God of War: Ascension Review – New Game, Old Chains

When God of War 3 ended, it left many questions as to the future of our favourite god slaying mortal Kratos. But before Sony Santa Monica decide where to go next, they’ve left us with another opportunity to explore Kratos’ past in God of War: Ascension.

God of War: Ascension is set after Kratos decided to break his oath with Ares the God who gave him his powers. By tradition any man or beast who breaks an oath must then be hunted down and tortured. Kratos aims to put a stop to this curse as well as the visions of his family that plague his mind. This is the basis of the story in God of War: Ascension, which acts as a prequel of events to the previous games. Those who were hoping to see a more human side of Kratos will be disappointed to learn that Ascension offers little to no significant character development. Sure Kratos is less angry in this game; and you could even say he’s more human, if more human to you means not killing helpless people for the hell of it. But throughout the campaign you can’t help but feel like there could have been more emotional response from Kratos considering this is months after he lost his family.

Through the first 5 hours there’s little to no narrative in Ascension, making the game seem like a straight up brawl fest as you slay gigantic beats and endure over the top set pieces. The first two hours of the game will likely make you question what exactly is so different about this game, but once you get to around 4-5 hours you’ll be so invested in the games progression that your desire to keep going is enough payoff to excuse the lack of innovation.

God of War: Ascension screen 1

As with previous God of War games the originality of the puzzles and boss executions is a stroke of excellence in Ascension. Environments are heavily detailed and exploring every inch of an area will reward you with chests containing health, phoenix feathers, gargoyle eyes or red orbs used for powering up weapons. The environment is as interactive as ever with breaking floors, smashable doors, and your ability to destroy or rebuild structures to reveal new paths.

Boss take-downs are as epic as ever, with Quick-time events leading to overly violent executions. Before you can perform these executions you must utilize everything in Kratos’ arsenal of offense to weaken the enemy. Sony Santa Monica kept things simple this time around by sticking to the Blades of Chaos as the main weapon, but allowing you to unlock new elemental attacks for them; these elements being Fire, Lightening, Ice and Soul. The d-pad allows you to seamlessly switch between elements and each one has its own unique type of damage attached to your combos. You can also pick up sub-weapons along the way, or steal them from foes. These sub-weapons don’t replace the Blades of Choas, but they’re used in addition. Overall it’s fair to say that the combat in Ascension is even more enthralling than in previous games.

God of War: Ascension screen 2

God of War games would probably be unbearable if they didn’t include some puzzling and platforming to break up the abundance of blood splattering. The puzzles in Ascension are pretty simple and the camera angles are sort of a give-a-way when it comes to figuring out what you have to do next, however there were a few moments where I was stuck for at least twenty minutes before feeling like a complete twit upon figuring out the way forward. Platforming elements are a lot more fun than I remember them being, especially the segments where Kratos is forced to slide down ice rigs and swing from hanging objects.

For the first time ever in a God of War game we get to pledge an oath to a god of our choice (Ares, Hades, Zeus or Poseidon) and duke it out against other gamers in multiplayer. From the very first scene where Kratos unintentionally sets you free, to swearing an Oath to the god of your choice; it’s clear that the logic behind this multiplayer was well thought out. However before long the great idea of a God of War multiplayer grows tired with clumsy gameplay. When you have more than three players on screen slugging it out the flashy animations make it extremely difficult to tell what exactly is happening, as a result it becomes difficult to time your blocks and parry. New players will also find themselves overpowered by veteran players who have spent time collecting the unlockables. It’s the unlockables that kept me motivated to keep playing and gaining XP as there’s a generous amount of items.

There are also number of different modes on offer including variants of free-for-all, team deathmatch, team objective and capture the flag. There’s also a co-op survival mode where the aim is to kill A.I enemies and add more time to the clock, I found this mode to be the most fun as you’re not thrown off by all the player created chaos.

God of War: Ascension screen 3

Much criticism was drawn to this game based on the addition of multiplayer, and many believed that God of War is a game that wouldn’t benefit from multiplayer at all. I admit that I’m one of those people, but although I don’t see the fun in the multiplayer portion of the game I can see how true God of War loyalists will enjoy it. There’s definitely tons of satisfaction to be had from executing real players, but with so many other multiplayer experiences to be had I just don’t see how anybody would stick with God of War: Ascension’s online.

God of War: Ascension is a good game there’s no denying that fact. It’s challenging and visually appealing gameplay is enough to draw you in even if you aren’t a huge fan. It’s problem is that Ascension seems to be the identity crisis of the God of War series. It feels like a game that didn’t need to exist, yet it does just so Sony has a triple A exclusive on schedule. It includes all the head-ripping, flesh-tearing satisfaction that we’ve come to love from these games but besides the multiplayer component it doesn’t really offer anything new, and even that falls short of delivering a mind-blowing experience. I wouldn’t exactly say God of War: Ascension is an experience that should be skipped for PS3 owners, but I do believe that given the times there are likely better gaming experiences to be had before this one. If you’re actively looking for another chance to visit the God of War universe then by all means buy God of War: Ascension, this game will do more than satisfy your needs. Otherwise this addition to the series does little in an attempt to surpass the standards already set.

This review was based on a retail copy of God of War: Ascension for the Playstation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

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