Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed by: Brady Ruiters
The God of War series has always had a solid reputation of having solid gameplay, interesting twists on Greek Mythology and amazing setpieces. We have seen Kratos, the series’ main protagonist in many different ways but God of War: Ascension, the latest game in the series, looks to show him like we’ve never seen him before.
God of War: Ascension is a prequel and takes place about six months after Kratos kills his wife and child. He then breaks his blood oath with the God of War, Ares and thus becomes the target for the Furies, three demonic sisters who are neither Titan nor God. They punish any and all oath breakers. Kratos will have to defeat the three sisters if he wishes to be free of Ares’ bonds. That’s about it when it comes to the story synopsis. The plot is a bit of a weak one and is ultimately disappointing when compared to the rest of the series. However, it does give players a chance to see Kratos in a more human light when mourning the murder of his wife and child by his own hands. The Furies also aren’t as entertaining as other antagonists featured throughout the series. The game also featured a lot less cutscenes than usual and I felt that because of this, the storytelling fell rather short.
Gameplay is a typical God of War affair. Kratos is equipped with his trusty Blades of Chaos which he can use to perform both light and heavy attacks. Players earn Red Orbs from felled enemies and can use these to upgrade weapons and magic. This time around, Kratos will only make use of his signature weapons during the game. However, while progressing through the game, players will find different elemental essences to imbue the blades, with such as Fire of Ares. These provide the player with different types of attacks to utilise while also unlocking magic attacks linked to each element. The magic attacks however, are pretty far into the upgrade process, only being unlocked at the last level for some weapons, thus forcing the player to rely less on magic attacks during combat. There are also World Weapons which Kratos can find and use during the game; they can be quite useful in some situations but will be disposed of after too many uses. I found that I rarely used them due to the fact that I relied mostly on the Blades of Chaos. Puzzles also make a return and do a nice job of breaking up the action. The puzzles that show up past the halfway mark of the campaign are definitely some of the more interesting ones featured in the series.
Combat is still brutal and execution manoeuvres will still have players dropping their jaw and thinking “Holy Crap!” when they happen. Decapitations and dismemberment are pretty much the order of the day when playing Ascension.
The game features a revamped combat system but I can’t help but feel that it waters down the gameplay. When purchasing some of the stronger combos, it is revealed that these combos can only be used when the Rage metre is full. The Rage metre is filled by striking enemies and not getting hit while doing it. If Kratos gets hit, the metre drops by a large amount, forcing the player to keep dodging during encounters. Getting hit repeatedly, which happens often, will result in having the player starting from scratch in order to use some strong attacks. It feels unfair when trying to get it right since enemies remove a good chunk of the metre. The mechanic used for countering attacks seems to follow the same route with now having to hit two buttons to perform a counter and then having to recover for a second if the timing was wrong. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
A section of the game called the Trial of Archimedes, will feel unbalanced to any player, including God of War veterans. The game feels balanced in terms of difficulty but just ramps it all the way up when getting to this part of the game. Each time the player dies, it feels cheap and unfair.
Like all games in the God of War series, Ascension has some awesome setpieces which cause jaws to drop and just give of a “wow” feeling. However, as awesome as these spectacles are, there seem to be a lot less of them during the campaign. The ones to look out for feature both at the start of and at the very end of the game; the final setpiece definitely creates one epic climax.
God of War: Ascension is the first game in the series to feature multiplayer. When starting it up, players will have to choose a god to pledge allegiance to; Ares, Hades, Zeus and Poseidon are the available choices. Each God has its own set of abilities but the differences between them are barely noticeable and switching allegiances doesn’t force the player to adapt that much. The only aspect which really changes are the strengths that come with each allegiance.
There are a number of modes to choose from such as Capture The Flag, Match of Champions (Free-For-All) and Favour of the Gods (Team Deathmatch). There is also a co-operative mode called Trial of the Gods in which players have to defeat waves of enemies while the clock counts down; each enemy killed adds more time to the clock.
The modes are all fun and really carries the brutality and combat from the campaign into the multiplayer. Using the different weapons is fun and equipping new armour and items keeps the player interested. However, the multiplayer isn’t all perfect. Matchmaking can be really bad at times, often filling a lobby with other players and then clearing the spots again; this can be really off putting. Learning how to string combos together can be fun and it can be even more fun when countering another player’s attack; but in most cases, it comes down to pure button mashing and this can be quite frustrating and can get old pretty quickly.
Visually, Ascension does not disappoint. From characters and enemies to environments and cutscenes; everything looks stunning. This is probably the best looking God of War game in the franchise and possibly the best looking PlayStation 3 exclusive thus far.
The audio in the game is pretty much on par with the visuals. There’s a typical God of War feel to the score and that has never been a bad thing. Voice acting is also great and brings the characters to life, even if the characters themselves aren’t particularly engaging. However, I did encounter a few glitches where audio would cut out; hopefully a patch is released to fix this issue soon.
God of War: Ascension is a decent game which suffers from a lacklustre story and shortage of amazing setpieces. The combat can be fun at times and is as brutal as ever but is brought down a little by the inclusion of a Rage metre to allow the player to use stronger attacks. The Trial of Archimedes also feels cheap and frustrating when compared to the difficulty of the rest of the game. The inclusion of multiplayer is not too bad and can be quite entertaining but possibly because of its inclusion, the game seems to suffer in other areas.