A lot of my favorite games are action-adventure games. There's nothing like taking out wave upon wave of enemies and creating unique combos with whatever weapon you have available to you. God of War is a great example of this. It's got a nice story, the controls and gameplay are nice and smooth, and the combo system can make for some interesting offense. The games themselves are a nice challenge and the boss battles can be epic. Knights Contract, while not the greatest game I've played, still has amazing cinematics to go along with its
story, and while your AI partner can be as dumb as a rock sometimes, you can still dish out some nice offense using your sword and finish off your opponent with a spell after impaling them. Thor...well, the story's okay, the action is there, but it just doesn't have the feel of other big action-adventure games. To find out why that is, let's take a look at Thor: God of Thunder on the Xbox 360.
The first thing that should catch a lot of people's attention to a modern-day action-adventure game is the story and cinematics. Knights Contract had an interesting plot concept, and while the cinematics and cut-scenes would pop-up at the most annoying of times, they were really well done, looked awesome, and told the story nicely. The first thing I saw with Thor's cinematics was that it used some sort of blur filter or something. I'm not sure how best to describe it, but if you watch it, the scenery and characters have a small blur effect, especially when they move. It didn't hurt my eyes or anything, but it didn't look as clear or crisp as other games of this generation. The story isn't all that bad from what I played: Asgard is under attack by ice / frost giants (best way to describe them) and Thor fights them off to keep Asgard from being overrun by ice. During the fight (well, off-screen anyway) his friend is killed, so Thor wishes to exact revenge, but his father, Odin, advises against this. However, thanks to his brother Loki, Thor's actions actually result in a deadly assault on Asgard which Thor must stop. Well, that's what I gathered from what I've played.
So the story's not that bad, but I typically play games for the gameplay (don't get me wrong, if the story's good I will pay attention to it), and Thor's gameplay is hit or miss. Much like God of War your melee attacks work on a combo system. The problem is your combos are done by simply hitting X one to four times followed by hitting Y for a finishing attack. This kind of combo system works well in God of War because you have some range to your main weapon, so you can still keep your distance when attacking. Thor has his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, and while you can throw it at enemies, the majority of the damage you'll do with it is up close and personal. Problem is, you have to be really
up close for it to hit. Now I know that a lot of other third-person games have this kind of close-ranged combat, and I'm not saying I don't like that kind of combat. It's just that when 85% of combat is with one button, it gets repetitive quickly. You also have a grapple that you can use to grab enemies. After grabbing a minor enemy you can hit either X, Y, or B to gain You also have a grapple that you can use to grab enemies. After grabbing a minor enemy you can hit either X, Y, or B to gain health, Odin force, or valor respectively, but with major enemies you have to whittle them down a bit until a small orange ball appears on them, and THEN you can grapple them to deal some more damage to them.
Aside from his mighty hammer, Thor can also control the elements of lightning, thunder, and wind, but there are two problems with this. First off, this consumes Odin Force, and rather quickly at the start of the game. Second, until you level up your elemental powers and learn to charge them (which takes a good chunk of meter to pull off to start with), the attacks don't seem to do much to help. Sure they do damage, but it doesn't seem to be that much of it. When you learn to charge certain elements you do so by holding Y, but of course you're vulnerable while charging, so in the heat of battle you'll find that you're sticking to basic melee attacks because you can't charge your elements without getting hit. If you wish to actually charge your attacks to deal some massive damage, you're better off dashing out of the way to give you some more time, but even then it's only a couple seconds as enemies like to close in on you rather quickly. You can also unleash a powerful attack that will damage all nearby enemies, but to do that you have to fill up a gauge by defeating enemies, and this gauge takes a while to fill. A lot of the time I forgot the gauge existed because it took a long time to fill up. Finally, you can block and reflect attacks with your hammer. Blocking works okay for the most part, but reflecting shots (once you learn how to in the game) is kind of hit and miss: the shots hit you and you miss reflecting them back. The timing to reflect these must be perfect (as in, the shot must be a couple frames from hitting you), otherwise it'll look like your timing was perfect, but instead the shot hits you and you take damage.
So I've talked about the story, cinematics, and controls, and I've not had much good to say thus far. Surely the redeeming factor is in the actual gameplay right? Um...not quite. The difficulty of the game is a bit skewed. I first started on Normal difficulty and got completely wasted by the first boss, which looks like a huge ice monster. After three or four times I started over on EASY and made my way back to the boss. I used the exact same tactics against it, and it used the exact same tactics against me, but this time I had no issues defeating it, as it didn't deal nearly as much damage as it did on Normal. Even still, on Easy difficulty I found myself constantly trying to create some space between me and the enemies so I could attack or unleash an elemental attack without getting beat down. On another note about the bosses, once you hit a boss enough times a small orange grapple point appears. When you grab the orb you can jump around the boss a bit to get to various weak points to attack, then either use X for quick strikes or Y for stronger attacks. After the weak points are gone the boss is pretty much done. The valor you gain by beating enemies or unlocking runes can be used to level-up your abilities, but outside of health and valor upgrades, it just pretty much gives you another attack you can use. Even the melee "skill tree" (for lack of better term) only serves to give charge attacks to the combo ending moves you do with Y, as opposed to actually making your melee strikes stronger. If you're in the middle of a combo with enemies around you, charging Y might not be a good move as you are vulnerable while charging, even though it only takes a second or so to charge. The most redeeming qualities of the leveling system are the health and Odin Force upgrades. Not only do they raise the maximum level of health and Odin Force (so I recommend maxing them out first), when you select the upgrades it actually refills your health or Odin Force (depending on which upgrade you select). In other words, don't upgrade anything until a boss, then if you have problems taking it down, upgrade your health to refill it.
Overall, Thor: God of Thunder on the Xbox 360 has very few redeeming qualities about it. While other games use a button-mashing combo system, Thor doesn't flow as smoothly as those other games. The cinematics are sub-par for a current-generation game, the controls are so-so, and the difficulty can be tough even on the Easy setting. Admittedly, I didn't finish Thor. Then again, I also didn't finish Knights Contract when I did that review, but at least I want
to finish Knights Contract. I really don't have much of a reason to put Thor: God of Thunder back into the 360 any time soon. It's not nearly as fun as other action-adventure games on the platform, or even older platforms. Then again, this is a movie licensed game, so it's to be expected, but I was really hoping that Thor would break the trend.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Thor: God of Thunder is what one would come to expect with other movie-licensed games. The cinematics are sub-par, the combo system is quite repetitive, and the difficulty is skewed. The only redeeming qualities I found were using the leveling system to actually refill your health and Odin Force, and the effects of the elemental attacks looked cool, but the fun factor is just not there. I'm not sure how the Wii or DS versions would differ, but the Xbox 360 version is definitely more frustrating than fun.
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