Thor (PS3)

Another big superhero movie is out… and you know what that means? Another Marvel tie-in videogame! But are we in for another disaster like Iron Man or another decent game like X-Men Origins: Wolverine?

And here we’re in for a surprise, because Thor is not a bad game. Yep, a marvel movie tie in that is actually not bad! Rejoice!

For Asgard!

To start with, the story is not a parallel to the movie. Great decision – don’t get me wrong, the movie had a good movie story, but I’m very glad to see they recognized that it wouldn’t work for a game and decided to merely use the same design and character, but a different story in the universe. The story, like the movie, is one of redemption. And it’s executed fairly well. Not the best story but definitely an interesting story, told fairly well.

It’s the story of Thor as he tries to save Asgard from a foe he himself unwittingly unleashed, overcoming obstacles and treachery. Pretty standard fare for an action game like this. But overall, not a bad story.

Pink Lightning? What?!?

Yes, the game gives you the option to have pink lightning; among several other colours. But really, this is just a catchy way for us to get onto graphics. The game’s environments all look and sound incredible. The voice acting is quite good(and many of the actors portray the same characters as in the movie).  The character design is quite good, although some of the monsters seem to move and attack very awkwardly and it’s very hard to gauge, from the animations, the effect of many of the abilities.

I am… THOR! Son of Odin, God of Thunder, who commands the Lightning and the Storm!

So yes, you play as Thor, which means you have a lot of lightning based powers, a lot of storm themed abilities, and a big hammer. And… well… that is what you are.

Let’s take a step back and start with the good, shall we?

The powers are fun to use, they feel powerful, they’re suitable to the mythology, and you definitely feel strong right from the beginning. Everything about combat definitely feels ‘Thor’. The customization options you have for the abilities add some very fun attributes.

As to the combat itself, it feels mostly pretty good. You get a nice sense of impact from Mjolnir, and the powers play into things quite a bit with each type of enemy having weaknesses to various attack types and powers, adding use to even the weaker abilities against the right enemies.

As a slight positive aside, you get rewarded for destroying all sorts of things through odinforce runes and through feats of valor.

But it’s not all pink lightning and Mjolnir-crushed foes. The combat definitely has some parts where it falls short.

As mentioned above in the graphics section, some of the abilities(both yours and the enemies’) feel a little unreliable. The area of effect is hard to gauge and thus the ability is hard to use.

As far as controls go, the issues are pretty minor. The timing for reflecting spells can be very erratic, with a very tight window for successfully reflecting. When this becomes a key mechanic in certain bosses, it just leaves you feeling like something wasn’t polished enough. Additionally, when you had to aim the hammer throws, the targeting reticle moved really painfully slowly which made any parts involving using that for any quick attacks somewhat frustrating.

The combat was a bit simplistic as well, with only one ‘basic attack’ button and then a separate button for spells. Left the combat feeling a bit repetetive at parts. Also having your combo button be the same as your spellcast button felt a bit awkward.

Probably the worst decision they made regarding abilities, however, was giving you access to prettymuch every ability right from the start. Thinking back to GoW, or Castlevania; some of the best moments were when you’d get that new ability and start learning to incorporate it into your strategy. And this game you didn’t really have that, sure you got points to upgrade your abilities and sometimes you’d get a cool new sub-ability or addon to an ability, but it isn’t the same as getting something completely new.

Some of the enemy abilities are ridiculously hard to dodge or block, specifically on a few boss fights(there was one where the only way I could dodge it was if I jumped and did a charge at a very specific angle towards the boss and past him at just the right time, for example). Also during most boss fights, most of the spells felt largely useless, and I found myself almost exclusively using the tornado spell during bosses just to get the longest invulnerability period because the spells seemed to all do similar damage to bosses which was a bit disappointing.

The Defense of Asgard

I’m going to give a bit of a spoiler here, because this – the last chapter of the game – was just so bad it deserves mention specifically. You’re called to defend Asgard, and you have to do it by a series of mini-game style combat challenges. These challenges were so frustrating, awkwardly done, and just plain not fun… that I could hardly believe it. So if you’re getting close to the defense of Asgard, I don’t envy you. It was just terrible. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, quite literally. After you complete all the primary challenges, you get one more afterwards, and that one is pretty fun. After that comes the last boss, which is quite fun. And the end cinematic is pretty cool, if a bit short.

Overall

Barring the ‘Defense of Asgard’ segment, I had a lot of fun with Thor. It certainly wasn’t a prime example of a great action RPG, but it is certainly a worthy game to play – especially if you’ve been craving a new action rpg-style game to fill the gap left since Castlevania and GoW 3 are all long done with. The flaws in the game are visible, but do not significantly detract from the experience for most of the game’s length, and if you can get past the Defense of Asgard, you’ll be rewarded by a fairly satisfying ending.

Pros:

  1. Satisfying feel to the abilities.
  2. Cool customization options(costumes and colour of lightning)
  3. Decent redemption story, and not parallel to the movie.
  4. Very good quality graphic and audio design from voice acting to environment to most characters.
  5. Everything about the abilities and combat feels ‘Thor’.
  6. Good sense of strength right from the beginning
  7. Really epic-looking visuals for the spells.

Cons:

  1. Defense of Asgard chapter was terrible. Absolutely terrible.
  2. Some abilities were hard to gauge effect.
  3. Slow controls for targeted throw detracts from enjoyment of certain segments.
  4. Reflect timing is difficult and unreliable.
  5. Abilities can be very hard to dodge/block with no real queues to indicate what to do.
  6. Simplistic combat with limited options.
  7. Some enemies’ animations feel sloppy.
  8. No gating to abilities, all major abilities available from the start leading to a lack of progression.
  9. Story is a bit cliche.
  10. During boss fights, abilities seem more useful for the damage immunity they give you than the damage they do.

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