I buy a lot of games. A lot of them, I do not finish. They sit, languishing on the shelves until the oft prophesied gaming apocalypse.

So why play so many?

I always hope that the next one will be something that draws me in completely. Instead of playing the game, the game itself drives me to its completion.

I do not know what type of a game it will be, or who will develop it, nor when it will come out. I can only read previews and reviews and then hope that it will be good.

Personally, I do not ask for a massive paradigm shift in gaming. I do not seek an oscar winning screenplay. Nor do I request production monies on par with this summer’s “blockbuster action title” starring the male lead of the moment. I ask for nothing more than it be fun to play, have a story I enjoy, and have a decent presentation.

I am often disappointed when one aspect of a game falls short. For me, it makes the experience less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, one part of the game will be so stellar that I will overlook other aspects and complete it anyway, but that does not happen very often.

The story of The Bard’s Tale, starring Cary Elwes, was well done and laugh out loud humorous. The combat however, was standard hack and slash. Near the climax of the game, the “innovative” summoning aspect of gameplay grew repetitive. But the story and dialogue (in particular, the dialogue between the The Bard and The Narrator) never grew old. The game had character and it deserves kudos for letting you just walk away from the final battle.

I have a very short list of games I have actually played to their endings.

But first let me tell you about God of War.

God of War is the very definition of sleeper hit. I had paid little attention to this title, considering that it looked just like every other action adventure title. It was set in Ancient Greece. I yawned, passed it over. Instead, I watched the release dates for sequels.

It never occurred to me that Sony’s internal development crew could take an original property and apply it properly to an existing, tired, overplayed genre. It never occurred me that it could spring forth fully formed from that development environment and be a good game.

I am not alone, because I think everyone was surprised.

God of War mirrors the mythology upon which it is based. It is violent and brutal. There are many maimings of mythical monsters and multitudes of mere mortals murdered. (Also, there are mammaries. But then, it is Ancient Greece, so it’s all in context. Right. Okay, maybe the mammaries were added for the titillation (Ha! Oh man, how many nested parentheses (probably more) can I put in?), but I forgive them that. ) This is an adult game that has not merely embraced its “M” rating, but has put that rating on the rack and stretched it to see how far it could go.

Ancient Greece, in the developer’s vision, is a savage, unforgiving place filled with danger. It is the kind of place where a man will rip off a gorgon’s head with his bare hands. The kind of place where a man can be tricked by the gods into killing his own wife and daughter. A place where the Hydra eats people on the open seas, minotaurs carry very large axes, and the undead walk the earth in Ares’s name.

So, a fun place to visit, but you would not want to live there.

Then they added a very well put together game on top of that vision, and the result is God of War.

It is like other games. You can use other games to describe what the game is like. It has some puzzle elements that are similar to Prince of Persia. It has a stylish combat system like Devil May Cry. The resemblances though, are only nods to the games that it stands on the shoulders of.

Even more important, this game is fun. I played the game on Hard difficulty, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It was challenging, and the game never felt like it was taking a cheap shot at me. There are parts of it which are frustrating. But they were only frustrating until I changed my strategies, which I feel was fair. I had to think about how to fight, literally fight, through the levels. Boss battles required some pattern recognition as well as timing. It was a welcome change, and as I mentioned before, it was entertaining and fun throughout.

Normal should be a breeze for most people who play video games.

The developers also took some time to add DVD style extras to the game itself, provided that you can unlock the material by defeating it on Hard difficulty. Watching the game evolve from a .1 release to its retail incarnation was intriguing. You can also view levels that never made it to the final version

There are a lot to good things to say about God of War, and a lot of people are saying them.

I’m just going to say that God of War is one of the best games I have played in many, many months.

And it is on my short list.

Here is to the next one.