God of War: Ascension – The PS3 Attitude Review
A warrior’s journey is never truly finish and although Kratos has conquered Mount Olympus and toppled the gods, there is still much to be told. God of War: Ascension chronicles the beginning of Kratos’ journey as he breaks his blood oath with Ares and vows vengeance on the god of war. It’s an act that draws the wrath of the three Furies, the guardians and enforcers of punishment on those who disobey the gods. Not one to stand down lightly, Kratos does what he does best; kill everything.
Has Kratos ascended beyond the status of a god or does his latest venture sink to the depths of Hades?
The God of War franchise has always gone the route of bigger is better, and Ascension is no different. The scale of the environments is absolutely enormous, often pitting Kratos against multiple larger than life monstrosities at once. The opening act alone introduces a massive hand that morphs into this diabolical spider creature after the Fury Megaera injects her venomous insects into its skin. Taking down the beast involves Kratos’ typical hack-and-slash tactics with the Blades of Chaos and a few well timed Quick Time Events. The action doesn’t quite rival the Poseidon battle of God of War III or even the Colossus of Rhodes, but it does leave a lasting impression. Now if only the rest of the game were as memorable.
The environments are huge and the visuals are stunning, but I couldn’t help but think, “Been there, done that.” I felt like I was simply going through the motions during the single player campaign. Worst of all, the Furies, while interesting nonetheless, don’t hold a candle to the gods themselves, who are mysteriously absent from the game. One of the aspects I’ve enjoyed so much about the God of War franchise is how it has embedded Kratos in Greek mythology. Meeting Daedalus and traversing his labyrinth was an absolute joy in God of War III. While there are a few notable characters like the Prophet Castor at the Temple of the Oracle and Orkos, they don’t quite stand as tall as their predecessors.
One of the difficulties surrounding God of War: Ascension is that it can be too big at times. You’re never directly in control of the camera so when the game pans out so you can see the grand scale of everything Kratos becomes a tiny blip on even the largest of TVs, making combat situations more difficult since you can’t see what’s actually going on. It looks absolutely gorgeous from a visual standpoint, but it doesn’t quite work in terms of functionality. Thankfully there are only a few instances where this becomes a problem.
Since this is only the beginning of his journey, Kratos has a new arsenal of weapons at his disposal. As Kratos travels across all of ancient Greece, he’ll encounter four “tributes” to the gods where he can infuse the Blades of Chaos with elemental damage such as the Fire of Ares, the Ice of Poseidon, the Lightning of Zeus, and the Soul of Hades. They add a little variety to the combat and can be upgraded using red orbs for more powerful combos, and magical attacks.
In addition to the Blades of Chaos, Kratos acquires relics that aide him on his quest. The Amulet of Uroborus can rewind time to rebuild the environment or slow down enemies, while the Oath Stone of Orkos creates a shadow Kratos that help solve puzzles or assist in combat. The Amulet of Uroborus is the most interesting new mechanics of Ascension. It can be used to repair destroyed chests or unearth broken bridges, even going as far as repairing a massive statue of Apollo.
God of War: Ascension is as brutal as ever. Buckets of blood poor out of Kratos’ foes, and QTE finishers redefine the term ‘dismemberment’ while leaving little to the imagination. Each enemy can be finished off in this manner, with smaller enemies having their heads smashed in or bodies ripped in half and the larger requiring a bit more effort to take them down.
As much of a quest for revenge as it is for Kratos, it’s also a journey for redemption. Ascension delves into rage within the Spartan due to the loss of his wife and child. In a way, it’s the most humanizing game in the series and helps explain why Kratos hates the gods so much. He’s not just the unstoppable force we see from the other God of War titles.
New to the franchise is the introduction of multiplayer. It was actually one of the first aspects of the game revealed for Ascension and while it seems like it would be misplaced for a God of War title, it actually works out rather well.
Players take control of a generic warrior and pledge their allegiance to one of the four gods; Zeus, Ares, Hades, or Poseidon. Each god has their own beginning stats that determine what boosts your warrior receives, magic spells, etc. From there you can customize your warrior with armor and weapons and skills to craft your perfect killing machine.
The match types are pretty limited when compared to other multiplayer genres and include Favor of the Gods, Match of Champions, Trial of the Gods, and Capture the Flag. Most matches can be played in either four or eight-player combinations, with Trial of the Gods available in either solo or co-op form.
The controls for multiplayer are the same as they were for single player, only this time around there are a lot more people running around. The screen can get a bit congested with eight players vying for vengeance but for the most part the stages are laid out on a manner that doesn’t pigeonhole players.
One of the great aspects about the multiplayer is that weapons and armor can be leveled up with experience points in addition to your character. It encourages players to try new combinations and doesn’t discourage players from not having unlocked some of the more powerful equipment yet. Labors, Ascension’s version of challenges, keep players coming back for more. That’s the thing about the multiplayer. There always seems to be something on the verge of unlocking, whether it’s a new level or weapon.
It’s obviously that the majority of God of War: Ascension’s development went into the multiplayer portion of the game. While the single player campaign feels stale and tired, the multiplayer injects fresh blood into the franchise’s veins.
Perhaps it’s because God of War III did everything so perfectly that Ascension can’t possibly live up to its predecessor. That being said, it’s a great experience nonetheless. Kratos still has what it takes to put on a show, and in the end, that’s what matters the most.