Is Heavenly Sword Better Than God Of War III?
This may strike you as a stupid question. ‘Obviously it’s not better! How could it possibly be better?’ And I would agree with you, except it’s a question that refuses to leave my mind and I’m forced to confront the possibility.
God Of War III was released last week, as I’m sure you know, but as it happened I found Heavenly Sword in a leading videogame’s retailer for just £5 so I decided to pick that up last week too. So there I am sitting with one of the PS3’s earliest exclusives, much criticised and lambasted and the console’s latest blockbuster release, universally loved and honoured around the globe.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of loving the underdog. I could be deluding myself, but I can’t shift the feeling that I’m enjoying and feel more compelled to play Heavenly Sword. My reasons are multiple.
First, while the combat in Heavenly Sword is nowhere near as rich and fluid as in GOW III I would argue that the animation of Nariko’s combat is equal to that of Kratos and her enemies offer a much greater level of challenge. You might not have as many moves, but I found myself having to call upon all of them in combat against the different types of warrior Nariko must face. Kratos on the other hand has little new to offer and holding L1 while smashing Square seems to tackle most enemies.
Then there’s pacing, which for me God Of War III doesn’t seem to be doing very well. The break-neck pace of the opening sequence (which I will return to later) is followed by the slow lull of Kratos’ journey through Hades, but the game remains the same. No new elements have yet been thrown at me. I know what to expect. Heavenly Sword on the other hand is constantly changing things up. Here’s a quick fight, now a puzzle, now a shooting section, here’s a new character to control. It’s kept me on my toes much more.
This all leads into the story and how it’s told of course, which I think Heavenly Sword wins out on again. This is arguably Ninja Theory’s greatest triumph as its characters, voice work, cut scenes and camera work all comes together to tell a sometimes clichéd, but ultimately intriguing, new and unpredictable story. In some ways it harks back to the very first God Of War, which was equally mysterious and fresh. Both games begin with their heroes dying and then go about retelling the story of how they reach that point. With Nariko, I honestly don’t know how things are going to turn out.
Kratos on the other hand is very predictable at this point. With this being his third game we know what to expect from the Ghost Of Sparta. He’s going to get screwed over by someone, then he’ll seek revenge, he’ll disembowel a few fools and probably wind up killing Zeus. With its grand opening I just don’t feel like GOW III has anything left to surprise me with and even then I felt disengaged from the action, only remotely responsible for it. I hope I’m wrong about GOW III and I’ll keep playing to the end in the hopes of being proved so, but right now I feel no compulsion to keep playing.
So perhaps in the end it’s not a question of Heavenly Sword being better, but simply being newer and fresher as the new IP compared to God Of War III, which feels older and more familiar. New experiences do drive my love of games and it’s likely that is the source of the nagging feeling I’ve had about these two adventures. God Of War III has the production values, but Heavenly Sword seems to have the soul. Should Kratos return after GOW III, I hope he does so in a new guise with something new to offer. Interestingly, Ninja Theory has decided to make another new title with Enslaved rather than Heavenly Sword 2. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that too.