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.