God of War: Ascension PS3 Review

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment  Developer: Sony Santa Monica  

Genre: Action, Adventure  Players: 1-8  Age Rating: 18+  

Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Prequels can have the advantage of adding texture to the back story of a character or world, which makes events in earlier games all the more meaningful. The God of War anti hero Kratos, however, has already featured in five games; two of which were focussed on filling in his history and the recently released God of War: Ascension is the sixth game in the series and the third to cover Kratos’ past.

God of War: Ascension takes place prior to the events of the original 2005 game and sees Kratos captured by the Furies, who are punishing him for breaking his bond with Ares, the God of War. From a narrative standpoint at least, it feels like one game too many that doesn’t really do enough interesting things with either Kratos or his world, and it would be welcome to see a fresh, more likable character in the next God of War, as it feels as if Kratos’ story has run its course.

Kratos’ immense anger probably won’t do much good for his blood pressure, though in gameplay terms it, as always, has translated into a beautifully vicious and utterly empowering combat style, which sees bodies ripped apart and an almost hilarious volume of bloodshed.

The parry system this time around is triggered by holding L1 and tapping X as opposed to simply tapping X. It’s a bit of an odd change that has more of a negative bearing on the flow of combat than a good one. The rage meter has also seen some changes and this time around is filled by attacking enemies, whilst getting hit yourself will reduce it.

The divisive QTE’s have been retained and remain some of the most horrible but satisfying methods of offing your enemies. Fights with mini bosses rarely use the system however, and, instead, once they’re in a weakened state a new mini game will trigger, which sees them struggling, as you proceed to repeatedly stab them, while making sure to dodge any desperate attacks that they decide to make.

This time around Kratos is stuck with the Blades of Chaos for the entirety of the game, though you’re able to shift between elements. This essentially changes Kratos’ combat style, granting new combo possibilities and allowing you to unleash unique and devastating magic with each, as well as allowing you to receive various bonuses: by using lightning you can get yourself some blue orbs to recharge your magic meter for instance, whilst Souls of Hades can grant you green orbs to restore your health.

You’re also able to carry a sub weapon, consisting of a sword, hammer and javelin. These are limited in their use but can be worked into combos, and discarding them can give you beneficial effects such as stunning or knocking an enemy over.

Well framed camera work and beautiful visuals offer a tremendous sense of scale. Such far away camera shots offer a sense of grandeur when you’re just wandering around, but can be problematic when it comes to the fighting, pulling out so far away that Kratos and his enemies are reduced to tiny blobs, which isn’t grand at all.

Puzzles are well crafted and often involve you pushing and pulling objects around or moving levers. There’s a time manipulation item that you’ll attain during the course of the game that allows you to heal or decay objects throughout the world, whilst another allows Kratos to be in two places at a time. Some of the puzzles are ingenious enough to require a good think over and, in turn, offer a degree of satisfaction upon solving them, and a further advantage is the fact that they offer a welcome break from the intensity of the combat.

As a whole the campaign is satisfying, with set pieces that, whilst still astounding, are beginning to lose a touch of their lustre, whilst combat isn’t hugely different to previous games and there are too many repetitive moments that lock you in a tiny room and throw numerous waves of enemies at you, with no checkpoints implemented in between. There’s one such moment towards the end that is so frustrating that a patch is on the way to sort it out.

The biggest change God of War: Ascension brings by a long way is the addition of multiplayer and Sony Santa Monica has translated the combat well into multiplayer, without losing the essence that makes God of War.

It begins with a class selection that tasks you with pledging allegiance to one of the four gods, which in turn grant you bonuses. Choosing Ares will make you stronger on a physical level for instance, whilst Zeus will make you more magically adept. You can also unlock new weapons, armour and magic by levelling up, and there are challenges on offer, which are an additional way of winning XP.

As for modes, there’s a range of co-op and competitive options on offer. Team Favour of the Gods allows you to play in either teams of two or four and is a points based mode, where your score is increased by killing opponents, opening chests or capturing alters. Match of Champions is simply a free for all variation on this, whilst Capture the Flag is self explanatory. Finally, Trial of the Gods is a mode that supports one or two players and tasks you with vanquishing as many enemies as possible within an allotted time period.

The combat in the multiplayer functions much like the single player, though there’s visual cues that signify the type of attack that your opponents are using, allowing you to change your strategy accordingly to counter them. They flash red when an unblockable attack is being used, blue on the other hand means they’re recovering from a special attack, and white tells you that they’re temporarily invincible. Even with such assistance, fighting multiple opponents at a time can make it difficult to see what’s going on, making outcomes sometimes feel random ahead of skill, though on the good side you’re also able to kill opponents by making strategic use of all the traps placed around the maps.

The spectacle, the scale, brutal combat and clever puzzles are all comfortably God of War for better or for worse, and providing you’re new to the series or you’ve not yet grown tired of it, God of War: Ascension is a strong entry. However, an overhaul next time around would be a blessing for the series to prevent the franchise fatigue that is inevitably already beginning to creep in. The multiplayer on the other hand, whilst not without its own problems, is an enjoyable first attempt and perhaps just the refreshment for the series that the game is otherwise missing.