Thor: God Of Thunder Review
Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
After an interesting opening slideshow (the storyline has been overseen by Eisner award-winning writer and lead Thor comic book author Matt Fraction) you are immediately made to think of God of War. Thor: God of Thunder is a third-person action adventure made in the mould of the aforementioned classic(s) and Mjolnir, your hammer, is your weapon. The first level plays out as a tutorial, explaining the various basic moves Thor is equipped with from the start, as well as the rest of the game's mechanics - new combos can be purchased with 'Storm Tokens' for example, or runes can be equipped allowing for extra moves or bonuses (e.g. extra health, more powerful melee moves). The game shows great promise in a number of areas. The problem is many of these areas retain said promise for only a short while (and not just because the game itself is short).
The game engine is a smooth and fluid and a great achievement by Red Fly Studio who produced this game. It never once slowed down or lost clarity throughout the various levels, regardless of what was happening on-screen at any one time. The graphics are as good as any seen on the 3DS to date. But they won't blow your mind - this game is still very much in the first wave of title where developers are suing the hardware for the first time and only manage to eke out a small percentage of the system's total power. There are times when quite a few enemies are coming after you, for wave after wave, and it seems unending. Many of the NPCs attack you with flashes and bangs and you're swinging your Hammer and / or firing lightning - yet the game refuses to stutter or complain in any way. Rock-solid.
The 3D effect however, is less of a success. The game doesn't really need it, or make the most of it. If the camera positioning were set more advantageously for such depth - i.e. higher up and at a superior angle to where it does sit for the duration (or if it were controllable) this would at the least be enjoyable. But nothing is designed to jump out and depth of vision is not leveraged by the designers in any way. This is a good thing as the camera sits so low that often Thor can get in the way and its not possible to see what you're attacking! With Thor in the way 3D loses all purpose. This happens a lot. With no right stick its understandable, but if you want to see around Thor, or what's behind you, it requires a large circular walk, a few speed runs to opposite sides or even a long walk back to where you entered the arena.
Combat feels great. A push of X here, a jump and double tap of Y there and Thor is doing exactly what's asked of him. It works so very well in execution. The variety available in reward to progression in the game is astounding too. The combos which can be purchased, the storm powers which become usable, all combined with the combo meter allowing for two more powerful moves depending on how big the combo has become...well, it all adds immense excitement at the thought of what can be achieved late on in-game. It also indicates Thor could be a game to master, in the way Bayonetta was. So Thor is a step-up from God of War in terms of combat then? No. That's the promise. But it's not kept. It becomes clear a few levels in that only one or two moves are actually needed. The challenge level is low so spamming of any one move (varying only if tackled by a Troll with an electric shield as opposed to a flying beast) will get you through the entire game without causing so much as a sweat. There was no encouragement to try to learn all the combos and work out when to use them and when to switch...each move on offer was tried to see what it did, but largely then discarded. Commendable as the system was, there was just no mechanic in place forcing you to use and learn the full breadth, nor the challenge meaning you must try something else - or remain stuck.
The story takes Thor to four or five different worlds, each with a different environment. Each was destructible and it was very satisfying breaking down all rock structures, stalactites and the like. However aside from the visuals the worlds were all the same - ice levels were not slippy for example - and even disregarding that the repetition was far too much. The ice environment had six levels in all yet each required Thor to move from A to B in an entirely linear fashion, killing bad guy after bad guy until the next area opened up, or he made his way to a boss. The boss fights were even more repetitive. Each time one appeared he faced Thor three, four, or even five times. Same boss, same attack patterns and same procedure to destroy him.
The game itself does try to bring something different to the table than just smashing up enemies with a hammer. Every now and then an on rails Z-axis shooter is the form the game takes, with Thor using Mjolnir as a propeller in order to carry him upwards / forwards / wherever and ensuring the player gets a chance to fire bolts of lightning incessantly at various shooting objects or evil characters. It makes for a fun change but there's even less to those sections than the bulk of the game, and they're over in a very easy flash.
What else is left to say? There are many collectables if that way inclined scatterred across the world, ranging from different costumes for Thor to artworks available to look at outside of the main game. On completion a variety of unlockables are shared including Ragnarok difficulty for those who fancy a second play-through. Training levels based in each of the main worlds become available also, allowing you to hone those combo skills which are not required in the main game. There is a lot of content here, on the surface. But its a fallacy. The game can be completed with little or no challenge in under four hours. The 3DS activity log indicated three hours and thirty-three minutes had been spent playing this game by the time it was over. A full-price handheld game. The value equation is just not there. The production values of the game are good, it has an exciting combo system and it feels enjoyably like any great third-person action adventure you've seen over the past years. For the first fifteen minutes. But that enthusiasm and encouragement dissipates so quickly, leaving a repetitive slog of a game that even though its over so quickly still does not warrant that time spent on it. If you're a twelve year old boy you'd likely appreciate the challenge, love the content and enjoy the comic book story (as voiced by stars of the film released on Blu-Ray at the same time as this game). If you're not - just walk on by, or wait for it to enter the bargain bin.