After the (somewhat) satisfying finale of God of War 3, Sony Santa Monica decided to go back (again) into the God of War mythos with Ascension, giving us the ability to play as a Kratos who isn’t nearly as angry as you may be used to. For the first time ever, there is an added multiplayer mode to the experience, though it remains to be seen how it holds up. Is Kratos’ history still worth exploring, or should the franchise move on?
What I Liked
It Gets Off To A Great Start
The God of War games are known for their quick, epic introductions and Ascension is no exception. No sooner do you break free from the Furies’ chains, in a very Kratos way, do you quickly get involved in a long, encompassing boss fight while trying to escape the Prison of the Damned. It may not be as heart-pounding as a certain fight seen in God of War 3, but I found Ascension’s opening to be one of the best in recent memory.
I was slightly disappointed at first because everything seemed to be different–in a bad way. I’ll get into what I didn’t like about the combat below, but what I enjoyed gets the spotlight here:
First off, you pretty much just have the blades this time around. Sure, you can pick up a few other weapons along the way, but your blades take center stage. However, there are a few different ways to play. You’re given the ability to swap between different God-themed power-ups for your blades, such as Ares or Hades.
At the outset, it doesn’t work very well because your magic attack is locked. However, once the game gets going in the latter stages of the 7-hour campaign (on normal, collecting everything), and the blade powers get leveled up to their maximum potential, my personal favorite was easily Hades and all his soul effects. Overall, I’d say that Ascension‘s combat wasn’t nearly what I was expecting, but it’s still enjoyable by the time the credits roll.
Oh, and the sound the blades make is awesome.
If The Last of Us wants to take home best PS3 visuals this year, or maybe even the dark horse, Beyond: Two Souls, they need to step their game up. From the character models to the animations, to the colors, to the detail, the blood splatter on Kratos, and the scope of the environments, this is an amazing looking game and shows that Sony Santa Monica really knows how to push the PS3.
I was very skeptical when I saw multiplayer for the first time, and when I got into the beta prior to launch, I wasn’t exactly a big fan. Thankfully, after putting some time into the final product, online play really helped improve my thoughts of Ascension as a whole package.
You are able to choose from variants of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, or even a difficult gauntlet of enemies, as well as select your own warrior. Gameplay works very similarly to the main game, with combos and magic attacks key, with traps thrown into the so-so levels.
Though I found there were balancing issues that could see you getting combo-juggled without a chance to retaliate before dying, I had hours of fun trying to take down all the enemies with my upgraded Spartan.
What I Didn’t Like
The Way The Story is Told
The story itself is pretty weak, not really offering any interesting information about Kratos that we didn’t already know, but the way the story is told is probably the worst part. I won’t spoil much, though I will say that Ascension starts out with Kratos in chains at the Prison of the Damned, some stuff happens, then you go back three weeks in time to a point that doesn’t seem necessary.
This flashback/flashforward mechanic is then used a couple more times through the game and it really hurts the overall flow. It’s especially bad when the story does start to get a little compelling, only to rip you through time yet again, with the exact same power-ups on your weapons.
When it comes to the finale of Ascension, instead of giving you a crazy ending that sets up the events perfectly for the next God of War, the ending just feels rushed and unsatisfying.
Rather than a natural evolution of the franchise, Ascension feels like they were testing the waters for God of War IV to see what they could change to the formula. The differences that stuck out to me, and were negatives, are the new Rage meter, the loss of Rage of the Gods, the changing of the menus, somewhat different controls, the axing of true save points, and picking up weapons.
It was nice to see some changes to God of War, but none of them really panned out for me and I hope Sony Santa Monica goes back to what works next time around.
It Just Doesn’t Live Up To The Other God of War Games
Thanks to the lackluster storytelling, combat which doesn’t become second nature until later in the game, and the little changes, Ascension’s single player just doesn’t match up to any other game in the series. It’s not to a point where the game is bad, far from it, but I’m starting to re-think my personal ranking of having Chains of Olympus as my least favorite.
While God of War: Ascension’s single player was a disappointment, it’s still better than most third-person action titles on the market. Despite my negatives, fans of the series should check this out, just maybe don’t come in with high expectations. And if you were worried about the addition of multiplayer, don’t be. It’s really fun and is something I wouldn’t mind seeing expanded in future games.