Kratos is back on the PSP with an all new adventure that takes place in between the original God of War and God of War II. Created by Ready At Dawn Studios, the talented folks behind the previous God of War PSP adventure (Chains of Olympus), Ghost of Sparta has all of the trimmings you've come to expect from the AAA series.
Through Death's Domain
As most of you well know, at the end of the first God of War epic, Kratos killed Ares and became the God of War. However, his past still haunts him, the nightmares of his previous deeds are still plaguing him constantly. In his growing frustration and hatred for the Gods who refuse to free him of this agony, Kratos sets out to rectify his past by finding his younger brother Deimos.
To find Deimos, Kratos must enter through the Domain of Death, ruled by the God of Death, Thanatos. At least half of the six-to-seven hour adventure takes place in other areas though like Atlantis and Sparta and many areas in between. The core gameplay is unchanged as you fight off waves of powerful enemies and solve simple movement and lever-pulling puzzles. Ready At Dawn did add a few twists and new features though which are welcomed.
On the offensive side of the equation, Kratos has a few new abilities to help you pound the enemy into submission. The first of these is the Hyperion Rush, which is a great aggressive tackling move in which Kratos charges a (weaker) enemy and slams them to ground before pummeling them. The animation on this is great and it's an easy maneuver to execute. As the game progresses you will also earn a secondary weapon known as the Arms of Sparta which allows Kratos to wield a spear and shield. The Arms of Sparta can be upgraded several times just like the Blades of Chaos and Kratos' magic abilities. The spear is also used to hit ranged enemies; when you throw a spear, another one instantly appears and you're ready to throw again. The shield is used for blocking environmental dangers like fire shooting out of a wall. It's also used to get you closer to long range archers that are trying to pick you off.
Speaking of Magic abilities, Ghost of Sparta features three that have not previously been seen in a God of War game. The first that you get right away is the Eye of Atlantis. When you use this power, Kratos is able to blast out a straight-line of electricity. As you upgrade it, the Eye can 'see' more enemies if you know what I mean. I ended up not using this particular power all that much though. Eventually, you'll earn the Scourge of Erinys which is my favorite. When used, Kratos emits a blackhole of sorts that drains life out of anything near it. Finally, the Horns of Boreas gives Kratos the power to hit enemies in a short circle around him, potentially freezing them with that icy cold North Wind.
The addition of the Arms of Sparta weapon and the unique Magic abilities is cool, but Ready At Dawn included another power that is very important to the game. There is a part in the story, probably just a couple of hours in, where you encounter Thera, a titan. After 'introducing himself,' Kratos can then call upon Thera's Bane, which ignites his Blades of Chaos on fire. It's used to penetrate certain doors, but its primary use is in combat where the damage caused by a normal hit is increased when you activate (press RT) the Bane. Using Bane is actually required in combat for those (numerous) enemies with shields. The addition of shields for enemies in the God of War franchise is actually new and it works nicely. Not only does it give some enemies a different and cool appearance, but it gives both a bit of extra difficulty and more orbs, too (as each time you break down a shield on a bigger foe, orbs fly out).
New additions to gameplay aside, the core experience is unchanged. Clearly, this is a good thing, but, I would like to see the next God of War get away from two specific design elements. For one, the designers have to get away from sliding puzzles and levers. Every game in the series to date relies on these embarrassing mechanics that have Kratos battling his way to get to some kind of crank or lever that opens up a door or activates some kind of mechanism. For a series that was so cutting edge (and still is, to a degree), I'm hoping to see it take the next step in getting rid of these worn out mechanics. The second gameplay design I would like to have seen changed in Ghost of Sparta are the invisible walls. Sometimes, invisible walls are good, like when they keep you from running or rolling off the edge of a cliff in the heat of battle. But at the same, they make you feel boxed in at times when maybe they shouldn't be.
Stepping down from the soapbox now, I will say confidently that Ghost of Sparta packs all of the big story, huge boss, enemy-filled room, awesomeness that the previous versions have.
As you play, keep an eye out for special Items. Some of these can't be missed, but others are much harder to find. I'm still missing four Items at this writing, but I have found a few. These Items cannot be used until you beat the game, but they do give you some very powerful benefits for the next go-round. If you don't want any spoilers, you may want to skip down to the next paragraph. That said, so far I've obtained the Bonds of Ares, the King's Ring, Athena's Owl and Callisto's Armlet. These Items can all be turned on after beating the game and give various benefits such as 10x red orb absorption and unlimited magic.
In addition to the campaign, Ghost of Sparta includes a 'Treasures' menu with a few other playable options. These include Challenge of the Gods, Combat Arena, The Temple of Zeus, and options for viewing game videos and art galleries (as you unlock them). In Challenge of the Gods, players are able to choose from five challenges from Ares and eight from Athena. The eight from Athena are only available after you 'play' The Temple of Zeus. The challenges from Ares are heavily combat based and have cool names like 'Unscathed' which requires you kill all enemies without taking a hit. Other Ares challenges include opening six chests while under constant attack from fast moving light enemies and gauntlet-style battles where you simple must survive a few waves of enemies. One interesting challenge I have yet to quite complete is destroying a massive crate within thirty seconds to unlock its red orbs. Sounds weird, but darn is it tough.
The Temple of Zeus is where you can go to spend all of your hard earned red orbs. There are eighteen stations where you can spend your orbs. The cheapest unlockable is 5,000 orbs with others getting up into the fifty and sixty thousand range. The Temple is nicely designed and is a small playable area where you walk around normally and interact with the unlocking shrines or stations to use them. My only complaint is that every time you visit, you are forced to walk slowly for ten or fifteen seconds while the narrator goes over the same description of the Temple again.
The Combat Arena is a good practice ground in which you can specify the number and type of enemies (and a few other options) to face in arena combat. At first you can only put in the weakest of enemies, but you can unlock more types in The Temple of Zeus. This is an excellent place to earn a ton of red orbs.
With that, lets get to the summary...