God of War: Ascension is the latest prequel to the series. Using the same technology they built God of War 3 on, Ascension looks and feels quite similar to God of War games of the past. However, the question is this: Does it stand next to the trilogy as a major installment, or lose its footing and stagger to the lower levels of the PSP side-games? I feel that Ascension will be one of those games with mixed conclusions, and you’ll probably understand why after reading.
God of War: Ascension takes place ten years before the events of the original God of War. Kratos is being hunted by the Furies who are corrupting his mind, causing him to forget the murder of his Wife and Daughter, as well as his bind to Ares. Kratos realizes that this is happening, however, and sets out to destroy the Furies. The setting jumps from two different time periods, one where Kratos is being held prisoner by the Furies, and one which is a few weeks earlier when he is being hunted. The plot is beautifully scripted and actually comes together very nicely. There are quite a few “wow” moments, and comes to a memorable conclusion.
The combat has been refined in this entry, bringing new play toys for Kratos to murder with. Instead of acquiring new weapons as before, Kratos now acquires different elements from the gods, Ares’ Fire, Poseidon’s Ice, Zeus’ Lightning, and Hades’ Souls. This is awesome, because each element brings you a slightly modified moveset, magic and accessible combos as well as changing enemy’s drops (Zeus Magic Orbs, Hades’ Health Orbs, Poseidon Exp Orbs and Ares Stuns Enemies.) I really like this new system, because it allows you to focus all of your resources on improving the Blades of Chaos, which are the weapon the majority of us use throughout our God of War sessions. It also inspires you to mix up which element you’re fighting with to string deeper combos or to accumulate health, magic, or experience orbs.
The environments are quite interesting in the later parts of the game, with some of the early ones lacking taste. After about a third of the game has past, the locations you visit really improve and give a good “Ancient Greece” essence and are much more fun to explore. The camera work is amazing in this game and gives a fantastic sense of scope to the areas you are traversing. On top of the aesthetics, the environment feature a lot more platforming. You’ll find yourself climbing and sliding around environments which really work side by side with the camera work to give you an even greater sense of scale.
The boss fights are few, but always satisfying. Kratos has some of his most brutal moments slicing and curb stomping villains, in what seem to be some of the most satisfying quick time events in gaming today. The game opens up with Kratos fighting a parasitically infected hand of a Hecatonchires, which is on par with the Poseidon boss fight opening of God of War III and rocks some of the best visuals in any Action/Adventure game. The wonderful graphics only work to enhance the already amazing looking visuals.
Truly the campaign for this game is only a smidgen below the trilogy we know and love. If it had more interesting and fun environments in the first third of the game and was a bit longer, I would honestly say it was just as good. The story dives into Krato’s as a human, and not as a god slayer which drives up some very interesting cutscenes giving insight to the character and who he was before he was the Ghost of Sparta.
The multiplayer was a confusing and not so welcomed addition for many of the fans, but I am pleased to say it’s pretty fun and is worth your time. It has a very clever tie-in to the story mode as well, so keep an eye out for that! After the introduction, you get to choose a God to represent in the arena. This essentially dictates your class. Ares is the Warrior class, Zeus is Battlemage, Hades is Assassin, and Poseidon is Support. They all feature different advantages and call for a different style of gameplay from the player.
Your champion can sport different armor and weapons which feature different stat modifiers to help to improve your specified class. The weapons you can choose from are Swords, Hammers and Spears. Swords are medium ranged slashers, Hammers are two handed powerhouses, and Spears are quick and long ranged. Your weapons and armor will also level up with you as you use them, so make sure you decide early to get the maximum level with the least amount of gameplay!
The stages are fun and feature some cool in-game modifiers. Each stage as a “gimmick” of its own, such as the Desert of Lost Souls which has a Titan who isn’t afraid to interfere in the background. Each stage is based on an iconic God of War location. An example would be Desert of Lost Souls from GoW or the Forum of Hercules from GoW 3. On top of that, each arena has many traps for players to activate and dreadfully fall for, often leading towards their imminent doom.
Expect your typical Deathmatch (Match of Champions), as well Capture the Flag, Trial of the Gods (Co-Op or Single Player Survival Mode) and Favor of the Gods (A fusion of Domination and Deathmatch) This is a healthy batch of equally fun game types to choose from, and although few, should serve to offer hours of Champion-Slaying fun. I’ve only played enough to get to level 5, but I am excited to find more time to pick the game back up and play it!
Overall, God of War: Ascension is not as good as any installment in the trilogy. However, I think it’s still better than the two PSP prequels before it. I have decided that it deserves to stand on the “Fourth Best Installment” pedestal and continue to please fans of the series with its fun multiplayer and entertaining (although short) single player. If this game was a bit longer, had more interesting early environments and got into Krato’s story just a bit more, I think it would have been on par with the trilogy. It’s cool though, since this is the end of a console generation… maybe the next installment will give the trilogy a run for its money.
*Short and Sweet (Short story, but multiplayer is lasting)
*Skippable (For those who like God of War but don’t LOVE God of War)
I give God of War: Ascension a 4/5.