God of War: Ascension

8 / 10 Banzai!s

The Game:
god-of-war-ascension-coverKratos is back, though not quite badder than ever.  God of War: Ascension is the seventh installment in the God of War series, including the two PSP titles and a mobile phone game.  It could also very well be the last we see of Kratos, given that the story ended with God of War III – unless they keep going back into prequel territory.  But hey, it worked for the Zelda series.  And as long as people keep buying games, Santa Monica Studio might find a way to pick at Kratos’ life story.

God of War: Ascension takes place before the main events of the original God of War title.  Kratos has already made his deal with Ares, and has already slain his wife and daughter.  But now he’s having second thoughts regarding his blood oath to Ares, and this is where the game’s story begins.  Apparently in Greek mythology, breaking a blood oath with a god is a really bad thing, in which case the three Furies – the guardians of honor and enforcers of punishment – will come and get you.  We know this has already happened to Kratos, because the story begins with him captured and chained.  In classic God of War storytelling, the narrative then swings backwards and we play out through the events which lead him to being caught by the three Furies.

The character Kratos doesn’t seem quite so angry in Ascension as in the previous titles.  When asked to kill a character (whom I won’t mention to avoid spoilers) Kratos rejects, saying “No more innocent blood should be spilled.”  Did Kratos just say that?  He also appears genuinely upset when another character (again, nameless at this point) dies.  This clearly isn’t the same Kratos who only seemed interested in revenge, slaughtering innocents as a means to an end.  But apparently, his blood oath to Ares also masks the nightmares of killing his wife and daughter – which seems to be the fire that burns his anger.

What I Liked:
For starters, yes, I am a fan of the God of War series.  They’re fun games with an assortment of useful combos to perform, changing environments to never make you feel bored, and a fantastic story that feels it belongs among the many others within the Greek mythology collection, from Hercules to Jason and the Argonauts.  And God of War: Ascension is no exception.

Santa Monica Studio is great at developing their games with a perfect balance between fighting, solving puzzles, quick-time events, and physical challenges like climbing or sliding.  The gameplay constantly changes, and unlike certain action games of this style, I never felt bored.  Never felt tired of slaughtering enemies, nor felt there were just too many puzzles.

god-of-war-ascension-screen1The setting, like previous God of War titles, is awe inspiring.  Riding a giant robotic snake which grapples a massive handle, turning to raise a tower.  Or making your way through a massive statue of Apollo which you slowly raise from its crumbled state in the ocean.  Everything just seems so ancient, gigantic, and important – god-like, if you will – straight from the stories of Greek mythology.

The story, for the most part, is pretty good.  As a prequel, there were obviously some liberties which Santa Monica Studio couldn’t take.  But the game sets itself up with its own plot, under the assumption that the player already knows the story of Kratos from previous games.  It was interesting enough that I wanted to keep going, to see how things would end.

What I Didn’t Like:
As a prequel, we know what happens after this story.  We know that he’ll later be either aiding or fighting the gods, and fighting or aiding the Titans.  So Ascension is naturally not about that.  Instead, it’s about Kratos and merely finding a way to break his blood oath with Ares.  With the exception of the Furies, there are no fantastic battles with Zeus or Ares.  Storywise, this of course can’t be helped.  But as a result, Ascension doesn’t have the same epic feel as the previous titles.

Also, rather than adding another “Challenge of the Gods,” Santa Monica Studio decided instead to put in a multiplayer mode.  The “Challenge of the Gods,” which is features in every other God of War title, is a series of challenging waves which are not fun, and only put in the games to make you cry and throw your controller at your cat or dog.  I was glad to see it go, personally.  But the multiplayer felt rather unnecessary.  You have your character, make an allegiance with either Zeus, Hades, Ares, or Poseidon – each offering special attack styles and powers – then head in to a map with up to 8 players, performing challenges, capturing alters, and fighting other players and enemies.

god-of-war-ascension-screen2I suppose it was an interesting experiment to include this into a God of War game, but it just seemed like a lot of wasted effort.  I logged in twice, and both times had trouble finding other players.  It just seems multiplayer works with some games, like Call of Duty or even the Uncharted series, and not for others.  When I buy a God of War game, I don’t want to go online and fight other players.  I want to play through the story.

One final nitpick I’d like to make, is that the game is NOT 3D.  And it’s a shame, because right in Chapter 1, the camera is twisting and zooming while Kratos is leaping and fighting with the first boss.  The scene just begs to be in 3D.  In fact, if there was ever one game that should be in 3D, it would be God of War: Ascension.  Instead, I have to make do with Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.

Overall:
While not as good as the original God of War trilogy, God of War: Ascension is a great game, and a must-have for any fan of the series.  The story may not contain the same epic feel as the previous titles, but it has CG that will blow you away, imaginative settings and enemies, and a high level of overall fun gameplay.

Will there be another God of War game in the future?  I somehow doubt it.  Story-wise, the only thing left would be to create another prequel, one in which Kratos is a mere Spartan fighting battles before making a deal with Ares.  But, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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