God of War Ascension – PS3
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 12th, 2013
Nerd Rating: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Steroid Gamer
God of War Ascension is another brutal and bloody adventure for the Spartan warrior Kratos. There are plenty of Cyclopes to take down, Gorgons that need a good beating, and red orb crates to be opened. Kratos’ latest adventure in the long running God of War franchise may be his first chronologically, this is a prequel after all, but it definitely doesn’t feel fresh or new.
Since Ascension’s story takes place before the original God of War things are a lot different for Kratos and they aren’t necessarily for the better. For starters, the game’s story jumps back and forth between present day (in ancient times that is, not 2014) and three weeks prior. Unfortunately, this creates a ton of confusion in the process. Plot points seem to be all over the place and Kratos himself is going to be just as confused as the player, and to top it all off the one personality trait in the past that made Kratos so cool, his anger, is completely absent. Yup, that’s right, this time around Kratos doesn’t go around killing Gods with the same pissed off demeanor, but instead is a man more confused than the convoluted plot suggests, and that’s a huge bummer.
The game mechanics themselves are the typical outing you’d expect from a God of War game. You’ll get involved in big doses of combat, solve some puzzles, and that’s about it. None of it is bad by any means, it just all feels like familiar ground. The enemy designs and even the levels just don’t feel as inspiring as they used to. Sure, the Gorgons have different visual designs this time around, but you’re still going to approach fighting them in the same manner as you always have. In the past, God of War has been known for its huge sense of scale and some of the eye popping visuals the epic battles would have, and to some extent that glory returns in Ascension. The giant prison that’s built/merged on Hetatoncaries (a Titan I think?) is a marvel to look at. Other than that though, most of the environments aren’t really that memorable and for a franchise that’s developed so many along the way (Pandora’s Box, The Labyrinth, Hades Underworld), it’s a shame to see so few inspiring places this time around. To make matters even worse, the developers at Sony Santa Monica felt the need to zoom out the camera in many combat sequences for a “cinematic” perspective. I respect what they were trying to do, but instead of it ending up as something interesting to look at it just makes it damn near impossible to see what the heck is happening on the screen.
God of War Ascension’s combat takes a unique turn. Whipping out the Blades of Chaos and wreaking havoc on enemies is still as fun and fluid as it’s ever been. The controls are responsive and work tremendously well like they always have. However, there is a new gameplay element in combat that really sends you for a loop. Kratos only has his blades at his disposal in terms of weapons, aside from the new twist that he can now pick up or steal enemy weapons. These weapons can be handy in some cases, but for the most part are totally inferior to your fully upgraded Blades of Chaos. You’ll collect a lot of red orbs and be able to use those orbs to buy upgrades as usual. The twist however, is that you’re practically handcuffed as a player and restricted on what you can and can’t use. Other than the basic moves that the blades come with, all the upgrades you buy can’t be used unless Kratos’s “rage meter” is active. At first glance it might appear like the “rage meter” works similar to Rage of the Gods in the past, but it doesn’t.
You don’t activate the Rage Meter, instead is just builds up the more successful you are in combat. When the Rage Meter is active all the upgrades you’ve bought will now work in combat, but once the meter depletes those moves are no longer accessible, and since your meter gets reset each time you’re hit or simply dies down when you’re not in combat, it makes it really frustrating to pull off more advanced moves. The previous games allowed you to use any move once it had been bought, and this time around I don’t quite see the reason for changing that up other than for the sake of simply being different (which if that’s why you are doing things then you probably shouldn’t be doing them in the first place). It’s probably because of this “new” handcuffing mechanic that the early sections of the game are extremely difficulty, even on lower settings.
The other biggest new feature in Ascension is the use of the Amulet of Uroborus. The amulet allows you to speed up or slow down time, but not in a real time manner so much as it is used for puzzles. Sure, you can use it in combat to temporarily slow enemies down, which is a tremendous help, but the game never really forces or encourages you to do so. Instead the amulet is primarily going to be used in puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles. The amulet allows you to restore objects in the environment to what they where years ago before they broke. The extent of most puzzles involves you going up to an object (which the game highlights indicating you can interact with it) and fixing it. Occasionally, you’ll have to break an object first, or stop its “rebuilding” halfway between, but for the most part it’s the same thing over and over. For the first couple of puzzles it seems like an interesting idea, and it is, but it never builds upon the foundation it lays and just ends up falling flat. This is how most of the puzzles feel throughout the game, not challenging. Perhaps it isn’t poor design in the puzzles themselves, it’s just that after five God of War games in eight years I know the answer before I even know what the question is. There is a also a new “sliding” sequence that is fun at first but ends up overstaying its welcome and losing its “cool” factor.
Ascension also drops the normal challenge mode offered after completing the game in favor of a brand new multiplayer mode. Surprisingly, the mode was actually quite fun, allowing you to partake in various game modes, some more familiar like a deathmatch mode and some more unique like Favor of the Gods. The cooperative based team modes have you and your fellow warriors completing various objectives to “please” the gods and earn points to see who wins. You can even choose a class and follow an upgrade tree. While this may be new to the God of War franchise, the formula has been done a hundred times before in other games and lacks a twist to make it anything substantial. All of these modes are fun for awhile but with limited maps and modes, you might not find yourself looking to be the Gods’ entertainment slaves for long.
God of War Ascension still does plenty of things right. Fighting enemies and watching the gruesome kill animations is delightful as ever, the controls are top-notch, and the multiplayer mode is a fun new entry. The gameplay is far too familiar and Sony Santa Monica’s new additions are more a hindrance than a bright spot. The story is poorly written and all over the place, while the final boss fight is probably the lamest the series has seen. Still if you were hungry for a reason to control Sparta’ s most feared warrior God of War Ascension is good enough to satisfy that craving.
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