Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment Studios Santa Monica
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature
The God of War series has been synonymous with delivering an epic saga rooted in Greek mythology. The series is centered around former Spartan general Kratos as he tries to exact his revenge on the Gods of Olympus. In God of War: Ascension, the story looks at the beginnings of what drove Kratos to become consumed by rage, and, for the first time in the God of War series, adds a multiplayer mode to the mix. Does God of War: Ascension raise the bar in the series, or have the Gods of Olympus abandoned this title?
It’s All Greek to me…
God of War: Ascension takes place before every installment in the series, weeks after Kratos has killed his family. Kratos has vowed to break the blood oath he swore to Ares and is on the run from the Furies, who serve as the main antagonists in the game. The Furies are the enforcers to those who have broken their blood oaths to the Olympians, as they find and torture the offender upon their capture. The story skips between the moments after Kratos was captured and the weeks leading up to his capture.
This story isn’t about revenge to the level that the previous games have been. Kratos is trying to find an escape from his oath while fighting off madness from illusions set upon him by one of the Furies. While the hope of hope of seeing the remnants of humanity Kratos has left in him drives the game forward, the player doesn’t really get to see that until very late in the game. This leaves the story weak, as it serves more as a placeholder for the adventure rather than the development of Kratos.
THIS IS SPARTA! (Boot)
Where the story falls short, gameplay shines as bright as ever in the series. Small refinements to combat remind the fans what made the series so fun. At times, the pacing of the game is pushed in a race to ward off enemies and keep Kratos alive. Conversely, the pace slows down to allow the player to solve the puzzles throughout the game using some of the new abilities, such as healing and decaying particular parts of the environment. This formula is largely unchanged from previous editions to the franchise; however, it isn’t without its differences.
The player will heavily rely on the Blades of Chaos as the primary weapon, but will gain elemental power to use for the Blades, such as fire and ice. Each element wields a different magic attack, similar to the God of War III magic. During some battles, enemies do have their own elemental attacks, making them immune to the element they are using. Ascension also allows players to pick up weapons such as swords, shields, and spears as a secondary weapon option.
For the first time in the God of War series, online multiplayer has been added to the mix. For those that have played the Beta, not too much has changed as far as the overall gameplay. A few new modes have been added, and players can play on teams of two or four, or against three or seven other people. Along with that, the Co-Op horde mode named Challenge of the Gods is included. A mark against the competitive mode comes when there are quite a few people occupying the screen: it gets easy to be lost in the shuffle. One major problem with playing online is the lack of balance in matchmaking. Players will need to put a lot of time into the game in order to become competitive, or they’ll need to pick off the scraps of players with low health.
There are a few different levels for each mode, but they do get cycled after a few rounds, and it does tend to get repetitive. This isn’t to say there isn’t any fun to be had. Some of the final kill animations are as gory as the game, and the frantic action can entertain the player for a time. Those willing to put in the extra time to achieve higher levels will find the experience fun for the amount of time they play.
Snakes…Why Does It Have To Be Snakes?
Along with the gameplay, the God of War franchise is also known for great graphics and elaborate stages; Ascension is no different. Areas of the game show off the massive scale of the world Kratos abides in; unfortunately, the camera pulls back so far that it’s hard for the player to fully know where they are on the screen, especially when they’re surrounded by enemies. This happens a few times throughout the game and becomes more of an annoyance than anything. If the developers pulled back the camera during moments of exploration, the player would really appreciate the scale of their surroundings. During combat, it’s hard to notice that scale while warding off a threat.
Speaking of those threats, God of War: Ascension provides some of the most brutal deaths of the enemies ever seen in the franchise. Brutality has been ramped up, showing gory details when Kratos disembowels enemies, or splits the head of a Juggernaut (the elephant beast) wide open. Though this game may not be for the squeamish, most of the same threats from previous games are still in the game, but have been given a few different twists.
God of War: Ascension further adds to the series’ reputation when it comes to the overall sounds of the game. Voice acting is on point, and little nuisances in combat will make you cringe a little with every crunch and splatter of the final kills. Music adds to the drama of every fight, and adds a special feeling to an epic cut-scene showing off the grand scale of what was just accomplished.
You have no reason to trust me, Spartan…I only ask that you try
To address the controversy regarding a trophy earned in the game, a patch has been released to change the name of the trophy, but nothing has been done to address the method through which the trophy is earned. Yes, they’re Furies and technically not human; however, the Fury involved looks more humanoid than the others, and she doesn’t alter her appearance into a beast in the game. It seems a little odd that this did become an issue, despite a game design manager of Sony Santa Monica saying they’ve pulled back on violence towards women.
Notwithstanding that controversy, God of War: Ascension keeps the formula of the series, but doesn’t do anything in the story portion to drive home the point of Kratos losing his humanity…especially when he’s doing some horrifically brutal things to his enemies. With that being said, this is a worthy addition for any God of War fan that love the series and want to live out the chapter that started it all.
Final Verdict: God of War: Ascension gets 8 exposed Juggernaut brains out of 10.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of God of War: Ascension by Sony Computer Entertainment Studios Santa Monica distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment.
- Great Fan Service
- Same Controls You Know and Love
- Nice New Weapons and Upgrades
- Camera Angle is Off Sometimes
- Lack of Balance in Online Matchmaking