Clash of the Titans has epic ambitions, but the cruel reality of production values prevents it from living up to those ambitions.
Clash of the TitansPublisher: Namco Bandai
Players: 1 player
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Developer: Game Republic
Release Date: 2010-07-27
Comparisons to certain other action/adventure games loosely based on Greek mythology are inevitable, but unfair. Clash of the Titans doesn’t have anywhere near the same epic sense of scale or scope as God of War, though it certainly wants to. Bosses are big and varied, including fights against a giant scorpion, a giant minotaur, a giant sand worm, a giant skeleton, and many more giant creatures. Basically you can take any normal enemy, grow it tenfold in size, and you’ve got a future boss fight. These bosses are visually exciting, but the limitations of the game become apparent when you actually start fighting.
Combat is bland. You’ve got a normal attack, strong attack, and special attack that changes depending on what weapon is equipped. There’s no list of combos, though they do exist in the game because I found myself accidentally performing one multiple times as I mashed the three attack buttons. Most bosses are content to let you batter them with impunity. Every now and then they’ll attack back and knock off a fair amount of your health, but with healing magic, such bruises are easily taken care of. Run up, mash attack, get knocked back, and heal. That’s the standard pattern that you’ll fall into during every fight.
Some boss fights are attempts to mix up the formula, but the results are more frustrating than fun because in these moments the game gives you no indication of what to do. The final battle against the Kraken is a perfect example. You’re in a temple overlooking the ocean, and it’s in the ocean chucking tentacles at you. It follows a standard “big boss pattern”, attacking the left side of the temple, then the right, then the middle in predictable fashion while you jump and dodge and wait for the chance to attack back, a chance that never comes. Ever. Eventually a quick-time event cut scene starts and Perseus defeats the Kraken, rendering the last ten minutes of play utterly pointless.
At least, the game knows how to make quick-time events easy and fun. Instead of having to hit a specific button at a specific time, you just have to hit any two face buttons when prompted. It’s far more forgiving than normal QTEs and allows the action to move at a much faster pace since the game doesn’t have to give you time to think. You just react. So even though the prompts disappear faster than most QTE prompts, you’re reacting faster as well. Its speed makes up for its simplicity.
Similar quick-time events are used to disarm enemies, and this move is integral to the game’s biggest selling point: its variety of weapons. The back of the box doesn’t advertise combat, graphics, or story just “over 100 brutal beasts” and “over 80 customizable weapons.” It’s a good marketing strategy because stealing weapons makes combat fun, and every type of enemy has its own disarm/kill animation. From your typical swords and bows to more exotic weapons like harpy wings, scorpion tails, and even harps, every weapon feels just different enough that you’ll be excited to try out any new toy that you steal.
The “customizable” part of that hype stems from a convoluted upgrade system. When you disarm an enemy, you’ll also get an item for upgrading, but it’s never clear what enemy drops what item. If you need something specific, your only options are to give up, keep playing in the vain hope you’ll get it, or replay every past level in the vain hope that you’ll get it. The lack any guidance is annoying, but it has the unintended positive consequence of encouraging you to switch weapons more, which is where the game shines.
Upgrade items aren’t the only thing that you need to keep track of in battle. You also have a soul meter that decreases every time that you use a special attack. You can regain minor bits of soul from attacking enemies, or you can kill an enemy with Soul Seize and get back a nice chuck. However, killing an enemy with Soul Seize doesn’t give you any upgrade items, so battles become a balancing act. You always want to have enough soul to perform special attacks, but you also want to collect as many upgrade items as possible. This meta-game adds another layer to the bland combat, making fights more interesting.
Clash of the Titans is an easy game. Even as later bosses become more frustrating, I never died or even felt much of a challenge, but the game is long and there’s a satisfying sense of progression throughout. The variety of weapons and ways to kill keeps combat interesting, even though this is essentially nothing more than a button masher. Clash of the Titans has epic ambitions, but the cruel reality of production values prevents it from living up to those ambitions. Still, it does the best with what it can, and ends up a fun though forgettable time killer, not unlike the movie that it’s based on.