Last week, a bunch of us from The Escapist office got together to go see Thor and I had a lot of fun with it. The action was definitely entertaining and the humor was decently charming. It’s not the greatest movie ever, but there are certainly worse ways to spend a few hours. If you haven’t seen it yet and are at all interested, I’d recommend it. However, Thor: God of Thunder failed to evoke anything remotely resembling my enjoyment of the film.
While playing Thor: God of Thunder, it is hard not to consider movie tie-in games. Barring a few occasional diamonds in the rough, that whole section of games is pretty much universally met with disdain, and rightfully so. Thor falls right into this trap, with a paint-by-numbers design and limited development schedule. While certainly some of these elements are outside of the developer’s control, they could have at least put a little heart into it.
I’ll warn you now, if you see something once in Thor, expect to see it again and again. There are really only a handful of enemy types in the game, with the models palette swapped or re-skinned. Every boss is fought in nearly the exactly same method: Dodge, block or counter their attacks, hit them back to stun them or wait for them to weaken themselves, and when you see the glowing dots appear, start grappling for massive damage. This is of course when the game isn’t prompting you with quick time events in the lower right portion of the screen and some fights instead require you to pay attention to directional prompts in the center of the screen. So you will often be failing these the first time around, which can be incredibly frustrating at the end of a fight when both you and the boss are on your last slivers of health.
Thor: God of Thunder lets you fight back with some unbalanced elements of your own though. Early on, you get the ability to call down a massive lightning storm, which basically clears a room or deals a good bit of damage to a boss. It uses up a considerable amount of your Odinforce (mana), but I put a bunch of upgrade points into that skill and also one that would gradually restore my Odinforce over time. Combined with the Odinforce runes you get from defeated foes and breaking stuff in the environment, I generally always had enough to use it at least once. Later in the game, I could use it several times in a row. So any time I saw more than two of the larger enemy types, I was reaching for my lightning storm. It was certainly far preferable to enduring another session of melee, melee, melee, combo, grab, kill, rinse and repeat.
This all feeds into being my biggest problem with the game; all of these borrowed gameplay elements make it hardly ever feel like you are playing as Thor. Climbing around on larger-than-life bosses worked for characters like the Wanderer from Shadow of the Colossus because part of the character design was that he couldn’t fly. There’s even a tediously long rail sections in Thor, probably because someone noticed that other games have them. The developers have the character flying or leaping from place to place. Why am I fighting this boss to fix an elevator? Why am I riding a barge down a river? Why do I have to contend with shoddy platforming sections?
Ultimately it’s really just disappointing. With a bit more polish Thor: God of Thunder could have been decent. I liked that instead of killing you instantly when you fell, Thor would use Mjolnir to fly back up. It took a little bit of your morale, but it saved you from trucking back through the level. I even had a bit of fun hunting down the game’s collectibles in each level, though it was somewhat annoying to figure out how to reach a side passage only to be told that the collectible inside could only be recovered in hard difficulty. Graphically, the game is best described as inconsistent. The character models look like their respective film actors in a very uncanny valley sense with glitchy shadows. Some of the water effects look as great as anything you have seen in BioShock, while other effects are simply completely broken messes of particles and pixels. The environments continue this contrast; I hated Asgard, with its terrible sky box and blocky buildings, but some of the later areas are actually interesting, with detailed runic textures and a backdrop that really evokes the sense of space. There are just not enough of these little moments to make up for the rest of the game being so bland.
Bottom Line: There are some glimmers of fun in there, but they are not enough to outweigh the bad. I can’t recommend anyone drop $50 on this.
Recommendation: If you are really jonesing for some Thor action after seeing the film, pick up Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 or 2 instead.[rating=2]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
Justin Clouse is glad to “not touch this” game anymore.