A rhythm-fighting game is unusual. So, when I first set out to play God of Rock, I had high hopes for a great time. It felt like a sense of belonging that I didn't realize I needed. As if Just Dance and King of Fighters were combined. Who can say no to that?
While God of Rock has its thrilling moments, they are often stifled by half-baked cogs in the machine. It sucks pretty bad because the idea is, at best, clever. I bet many people were sucked in just by hearing about the premise.
So, how does God of Rock manage to skip a beat? Is it as bad as avoiding taking it for a spin? Or, are God of Rock‘s issues manageable pending future updates? Stay tuned until the end of our God of Rock review to find out the answers to these questions and more.
Rock ‘n Roll
The God of Rock wants to see people fight to the beat of the drum. So, he sets out to find the world’s greatest musicians who can dabble in throwing punches for their own pleasure. Each of the 12 fighters in God of Rock has a background story. A little something pertaining to some issue they were having, and how God of Rock promises to sort it out if they sign up for his rhythm-fighting tournaments.
So, the fighting begins, and you start to choose between characters that seem to have some symbolic resemblance to superstars you may already know. I certainly saw some Elvis and Lizzo representations. Did you make any connections on your end? Regardless of whether each character signifies a superstar, they all wear dashing outfits and exude such bright, vibrant auras that its much fun switching between each one.
What’s more? Each character has unique move sets and abilities. So, it’s not just their superstar inclination that gravitates you toward choosing them. Some have healing properties. Others deal more considerable damage than the rest. Really, it’s up to you to experiment with either one to find out the characters that work well in your favor.
I have to say, though, that beyond physical appearance and fighting style, there isn’t much else that cultivates a sense of care and affection toward particular fighters. The background stories, told in cutscenes in the Story/Arcade mode, barely dig deep enough to form bonds with each character.
Here’s an excerpt from one. Meet a normal musician living a monastic life. Suddenly, the God of Rock snatches her meal. So, Hilde has no other choice but to fight in God of Rock’s tournament. She needs food to survive, no?
They’re fun little teasers that show some amount of effort put into each character’s backstories. But they seem to need more time in the oven to dish out more in-depth details that will at least make you care or form long-term bonds with them.
All Hats to the Ring
Once assembled, the tournament begins in eight dynamic stages set across the universe. These are like static backdrops where the fights take place. They’re visually stunning. Definitely sights for sore eyes. They match well with the character designs and showcase fine detailing across the board.
The only downside is that you can’t interact with the environment. They’re almost like static backdrops, seen in the background of fights, but there's not much you can do with them except select and stare.
Turn Up the Music
Enough with additives. Let’s get to the fun part; the 1v1 fights, themselves. Being a rhythm-fighter, players don’t directly control a character during fights. Instead, they focus on pressing buttons just in time for the beat of an original soundtrack. In return, accurate button presses activate certain player moves, whether attacks that deal damage to opponents or defenses that protect your player from incoming attacks. And that’s it. Fight to the beat by hitting notes at the right time.
The screen is split in two. The top half features fighting sequences. Quite flashy and brilliantly beautiful sequences, I must say. Like a harmonic, tense battle. The bottom half is the rhythm part of the game, where the notes to a soundtrack are displayed in a four-line grid. Two grid parts lay side-by-side. One for each player. Yours would ideally be at the bottom, left corner of the screen. I describe the setup meticulously in an attempt to illustrate how frantic fights can become.
Because landing the perfect blows or defenses depends on hitting the right note at the right time, you’ll find yourself almost always glued to the bottom, left, and corner sides of the screen. Lose sight of it, even just for a moment, perhaps to take in the lush stages and flashy battles, or even to see how much of your health is left at the health bar placed at the top, left corner of the screen, and you lose.
It kind of beats the whole purpose of half the game, at least. God of Rock is a rhythm -fighter. However, much of your time is spent focusing on the rhythm side of things. A whole fight can pass you by, especially if you lean more on the competitive side, and I wouldn’t blame you for it.
Rock off and Rave On
Unfortunately, it gets worse from there. See, each fight goes on until one of the players is KO’d. To get there, God of Rock makes it so the soundtrack plays faster, the notes catch lightning speed, and in a moment's time, you’re frantically trying to hit every note at the right time. Whoever is faster on their button presses and more accurate wins.
The tricky part with this is that you never get the chance to pace yourself. One way players like to strategize fights is to keep track of their and their opponents’ health bars. That way, you know when to block more and when to unleash consecutive attack sequences that will surely knock them out.
Another way is by anticipating attacks. When your opponent is on a roll, sending incoming attacks hoping to stun you, you can block their moves for a while until they’ve had their share. But God of Rock takes that away from you. Instead, your focus is solely placed on hitting the notes accurately and on time.
Then there’s the simple fact that you hardly get to appreciate the amount of love and care put into the artwork. If you must take in the environment and the characters plays, then do so knowing you’ll likely lose to a more attentive opponent.
Stuck in My Head
At this point, God of Rock’s soundtrack may be its saving grace. Well, there are over 40 songs to choose from, so that’s a fine start. However, yes, however, nearly all of these songs get stuck in your head long after you’ve put the controller down. And that’s an issue for a rhythm game.
To be fair, all of the songs on God of Rock are original soundtracks. Also, none of them have any lyrics, just instrumentals that sound more electro-pop and metal than rock. Still, it’d be nice to have curated soundtracks that are memorable and live outside of the game. At least, none of the songs are so bad that you’ll want to put your head through a wall.
Further, God of Rock has more game modes besides Arcade mode, albeit limited compared to its competitors. You can jump into training mode to hone your skills. Bring a friend or two along in local or online multiplayer. Or, check out the track editor, where players can put their own spin on existing tracks. Perhaps, add more notes or remove some to make them easier to play.
I’d have loved to see the track editor allow importing songs you actually enjoy listening to. Hopefully, future updates will make that possible and encourage a growing fanbase while at it.
God of Rock is one of those games that shows great promise simply from its premise but fails to deliver at launch. It’s no secret that fighting games are fun, and merging them with rhythm-based games could spin up a new fan-favorite genre. Unfortunately, God of Rock fails to deliver by placing more focus on one end of the deal and completely neglecting the other.
Right now, God of Rock feels more like a rhythm game because much of your time and effort is directed toward perfecting your timing and hitting notes accurately. You lose sight of the notes, just to see how well you’re doing or take in your character’s prowess, and the game punishes you for it. Unfortunately, the pressure gets worse when the track speeds up the more fights go on, with options to use special abilities that demand mastering and executing combos perfectly. I can only hope that future updates will realize the flaws and iron them out because, at its core, God of Rock remains an ingenious addition to gaming culture.
God of Rock Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X/S, & Switch)
A Rhythm-Fighter Hybrid. Bringing the Beat to Your Fingers
Check out God of Rock, a rhythm-fighter game that any competitive spirit should try. Even if you enjoy the beat of rhythms, do give God of Rock a shot. You’ll probably find its gameplay fun to get into, though it could use a few polishes here and there to get it where it needs to be.