Title: God of War: Ascension
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Sony Computer Entertainment (Sony Santa Monica)
ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity and Sexual Content
The God of War is starting to show his age. God of War: Ascension is the seventh game in franchise, and takes us all the way back to the beginnings of Kratos’ defiance to the gods. Even with an all-new plot, GoW: Ascension fails to captivate the imaginations and attention of players who fell in love with the GoW 1-3. It’s obvious the same amount of passion wasn’t burning through Sony Santa Monica this time around. While the game is still visually lovely and technically sound, most everything else is generic at this point. I felt this game was created using a “How to Make a God of War Game” handbook. All the pieces are there, but it lacks creativity. I liken it to someone doing a great job of replicating the Mona Lisa and selling it. Sure it’s the Mona Lisa, but it’s not the Mona Lisa. Likewise, Ascension is not the God of War game we’ve become accustomed to on consoles.
Bound by Blood
Kratos isn’t interested in toppling Olympus in GoW: Ascension. The story precedes every other GoW game. Things pick up not too long after Kratos renounces his blood oath to Ares, the original God of War. You’d think Kratos could walk away no problem, but breaking a blood oath with a god is a very serious offense. Violators of the oath are pursued, captured and imprisoned by the three Furies. The Furies are the main antagonists in this game. It’s their job to track down anyone that breaks a blood oath. In their pursuit of Kratos, the Furies torture Kratos with hallucinations of his past. Fortunately, there’s nothing Kratos can’t solve with violence.
I like the concept of this story, but it’s not executed in a way that keeps me invested. Kratos barely has anything to say during the entire campaign. In fact, hardly any character has much to say. It was difficult for me to take an interest in the story when the writing merely serves as filler. I wish the gameplay could redeem the lackluster story, but it was just retreading old ground.
All the standard GoW setpieces are present in God of War: Ascension. Climb a giant tower? Check. Collect Gorgon eyes and Phoenix features? Check. Kill Madusa-like creatures? Check? Finish big and small battle sequences with quick-time events? Check. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Again, all of these things are done well, it’s just not thrilling at this point.
Weapons of Chaos
Combat is mostly the same this time around, but there are some changes. Kratos doesn’t feel as powerful in God of War: Ascension. I’m not sure if this was by design, but even the most basic goat-like enemies can give Kratos a run for his money if they attack in packs. The surprising difficulty of this game is exemplified by the lack of attacks Kratos has in the beginning. The classic L1+square and L1+triangle moves have to be unlocked by spending red orbs.
Kratos also has a new Chaos meter that steadily fills up as you land successful combos on enemies. When it’s filled, his attacks become stronger, faster and flashier. You can also press the L3 and R3 buttons to perform a single attack. I didn’t like the Chaos meter. I found it to be confusing when it was introduced. The payoff for filling it isn’t that rewarding either. There are many situations where the meter decreases because some creature landed a cheap shot on Kratos. A simple “you’re super strong for a short period of time” special attack would have been preferred.
The Blades of Chaos is still your primary weapon, and there are also secondary weapons that can be picked up in the wild. For example, Kratos can wield a giant hammer, a sword, spear and shield. Each of these weapons can deteriorate over time. Truth be told, I often forgot to use these weapons. They are effectives aides in combat though. They’re practically guaranteed to do a decent amount of damage.
God of War: Ascension tries to make up for a lack of weapons by giving the Blades of Chaos several magical attributes from the Gods Zeus, Ares, Poseidon and Hades. The elements equate to electricity, fire, ice and dark magic. Each of these elements have to be leveled separately. Much like the secondary weapons, I mostly used the default fire element of the Blades of Chaos. The game just didn’t give me enough reason to do much switching.
Kratos can still use magic attacks for each weapon. Each element has its own magic attack that consumes one bar of mana with each use. You’ll also gain magical items that are used to solve puzzles and give you the edge in combat. Unlike regular magic, these items have a cool down period before you can use them again. When used properly, these items can make a seemingly impossible battle go your way.
Go With the Gods
Multiplayer is the biggest new feature in God of War: Ascension. Instead of playing as Kratos, you control a nameless warrior who fights for the gods. You have to choose whether you want to dedicate your self to Hades, Zeus, Obsidian or Ares. The powers given by the gods effectively work as a class system. Brutes may want to choose Ares, whereas Obsidian offers a greater deal of support abilities.
The types of matches you can compete in boil down to deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a time trial mode. It may sound bland on the surface, but the multiplayer is well done. I liked how you can customize your fighter’s weapon, armor, accessories and skills. Just seeing how your character’s appearance can change from a regular soldier to something out of a fantasy novel is a reward in and of itself. In fact, if the multiplayer mode could be given more variety and content, I could see this being a standalone digital purchase.
The matches play out like a violent version of Super Smash Bros. The main goal is to kill your opponents, but the levels will change as time goes on. For example, sometimes the gods will intervene and supply a special item. Sometimes the level will break apart, effectively killing whoever is standing on crumbling platforms. The skills and attacks have a small learning curve. You have to figure out how to play to your strengths to be effective. Dodging and parrying are also crucial. You can’t try to fight just like Kratos because your opponents literally know those methods.
Basically, God of War: Ascension is not a bad game. It successfully completes almost every thing it sets out to do. Unfortunately, it’s setting out to do the same thing it has done several times before. If you’re new to this series, you’re sure to be thrilled. If you’re a veteran like myself, you’ll find yourself yawning. Multiplayer is the most exciting aspect of this game.
Full disclosure, Staples provided the video game for this review. However, the words and opinions expressed in this review are strictly the views of the TechnologyTell writer. Click here to see Staples’ full line of gaming equipment.