Despite this decent variety of powers and abilities, though, combat is usually a slog. You can repeat the same simple attacks over and over again to defeat each wave of enemies, so it's easy to fall into a rut of just standing at one end of the screen and repeatedly throwing Mjolnir. Or you might simply launch enemies into the air with a ground pound, whack them a few times as they float helplessly in the air, and then repeat the process. As a result, combat quickly becomes boring. New waves of enemies never change things up or require you to rethink your approach. The foes you encounter in Niflheim may look different from those you encounter in Hel, but they always fall into the same few categories. There are garden-variety fighters who will hack at you with their weapons if they get close enough, long-range archers, hulking brutes, and little scamps that have an annoying tendency to clamber up onto Thor. There's some simple satisfaction to be gleaned from clobbering these bad guys at first, but when they're the same bad guys you can defeat in the same simple ways throughout the game's roughly six-hour duration, these fights quickly become tedious.
The only occasional break from this tedium comes from the boss fights that cap each chapter. These monsters are often huge enough to fill both screens; though they're never especially challenging once you recognize their attack patterns and discover their weaknesses, the sheer spectacle of these battles infuses them with some excitement. While battling the frost giant Ymir, for instance, you are inhaled into its body, and you can then see Thor as a silhouetted figure through the wall of ice that is Ymir's chest. Another enemy can grab Thor and shake him like a rag doll, and a towering later boss sometimes retreats into the background, from whence he tosses massive pillars and shoots lasers into the foreground. Taking down these tremendous foes makes you feel powerful, and it captures some of the excitement you'd expect from a game that lets you step into the armor of Thor.
But these memorable moments aren't enough to make hammering your way through wave after wave of enemies worthwhile. Occasionally, you must contend with other hazards, like a shower of massive boulders falling from the sky and an acid rain that Thor must shield himself from by carrying a large stone. These occasional meteorological issues make the various realms you travel through feel more diverse and alive, but they don't do much to liven up the gameplay.
Thor's attacks may be electrifying, but the gameplay isn't.
In addition to the Story mode, there's a Survival mode in which you see how long you can stay alive while fighting off wave after wave of enemies. The combat is no more exciting here than in the Story mode, so there's little reason to bother with this option. There's also a mode called Frostgrinder Assault, in which you play through a brief and easy side mission undertaken by three characters during the story. Initially, there are three playable characters available for this mode, but you can unlock the option to play through this mode as almost any of the supporting Norse gods that appear in the story. Although the characters feel quite different from each other--Sif's swift swordplay is a far cry from Volstagg's ponderous axe swinging, for instance--there's little fun to be had in walking down a hallway and fighting off waves of trolls because the same mindless button mashing leads you to victory no matter which character you choose. Unfortunately, that mindless button mashing defines the majority of this experience. It has a few electrifying moments, but most of Thor is more of a light drizzle than a thunderstorm.