Kratos returns in this brand new entry in the God of War series and is the supposed finale of Kratos’ story. The question on everyone’s mind has to be whether this series can keep going with the quality that fans are accustomed to. We’ll answer that question and more in this review of God of War: Ascension.
God of War hasn’t really been around all that long when you really sit there and think about it. The franchise has seen 3 main entries, and two PSP games and even some mobile games all since 2005. It can be argued that God of War is becoming yet another over-saturated franchise that is starting to slow down just a little bit but, here we are in 2013 and the fourth main entry into the God of War series has arrived with God of War: Ascension.
When you first begin God of War, there are always high expectations with the many massively epic battles that Kratos has taken on in previous games and as such, I had the same expectations going into this game. Unfortunately, the opening sequences just felt tired and much of the same kind of thing that we’ve seen before. This isn’t always a bad thing but, in a game with such high expectations, it was a very underwhelming way to set the tone for Ascension.
Kratos has broken a blood oath with the Gods and has been targeted by the three demonic sisters known as The Furies. The opening battle against one of The Furies, Megaera should have been so much more but, really boiled down to a bunch of quick-time events every few minutes with a small fight against her minions stuffed in between. I just really felt like their could have been something much more memorable than the long, drawn out mini-battles that kept going on. Don’t get me wrong, the monsters are still massive and you still feel a nice sense of accomplishment when you take them down but, it’s not quite as ambitious as we’ve seen before.
The action gets heavy very quickly though and the beginning will soon be nothing but, an after thought. Combat is just as players familiar with the series will remember it and that’s definitely a good thing. One of the hallmarks of the God of War series has been the responsiveness and simplicity of its control scheme and it’s as good as it’s ever been. There have been a few tweaks to the weapons at your disposal with Kratos now only having the Blades of Chaos instead of finding new weapons along the way. The developers made up for this by allowing new powers to be utilized by the BoC as you upgrade them. These upgrades include the fire of Ares, ice of Poseidon, lightning of Zeus, and Soul of Hades which calls upon the undead. These are some pretty nice skills to be able to utilize and I honestly liked this idea better than having other weapons.
The great thing with the new powers that start to be utilized with the BoC are that they allow players to strategize a little bit. If you need health orbs, use the Soul of Hades, if you need magic orbs, you’ll be using the lightning of Zeus. It adds a new dimension and can be the difference between life and death in the middle of a battle if there aren’t any chests for what you need nearby. There are some limited-use weapons to use like the sword, shield, and even a javelin. These small additions really didn’t seem to add much to the game and I guarantee that using the BoC will provide far better results. It would have been better if these weapons actually made a larger difference when fighting but the Blades blow them all out of the water.
Magic has also changed slightly as players will not be able to rely on it as heavily in this one. Instead of being a quick and easy upgrade, it’s much further down making it a much more sought after piece of offence. I was never really much of a magic person in this series but, some may see this as a bit of a step back.
A huge complaint I have about Ascension is the downright terrible camera angles that plague many of the scenes. When Kratos looks like an ant on my 55 inch tv at certain points, it really becomes frustrating and it’s really hard to try fighting when you can barely tell who you are on the screen. It doesn’t happen all the time but, it happens often enough to become a nuisance. Ascension tries to layer massive set pieces over solid gameplay but, fails with some head-scratching camera angles. The same criticism can be aimed at Ascension’s multiplayer which can leave you feeling very tiny as well. It sound like such a petty thing but it really dampened the experience for me.
Speaking of multiplayer though, it’s an interesting addition to the series that adds a new element to a predominantly single-player series. Players align with one of four Gods, which give them different abilities depending on who the player chooses. Choose Ares and you’re a warrior, with Hades you’ll be looking for stealth kills, and pick Zeus to be a mage. The differences between each god are not very note-worthy though, it’s more about knowing and playing to your characters strengths than picking the best god.
While multiplayer offers some enjoyment for a little while, the combat doesn’t really hold up too well with matches all too often ending up in a button-mashing contest. Favour of the Gods is easily the most enjoyable mode. Two teams go on a high-score race, with points awarded for a variety of things like, capturing bases, opening chests, collecting valuable items, and killing your opponents. I like the bold decision to include multiplayer in the Ascension and while it’s not perfect, it is the first time it’s been done in God of War and it’s a nice first effort from Santa Monica Studio.
It’s been a long time coming for Kratos and God of War and while this title certainly has its great moments, there are also far too many times where it stumbles through and where everything feels very generic and has been done before. What was supposed to be the best God of War title yet may just be the weakest in the series. There’s no doubt that God of War will return and hopefully refine the formula that has worked so well in the past.
Quick note on the Collector’s Edition: You’ll get the Ascension sountrack, The Last of Us demo, two free characters for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a 48 hours MP XP booster, a dynamic PS3 theme, a PSN avatar pack, and a 6″ statue of Kratos which is easily one of the coolest things to have on your shelf. I suggest getting this Collector’s Edition if you want to pick up this game, there’s definitely a lot of content inside!
*This game was provided by Sony Computer Entertainment Canada for review purposes*