As I’ve said (and will probably continue to say) the combat in God of War is a lot of fun. The cinematic angles and animations of each battle are dynamic and empowering, darting and pivoting in a way that many videogames, despite their detached, third person field of view, haven’t fully embraced yet. The technique is very effective in making the player feel like they are a part of the action, instead of merely a spectator. It’s one of my favorite parts of the game.
When it comes to those big boss battles in God of War, many of them end in that spectacular, over-the-top way. But, curiously, just as you’d expect the fight to get harder, it actually gets easier. Unlike the high pressure complexity of the more common enemy encounters, the finish sequences of Kratos’s confrontations with the more narratively significant characters are often heavy on visuals, but low on participation, only allowing the player to contribute on a surface level. Not only are some of the biggest moments—like cutting out a dragon’s tongue—relegated to quick time events, they’re not even good quick time events. Often they’re just a single button. Players are given plenty of time to tap on their Dualshock at the prompt, guiding Kratos through a kill sequence that is curiously simple compared to the game’s real-time fights.
I think I understand why Sony did this. The weight of each battle would have been disrupted with more elaborate quick time events, and the potential for failing those sections would have also made some of the game’s bigger moments repetitive, robbing them of their impact. But to be honest, I feel a little stupid every time the cinematics take over and Sony holds my hand. It’s often during the game’s most majestic and awe-inspiring scenes. Maybe it’s fitting, actually, in a game about Kratos and his son, that I feel like a child. Look Daddy, I’m helping! Press O to kill god.
They aren’t a deal breaker, or anything: in fact, they manage to maintain the game’s dramatic momentum by coinciding with some of its most climatic points. But given the nimble reflexes and quick thinking required by the majority of God of War’s combat, the quick time events make me feel a little like Dwight Schrute steering a cruise ship to nowhere. As the series continues to grow and evolve from the conventions of its past, let’s hope this is one they eventually leave behind.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.