Review: Godfire -- Rise of Prometheus

By Jacob Tierney 26 Jun 2014 0
Hey Minotaur, do you know how to get out of here? This place is a labyrinth! [rimshot] Hey Minotaur, do you know how to get out of here? This place is a labyrinth! [rimshot][/caption]Godfire desperately wants to be God of War when it grows up. It packs its meals in a God of War lunchbox and falls asleep wearing God of War pajamas, cradling a Kratos action figure. But is this graphically-impressive title of mythological hack-and-slashery a solid game in its own right? Is it worth the time and money of the discerning mobile gamer? Are rhetorical questions a lazy way to begin a review? Well...

Not really, probably not and yes, respectively. Godfire is a bloody trek with graphics that are truly outstanding for a game native to mobile, but the rest of its elements rarely achieve anything above adequacy.

You'll play as Prometheus, fighting your way through seven linear levels to take down the sun-god Helios and steal the Godfire for... some reason. It's never quite clear. The story is a very loose adaptation of the ancient myth, altered to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for the butchery of mythological creatures and gratuitous glimpses of Aphrodite's rear end.

Helios is perhaps the one saving grace of the narrative, as the only voice actor who realizes that maybe this is all a bit sillier than it's pretending to be. His scenery-chewing boasts are an amusing contrast to Prometheus' cliched gravelly seriousness.

Nay, Prometheus -- punk is not dead. Nay, Prometheus -- punk is not dead.

You’ll chase Helios through ancient temples, cryptic crypts and war-torn towns in your quest for the Godfire. The levels are visually impressive and diverse, but the gameplay is largely the same throughout. It's mostly about fighting off minions as you work your way towards a boss, with occasional laughably-easy puzzles for the sake of variety.

The combat is solid and somewhat entertaining, if unremarkable. You will use your dual swords to string together combos using light and heavy attacks, while blocking and dodging to avoid taking damage. Every blow, those you make and those made against you, feels solid and weighty. Enemies stagger under the weight of your sword and recoil as their attacks bounce off your block. Often you will have the chance to use a bloody finishing move on a near-dead minion to restore some of your health and “wrath,” which can be used to activate devastating special attacks. Playing defense is clumsier. Dodge rolls are hard to aim and you never quite know what direction you will face when you block. Attempting to deflect an attack will sometimes offer your exposed back to an enemy’s blade instead.

Perhaps bring more clothes to the creepy spider cave? Perhaps bring more clothes to the creepy spider cave?

There’s a few light RPG elements thrown in for good measure. Levelling up boosts your stats, while the coins you find throughout levels can be used to equip or upgrade the objects you find as you progress. Of course you could just BUY coins or exclusive items. With real money. Because the $7 game figured it may as well get a few more of your nickels and dimes along the way with in-app purchases. Yes these purchases are in no way necessary for completion, and there’s enough gold to be earned through gameplay to keep most players happy. Yet it’s still irksome to have content locked away, available only to those who want to pay for it. Maybe this is the new normal but the new normal sucks. Can we change it back to the old normal?

While combat is fun and upgrading Prometheus is at least someone engrossing, this short game gets stale fast. There’s only a few types of minions and they never really change up their tactics. Once you’ve killed one group of vaguely orc-ish bad guys you’ve pretty much killed them all.

The boss fights are a bit better, at least initially. Then after a while you’ll realize just how much this game suffers from a complete dearth of new ideas. Every single one of the six bosses, visually impressive as they may be, follows the exact same formula. Beating them requires a very simple strategy that has been part of video games since time immemorial. You will dodge their heavily-telegraphed attacks until they visibly let their guard down, then you will beat on them until they recover. Then you will do it again. Then a few more times, until they die. Congratulations!

No. Stop that. No. No. Stop that. No.

There’s nothing wrong with a tried-and-true formula, but Godfire’s fighting mechanics are not strong enough to stand on their own without shaking up the gameplay a bit. Even worse, two of the bosses are just repeats of foes you faced earlier in the games, and a third is a transparent reskin. I’m sure these character models weren’t easy or cheap to make, but it is frustrating to see so much recycled material in such a short game. The first time you finish off a minotaur might be satisfying, but by the second time you’ll be yawning.

Some replayability may come by unlocking the higher difficulty levels or taking on the survival mode that pits you against endless waves of enemies. Personally, I’ve had my fill. Godfire is a great example of what mobile games are capable of when they take full advantage of the hardware available to them, but it has a long way to go before it can stand alongside the console titles to which it so obviously aspires. It feels soulless, a lavish diorama without an interesting story to tell or an entertaining game at its core. Yet there is a glimmer of something here, an obvious desire to be something special. The game ends with a sequel tease, and I hope developers Vivid Games have the chance to follow through on that promise. There’s a spark in Godfire, and I want to see what could become if as much time is spent refining gameplay as is dedicated to upping the polygon count.

Godfire was played on an iPad 2 for this review.

Review: Godfire -- Rise of Prometheus

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