Review – God of Rock
When I first saw that announcement for God of Rock, I thought “yea, this makes total sense!”. Decisive buttons combos from the likes of rhythm games in a fighting game skin, sounds like the perfect blending of genres. I knew right away that this was a game I definitely had to experience, even though I am not typically a huge fan of fighting games.
The premise is simple and follows the typical fighting game structure: you pick a character, play Arcade (character campaign), Online (PvP), or Local (1P or Couch-Co-op). The game has twelve characters to choose from, each with their own unique, quirky characteristics, and reasons for joining the God of Rock tournament that they get invited to participate in by the God of Rock himself.
Edith – a tired and sleepless graphic novel/comic artist.
Champ – a performer who wants to be loved by everything and everyone, specifically animals.
Ollie – a security guard who wants to be a skater, rapper and singer.
Rosetta – the store clerk who wants to be a guitarist but also an excellent graffiti artist.
King – a washed up rock ‘n’ roll star with desires to get back to stardom.
Hilde – works in an abbey, but is devastated by how horrible the foods are.
Kosaku – wants to bring peace, serenity, and quiet to the bustling city.
Johann – the typical 9-5 office worker with a midlife crisis, wanting to build his own motorcycle.
Ziggy – an alien that needs one more cow to complete his…group.
Tophat – a pizza delivery guy desperately trying to earn enough money to throw his grandma a party.
Queen – a fab content creator looking to make it big on social media.
Lyn – a chill hippy lady trying to sell people on the idea of peace, love, and happiness.
Each one is contacted by the God of Rock offering them to solve all their woes if they join and win his musical fighting tournament.
Due to gameplay constraints (that I will get into later), I was only able to complete all the character Arcade campaign on Easy. However, the experience is interesting because of how they really leaned into the fighting genre atmosphere, style, pacing, and progression. It starts off with a slight comic book style, which shows a short origin story of why each person decided to join the God of Rock tournament. Then, similar to the fighting genre, you go through and fight all other opponents, including yourself, with the God of Rock being your final opponent.
Perhaps my favourite part about this game, besides the wacky characters, design, and their respective origin story, is the short three-line banter they have with each other at the beginning of every fight. Each character comments something relating to who they are fighting against, the opponent answers accordingly, and in proper context! Most of it is just pure silliness, but it’s entertaining enough, and I was very happy they put the effort in to make each character have their own personality.
The entire campaign for each fighter lasts under thirty minutes on Easy difficulty, which is actually fortunate because once you start a campaign, you have to complete it or it won’t save your progress. So if you decide to quit, or exit the game, you have to start all over again, including having to watch the opening story sequence, which thankfully is skippable. This is a quality of life aspect that I am surprised is not available. I found this out the hard way when I stopped mid-way because was curious about trying a different fighter, and turned out that I had to start from scratch.
While the campaign and story are not anything to write home about, they’re there as an option and is a staple gameplay mode for all fighting games.
The next mode is the Online and Local multiplayer. It’s pretty basic, allowing for Quickplay, Play with Friends, and Ranked Match which is all very self-explanatory. I experience a pretty long wait time even in Quickplay mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t support cross play, which is a surprising miss considering that this is an indie niche game which would probably make it hard for there to be a decent audience pool. I did manage to get into several matches where I proceeded to get my butt whooped. Luckily, the game does support online matches with friends as well a couch co-op.
Lastly, the game offers two modes: Training and Level Editor that can assist with getting gud, as well as allowing you to make your own beats which is a neat addition to increase replay value. Sadly, they are both pretty basic. This is really a sad example, where I feel that the rhythm aspect is secondary to the fighting game focus.
Now one of my favourite parts about this game is its how the game actually looks. As I have mentioned previously, they do a wonderful job presenting itself to imitate a wonderful and colourful world, creating quirky characters similar to a fighting game. The musical fighters have colourful attacks, as well as colourful art style. The stages are all different and interesting, with each fighter having their own. One of the stages particularly stood out of me, an underwater stage, because it warped its surroundings including the fighters to make it appear as if they are truly underwater.
Sadly, as beautiful and detailed the game is, it is hindered by some HUD design choices, even to a point where it affects gameplay and overall enjoyment. As a fighting game, it makes sense for the fighters to have an HP and an Ultra gauge, as well as the rhythm bar. The location of these elements hinders not only the overall presentation that they excelled at, but also makes it hard for the player to focus during fast-paced gameplay. My eyes were glued to the rhythm bar, frantically paying attention to the buttons required, performing directional combos to attack my opponent, so much so that it was nearly impossible for me to look at my health bar or my opponent’s.
Not only that, the way the HUD boxes everything in, it’s rare that I even get to see the beautiful back drop and attack animations at all, relying solely on sound effects. Lastly, I feel that their choice to have the characters be so close and big takes away from overall presentation as well. There’s no room to see the flashy special attacks, and they take up so much of the screen real estate that I can’t appreciate the background.
Gameplay for God of Rock should be where it shines the most. It doesn’t. This game is available in all platforms now, previously it was only on PC, and I played it on PlayStation 5 for this review. The reason why I am mentioning this is because as a PS gamer, the rhythm aspect of the game, which is its main gameplay element, is really difficult to play and adapt to, due to the button colours being based on Xbox controllers and its placement. Triangle (up) is yellow, Square (left) is blue, Circle (right) is red, and Cross (down) is green.
As a PS gamer, Triangle is green, Square is pink, Circle is red, and Cross is blue. Now if you can imagine, button prompts coming at you quickly as the battle and song intensifies, as well as your opponent attacking you adding even more buttons, all the while trying to do directional combos to perform your special skills, you would need to heavily rely on muscle memory. Trying to enjoy this game while getting frustrated because your first instinct when you see a red button is to press Circle is difficult. Sure you can gain the muscle memory and adapt to it, but getting to that point is not fun.
Can I change it on the Options menu?
Short answer: No. There’s practically nothing in Options, with absolutely no accessibility features either. Which was strange to me, because this is a visual, technical type of game. I saw gameplay from others and saw that the PC version even allows you to change the prompts to directional buttons instead of face buttons. I find this incredibly odd, that a feature that was already available elsewhere was not brought over when it was ported to consoles. Typically, later date ports includes everything and more than the original release, except in this one, we are treated with less.
I brought it up to the devs and they are going to communicate the option to change colours, and they already have plans on allowing for switching to directional buttons, however, not having any options is a huge oversight and took a huge chunk away from me enjoying the game.
There is luckily a great saving grace that really adds to this game’s potential, and that’s each character’s Special Skills. They are activated by inputting directional buttons, much like a fighting game, and pressing an “activator” button, in this case R2. They are seperated by levels (1-3) and requires for you to have the corresponding number of gauge filled in order for you to activate it. The really neat thing about these special skills is that they actually do change how you play the game and adds to the fighter’s individuality!
Take Ziggy for example: typically skills requires you to have the gauge filled to use it, and to fill it, you perform normal actions. In his case, you need to use his skills in order to fill it up so you’re able to do his EX and Ultra moves.
While many of the fighters have similar move sets they have special attributes to them making them a bit more unique and helps you choose your favorite fighter based on how you like their playstyle.
God of Rock is first and foremost, a rhythm game presented as a fighting game. So how are the tracks? The game offers you forty-seven tracks tied across several arenas (albums). Most, if not all are actually very pleasing to listen to and I do on Spotify. It’s got great rhythm, feel, beats, and fits perfectly into what this game wants to be. The only downfall is that it won’t immediately hook a gamer that is on the fence about the game, because it doesn’t have any licensed music and we are a creature of habit drawn to familiarity, which it doesn’t have.
Something else that hinders the soundtrack, again, is its focus on the fighting aspect and bad implementation of button schemes. With how much I was focusing on ensuring I was pressing the correct buttons (because I couldn’t use muscle memory), the music was drowned out and I almost couldn’t hear it. My favourite parts about a well-made rhythm game is how well buttons are placed and curated to accompany the track, and I couldn’t feel it here. On top of the fact that it’s a fight, so your flow will get broken by your opponent’s attack, which is fine, but it didn’t help the situation.
Another reason why I couldn’t hear the sound as much, is the lack of options. The special skills and sound effects, while it looked flashy, there were no options to prioritize hearing one or the other. Overall it’s not the most distracting, but the lack of options for those that just wants to hear more of and appreciate the tracks during gameplay for a rhythm game, is a huge miss.
Overall, Modus Games had the recipe for potential greatness and it looked good in the pictures, but it didn’t taste as good as it looked. Hindered by lack of options and accessibility, too much focus on the fighting game presentation, and not enough on rhythm which is the main aspect of the game, their attempt to marry the two genres ended up missing on both. There are other rhythm games that attempts to incorporate a different genre (like JRPG) such as Theatrhythm and does so expertly, sadly, this did not.
Great art style, beautiful colours, amazing presentation of characters and focus on fighting game look, but hidden by clunky HUD
Rhythm and fighting game sounds like a wonderful idea, but difficult to execute. Hindered by poor design choice (on the Playstation) and severe lack of Options and accessiblity made it even more difficult to play.
No licensed tracks, decent 47 original tracks, with good variety. Fighting SFX adds little to impact and much of the music is drowned by your eyes focusing too much on buttons instead of hearing it.
Fun Factor: 6.0
Mixing two genres but not doing it well on either. Add in the fact that the PS version adopts Xbox controller colours, makes for messy muscle memory.
Final Verdict: 6.5
God of Rock is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Reviewed on PS5
A copy of God of Rock was provided by the publisher.