Thor is a game I was apprehensive to begin, as it came out shortly before the movie hit theaters earlier this month. I actually put off starting the game for a few days just in case it spoiled anything in the movie. For those of you who are curious, it doesn’t by the way. A few things overlap, but for the most part the game is a prequel story to the events told in the wonderful movie starring Chris Hemsworth who reprises his role in the game.
Licensed games have a certain reputation that even after Arkham Asylum are still the first thing people think of. Unfortunately, sometimes presumptions are correct.
Let me preface this right away by saying I don’t think Thor: God of Thunder is a bad game by any means. It’s just also not a particularly good one. A lot of small frustrations bundle up with each other to create an experience that’s just simply underwhelming. The game plays like any typical third person action game of the last decade; go ahead and pick one to compare it to. You picked God of War didn’t you? Well that’s not too far off.
This is where the first problem comes into play, as Thor himself moves very slowly and clumsily. Your only options are to run at a slow pace, awkwardly dash forward, or jump and then awkwardly dash forward in the air. This will make some battles more frustrating than they should be, as Thor lacks an actual dodge button and most of the larger enemies are understandably able to cover more ground than you at a faster pace.
Another tool sorely lacking from Thor’s arsenal is a lock on feature. This isn’t a terribly big deal when you’re facing one or two foes, but when you’re surrounded by a swarm of Frost Giants that don’t stop spawning it starts to become an issue. This also leaves a lot of times where you’ll just be standing there swinging Mjolnir at nothing, because your opponent stepped to the side.
SEGA and Liquid Entertainment went to great lengths to get as many characters and references from the Thor comics into the game as possible, and these often show up as the bosses or enemies during your adventures. Sometimes though a boss will just be a bigger version of an earlier enemy, with many of them requiring the same tactic to take them down; hit them a bunch, grab, and then do a finishing move.
This is one of the game’s biggest weaknesses; repetition. There’s a large variety of enemies, but aside from the cosmetic differences it feels like you’re fighting the same battle over and over again. Sometimes it’s a frost giant, sometimes it’s a troll. It all amounts to “hit them with the hammer a lot”.
You have a variety of magic spells at your disposal to sprinkle in between your hammer attacks or use on their own that have a varying degree of success. They’ll all be required to defeat a certain enemy at one point or another, but are largely forgettable and don’t do much to break up the repetition of battle.
The graphics are an interesting mixed bag, particularly the character models. Thor himself looks pretty good, as does Mjolnir and all of your enemies. That is until you see his face with his strange matted hair and rubbery features. The backgrounds are pretty spot on, but the levels you travel in are so restricted in where you’re allowed to travel and you’re constantly in battle that you don’t have time to appreciate them.
Occasionally you’ll have to fly to the next area in a level, but unfortunately this takes place by looking at something in the distance and pressing a button at which point the game does all the flying for you. It’s a strange feature which makes sense from a gameplay standpoint, until you’re tasked with climbing a huge castle and just asking yourself why Thor doesn’t just fly to the top.
All of these issues with the controls combine to create a game that’s much harder than it really should be. The inability to dodge or roll out of the way makes navigating some of the puzzles and battles a true pain leading to many deaths that can be called nothing short of “cheap”.
Thor’s biggest crime however is failing to live up to its own title. God of Thunder. Not once throughout the game do you truly feel like you’re playing Thor, the Odinson. Mjolnir’s strikes seem to have little impact on anything with even the weakest enemies taking a barrage of hits before going down. Some of the boss fights will drag on for ages because you haven’t triggered whatever fancy finishing move is required to actually do some damage as you restart the fight for the third time because you’re walking to slow to dodge their world shattering attacks.
Thor: God of Thunder is a very interesting game. The characters and story are based on a fantastic movie and comic book series, and honestly do a good job of capturing the magic and wonder of those. Unfortunately the actual “game” aspect falls a bit short and just leaves you wanting more. Not more of the game, just wanting. This is regrettable as the game approaches something fun many times through the experience, but never quite gets there.