Platforms: Playstation 3 Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Sony Santa Monica Publisher: Sony
Platform Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
God of War Ascension came as somewhat of a surprised when it was first announced. Like many other fellow video games, it was teased ahead of an official drawing of the curtain and many including myself thought that we may actually see the next numbered instalment, God of War IV. Instead, we were given Ascension which serves as yet another prequel to the series focusing on the aftermath of Kratos having broken his blood oath to Ares, the God of War.
Following traditional God of War openings, Ascension opens big with Kratos escaping the clutches of the Furies, the three Goddesses of retribution whose very existence is to punish those who break their oaths to the Gods of Olympus. Kratos, having given the proverbial finger to Ares, is right at the top of their list. We follow the story of Ascension through flashbacks that are few and far between which is quite a problem considering the rich story focus the series has enjoyed since its days on the PlayStation 2. The story of Ascension is patchy at best so expect to have to do some serious thinking to remember just why Kratos is doing what he’s doing. Revenge is a very straightforward and arguably superfluously used motivator but at least with the other games you knew straight up why Kratos was trying to kill every living thing in sight.
The problem with Ascension’s opening is that the game will only have a handful of moments as spectacular as being thrown around by the giant mythical creature known as the Hecatonchires’ many appendages so once you’re done with it, you’ll miss the spectacular set pieces the series is renowned for as the following set pieces simply won’t live up to the games beginning. That said, Ascension has some massive, if not always visually enticing, set pieces. The game’s camera will often pull back a hundred feet or so just so you can get a real look at your surroundings which, in familiar God of War fashion, are beautiful. Even if it doesn’t have the jaw dropping set pieces of past games, Ascension certainly does sport the beautiful graphics that are without a doubt some of the best visuals of this generation regardless of console.
With Ascension, Sony Santa Monica have tried to put an emotional spin on and Kratos as a character. As you might expect, Ascension is about as emotional as you can get for a God of War game as Kratos still opts to kill everything by either slashing, ripping or tearing it apart. Since the games few cutscenes that actually drive the story forward are sparse, it’s not unusual for you to actually forget what’s going on at first. Many times I had to stop for a few seconds to remember why I’m watching Kratos try and attack a woman before I remember what she really is.
Kratos’ human side is so rarely touched on in Ascension it makes it seem like the former Spartan general has forgotten that he’s a hardened killer. The weakened story also means that we get a weakened supporting cast in Ascension which comes in the form of the Furies. Just too little is known about them to make them seem like legitimate villains. Whilst I definitely got the impression that they could be evil, they just seemed too transparant for me to actually take into account that the three of them posed a threat to Kratos who at this point, isn’t the killer of Gods we know him as.
God of War Ascension simplifies combat this time around with elemental attacks assigned to the four buttons on the D-Pad as opposed to having various weapons with different attacks. Kratos will simply have to places his Blades of Chaos in a shrine dedicated to Zeus, Ares, Poseidon and Hades and he will in turn get the elements of lightning, fire, ice and soul. The unified weapon system means that players can switch elements mid attack to really spruce things up. Each element is fully upgradable and doing so will unlock the next attack for it. With the four elements you also get four special attacks that are assigned to the R2 button that are best used for clearing since Ascension’s enemies this time around are far more aggressive and powerful to the point where fighting almost becomes a chore. You’ll find it very easy to become overwhelmed in Ascension with the so-called weaker enemies even being able to take an unusual amount of punishment. Ascension’s combat gets so difficult at times that it just ends up not being any fun. Enemies can often incapacitate Kratos which will just leave him open to more attacks. As a result you’ll have to take advantage of his dodge and block abilities but since enemies swarm you, you won’t have much use for it.
Ascension also returns with its fair share of puzzles and platforming. The puzzles this time around are plentiful but not necessarily fresh. You’ll still have to rely on Kratos’ strength to pull a lever or to wrench a giant gear to open a gate which is fine if the game didn’t take away control from the player to show a gate closing when you haven’t reach it in time. It’s necessary at first but when it shows you again and again it just gets really tedious and really quickly.
The newest feature to Ascension is the games multiplayer. Players will be required to build a character and have him pick an allegiance to each of the four main gods, Zeus, Ares, Poseidon and Hades for saving him from death as seen in the single player campaign. Players will then have the standard Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and other familiar modes under different names. Players will be able to create three other characters so they can have a character serving each god. Each of the four offer unique abilities and attacks based off of their element type so players will have to think carefully who they want to pick at first. Fighting will earn you XP and XP will earn you upgrades for your character.
Provided you actually get past the tediously slow matchmaking process, you’ll fight in one of the four game modes. Favour of the Gods is a particularly fun game mode that has four players on each team who are all gunning for the same objective and for dominance over the other. The trouble with multiplayer overall is that there is very little emphasis on tactics as it all boils down to the one with the fastest button mashing abilities will be crowned the winner.
God of War Ascension is a mixed bag to say the least. It looks like God of War, it plays like God of War but ultimately it lacks that certain spectacle that the series is known for. Performance wise, it has all the bells and whistles of previous games. Apart from the occasional sound drop, it certainly doesn’t lack polish. Ascension is more an uninspired game that it is a bad game. The multiplayer offering has some nice ideas and can even be fun assuming that you actually make it into a game but it doesn’t really give you a reason to come back to it. There’s no skill to be carved and there’s no tactical element in the team based modes.
Overall, God of War Ascension feels like the last push for a current generation God of War just before the PlayStation 4 is set to launch where it’s likely the next God of War game will reside. It just generally feels like Santa Monica wanted a God of War game of some capacity out there since it’s been three years after the previous game was released.
If you want to play a God of War game on the PlayStation 3, just stick with God of War III.
- High graphical quality.
- Satisfactory voice acting.
- Interesting multiplayer.
- High level of polish.
- Weak, sparse story.
- Frustrating combat.
- Lack of trademark spectacles.
- Boring villains.
- Tedious puzzles.
Score: 6.7 out of 10.
George Sinclair is an editor for Analog Addiction, the home of the latest news, reviews and previews. You can find George on Twitter and his blog on IGN. Be sure to follow the OFFICIAL Analog Addiction Twitter as well!