The mighty Kratos returns to form in his latest adventure, God of War: Ascension taking fans of the blockbuster series back to the beginning or should I say back to a time before Kratos killed his first God only to find himself imprisoned for breaking an oath with Ares, the God of War.
With those God of War original attributes at the core of this new experience, God of War: Ascension echoes the original game in the series almost to a fault. Delivering a breathtaking spectacle of events culminating into yet another amazing gameplay affair, Kratos battles his demons in an attempt to find redemption from the clutches of the Furies.
God of War: Ascension is a prequel with an interesting balancing act to say the least. With each game of the series, Sony Santa Monica has been able to convincingly express the purpose of Kratos through offerings on the PS2, PSP and the PS3. In fact, it has been great for Sony to introduce new God of War titles which have been along the same story arch, offering new glimpses into the life of Kratos just as long as the main console (PS3) version of the series served the purpose for driving the story forward. However, now that Kratos has toppled Olympus on the PS3, where does Sony go with their much favored demi-god? If they once again go backwards to as far as Ascension is depicted in the form of a prequel, the challenge now is to properly convey the message of the original title while keeping gamers excited for new and improved experiences along the same ride.
After my nine hour thrill ride traversing some of the most visually eye-pleasing environments and visceral combat in gaming, I am pleased to say Santa Monica Studios once again delivers big…… with more of the same, but we’re certainly not complaining.
Coursing along the same path of each game in the series, God of War Ascension once again places players in the shoes of their favorite anti-hero on a quest that is larger than life. Kratos is a prisoner and tortured for his acts of treason by the Furies. Wasting no time equipping you with with the famed weapons of choice, the Blades of Chaos, Kratos is unleashed and hot on the trail of his torturers. Throughout the campaign Kratos as usual is confronted by various enemies types or minions dispatched by the Furies which now pose a serious threat as the combat does take a little getting used to (at least for me it did). While every other game in the series closely related to each others combative nature, Ascension brings something new, more punishing in nature to the dexterity of Kratos. Now the button-mashing doesn’t just allow for the same slash, slash, spin slash, heavy blow as the default maneuver. The combat is more intelligent, more destructive, and surprisingly better. Sure, fans of the series who don’t mind a few tweaks will be right at home, yet as players begin to level up their blades as well as their highly effective elemental attributes, combat scenarios will begin to take on what I must consider the best dynamic forms in the series.
Staying true to the form of the games time and place in the series, Santa Monica Studios has opted to offer players one main weapon in the form of the Blades of Chaos for the complete ride. Now before you run to a corner and roll up into a fetal position in sheer disappointment, not only does this approach do admirable justice to the story, as I’ve already mentioned, Santa Monica Studios compliments the blades with upgradable elemental powers which when fully optimized are unbelievable, as well as other items I’ll refer to as relics which are not only used for combat but are more important as key items to solve the games many brain teasing puzzles.
I can say with no shame that there were quite a few puzzles throughout my journey that had me stomped for awhile forcing me to briefly put down my dualshock 3 controller in an attempt to get my head around them. Upon figuring them out, the great relief of mastering a difficult brain twisting level made for a great moment in time while breaking up the experience from literally cutting enemies in half as you’re introduced to another visually impressive set piece.
Elaborating more on the games new combat system, Santa Monica Studios cleverly intoxicates players in combative dispositions, giving you additional control of would-be cut-scenes as you deliver punishing blows on enemies while evading their attacks in the process with the left toggle. Completing these seamlessly cinematic encounters and you’re introduced to devastating conclusions as Kratos doesn’t mind tearing open skulls revealing the brains of his victims or occasionally ripping his enemies in half, literally.
While God of War Ascension offers an epic thirty chapter campaign filled with cinematic quick time events, ultimately the game feels like it is broken up into three large distinct chapters, all of which vary in size, offering the high notes of God of War one and two while heavily borrowing from three. With all the rich content able to be pulled into Ascension, this latest tale still manages to feels quite original. What I would consider the first chapter of the game is found in the beginning of the game until players have completed the initial rollercoaster ride battling the different arms of Aegaeon the Hecatonchires just before your quest to seek out for the Oracle.
The second chapter of Ascension which I’ll refer to as your journey to seek an audience with the Oracle is where the experience reveals its desire to reunite itself with the original God of War title. This second chapter is noticeably the games weakest point. Feeling brutally linear as Kratos travels through what appears to be a God of War one like experience, in hopes of amalgamating the experience with Ascension, Sony Santa Monica eventually takes player through an elaborate ice filled environment beginning at the what is known as ‘The Python’s Belly’ which is saved by how the game incorporates its use unique puzzle designs, amazing cut-scenes and satisfying boss battle. What I would consider the third chapter begins at the ‘Passage to Delphi’ as Kratos acquires the ‘Amulet of Uroborus’ enabling our Spartan general to reconstruct ruined objects or heal them allowing for safe passage or decay these same objects as you deem fashionable for your journey.
As the game unfolds from this point on the experience never ceases to get better, out doing itself at every turn. Again, from the very beginning, Ascension is an amazing ride only to be slightly interrupted by a short-lived sense of nostalgia eventually reunited with why you’ve come to love the series in the first place. God of War Ascension answers many of those would be questions surrounding Kratos, his oath with Ares and Ares’ true intentions for Kratos as his instrument of death, in addition to offering fun and interesting insight into new story elements that I’m sure could somehow bring about an attractive new story arch for the Playstation 4.
Visually God of war Ascension is in a word, stunning! Largely due to the developmental direction of the game. As with all God of War titles, camera angles are locked freeing up memory assets to smartly utilize these assets where needed. I never thought I would be able to say it but Ascension does edge out God of War III in the eye-candy department and that’s almost doing the impossible in my book. After multiple battle scenarios Kratos’ body is fastened with lacerations from enemy attacks as he is oftentimes bathed in his enemy’s blood, level designs and textures are pristine throughout and most importantly during those heated battles when it seems like Kratos is fighting enemies from all sides, the action never takes a dip in frame rate. God of War Ascension is easily one of the best visual packages on current gen consoles today. Added to the visual mix Ascension supports a robust 7.1 surround package that truly resonates with the games intense nature. From the subtle sounds of movement from Kratos’ blades and greaves as he explore his surroundings to every swing of his blades the immersion of sounds is paramount in Ascension.
God of War Ascension was said to be the game to introduce Kratos in a new light, revealing a new more personalized warrior, a man whose feelings and emotions would be more noticeable than ever before. Unfortunately that is not the case. It is clear Santa Monica Studios had honest intentions of conveying this new warrior before he became capsulized by all the rage as many cut scenes offer an attempt only to fall short as the Kratos we’ve always known and admired comes through more often than not. On its own merit the story of Ascension rings through convincingly well regardless of the absence of a more in tuned with his feelings Kratos. However, I must say it was rather refreshing to see Kratos convey his concerns for Aletheia the Oracle of Delphi as well as for Orkos, the Furie and oath keeper.
After you’ve championed the campaign and now for the first time, Santa Monica Studios offers a competitive multiplayer mode to the God of War package. With every effort to add replayability to God of War, this new multiplayer affair certainly holds its own especially for players who desire braving their God of War combative skills against the world. Ultimately this new addition of multiplayer just adds desert to an already handsome plate of main course campaign thrills. Currently I’m leveling up my character or should I say minion of Zeus with intentions of posting a dedicated multiplayer review in the coming week.
God of War Ascension is another fantastic glimpse into the challenging life of Kratos. Sure, you’ve seen most of this before, another chapter in the same story surrounding the complex life of a tireless warrior who on countless occasions has taken down the biggest and the baddest enemies you can image. And yet again with just the right amount of originality to spice things up, the experience is over the top with added story ingredients keeping it fresh. Kratos is simply amazing despite once again having to prove that he is the ultimate badass in the same story. Sony score’s big again with this exclusive and popular franchise.