Typically when you hear of two genres coming together they fall in one of two categories. Either it makes sense to merge these concepts, or one of the genres can be used to enhance anything. However, every now and then there are titles that bring together two arguably conflicting ideas. Metal: Hellsinger/FPS added rhythm elements to a shooter, Rhythm Sprout molded an action game around it, with God of Rock making it a fighter. On paper the idea makes sense, both genres use specifically timed inputs, along with many rhythm games adding a PVP mode that essentially boils down to this. Given the potential, does God of Rock achieve it, or is it a no hit blunder?
Keeping true to its fighting game roots, God of Rock has an arcade mode with an extremely thin narrative. Essentially, each of these weirdos are invited to a tournament where the winner, who bests the God of Rock, wins a wish. Despite being short, I appreciate getting some insight into these characters over defaulting on their depictions.
Brief Introductions to Each Character
That being said, the actual approach is rather light. After a couple pictures, and a few lines of dialogue, you don’t return to the character until they finish the tournament. By that point you see what they wanted, though I couldn’t say I really cared about their journey, or was invested beyond practicing fights.
Outside of arcade, there are local, and online fights. Unfortunately, there isn’t an alternate survival mode, no optional challenges, with even the tutorial being incredibly short. It takes maybe five minutes, with each explaining a concept so you can understand the fundamentals, though you’ll need to actually practice, fight others, or best the AI to master timing.
These Look… Familiar
Gameplay is in a weird place. As a predominantly PlayStation player the past 25+ years, I found inputs incredibly difficult. This is largely due to the color choices used in God of Rock. Sony has used triangle, square, circle, and cross as green, pink, red, and blue since the original controller. As a result, players like myself internalize said color with its respective shape/input.
What makes this stand out is God of Rock both uses a different color scheme, and relies on colors to tell you the button to press. I can’t look at blue and internalize anything besides cross without taking a moment to think. This is fine during slower sections, though fast paced areas will result in errors. These concerns shouldn’t apply to Xbox owners, as the button arrangement should result in the two matching colors being in the correct spots.
It’s an unfortunate choice, one that does not currently have a good solution. I reached out to Modus about this, and they confirmed they’re planning to add button mapping to a future console update. Now, it isn’t like you’re without solutions either, Sony allows you to remap buttons if need be, it’s just an unfortunate error that I could see impacting a good number of people.
Inputs aside, I actually appreciate the thought that went into this combat system. On paper it sounds like God of Rock would be a frustrating experience. You trade blows until someone makes a mistake, with the songs getting increasingly difficult the more time progresses. In addition to this, players can input special attacks that hinder the other players ability to press inputs. It isn’t enough to be good, you might need to do so with reduced visibility, increased inputs, or just different commands.
What makes the system work is the depth/difficulty of performing these tasks. Along with entering a specific input, such as a full thumbstick turn and trigger, it must be done while hitting inputs to prevent losing progress. Doing so at an easier part is a waste, as the other player will have less issues defending against it, and harder sections are more risk to input. These moves can also generally be countered, with each character having their own gimmick.
Such a Diverse Cast
Even if this can be annoying, there is enough going on where good players might make some mistakes, but will still win in the end. Especially if their opponent is not as good during intense moments. The ability to edit levels also allow for better variety/difficulty. It can take a bit, but really worthwhile if you’re trying to master the experience.
For a new fighter/concept, I also applaud God of Rock for having a good amount of variety. 12 fighters is a good start, with most representing a type/feel of certain musical genres, along with a sizable selection of songs across eight stages. With the aforementioned custom patterns, there is enough to keep people busy for the future, with a strong enough base to add to the experience should it take off.
God of Rock Review Verdict
Realistically, God of Rock is going to be a very divisive experience. Those who love it are going to really love it, and those who hate it will instantly be turned off by it. There is enough where I could see a rhythm game enthusiast getting into it, with less skilled players taking plenty of losses until they get it or quit. It would be nice if the experience was a bit more robust, but the core experience is good enough to see the potential this experience offers.
[Editor’s Note: God of Rock was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]