Riding on a wave of blood and controversy Mortal Kombat was sitting high up on the mountain of fighting games. But as 2D became 3D a new challenge was presented to the franchise. In 1996 in order to test their new 3D tech for arcade machines, Midway released a prototype skinned with a new cast of characters, totally removed from Mortal Kombat but sharing a lot of its core D.N.A. The result was an intriguing spin-off, looking to start a similar fire, that game was War Gods.
A spaceship carrying this mysterious ore crashes into Earth. This ore gets scattered throughout time and space to famous periods of Earth’s past and future. The few mortals who happen upon this substance, they are turned into enhanced psychotic killers, who each want more and more to quench their thirst for power. They must go up against each other, and the mysterious forces behind the ore.
The cast of combatants is inventive, to say the least, with origin stories that would make some comic book writers blush. They include Pagan goddess, Samurai warriors, Roman gladiators, U.S. commandos, Futuristic Cyborgs and many more all addicted and augmented by the ore and are willing to go hand-to-hand to the death. The fights and the locations these characters inspire are impressive. Much like the TV show Deadliest Warrior, it’s fun to see an Aztec priest fight a Samurai, and see a pagan goddess fight a super soldier in a nuclear silo, all rendered in 3D of course.
Trying to show off the technical prowess of the new engine, War Gods does some resourceful tricks to warrant a title all of its own. While like previous fighting games I have covered, the fighting is mainly on a 2-Dimensional footing, but your avatar can dash and attack along the Z-axis by use of a special 3D button. A staple of Mortal Kombat, the fatality system, makes an appearance here too, and it is just as devastating. Seeing your fighter impaled on a spear and paraded around like a flag is an encouragement enough to get better. But along with the rough attacks and seeing the new “Digital Skin” rendered fighters readily bloodied, makes this game, like its predecessor, not one for the squeamish.
What started off as a tech demo transformed into an interesting proposition. A creative take on a genre that has seen many competitors, and the living embodiment to the idea that what made one of the best of the genre so great, can indeed be used to start something similar, but fresher. With some new technology and a precious amount of ore, War Gods is worth fighting for.
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