which was indeed: ...the laptop presented another puzzle. The completed first puzzle looks like this: To give you some context on how important I consider your help, be aware that my leads are fairly elementary at the moment: Kevin's bank account hasn’t been used for a month since he withdrew $3,000 from an ATM one block from the apartment. According to my banking inquiries, he has no other accounts except for some cryptocurrency and stock market investments that he buys into quite heavily. Otherwise, he usually withdraws his savings as cash. Jane has no other accounts other than the ones connected to the bank cards that were left behind. I've seized Jane and Kevin's mobile phones (they were left behind in the apartment) and am attempting to gain access, although I don’t have a code, so it is likely to take a few months while the computers brute force their way in. Neither Jane nor Kevin have additional phone numbers registered to them. I've got nothing at the moment to suggest that they have additional phones. I’ve also spoken with Robert Smith quite a lot. He is actually a Police Sergeant. He doesn’t like Kevin. He hasn’t approved of Jane's relationship since it began. Robert describes Kevin as a “stalker-type" that managed to trick his daughter into loving him. When I asked Robert more about this, he told me that Kevin met Jane at her Starbucks three years ago and had managed to move into Jane's apartment with her within a month of them dating. Robert does not have any other evidence of Kevin “stalking” Jane, but his gut feeling about Kevin has always been off. Robert has not approved of any of Jane’s boyfriends. Jane’s mother passed away from an autoimmune disease while Jane was four. Kevin’s parents died in a car crash five years ago. Neither Jane or Kevin have siblings or other close family. Neighbours describe Jane and Kevin as a quiet and sweet couple who make no noise, always smile when they pass in the hallways and elevators, and, once, Kevin came over to one neighbouring apartment to remove a mouse that had been terrorising the elderly owner. Some of my most immediate inquiries will include speaking with Jane’s employer and collecting CCTV from the aforementioned ATM and the area surrounding Jane and Kevin's apartment block. Good luck with the second puzzle. It looks like a Sudoku, which I hear are fairly simple for puzzle-lovers. Again, I’ve transcribed it to a website for those who can’t print it off, although it might just be easier for you to copy it down onto a piece of paper for yourself so that you’ll know where those little green question marks are. Good luck! - Vice Sudoku Welcome to the vault, Batman. A class of schoolchildren are locked inside and you only have 30 minutes to get them out. Figure out the numbers of my four Riddler Trophies and then arrange them in ascending order to unlock the vault: _ _ _ _ @DrBloodmoney @MAUSZX @DonFrancesco @Im2Fast_4U @DoctorDrPepper @YaManSmevz @rjkclarke @MattbluePT @HusKy @GuitaristZag
  2. I'm soooo happy and proud of you for smashing out those GTA V nightmares. Good for you mate 👊
  3. Disaster! You are both correct. I've fixed the puzzle. Thank you! @HusKy, you're in! I'll give some others a chance to catch up. I'm sure that Detective Vice will post the next puzzle when he's back in the office. That worked immediately for me and the died again. "Badasses" does indeed work, too! 😂
  4. Puzzle 1 of 9 Good morning PSNP Community. My name is Vice and I am the lead detective on a Missing Persons case. The case is four days old. In my experience, 90% of Missing Persons cases are solved in two days, and the other 10% become much harder to solve with every passing hour. Four days ago, Your Local Police Department were called out to a welfare check by Robert Smith, the father of Jane Smith. Jane hasn’t answered any messages or calls from Robert for three days which is reported to be extremely unusual. Robert was so concerned by this that he visited Jane’s apartment and let himself in with his copy of a spare key. Neither Jane Smith (22 years old) nor her boyfriend Kevin Lockwood (23 years old) were home. Jane’s phone and purse were still in the apartment. Kevin’s phone was left behind but his wallet, keys and car were gone. A laptop on Jane's side of the bed was still on (plugged in to the charger) and it displayed a puzzle with text that Robert found very disturbing. When officers from Your Local Police Department attended the apartment, they called the Missing Persons Unit, and that’s where I became involved. There’s a lot involved in this investigation and I can’t do it all, nor are there currently any additional resources at Your Local Police Department for me to call upon. The computer’s puzzle program appears to me to be a lead worth following. The puzzle appears to require significant knowledge of the video gaming industry and specifically mentions this forum, so I’m calling on your assistance as a community if you can grant it. Please help me. Below is a copy of the puzzle and the accompanying text. If you don’t have a printer, I have uploaded the crossword to so that you could complete it on a PC or phone; however, please refer back to this page when you’ve finished to help figure out the password! Good luck! - Vice 🕵️ 1/9 Jane, I'm going to do something absolutely insane. I’m afraid that you won’t like it. Since you came into my life, you’ve bent and twisted me out of shape… away from normality… and I’ve become something so much more... well... Please, help bring back some logic into my crazy, crazy reality; you’re going to play for our lives. Enter the passwords to advance. Across: 1. Something you add to your character such as a totem, amulet or ring; also, taking part in a homicide may make you an ________ to murder (9) 2. ____ Guys (4) 4. To lead a boosting session/to anchor a P2P multiplayer match (7) 6. Standard consumable item (6, 6) 10. The real waifu from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (4) 11. Worth 300 points on the leaderboard of (8, 6) 13. Game series released in 2009 from developer Sucker Punch Productions (8) 14. Spyro's design is instantly recognisable due to his colour, his size, and his conspicuous ___ (5) 16. Long-running sports franchise published by Electronic Arts (4) 18. Protagonist of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (6) 19. Popular hero shooter released in 2016 (9) 20. Well-known video game auteur (6) 23. When making a plan to unlock a platinum trophy, you should check this part of the trophy guide at (7) 24. “My name is Commander Shepherd, and this is my favourite ___ on the Citadel.” (5) 27. Praise the ___ (3) 28. A colourful card game now playable on PlayStation (3) 29. Protagonist of a series developed by Remedy Entertainment (and later Rockstar Studios) (3) 30. Currency in LEGO games (5) 31. Grand Theft ___ (4) 32. Allegedly, the very last one (7) 33. Doom, Battlefield and Call of Duty are well-known examples (5, 6, 8) Down: 1. Ellie’s voice actor in The Last of Us (6, 7) 3. Indie game by Heart Machine, Hyper ___________(5, 7) 5. The most influential series of rhythm games since Dance Dance Revolution (6, 4) 7. The infamous difficulty in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Mein _____ (5) 8. Developer of Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Uncharted and The Last of Us (7, 3) 9. Developer of King’s Field, Armored Core, and absolutely, without a doubt, nothing else at all. Honest. (4, 8) 10. Indie game notorious for its difficulty, ____ of the Necrodancer (5) 11. Madeline is on a quest to reach this place on Mount Celeste (4) 12. Developer of Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance and Marvel's Spider-Man (9, 5) 15. Batman is aided by allies in high places such as Police ___________ Gordon (12) 17. Bungie announced that they foresaw the Destiny franchise lasting this long (6) 18. Well-known fighting game franchise (6) 21. An indie game known for being the subject of multiple personal interpretations (7) 22. Geralt, Nathan Drake, Solid Snake... these PlayStation f*ckbois could all be described as _____ (8) 24. The PlayStation controller featuring motion sensor technology that was superseded by the Dualshock 3 (7) 25. Indie puzzle game by Lucas Pope, Return of the ___ Dinn (4) 26. Abby's favourite sport (4) 30. What you must do to this crossword, Jane, before progressing to the next puzzle (5) @DrBloodmoney @MAUSZX @DonFrancesco @Im2Fast_4U @DoctorDrPepper @YaManSmevz @rjkclarke @MattbluePT
  5. 10C Series: God of War (continued)... Boy! Your mother smells delicious. God of War [2018]: So a lot has changed. For starters: is that okay? Yes. It absolutely is. Contrary to my slow-moving and lumbering personality, I like it when games change and iterate at a fast rate. Some aspects of this series became very stale and this was such an inspired reboot. Santa Monica Studios clearly had a lot of passion for this new entry so that was more than enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt and go in with an open mind. How do the changes stack up? Some of my favourite things in the series have been removed: - Fixed camera. I was in love with this in the Grecian games. I am able to get over it with the incredible use of long-takes; the game very rarely hard-cuts away to new angles and instead combat, conversations, puzzles and exploration blend seamlessly with in-game cutscenes. In fact, does it hard-cut even once? The series went from boasting best-in-the-business fixed camera use to boasting best-in-the-business third person camera use, so I accept this as a fair trade! - Large-scale setpiece puzzle rooms are gone. They’re replaced with simpler puzzles that really just require you to throw the axe to freeze gears in place. That is a cool concept but it’s not used in interesting or intelligent ways. It’s a single step forward after multiple steps back. Puzzles: throw axe to freeze gear. Good job. 👍 Some new changes are definitely for the better: - Kratos’ re-design: This is the best-looking Kratos. I think it was DrBloodMoney who said it best: when you want someone to take you more seriously, grow a beard. Unlike Ascension, this game’s increased graphical fidelity didn’t just result in an increase in pixel count, but it sparked a full re-design based on the character’s fundamentals (think of the success of Crash Bandicoot 4 instead of the trappings of the N. Sane Trilogy). - New voice actor: Christopher Judge KILLS it in this game. A perfect re-cast! He brings such a humanity and fresh physicality (and restraint!) to the character. I’m really happy about this. - The axe: A new weapon accompanying the re-design looks great and feels fantastic as I have described in the Combat section above. Having the ability to recall it back a la Thor’s capacity to do the same with Mjolnir was an inspired choice that feels fun, ensures the combat flows smoothly, opens up move opportunities (like tripping up Draugrs when recalling the axe), and serves as a means to connect the player to the Norse mythology. - Better dialogue: one of the first really positive changes to really hit me over the head was replacing the shouting, snarly and fairly two-dimensional Grecian dialogue with realistic conversation rich in subtext and with emotional resonance. It's like night and day. For example: in the opening sequence, Kratos' chops down Faye’s chosen tree while Atreus watches and they burn it for her funeral pyre. In the words of lead developer Cody Barlog, the chopping down of that tree is a metaphor for Santa Monica Studios’ rebooting of this series. It has its own symbolism to Kratos and Atreus as well, and what Kratos doesn’t know at first is that the felling of that tree erodes the last of Faye's protective magic upon the family home which shielded it from the view of the Norse Gods. Atrues says, “the forest feels different.” Kratos replies, “everything IS different.” This simple dialogue has at least three meanings straight away in the first few minutes, let alone what else it indicates for their characters and relationship to those who are playing for the first time. This does seem like such a lacklustre example on paper as I read it plain, but it’s a lot more resonant as a player/spectator. For something to be so meaningful at the beginning of the game was an indicator for greatness. - And Kratos’ character development: which I’ve gone into in the first post in this series review (and might add some more insight down below). Some changes are just different: - The combat has changed a lot as I described above. - Atreus: A whole new character who is essentially always with you. Naughty Dog’s success with Ellie in The Last of Us proved that a glorified escort mission (a universally-disliked meme in gaming up until that point) proved that it can work throughout an entire game if: the player’s relationship with the escortee develops with the playable character, and if the escortee can’t be killed, and if the escortee occasionally provides clutch assistance to keep the player alive. Santa Monica were clearly taking notes because Atreus is a welcome addition to my God of War experience. - Replacing Greek mythology with Norse mythology: Greek mythology is incredibly rich and contains significant truths to the human condition as I described above, but the Grecian games introduced us to most of the key players and we killed all of them off, so it’s a welcome change to be exploring something new. Unlike what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have us believe, the Norse Gods were just as drunk, combative and whoremongering as the Greek pantheon, so there’s plenty of room for antagonism as the mythological tapestry is explored. Kratos: There was once a scorpion who wished to travel to the other side of a river. The scorpion asked a frog for help. He told the frog that if he gave him a ride across the river on his back, he would be rewarded. The frog protested, fearing the scorpion would sting him. The scorpion assured the frog that he would not sting him or they would both drown in the river. The frog agreed, but halfway across the river the scorpion stung him. The frog was mortally wounded and they both sunk to the bottom of the river and perished. Atreus: That’s sad. Why would the scorpion do that? Kratos: He was a scorpion. It is his nature to do harm. Atreus: Oh… that’s just what Mom used to say about the gods. Kratos: Your mother always spoke the truth. Enough stories. And at least one change is a lot worse: - The massive postgame grind. The mainline quest is really strong, the side content is a lot less strong, and the endgame grind soured the experience significantly for me. Truly, Sigrun was a great addition, and having a semi-open world to explore is not a terrible idea at all, but the grind was atrocious and the most significant factor for what is likely to seem like a controversial score from me for this game. Why in the name of Gaia’s fat arse is there a multi-hour grindfest at the end of this game? All of the Valkyrie bosses were near identical. I get that the Queen utilised all of their combined moves but this really fell flat. I thoroughly disliked the grind in Niflheim as it featured none of my favourite aspects of the game and everything that I didn’t like about it was magnified. Hunting the collectibles and completing tasks for lonely spirits had a significantly reduced emotional impact on me as a player and I found that my fatigue with the issues I have with the combat began to draw on me. Game Highlights (positives and negatives) - aka I want to talk about some other stuff briefly and this review is soooo long already so here comes the lightning round: The series’ staple of starting each game with an awesome boss fight continues. Baldur picking a fight and punching Kratos across the jaw half an hour after we put Faye on a funeral pyre had me on the edge of my seat... even though it kind of descended into a Dragon Ball Z punch-fest. The Greek and Norse God of War games as well as Dragon Ball Z’s Android & Cell sagas all explore issues between sons and their fathers. There’s more daddy issues here than your local strip club. In DBZ, Goku has spent extremely little time with his son Gohan between his training, time away from Earth and time spent in the realm of the dead. He wants the best for his son and pushes him to his limits out of love. Gohan’s desire to be depended on by the many father figures in his life is a key factor in his ascension. Vegeta has repressed all compassion due to his warrior culture and faux-patriarchal relationship with the warlord Frieza, so when he meets his adult son Trunks, his instinctual reaction is to push him away. It takes a lot of effort from Trunks and Bulma to push through his exterior for him to one day sacrifice himself to save Trunks and atone for his sins. Future Trunks grew up without a father and with Gohan as a mentor, so his journey involves coming to an understanding as to why his father never came back from the corner store with that pack of smokes. Finally, Doctor Gero’s hardcore relationship with the Androids and Cell is a warning to Goku and Vegeta about the dangers of fatherhood without compassion. Some of my favourite moments in God of War stem from great ideas and great acting. The introduction of the world serpent and his subsequent moving out of Kratos and Atreus’ path resulted in lowered water levels so that they could access the World Tree, and then again it moves once more to allow you to start accessing nearby islands to begin side questing content at your leisure. Super cool! I loved the moment where Kratos seeks the Light of Alfheim and enters a dimension where he can hear Atreus’ prayers to Faye where he wishes that Kratos died instead of her, and that Kratos doesn’t teach him anything. Atreus pulls Kratos out of the Light of Alfheim and yells in frustration about how long he was gone. There’s dozens of dead bodies around them and we discover that Atreus has incredulously held off waves of enemies while waiting for you. The player and Kratos are in sync in wonder at what has just happened. Magni and Modi are played by Troy Baker and Nolan North and their performances were so substandard that it's like they want to be a meme. They are both capable of a lot more but this was not one for the portfolio. Why does Modi have an Australian accent? Troy Baker and Nolan North are in another game... yay, I guess...? On that note, Mimir’s Scottish accent is very distracting. He is as unashamedly Scottish in this Scandinavian realm as Sean Connery is in... every movie he’s ever been in. I'm a Russian with a Scottish accent. I'm Irish... with a Scottish accent... I’m a Spaniard pimp on an Arabian horse with a Scottish accent, because there can be only one! Mimir's stories in the boat are great: “It begins in an ocean of blood-...” Kratos: “finally. A story worth hearing.” ... but Kratos’ stories in the boat are legendary. His retelling of some of Aesop's fables are blunt and to the point, such as the hare and the tortoise who “make a wager on who could run faster. The tortoise wins.” Atreus stunned silence afterwards with a “... that’s not a story” comment sold what is one of many fantastic exchanges between the two. It comes full circle at the end of the game when Atreus wants to know why Kratos gave him that name instead of Faye’s choice of ‘Loki,’ and Kratos recalls his Spartan friend Atreus' joy and sacrifice, and his son says “you actually told a good story!” A good story it really is. I looked up another that I recalled poorly so that I could quote it: Kratos: There was a horse. The horse sought vengeance upon his enemy - a stag. But he could not kill the stag alone. The horse met a man; a hunter, and made a deal. He took the man’s bit and bridle, and allowed him to ride in a saddle on his back. Together they killed the stag and the horse tasted victory. But the hunter would not release the horse and made a slave of him. Atreus: So getting revenge cost him his freedom. Hope it was worth it. Kratos: It was not. I love Brok and Sindri! They’re hilarious! I love that Kratos curbstomps healthstones to use them. I loved this moment right here: And there’s the realm between realms: ...which, as we all can tell, is just a loading screen, right? But then there’s that bit at the end where Kratos and Atreus are locked out of Jotunheim because Kratos had broken the portal during a fight with Baldur, so Mimir has to think reaaaallly hard about a different way to get to Jotunheim. They go to Tyr's Temple and figure out that Tyr had a secret back door through the realm between realms, so you end up getting to the final destination by going through the loading screen! There’s a lot to love in this game. When I first saw this bird I thought it was the real Gatekeeper of Helheim that Kratos was instructed to kill to save Atreus... Nope. Then I thought: ‘wait! That’s the Valkyrie Queen!!’ ...wrong again. Needless to say I was disappointed that I didn’t fight this thing. Then I thought: ‘oh my god! There was a bird like this in God of War II!’ ...But that’s not it either. Apparently it’s Hræsvelgr, guardian of Helheim whose four wings are attributed to the cold winds in this realm of the dead. When Kratos sees Zeus’ head giving him the evil-Mufasa speech later in the level, I thought that this was just meaningless framing to take advantage of there being something cool in this level's background. Now that I know that this bird is a four-winged eagle in the land of the dead, I can see a direct relationship to Zeus who could transform eagles in the Grecian games. Please Santa Monica: let me fight this thing as a symbol of Kratos’ continued regrets/coming to terms with killing his father. This is a goldmine of emotional material! Other theories for where the series will go from here: - Faye's ashes will re-awaken the giants... maybe. - Baldur came to Faye's home to see HER, not Kratos. He mistook Kratos for a giant (“I thought you’d be taller... your kind think you’re so much smarter than us” - he’s not talking about the Greeks, he’s talking about the Jotunn!). Did Baldur and Fey have a relationship? Atreus and Baldur do have similar hair, and Atreus' anger/strength and god-status would still be applicable if he was Baldur’s son... 🤔 - Kratos may die if he ever truly finds atonement and Atreus/ may have to take on the torch as the next God of War. - Are Kratos and Tyr, the Norse God of War (aka God of Peace) the same person? The world serpent is supposed to be one of Loki’s offspring, so maybe there will be some time travel in this series? - Egyptian Gods are a certainty for this series at some point. Hopefully there’s enough time passed after the Norse games to allow the series room to breathe and reboot again. Time travel would be essential for this to take place as they predated the Norse gods. - Two of the Sisters of Fate are still alive - they’re trapped in the mirrors where Kratos left them in the Temple of the Fates in God of War II. I could see the end of the Norse period re-visiting the 'digging up of the Blades of Chaos' scene on a larger scale by having Kratos return all the way to Greece to find the Sisters to gain the ability to go back in time. He’d have to face Zeus again if he went back in time... ________________________ Clearly God of War [2018] has a lot going for it. There’s some great ideas and the fresh combat is enjoyable. Spectacle, clever level design, awe-inspiring boss battles and playing with scale by making this behemoth of a man look miniscule on the chessboards of the gods are all staples of this incredible series. The newer reliance on deeper and relatable characters is definitely welcome and well-received, but the resonance of Kratos' actions is due to the pedigree of this outstanding series which is ultimately a long chain of awesome moments. God of War I, II and III were all Game of the Year nominee pedigree, if not outright winners in the eyes of many. Gaming journalists. They strike again! The older God of War games were better than they have been remembered. [2018] hits harder because of this history, not in spite of it. The newest entry is not “The Game of the Generation” in my eyes, but it definitely is a welcome evolution and modern reboot in a franchise that continues to pay dividends. God of War [2018] outsold the rest of the series combined, which means that there are likely to be more people playing this game who haven’t played anything else in the series than there are returning fans. That is criminal. I thoroughly recommend that fans of God of War [2018] at least play the original trilogy. ___________________ If you read through that whole thing: thank you. I put a lot of time and effort into this one. This series has some real highs. ... Maybe one day I could even be convinced to review this other gem (anyone else played it to death?) Now THAT is a 10/10! ❤️
  6. 10B Series: God of War (continued)... "Square, Square, Triangle" The Grecian games’ combat was innately semi-stylish but it didn’t promote the use of the most stylish attacks. The combo metre was almost pointless. It increased the amount of experience orbs that you receive for kills but this didn’t translate into enough of a motivating factor for me to focus on pushing up the counter. Also, in those pre-Arkham Asylum days, enemies rushed and attacked Kratos without any rhythm so getting soft stun-locked happened far too often. When you put all of that into a blender, you end up with a combat system that doesn’t want you to study it to become a better or more intelligent or more stylish player; the combat in the Grecian games requires you to be as offensive as possible to lower the enemies’ health points enough to begin the Quick Time Event finishers. The QTEs are heavily encouraged because you are invincible to attacks, the animations are highlighted with a zoomed camera effect and there is a large orb/health/magic reward upon successful QTE executions. Ghost of Sparta Ascension Holistically, the Grecian combat is still very strong compared to most 3rd person action games, but it’s not perfect. I do thoroughly enjoy it, though. God of War My biggest gripe with those games is that not all weapons were created equal. In almost all of those six games, only the Nemean Cestus (the gauntlets acquired from Hercules in God of War III) and the Arms of Sparta (the alternative weapon in Ghost of Sparta) hold a candle to the Blades of Chaos. The Claws of Hades from God of War III look sweet as hell but they don’t stack up on a power ranking. Ghost of Sparta's 'Arms of Sparta' By 2018, Kratos not only had to contend with his own history of rehashed combat iterations, but also the likes of the successful Batman games and WB Games' copy-pasting it into other IPs that featured camera angles that pulled back during brawling combat. Like it or not, a new over-the-shoulder camera angle was essential to revamp the combat system for this series. You are Kratos. The Leviathan Axe is a perfect compliment to this change because it starts as an up-close-and-personal weapon alongside bare-knuckled fisting (*ahem*). This is because the first few hours with the axe revolves around combat with enemies that are still sensitive to having an axe thrown at them. They go down easy in the early game and you can still trip them up when recalling the axe. After those first few hours the illusion wears off. Enemy health points scale upwards on a stat-based system. Where once your axe was sharp and dangerous, it soon becomes as effective as a flaccid dildo against enemies that outlevel you. I think that something as simple as dumping a truckload of blood into the game would work wonders from this over-the-shoulder perspective. Seeing the axe actually cleaving enemies into pieces (as it would when someone as big as Kratos turns on the maximum effort) with blood spurting out could then have a paled comparison by only yielding little splashes of blood from a small cut (complete with alternative thudding sounds and a shorter-length controller vibration) against tougher enemies. Instead it reached a point for me where I stopped feeling powerful. Another issue that I have is that powers have cooldown timers (combat felt to me to be waiting/dodging/blocking until the timers were satisfied) because to me they were the highlight of combat and their damage was the most significant. And another issue is that the lethality of enemies when they fall behind you drastically drops off. I think this was a conscious decision to prevent player complaints about the over-the-shoulder camera change. Coupled with a red-coloured sensor around Kratos’ midriff that alerts you to an attacking enemy behind you, it became an easy ‘hack’ to just turn Kratos’ back on the most dangerous enemies because they’d attack less often. God of War's indicator of impending damage coming from the rear. A massive positive addition to the game is the stance system which opens up additional abilities for your two weapons and I like that the shield, fisticuffs and Atreus’ bow skills all received a fleshed-out upgrade tree and had sufficient balancing to make them all viable in some situations but not ideal for others. It’s worth noting that by the time you unlock the Blades of Chaos you will have already completed the skill trees for the axe and shield. The inability to use the axe in Helheim was essential to prevent what we all did in the Greek games and use the default weapon purely because you already know the controls and have been upgrading it for the whole game. This forces you to become acquainted with the alternative weapon system. Both the Greek and Norse combat styles are – just like the narrative choices – representative of their contemporary gaming cultures. I really find it hard to compare them to each other to determine an objectively better system. I think that: - The Leviathan Axe is the best weapon in the series (and the throwing/recalling inspiration from Mjolnir in pop culture is key to that), - The Norse combat suffers from being the first of its kind for this series; it has those teething problems. - The appeal of the Norse game’s combat seems to have worn off a bit for me, but I attribute this more to a pacing issue and over-reliance on combat to pad out game time in between what I thought was the real meat of the game (Kratos and Atreus’ developing relationship on their quest). - The 5 Greek sequels failed to address its own teething problems and failed to iterate. It also had balancing issues with the choices of weapons, but it was more... satisfying... for me as a player. _____________________ God of War [2005]: The first time that I even became aware of this series was when I was hanging out with a friend. We went to a games shop, he bought some stuff, and we went back to his house. He booted up God of War Remastered on his PS3 and started playing it. I was mesmerized. The opening level is strong. You start playing on a ship that has run aground in the middle of a storm. The head of a massive hydra repeatedly bursts through the walls of the ship to try to eat you and you even manage to defeat it (or so you think). You continue to fight human-sized enemies as you run, climb and swim your way through the destroyed ship. You meet the captain (who has a recurring minor role throughout the first two games) who is wearing a key for his quarters, and inside his quarters is booty. But! The hydra returns! You had defeated one head but now three heads want to eat you. You watch as it swallows the ship captain. Defeating the hydra for good requires you to blind the heads by cutting their eyes and then impaling them on the broken mast of the mainsail. This is the first boss battle for the series and it’s awesome. Upon finally defeating the hydra you have to enter its mouth and run down its gullet to find the ship captain. He is alive and trying to find purchase on the slimy throat instead of falling into the hydra's stomach acids. Rather than helping him up, you rip the key off of his neck and throw him back down the hydra’s throat... I knew I needed to get this game myself. One of the best things about the Greek games is the fixed camera and how it relates to large scale settings. Fixed cameras were an inspired choice made at the commencement of the series’ development. My suspicion is that they were chosen to have the least amount of impact on the PlayStation 2’s dying hardware at the end of that console’s cycle. A byproduct of that decision is that the camera’s fixed placement provides focus for the level designers to create only what they want the player to experience. The world around Kratos receives significantly greater attention to detail. Large scale settings are given greater depth and breadth when you run along a bridge for 20 seconds and become smaller and smaller in the distance. It’s such a simple design choice on paper but it the translation to the first-time player can be jaw-dropping. If I had the choice, I’d have more AAA titles utilise fixed cameras. Level design is not something that I usually thought about in anything except platformers. That all changed when I played the first God of War. One of my favourite parts of the game is the temple that guards Pandora’s Box. It is chained atop the titan Cronos who is cursed by Zeus (his son) to wander the Desert of Lost Souls (to me this evokes the tale of Atlas as well as that of Sisyphus). Kratos finds Cronos in the desert, climbs him and enters the temple. The design of the temple is based around a circular room in the centre. The room has one door and a gear lever. You interact with the gear level to move the central room so that the door re-aligns with other arterial paths. In each arterial path you unlock further means to progress before working back to that central room to work the lever gear and take a new path. You’re in that temple for over an hour and you’re playing under the illusion that you’re in this massive labyrinth on the back of a moving titan and that it has been fully modelled together (and not what actually is: fragmented linear paths that load and de-load quietly in the background of the game). It is an odd thing to have your disbelief suspended in that way. I fully believed that there was a large pool of water in this massive chamber and relished the thought of scaling the exterior of this mountain on the back of a moving titan. The developers were clearly proud of Pandora’s Temple (it takes up about 50% of the game); the fictional architect within the lore who built the labyrinth for Zeus is brought up repeatedly. You find the architect’s sons who are buried on top of the paths of progression and you have to remove their heads and use them as keys. Their tombstones read that the architect regrets that he neglected his family in creating the labyrinth in service to the Gods. Sounds familiar to our pale friend, no? Puzzles, exploration and combat blend together with perfect pacing in this Temple and it is a shining example of level design WAY beyond its time. Never before and never again until I played a FromSoftware game (Bloodborne) did I ever take repeated moments to appreciate the illusion of an interconnected level design. You are repeatedly circling back to earlier areas with new abilities or perspectives that open up additional pathways. FromSoft games would call these ‘shortcuts.’ The first Ratchet & Clank game does this a bit as well where the level designs on the individual planets are circular in shape so that getting to your objective lands you back at your ship and ready to leave, but you still have overt loading screens in between planets. I’ve also never played a Metroidvania, so God of War was truly an eye-opener for spectacular level design and it does not receive anywhere near enough credit for it for how good it really is. Another example: early in the game you come across a gravedigger on the outskirts of Athens (which is under siege by Ares himself). The gravedigger tells you that he is there to help you except that it’s not the right time... yet. It seems strange but ultimately it’s a distraction from your goal and it’s just off to the side so you don’t really pay it any mind. Much later in the game Kratos is killed and you have to fight your way through the depths of Hades’ Underworld. The general level design in the Underworld propels you forwards and slightly upwards as you fight through hordes of the dead. Right at the moment that you reach what appears to be a dead end - when you can’t possibly fight off any more enemies - a rope falls down from above. You climb up and up and up this rope in-game until you push through the grave that the man had been digging the whole time. This brings you right back to the outskirts of Athens at the perfect place to begin combat with Ares in the final Act. Absolutely incredible. This also feeds back into the player’s sense that you are infinitesimally small in the eyes of the Gods. This gravedigger is an agent of Zeus just like Oracles that you’ve met have been agents of Athena and how you are an unwilling agent for Ares. The gods are playing 3D chess in this series and you are a very small and angry pawn. History repeats itself for Kratos and the Ship Captain in Hades' Underworld. 😂 The final boss fight is in three phases. In the middle phase you are flung into Kratos' inner psyche. Your wife and daughter hold each other in fear and you battle a hoard of other Kratos who are trying to kill them. Your wife and daughter have a shared health bar. You use the button (the button you use to begin QTEs for finishers on enemies) to hug them and transfer your health to them. This is great synchronicity of gameplay and story, and the juxtaposition of the uses of the button is very clever. Picking up the Sword of the Gods was, again, ingenious. I walked on that sword earlier in the game because it is a giant bridge! The first game is about 6-8 hours long and everything that I have described or shown you is almost completely back-to-back throughout the campaign – it’s a constant stream of great ideas, setpieces, arenas and concepts separated by the stylish and rewarding combat. This game is truly something special. It is a tour de force. Rewatching a full playthrough to pull screenshots for this review reminded me just how many different gameplay mechanics are packed into this beast. Previously I hadn’t picked up on the degree to which the first game is inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, so that kind of forces me to compare it to Nathan Drake’s outings. The PS3 Uncharted games have nothing on the variety, adventure, world-building, world and level design, art direction, passion and talent that is on show in the first God of War. If you only ever raid one tomb in gaming, this is the one. I remembered this game being ‘really good,’ but it’s so much better than that. God of War II: Meanwhile, I cannot see why God of War II is given so much praise as a leap forward for the series over the first game. It is hailed as a follow up that exceeds the prior instalment in every way, like it's God of War on steroids, but I can’t help but see it as a poor cousin that never escapes the large shadow of that first game. I disagree with the masses: very little about this game is on par with the first in regards to the things that matter the most, namely: - Story concepts and delivery. - Character depth. - Realistic and meaningful dialogue. - Art design also took a step back. In God of War II, we visited the following locations: a generic Greek city, a blue cave, a green bog and the Temple of the Fates (another area with generic Greek architecture). The least impressive areas from the first game exceed the most eye-popping locales in the second game. - Combat features a couple of quality of life improvements but nothing to push the series’ combat forwards in a meaningful way. - Level design. The opening levels of both games are both very strong in regards to actual level design and spectacle. I think that Rhodes and its battle with the Colossus is great but it doesn’t exceed the sinking ships and the battle with the Hydra. The Steeds of Time and the path to the Sisters of Fate are again very good compared to non-God of War peers but the Temple of Pandora on the back of Cronos was exceptional. Battling the Colossus of Rhodes The Steeds of Time. Why do I like it so much that the fixed cameras in these games make Kratos so small? Where this second game does improve is the puzzling and platforming as well as clearly ratcheting up the fidelity and cinematography of the cutscenes. It also has twice the amount of boss fights as the original. The Greek mythological tapestry is rich with multiple heroes and tragic figures questing for their own revenge, atonement and Macguffins simultaneously. It was a really clever idea for Kratos to come across others on their own odysseys in God of War II. You defeat the following characters who are trying to beat you to the Sisters of Fate: - The Barbarian King that had defeated Kratos before he sold his soul to Ares and who obviously seeks to return to the land of the living with his barbarian army. He is a particularly great encounter because of the callback to the first game (he even summons the dead ship captain to help him). - Euryale, a sister of Medusa who died at the hands of Kratos. She seeks to bring Medusa back to life. - Perseus who seeks to revive his lost lover. He can turn invisible so you have to watch for his footprints in ankle-high water. - Icarus who is generally depressed by his lot in life, and - “The Last Spartan,” who Kratos fought alongside in Rhodes and eventually mortally wounds before he discovers his identity. He was seeking the Sisters of Fate to undo the destruction that Zeus imparted upon Sparta in his malice towards Kratos. The Perseus and Last Spartan boss fights shine due to breaking the mould (even though both fights can be cheesed). One of my favourite puzzles for the series is in this game. A translator doesn’t want to tell you how to reach the Sisters of Fate. He jumps to his death when you see him so you have to freeze time with an item to grab him before he jumps. This puzzle is immediately prior to the translator puzzle, and again - highlight! The scale of the first game returns to a (marginally) lesser degree but it is still spectacular. Foreground: the defeated kraken. Midground: a phoenix. Background: a large phoenix-shaped structure that houses the Sisters of Fate. The skybox appears to me to be reminiscent of a phoenix, what do you think? Atlas, the titan charged with holding up the world. The Pegasus flying combat sections did not age well. They had style but no substance at all. There is no ability to see what you’re doing due to the camera angle, riding into the sun, a lack of depth perception and constant screen shaking. The main issue that I have with God of War II is that it has the special distinction of being the game that reduced all of the depth that Kratos had in the debut down to the one-note character that people remember of him. He yells and snarls for the entirety of this game and the downward trend continues in God of War III. It’s quite off-putting. I really think this game was a step backwards where it mattered. God of War III: How many games out there have more FLAIR and spectacle than this bad boy? The visual spectacle of this game is unparalleled in the Grecian games. That’s a given. That is the benefit of putting a career artist at the helm of a game’s development. The cinematography is special here. The opening hour is like a summer blockbuster. The boss fight with Poseidon is my favourite fight in the whole series. The next setting is Hades Underworld which is redesigned to more appropriately represent an underworld that is physically below the land of the living. The bodies of recently-dead mortals fall from the land of the living into the River Styx like rain. Soon after this is the boss fight with Hades, which, again, is visually spectacular. I very much enjoyed the colour palette of all things. The arena was intentionally claustrophobic to heighten the tension brought about by Hades’ affinity for area of effect attacks. I was so taken by the cinematography, spectacle, art direction and visual flair that I actually bought a book of this game’s concept art. Here’s some more examples of what this game gets right: "Hermes Run" From The Art of God of War III: "The cut [of the dress] was also meant to suggest the tails of some very decorative fish as well as something a little unashamedly labial." Concept art for the final fight with Zeus Massive-scale boss fights return and are even grander. Best of all, puzzles in this game reach a series’ high in regards to size and complexity. Hera’s water garden puzzle (a tribute to M. C. Escher) is probably the best. If you like this puzzle, try the game Echochrome! The final fight with Zeus features a battle in Gaia’s chest beside her heart. Zeus was raised there during his childhood while avoiding his father (Cronos was eating all of his children). Chalk drawings are visible on the walls like cave paintings. Killing Zeus begins a sequence where you hit to bash his skull in as the screen fills up with blood. You stop when you are ready to stop. Meanwhile, the dialogue and any depth to Kratos’ character continues to diminish. I don’t mind the violent acts so much because I’m the one who is complicit in them (I share that moral burden with Kratos because we committed the crimes together), but every time Kratos opens his mouth I start to cringe. God of War III’s soundtrack is the best in the series. The “epic Greek chorus” is only outdone in this big ad, whereas God of War II shoehorned in the same piece of distracting music as often as possible (do you remember “pour kettle, POT OF TEA, pour kettle, POT OF TEA! Gooooood iiiis Willllisss, WILLIS! WILLIS!! Pour kettle, pot of tea, doonah" ? Because I’ve heard it so much that I am about to enter into a pact with Athena to see if she’ll end my torment. WILLIS! WILLIS!! Pour kettle, pot of tea, doonah! Chains of Olympus & Ghost of Sparta: Both of the PSP games were must-plays for their pre-Vita handheld but they are battling to stay relevant on the big screen. Chains of Olympus in particular is the weakest game in the series. At best it is ‘more of the same, but smaller and jankier.’ Its worst feature is a story that didn’t need to be told and which suffers from unresolved central plot threads. The game has two positives. The smallest of them is probably one of the cheekiest trophies that I’ve unlocked. The first two God of War games featured a weak gameplay element where you occasionally had to cross wooden beams with a minigame about keeping your balance. Chains of Olympus places one of these about ten minutes into the game. Upon crossing it successfully, you unlock a collectible trophy: “All Beam Walks Completed.” It gave me a good midnight chuckle. The best thing about this game is at the end. When you find your daughter Calliope in the Elysian Fields she holds onto your leg and refuses to let go. You know that you have to leave her (forever) because failing to do so will result in the destruction of the world (which includes her). You have to mash the button in the same manner that you mash it to kill enemies in QTEs to pry and push her away from you while she holds on desperately to your leg. This is obviously quite meaningful and it’s a fantastic touch. Again, that subversion of the use of the was noted. Ghost of Sparta is a lot stronger than Chains of Olympus in the story, combat, art design and level design departments. There are some interesting inclusions and interpretations of Greek Myths here. Kratos sinks Atlantis, is an indirect factor in the downfall of King Midas (the man with the power (or curse) of turning things to gold), and we actually visit Sparta and walk amongst her citizens for the first time. The sinking of Atlantis The death of King Midas This is Sparta! God of War: Ascension: Ascension is the black sheep in the God of War family because: - It released after an epic conclusion to the series. - The gameplay failed to add anything worthwhile. It didn’t evolve to avoid franchise fatigue. - The story was pointless. It wasn’t a tale that needed to be told. It can be boiled down to this: Kratos is hunted by The Furies for breaking his oath to Ares. The Furies try to capture him for imprisonment and succeed by casting illusions over his mind. He breaks free and meets a man who is the personification of his oath to Ares. He kills the man (despite having a friendly relationship with him) which means he has truly broken the oath ‘for realsies.’ That’s it. - It included a substandard and forgotten multiplayer mode. The opening sequence - a prison break and a boss fight with Hecatonchires - is the best part of the game. Platforming on the statue of Apollo and the boss fight with Alecto are also strong sequences, and another favourite part of mine is activating the three giant snakes at the Tower of Delphi. Psssh, it took Goku a whole year to make it to the end of Snake Way. I did it in 30 minutes. Likely due to criticism of how unrelatable Kratos was in the prior game, he is more reasonable in Ascension to the point that a cutscene specifically acknowledges Kratos pushing a mortal out of the way of an enemy's spear. Thankfully, missing from Ascension for the first time is the sex minigame. I don’t think there was a point in the series where that wasn’t severely cringe-inducing. It is amazing how ugly Kratos is in Ascension. He is just horrific to look at. He looks like Sweet Tooth from the Twisted Metal franchise. However, Ascension’s biggest sin is just a lack of passion. The developer’s fatigue is so contagious that it was printed onto the disc when it went gold. The series ran out of steam and the lack of excitement from critics and players alike is directly responsible for the lengthy gap between this outing and the reboot. In one word, Ascension is ‘uninspired.’
  7. 10A Series: God of War #9 (PS3) God of War, 9/10 #10 (PS3) God of War II, 7.5/10 #20 (PS3) and #70 (PS4) God of War III, 8.5/10 #109 (PS3) God of War: Chains of Olympus, 5.5/10 #110 (PS3) God of War: Ghost of Sparta, 6.5/10 (PS3) God of War: Ascension, 6.5/10 #75 (PS4) God of War, 8.5/10 God of War is a series dating back to the twilight years of the PlayStation 2. The 2018 reboot received widespread critical acclaim for many reasons, one of which was that Kratos was allegedly given some depth for the first time in the series. Complete tosh! There was plenty of depth in the Grecian games. The 2018 reboot primarily succeeds due to the emotional resonance that stems from the series’ origins - not in spite of them. Let’s explore this and simultaneously praise all of the great aspects about this series. Pretty much all of this titan-sized series review is haemorrhaging spoilers. This series struggles from a particularly bad simultaneous combination of prequel-itis and outsourced-to-another-studi-osis. Also, the narratives in the Grecian games utilise non-linear storytelling as well. The story at the heart of the series therefore requires a little bit of re-structuring (and Kratos demands that his tragic backstory be heard in between your combos of , , ). So let’s begin with a chronological synopsis of who Kratos is, what he done did to deserve his demons, and the general backdrop of the Divine Realms upon which this series dares to dance. The Many Lives and Deaths of the Ghost of Sparta: Flashbacks from God of War: Ghost of Sparta: Kratos and his brother Deimos are sons of Zeus and a human woman named Callista. To avoid the wrath of Zeus’ wife Hera, Kratos and Deimos were raised by Callista in Sparta. In a time when Greeks were subject to infighting and invasions from neighbouring civilizations, Spartans glorified proficiency in battle, and throughout Kratos’ formative years he learnt that the most effective means to his ends were those with maximum violence. Zeus feared a prophecy that he would be killed by one of his sons – a “marked warrior.” Ares (the God of War) and Athena were therefore dispatched by Zeus to kill Deimos as he had a conspicuous red birthmark over his left eye. Kratos attempted to protect Deimos so Ares struck him in the face which left Kratos sporting a large scar over his right eye. Kratos also tattooed himself with red ink to match Deimos’ birthmark. Deimos (on the floor) is Greek for ‘dread’ (also, 'dei' is latin for 'god'), and Kratos (on the left with the spear) is Greek for ‘pale tantrum.’ Flashbacks from God of War [2005]: Kratos married a Spartan woman and then fathered a girl – Calliope – and his unnatural drive combined with a thirst for and skill in battle led to him rising the ranks of the Spartan Army until he commanded it. The Spartan Army fought an invading force of eastern barbarians. Kratos and the barbarian leader found each other on the battlefield and Kratos lost the exchange. In a dying breath he prayed to Ares and promised his soul to the God of War for the power to win this battle (and all subsequent battles at Ares' bidding). Ares granted this wish. The barbarian army was destroyed. Kratos entered into that pact of servitude to Ares and Ares bestowed the Blades of Chaos upon him. The Blades of Chaos – burning blades bound to Kratos’ forearms by the chains of his servitude to the God of War. Metal AF. Multiple bloody campaigns ensued in Ares’ name. In an unnamed village Kratos slaughtered anything and everything including his own wife and daughter. Ares had brought them to the village so that Kratos would indeed kill them and therefore would be free of human distractions during his service, and Kratos’ bloodlust was so blinding that he only recognised his family after it was already too late. Upon coming to the realisation of his actions, Kratos renounced his ties to Ares and promised that he would kill the God of War; he would have vengeance for his family. The ashes of his wife and daughter coat Kratos' body and his reputation precedes him across Greece - fear the one who killed his family in service to the God of War – the “Ghost of Sparta.” Ares: "I wanted to make you into a great warrior." Kratos: "You succeeded." God of War: Ascension: Ares dispatches the Furies (beings that punish those who break their oaths to the gods) to hunt down and kill Kratos for failing to obey Ares but he manages to overcome their illusory and combative attempts to reign him in. Kratos learns that Ares seeks to rule the gods and Mount Olympus. Ares cannot kill Zeus due to a ceasefire that Zeus enacted long ago that forbids the gods from killing each other at Mount Olympus. Ares has been grooming Kratos, a demigod, to kill Zeus for him. God of War: Chains of Olympus: Five years later, Kratos witnesses the fading of the sun as the god Helios is captured. Morphius, the God of Dreams, places the people of Greece into a trance, but Kratos manages to escape and sets out to rescue Helios. Kratos meets Persephone, wife to Hades (who just like every other goddess in Greece, is thoroughly displeased by her husbands' incessant whoring, drinking and work commitments), and she leads Kratos to the Elysian Fields. She convinces him to release his godly powers so that he can enter the Fields as a mortal and spend an eternity with his daughter Calliope. He does so before learning that Persephone and Morphius have deceived him and he is forced to permanently part with his daughter for the second time. His hatred for the deceptions of the gods continues to grow. God of War [2005]: Kratos’ reputation as a demonic uberwarrior and warlord who killed his own family in service of the God of War has spread so far and wide that everyone who sees him immediately recognises his pale appearance and they are automatically instilled with terror. Helpful hands are withdrawn and tails turn to flee. The people of Greece often prefer death than the chance of being tainted by the dishonour of Kratos' presence. Persona non grata, Kratos is welcome ‘anywhere but here,’ and still the gods continue to play him for a pawn. Athena comes to Kratos with a deal: find and open Pandora's Box to be granted the power to kill a god. If he kills Ares to atone for the sins of the past, Athena will also free Kratos from the torment of his nightmares. As Kratos locates Pandora’s Box in a labyrinth carried on the back of the titan Cronos in the Desert of Lost Souls, Ares becomes aware of this development and mega-yeets a pillar from over the horizon to impale and kill Kratos before he can actually open the box. [Death count: 1] A dead Kratos fights through Hades’ Underworld and emerges from it to return to the land of the living. He opens Pandora’s Box and finally kills Ares. Athena does not uphold her end of the bargain. Kratos continues to be haunted by his nightmares. He stands upon the edge of the Suicide Bluffs in despair – “The Gods of Olympus have abandoned me" – and he allows himself to fall into the void below. Athena prevents him from dying and instead raises him up to Mount Olympus where he is bestowed the role of the new God of War. Not only did she deceive him and fail to relieve him of his nightmares, but she refuses to allow him to die in his own attempts to end them. Instead, she has effectively burdened him with those nightmares for the eternity of his immortality. God of War: Ghost of Sparta: Kratos discovers that his mother and brother are alive and subject to torture at the hands of Thanatos, the God of Death. Kratos sets out to free them but learns that he must kill his mother to end her continued suffering. Thanatos kills Deimos. Kratos’ hatred for the gods continues to grow as his family undeservedly suffers from their malevolence. God of War II: Backed by Kratos (the hottest new God of War this summer) the Spartan Army steamrolls across Greece and leaves behind a trail of bloodshed and destruction. This alienates the rest of the Greek Pantheon (Zeus in particular). When the Spartan Army besieges the city of Rhodes, Kratos descends from Mount Olympus to take part in the battle personally. Again, Kratos has been manipulated by Zeus and Athena. Having descended from Mount Olympus (where the Gods cannot kill each other), Kratos is vulnerable and Zeus takes advantage of that to restore his status quo. At the hands of Zeus, Kratos dies for the second time. It is worth noting that Zeus used the Blade of Olympus - the same blade that he used to defeat the titans (including his own father, Cronos) - to do the deed. Kratos escapes Hades’ Underworld for the second time. He seeks out the Sisters of Fate and kills them so that he can gain the ability to change his own fate. He goes back in time to the moment that Zeus killed him. Kratos pulls the Blade of Olympus out of his own dead body and uses it to battle Zeus. METAL! Athena jumps in the way of Kratos’ blade and he accidentally kills her instead. In her dying breath she tells Kratos that his father. "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" Kratos goes back in time again and enlists the help of Gaia and the rest of the titans to storm Mount Olympus to defeat Zeus once and for all. God of War III: Kratos and the gods face off atop Mount Olympus. Kratos kills Poseidon and the ocean rises unchecked to drown all Greeks that aren’t serving the gods on Mount Olympus. Kratos dies for the third time as he falls all the way from Mount Olympus into the River Styx due a betrayal by Gaia. He kills Hades and gains the ability to swim back up and out of the River Styx into the land of the living. The death of Hades causes a plague to be released upon the last living souls of Greece. Kratos finds and kills Helios which blacks out the sun, before also killing Hermes, Hercules, Cronos, Hera and Hephaestus. The death of Helios The death of Hermes Didn't I beat this boss in 1998? Get a load of the SCALE in this game! By now, Kratos is so deep in his quest for revenge that he is completely lost. His treatment of others has degraded to a point where no soul, mortal or not, shall escape his dogged quest to tear down the system in revenge for being stood on, tortured, manipulated, used and repeatedly killed. Everyone that he has ever cared about has met gruesome ends at the wills of these malevolent gods. The offer of a free bow was taken up by Kratos. I guess the best way to show an interest is just to roast the generous man alive with a fire-breathing Cerberus? Kratos finds Pandora’s Box again in addition to Pandora herself. He sees his daughter Calliope within her and is conflicted by Pandora’s expressive desire to volunteer her life so that the box can be opened. When Kratos opens the box it appears to be empty... except that it is explained to him that it only contained hope. The final battle with Zeus is in multiple parts that are broken up by an internal battle within Kratos, who must destroy his own demons and accept a glimmer of optimistic hope before he can (and does) destroy Zeus. Kratos is approached by Athena who requests that he imbue her with the power of hope so that she can rule over humanity, but he denies her this wish and attempts to kill himself for the second time in the series so that he can release the gift of hope to the last remaining people of Greece. _______________________ Kratos journey is an odyssey. Kratos does not know what it means to be a good father, a good man or a good leader. His talents include a furious drive for revenge and a prowess for killing anything that moves. He does not seek power to rule over others or for other corrupt means, only to gain the means to exert his will over those who continuously cause him pain: the gods. Malicious, short-sighted, greedy and unjust gods are a relatable concept. It’s a bitter psychological projection that speaks to the human condition. It is not just the Greeks who felt this way. We’ve all worked our way into pyramids of power in our lives and have felt this same bitterness about those in charge. Everyone feels overworked, underpaid and underappreciated at work. How many genuinely compassionate employers have you had with a strong sense of integrity? Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half light, I would spread the cloths under your feet. But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. - W.B. Yeats, 1899, many years after the Greeks of old and many years before us today, but equally as applicable to both. The Greeks were very insightful storytellers. Santa Monica take artistic license with some of the myths but the most foundational themes are consistent. The tragedies that Kratos and the gods bring about for themselves are accurate to the Greek mythos. Characters in the Greek mythos often exhibit a degree of hubris that undermines their own actions. Heracles, Achilles, Ajax, Oedipus, Narcissus, Icarus... the list of mortals undone by hubris goes on and on. And the gods were just as bad! The Greeks viewed the gods as fallible and, I argue, with extreme bitterness. The Greek gods are short-sighted, greedy, malevolent, manipulative, arrogant, excessively lustful, angry and vengeful. If they manage to escape hubris or other tragic ends brought about by their own exhibitions of those traits, they fall victim to the political manoeuvres of other more manipulative or cunning gods on their quest for greater power. The God of War games understand these key qualities of Greek mythology. After all, the tales in that civilisation were not made to scientifically explain how the world came to be – the Greeks were world leaders in understanding how things work and pioneered what we know today as scientific breakthroughs – but the tales were canvasses with which to pass on ancient archetypical mistakes that we all make in our lives and how to avoid them. They are tales that instruct people how to behave socially, not tales to instruct people how the world came to be. Like any religious text: it’s not meant to be taken literally. This could be applied to a deeper meaning for the original game. Long before the dreams of sequels for 2005’s God of War, I argue that the first game’s narrative beats were meant to be symbolic. The death of Kratos’ wife and daughter represents Kratos’ servitude to his own anger and/or servitude to his work instead of his family – as opposed to him literally killing them. Kratos’ journey into Hades and back is a symbol of death and rebirth like the Greek phoenix. In a parallel universe where there are no sequels to that first game, that would be how critics would view Kratos’ 2005 journey. Like all successful protagonists, Kratos embodies the desire to break free of the Sisyphean tasks of the day-to-day struggles of the everyman. The drive and success in doing so is the true ‘power fantasy.’ One of the biggest critiques of Grecian Kratos is his one-dimensional anger, but when you’ve been to hell and back as many times as he has, I’d forgive you, too. He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. - Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886 _________________________ God of War [2018]: An unknown amount of time later, Kratos travels to a Scandinavian land and partners with Faye, a Jötunn. They have a boy together and Kratos gives him a Greek name: Atreus. Faye gives him a Nordic name: Loki. Kratos spends little time at home. Faye dies when Atreus is about 10 years old. Her final wish is to have Kratos and Atreus take her ashes to the tallest peak in the realms. Kratos and Atreus oblige and the journey forces them to bond for the first time. They meet Baldur, brother to Thor, who mistakes Kratos for a Jötunn who has fallen outside of the protection of Faye. Baldur picks a fight with Kratos and he serves as the main antagonist for the game. Kratos and Atreus reach the tip of the peak in their own realm (Midgard) and meet Mimir there, ‘the smartest man alive,’ who requests to accompany Kratos and Atreus (as a severed head) to what he informs them is the true highest peak in the realm of Jotunheim. During their journey, Atreus develops a condition similar but opposite to plot-amour. It is called plot-sickness. He has become sick due to living under the misbelief that he is a mortal. Kratos becomes aware of the reason for the sickness but has kept Atreus in the dark about his family history because Kratos’ knows that a god is a horrible, evil being that corrupts and destroys everything that is good and worth cherishing. Baldur’s mother - the goddess Freya and witch-of-the-woods that has taken to Atreus and knows how to cure his sickness - instructs Kratos to retrieve the heart of the gatekeeper of Helheim. His frost-based Nordic weapon will be useless in Helheim though, so he has to retrieve the Blades of Chaos, his Greek fire-based weapons that he used to kill his first wife and daughter. He journeys back to his home where he had buried the Blades in shame and fear. The weather and air around him are thick with a blood-red mist that are a manifestation of Atreus' sickness and of the evil that Kratos must embrace once again – the evil within himself that he weaponised in a servitude to war. He exhumes the Chaos that he buried years ago and re-binds himself with the chains of that evil and is forced to confront the actions of his past to save his son in the present. There was a shot in the beginning of the game where Atreus turned to see the hulking angry mass of his father covered in shadow in the doorway of the family home. That shot is echoed with a similar shot as Kratos is entering into a compromise within himself because the ghost of Athena – living rent-free in Kratos’ mind – stands in the doorway as a symbol of Kratos’ self-doubt and taunts him. He journeys into Helheim [by the way... 3x visits to Hades’ Underworld, 1x visit to Thanatos’ Domain of Death, 1x visit to Helheim... this guy has made like a Bat Out of Hell more times than Meat Loaf], kills the gatekeeper, tears himself away from a vision of an angry Zeus, and returns to Midgard where Freya helps to heal Atreus. To prevent Atreus from falling ill again, Kratos is forced to tell him that he is in fact a god, and like any other 10 year old in Atreus’ position, he has no idea how to take this and becomes a spoilt brat with reckless abandon. Kratos, Atreus and Mimir discover an alternate route to Jotunheim but are ambushed by Baldur and Freya. Baldur tries to kill Freya and Kratos is forced to kill Baldur to protect her. Kratos and Atreus successfully reach the highest peak in Jotunheim where they discover that Atreus’ Nordic name is Loki and that his mother Faye was a Jötunn. They spread her ashes and reflect upon their recent bonding. __________________________ Baldur was clearly picked from the Nordic mythological tapestry by Santa Monica Studios to be the primary antagonist because he is a dark mirror to Kratos. He has an arsehole for a father and he suffers from an eternal curse, and on a more facile level, he’s a violent tattoo-covered brute who possesses uncanny strength. The beginning of God of War II features the following quote when Zeus kills Kratos: “You will never be the ruler of Olympus. The cycle ends here.” Kratos quotes this at the end of the final boss fight with Baldur: “The cycle ends here. We must be better than this.” This quote perfectly summarises Kratos’ journey in God of War [2018], as Kratos is referring to more than just a cycle of violence involving Baldur, but also the cycles of violence that Gods of two separate cultures continue to exact upon others. Kratos understands that Baldur is a reflection of who he has been for most of his life. Kratos possesses a deep desire to end the cycle of violence that his family line is cursed with. He cannot allow Atreus to kill his father like how Kratos killed Zeus, like Zeus killed Cronos and like Cronos killed Uranus. Kratos does not fear for his own life, but he fears that if Atreus follows that path of destruction, then everyone that Atreus will love will come to the same ruinous ends as Kratos’ loved ones, and Atreus will be doomed to a miserable, angry and lonely existence. And yet, he cannot shelter Atreus from the horrors of the world. We see that represented by Freya’s attempt to protect Baldur with her magic shielding him from the dangers of the world. Baldur considers this to be a curse – and it is. In Greece, Kratos transforms into a god and destroyed innumerable lives. In the Scandinavian realms he seeks to transform again and find his humanity so that his son won’t perish for his mistakes. Almost every lesson Kratos teaches Atreus involves trying to corral him away from emotions and actions that resulted in Kratos' own undoing. Recently I yelled out in frustration in front of my kids. My dogs were barking at something beyond the back fence and my emotions got the better of me. “SHUT UP!!” I roared, and felt immediate guilt with my treatment of the dogs, and then immediate deeper guilt at the knowledge that my little sponges were right there with me... “SHUT UP,” said my son. You know, Loki’s primary role in Norse mythology is to function as the catalyst for change within a static and balanced status quo. ‘God of mischief’ is only half right; Loki is the mandatory chaos that results in there being a story worth telling in the first place. He is a shapeshifter in the literal sense but also in the metaphorical sense as his nature transforms into whatever antagonistic force that a situation requires for Loki to bring about change. Loki may only be a boy in this retelling of God of War, but his core function remains: he is the catalyst for Kratos to change who he is. Loki shapeshifts into a miniature Kratos to hold up a dark mirror to him, just like how our own children threaten to take on what we despise so much about our own selves. It is the fear of every parent that we will fail our children, and yet, it is inevitable in some senses. Kratos' shortcomings will likely directly affect the transformation of Atreus into a Loki more in line (more evil) with what we know him to be. This game has been rightfully praised for the exploration of a fundamental parenting paradox: do I shelter my children from harm to protect them, or do I expose them to harm to fortify them against it? As a criticism, I do believe that there seems to be a game or two missing between God of War III and God of War [2018] to account for what is a massive change in Kratos' character in between them. From the outset of [2018] he is teaching Atreus to be patient and wise but he was a completely irrational force at the end of God of War III. It is implied that Faye was fundamental in Kratos' change in character but that journey in itself is one that I would have been interested in too.
  8. Shameless plug:


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    What is it?

    A young couple has gone missing and the detective running the case needs help deciphering a series of puzzles left behind on their computer. 


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  9. Not at all, that was PERFECT. Thanks Realm! Very impressed (and very interested in these conclusions)!!
  10. You're in! Only a couple of days to go
  11. How did you come to this conclusion? Would you consider (purely for the sake of this random on the internet), finding the 'mean' average of all scores per developer, and then posting them? As a fellow 'record keeper/stat collector' I applause your effort and hope you keep this up!
  12. This is true, however, I think it is generally universally accepted that both: - TLOU's trophy list is hot garbage, and - TLOU has an incredible story. I posit that the connection to the characters and a willingness to play through the story is what sells the willingness to put in the effort to S-rank that game. Either Rob or Smevz already gave the game a try (I think it was Rob and that Smevz hasn't tried it yet) and didn't connect with it so I think just sitting down and experiencing a hard difficulty blind playthrough is the ticket. 🤓👍 Fellas, if I was to give you one bit of advice with playing this game, it would be to not view it as a generic escort mission in a generic zombie setting that is just trying to justify gunplay to sell a game. It's a character story that deserves to be told that happens to have a post-apocalyptic setting. You are not physically surviving the apocalypse as a player; the characters are doing their best to survive emotionally in the wake of loss and the setting is just a symbol of that. I think that is often the hang-up that people get caught on when they don't like this game. BTW, I sincerely hope that RDR2's multiplayer is more fun now than at release. I REALLY did not enjoy the multiplayer in that game. TLOU's multiplayer though? Choice, bro!
  13. I hope you end up liking it, there's some big effort that's been put in. I'm looking forward to the 1st of July! And, yeah, there's not been anything like this that I have seen on PSNP, hopefully it stands out. 🤓 You're both in! Smevz, I know that you would have no issues recalling a recent 'unrepayed act of generosity' as you've always been a Real One(TM), but I'm going to ask you to let me know what you've done recently to satisfy the entry fee. 👍
  14. You're both in! And Don, if your answer is the same as the others so far, then you got the practice puzzle correct too!
  15. That The Last of Us opus is pretty long 😂 but it's probably a good something to read in between matches of the multiplayer. There's no rush though dude 😇. If I were to recommend anything about that series for trophy hunting, I'd say: 1) TLOU1 on hard, blind playthrough 2) TLOU2 on hard, blind playthrough 3) TLOU1 on survivor with a collectibles guide and with Left Behind DLC injected into the right spot on survivor difficulty 4) TLOU2 on survivor with a collectibles guide 5) TLOU1 multiplayer 6) both games on grounded difficulty. As for my event: no major rush, I'm sure you'll find something for the act of kindness as you seem like a compassionate bloke. I think @The_Kopite would enjoy it too. Quickly on Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs is my favourite from him but Pulp Fiction is great for many reasons, definitely. And yeah, Pokemon link cables were soooo good back in the day! It's just a total ripoff that you could never complete a Pokedex even with trading due to many bullshit reasons.