When finding a studio to develop a videogame based on Thor, with all the Norse mythology associated with the God of Thunder, you'd might as well go with a developer with some experience in classical mythlogy. As a publisher, Sega went with Rise of the Argonauts studio Liquid Entertainment. What we get--aside from an original story separate from the film--is what appears to be a robust action game in the same vein as a certain "warring god" Sony made a lot of money off last year.
Thor: God of Thunder also has much in common with games like Darksiders, where the camera isn't fixed. It is just as well since control of the camera is extremely helpful in the myriad encounters with enemies larger than Thor. While the demo I played offered five sections, the lack of any kind of exploratory section was a curious omission. Instead, four sections were focused on boss fights and the fifth area was mostly on-rails. This latter section featured a giant pulling a boat through a swamp, a boat commandeered by Thor, as he used his hammer throws to take out hostile natives and blow up their homes. It was unclear what they did to rub Thor the wrong way, but we’re pretty sure we’ll get an explanation in the retail version of the game (or he could just be a jerk ala his disgruntled god-slaying cousin).
Most monsters don’t appreciate hauling boats for a living, let alone getting mushed with lighting strikes by a tiny blond guy. So sure enough, the next chapter involved a boss fight against that very same disgruntled giant.
After playing through all five sections in just over 40 minutes, there was sense that Thor: God of Thunder would have a moderately high learning curve for players who truly want to master all of Thor's moves and combos. This is hardly a criticism, since you would think that any Norse god would know a multitude of ways to take down unruly trolls and rebellious gods.
Stunning the enemies is the key element in triggering boss fights' quicktime events. Many commands go beyond simple one-button inputs; expect to also mash buttons repeatedly, alternate left-trigger and right-trigger presses, and rotate the analog stick in the midst of a grappling tug-of-war. What’s more, a dazed boss will have multiple body-specific trigger points for the quicktime events, and getting the most spectacular finishes involve executing those events successfully. Many of these executions are fittingly over the top, much like the God of War titles that clearly influenced this game. Those who aren’t attuned to the reactionary demands of this gameplay style do stand a chance at overcoming bosses with constant blows to the ankles, though just be ready to switch to defensive stances a lot with Thor’s trademark spinning-hammer-as-shield move.
Aside from the aforementioned swamp, the rest of the environments presented involve more fantastical settings, not unlike Thor’s stage in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. That includes the futuristic architecture we often associate with Marvel’s interpretation of Asgard.
Sega’s use of established studios also led to its developer choices for the non-HD releases of God of Thunder. Red Fly Studio brings its experience from the Wii ports of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II and Ghostbusters: The Video Game by reimagining the Thor game with a visual style propelled by motion comics, while still keeping the action fundamentals from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. Old school Sega fans might be surprised to learn that this release will even have a Space Harrier-style flight mode.
Yet what really got me excited was the news that Shantae developer WayForward Technologies is handling the DS version. The teams work on Contra 4 made for one of the best games in that series, so it was especially great to hear how many staff members from that project are working on Thor. I caught similarities in the detailed background art and the fluid animation of Thor's moves similar to Contra, though don’t expect his hammer to have spread gun capabilities. The God of Thunder can also attack with his hammer in eight different directions. And while it wasn’t ready to be presented, Sega wanted to add that a 3DS version of Thor: God of Thunder is also in the works.
With the film out in early May, you would be right to assume that God of Thunder will be out at the same time for these platforms. As the Xbox 360 version we played was still a little buggy, we can be sure that Liquid Entertainment is slaving away during this abbreviated polish period, the common burden of many movie-to-game spin-offs.