Published on March 20th, 2013 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
God of War: Ascension Review
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Developer: Sony’s Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Platform: PlayStation 3
God of War has been one of those franchises that has proven itself to be a giant on many different levels. But after battling the likes of Poseidon, Hades and other mythological beasts throughout the course of the series, the prequel release, God of War: Ascension, takes a minor step back, but not necessarily in a negative way. I have heard critics bash of Ascension due to its toned-back battles, even though in the beginning of Ascension you fight one the sisters of Fury, who summons building-sized beasts that will have you battling via QTEs (Quick Time Events) and rotating platforms. As stated, Ascension is not a sequel to the original trilogy, but instead it stands as a prequel, featuring a story that leads up to the redemption-seeking Kratos battling the almighty gods of Olympus.
In Ascension, Kratos breaks the blood oaths with the gods, and becomes the target of three powerful sisters known as The Furies. The game opens with Kratos fighting one of the sisters, Megaera, who summons insect creatures that take over the soul of whoever they cling onto. It starts with regular enemies, before transitioning to larger beasts that are taken over by Megaera. The battle is a solid introduction to the start of a more calm and laid-back Kratos, but this is where Ascension succeeds.
The game follows an unfamiliar plot among God of War fans. With Ascension we are introduced to a more touching, vulnerable side of Kratos. Even though he is still rugged and rough around the edges, he is more compelling to those around him. That doesn’t mean that he will be less brutal when it comes to him swinging the Blades of Chaos, but there are moments when we witness him recalling his past with his family, and you cannot help but feel for him as he battles his inner demons. The only gripe that I can see gamers have with this story, is that it is a bit of a step down from Kratos battling the gods themselves to fighting off The Furies. The narrative is just as strong as past games, however, yet that big eye-opening moment doesn’t seem to happen until the very end of the game.
There is plenty that God of War veterans will be familiar with, especially when it comes to the combat. You have a standard quick attack, heavy attack, dodge and block, and the famous combo-string. The combos are unlocked as you gain red orbs, which allow you to vary up your attacks, and when you get to certain sections of the games, like the Trials of Archimedes. It is a little disappointing to see that Ascension doesn’t offer Kratos any additional weapons beyond the Blades of Chaos, however the blades can be upgraded with elemental and mystical powers as you progress through the story. The Lighting of Zeus, for example, shocks your foes with electricity, Soul of Hades raises the undead to fight in your aid, Fire of Ares sets your enemies on fire and the Ice of Poseidon will freeze your enemies in place.
Much like the various weapons that appeared in prior games, it is the way you use each power that will help you pave your way through throngs of enemies. If you’re in need of health, just use the Soul of Hades and green orbs will be released from your fallen foes.
From past games, you will notice that the magic system has changed, but only slightly. If you want to unlock magic abilities, you will have to upgrade the weapon to a really high degree before the magic ability becomes usable. This will keep you thinking as to where you will want to put your experience points.
There are secondary weapons that Kratos will come across that are limited in use, but effective when used correctly. Throughout the course of the game Kratos can pick weapons up that are lying around, and even kick weapons out of your enemy’s hands to use against it. However, over time and through the course of upgrading your Blades of Chaos, the secondary weapons become more of an afterthought.
If there is one thing that I can say about Ascension is that it is difficult, even on Normal. In the past you would have to get certain merkers to save their progress, but in Ascension the abundance of checkpoints and health chests might trick you into thinking the game is easy. In reality, you may come across many situations where you will want to throw your controller. The game does not achieve this increasing enemy difficulty, but by increasing numbers. Take the aforementioned The Trials of Archimedes, for example. You may spend hours trying to complete this challenge, and even though you may have huge feeling of accomplishment after you complete it, you will probably go through a controller or two before it is all said and done.
God of War: Ascension‘s multiplayer is the game’s weakness, and takes a little bit of thunder out of the overall experience. Even though it is something new to the franchise, it feels tacked on and hastily thrown together.
At the start of multiplayer you will choose a god that you follow, and that deity will grant you powers that are representative of them. Followers of Zeus become mages, Ares gathers warriors and those loyal to Hades are the stealthy rogues of the group. Each group’s different specialty helps keep the mode from getting dull.
It seems that matches between other people often turn into a button-mashing competition, even though the campaign itself helps players master the system of attack, block and parry. Weapon unlocks and upgrades make a huge difference when it comes to the spirit of competition. It’s an unfair playing ground when you end up in a room with a guy who heavily upgraded as apposed to those who are entering the arena for the first time. It is offset by how generous the experience points system works, which allows novices to begin leveling up in no time. All this, in turn, makes multiplayer more of a “ho-hum” experience that is fun for about an hour, then becomes pushed to the back of your mind. Unless, of course, being a button-mashing servant of the gods suits you.
God of War: Ascension will be a different turn for most fans of the series, and you will see a different side of Kratos that we haven’t seen until this point. Some may see this as a turnoff, but it is this that makes Ascension a very enjoyable experience. Sure, we get the gore fest that has graced all of the previous games, but we feel a bit more connected to Kratos than we have before. It’s hard to live up to the success of the previous games, yes, but Ascension tried to take a bit of a different direction while keeping the core of what made the series great intact.
The multiplayer is something that the game could have done without, but the addition may bring an hour or two of enjoyment — just do not expect it to be the game changer that will keep you hooked. Its the challenge of certain parts of the game and the joy of ripping heads of enemies that will keep you coming back to Kratos, and the things he can do with those Blades of Chaos.
[xrr label=”Rating: 8/10″ rating= 8/10]
+ Weapon upgrades
– Not as many “WOW!” moments
– Lame multiplayer