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God of War: Ascension Review

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On 05/28/2013 at 02:00 PM by Jon Lewis

More of a Descension than Ascension.

Rent it. Only hardcore God of War fans, or those interested in the multiplayer should consider a purchase.

God of War: Ascension is a game that I had a hard time getting excited for. For me, God of War 3, capped off the saga of Kratos on the right note. It was bittersweet to see the story end, but it did so on an epic (and violent) note. Instead of the series continuing with a new protagonist or mythology, we have a prequel to a story that I felt pretty comfortable with already. Ascension ends up being a sadly mediocre game, and I expected more.

Ascension tells the story of our favorite angry badass Kratos sometime before the beginning of the original God of War. Furious about how Aries tricked him into murdering his family, Kratos looks to break his bond with the god, and exact vengeance. Doing so is harder than it seems of course, as the Furies conspire to stop him from achieving his goal.

The basic premise of the plot is sound, but the game is unfortunately filled with many events that ultimately feel redundant and unnecessary. God of War is usually known for huge set pieces and epic battles, and though Ascension does contain a few, the gravity of these situations pales in comparison to what has already been achieved. To go from killing the gods of Olympus in fantastical fashion in God of War 3 to killing off a few generic bosses didn’t exactly scream “awesome” to me.

Although Ascension struggles to reach the levels of previous titles, it is still a God of War title. You will go through various levels while solving puzzles and engaging in fierce combat with a decent range of foes. The tried and true gameplay remains mostly intact, with a few noticeable changes to the formula. Parries are now performed by pressing the guard button and X with proper timing, as opposed to a quick tap of the guard button like in previous games. While it’s easy to see that this was done to accommodate the game's new multiplayer mode, it makes doing something that was always very easy a lot more difficult.

The weapons system also went through some changes. Now, instead of Kratos gaining new weapons to use and upgrade, he only wields the Blades of Chaos. This time around, the blades can be enhanced with elemental abilities which also tie into the familiar magic abilities. Since the blades were usually the go-to weapon for most players, this change makes sense and didn’t really take away from my experience, though I did miss the optional variety that the extra weapons provided in the past. Kratos can pick up temporary weapons on the fly, but I didn’t find that they added much to the experience. In most cases, I just forgot about them.

When you aren’t slaying foes, you are solving environmental puzzles and engaging in simple platforming in traditional God of War fashion. A new time mechanic, which allows you to increase or decrease the age of items in the environment is used well and provided for some interesting puzzles. In terms of platforming, climbing has been streamlined and isn’t as much of a hassle as it was in previous titles.  

One of the things I feel I was most disappointed with was the general lack of polish. I found numerous glitches and bugs in the game that prohibited me from progressing. In one situation, I got stuck in a corner and could not move or jump, forcing me to restart from the last checkpoint in order to progress. It was moments like this that made Ascension much more of a chore to play than it should have been.

Speaking of chores, I encountered a huge difficulty spike towards the end of the game. It took a good amount of thought and strategy for me to beat this part, which would be fine if it wasn’t for the cheapness of each death. While it was satisfying to beat, the difficulty wasn’t due to enemy skill, but more so because it felt like the game was cheating. This is coming from someone that took on God of War 3 on the Titan difficulty, and it was especially annoying since the rest of the game was quite easy.

Upon completing Ascension’s single player campaign - which lasted between 7 and 8 hours -  I decided to give the multiplayer a try. Multiplayer might be considered by some to be the redeeming factor of this title. Going toe-to-toe against other humans in an overhead arena a la Power Stone is pretty engaging and more fun than I expected. However, I quickly became bored with it and I currently have no desire to replay it.

With its high production values, great graphics, and solid gameplay, Ascension isn’t a bad game by any means. That said, when joining a franchise of this pedigree, I expected more from this than just a filler title before the next big game in the series. Like Gears of War: Judgment, I left the campaign feeling like I had gotten little from the experience and while it was more memorable than Judgment, it’s still a pretty forgettable experience that's best consumed as a rental.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Chris Yarger Community Manager

05/28/2013 at 03:08 PM

In a way I'm kind of glad that there are no new weapons. I think that would be rather odd if I were to play the predecessor and I was left wondering what could of happened to any new gear Kratos would've obtained after Ascension. It's just one of my peeves about prequels though I suppose.


05/28/2013 at 04:33 PM

Indeed, the sense of disappointment--of how unncessary the game feels--ruins the experience for me more than anything else. When I first played it, I kept wondering why they didn't just make it a Vita game. But when I thought about it, I realized that I got more out of both PSP games than Ascension, mainly because I didn't give a shit about the multiplayer.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

05/28/2013 at 07:14 PM

unnecessary really does sum up my opinions on the game. When I finished it, I just thought to my self, "so what was the point of all this". Save for one scene at the end, if felt like fluf to me.


05/28/2013 at 09:52 PM

I'm playing through GoW:A now and agree with your review.  On hard level, I felt that Kratos was too weak during certain moments, specifically when you'd gain a weapon elemant and then have to face 6 or 7 sword-weilding grunts at a time.  It proved too hard, unless I used the mid-air throw over and over again until everyone was dead.  After that, though, the game fleshes out a little bit, but still, some of the elemant stuff didn't make sense.  Like, for example, the Ice elemant claims to allow Kratos to breathe under water.  I thought it made no sense to include that nugget of info, since I'd encountered no water up to that point, and all underwater travel took place afterward.  They could have easily not mentioned that fact at all, let Kratos breathe underwater anyway, and I'd be none the wiser.

What I really like about GoW:A is that fact that none of the previous items - Medusa head, Golden Fleece, Pegasus Wings, etc - are rehashed at all.  Instead, we get brand new items which have brand new uses, especially the Decay/Heal item, the graphic effect of which is pretty cool.  I also liked that part with the "dust".  It just looked really cool and was delivered fairly well, considering how complex it affected the environment.

Overall, GoW:3 is still the best, but as long as GoW keeps selling, they'll keep making them.

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