A game of two very angry halves – One furious half that seems familiar, and one half that brings something new, but is still very upset.
God of War Ascension is the fourth main God of War game. The main story is actually a prequel or sorts, which would explain why the game was not called God of War IV. Another reason why it is not a straight numbered sequel could be because the core game has made very few changes over the previous entry in the series. Maybe this is why Kratos is so angry? Or could it be that he has discovered that his adventure in God of War Ascension is slightly overshadowed by a rather impressive multiplayer mode? Then again, the anger could be a result of a childhood face painting accident? Whatever the reason, Kratos is upset again and just has to start viciously ripping his way through Greek mythology once more.
Ascension begins with a less angry Kratos than the one we have come to know. Jumping back in time, the game is set after Kratos has been tricked into killing his family by the God Ares, and he is frankly not happy. Trying to break his oath with the God brings down the Furies, who are tasked with punishing oath breakers, and thus the rage begins. Kratos becomes angrier, and thus more powerful, as the story progresses, but it is nice to see him in different states of rage. He doesn’t quite come close to showing his “fluffy” side, but it still manages to inject a bit of humanity. Mind you, humanity is often overlooked when it comes to slicing your enemies into pieces in a particularly gruesome fashion.
The iconic Blades of Chaos, Kratos’ chosen weapon of mass decapitation, serve as the main weapon throughout the game. Other weapons become available, usually dropped or taken from enemies, but when the Blades of Chaos can be upgraded with elemental powers, all other weapons just seem insignificant. The different elements give certain effects to the Blades, such as fire or ice, and make the combos that the God of War games are known for look even more impressive.
And of the combat itself, you are looking at the same slick, combo-filled action that we all know and love from the God of War. But there are a few changes, albeit minor ones. There is much more emphasis on dodging, partially to ensure that the automatic Rage meter doesn’t become depleted. Rage is gained from successful attacks and lost through taking damage or inactivity, and Rage mode is activated once the meter is filled, resulting in some truly devastating moves. Also added to the action is a new grapple attack, a smattering of magic and the ability to disarm foes and steal their weapons, as previously mentioned.
Although the majority of any God of War players’ time will be spent inflicting huge amounts of damage on anything that moves, there is a healthy dose of both platform grappling and puzzle solving to be found in Ascension. There is nothing here that will change the minds of the non-fans, but a little bit of time manipulation makes a nice change of pace, and who doesn’t want to see Kratos swinging around like a very angry Tarzan?
Any player of the previous God of War game will know that incredible set pieces and epic boss battles are the order of the day, and nothing has changed in Ascension. In fact, things seem to have become even more impressive. Players will be able to see Kratos fighting absolutely huge enemies straight out of Greek mythology, so huge in fact that at times Kratos is reduced to a minute size just to get all of the action in. And the set pieces are simply beautiful, incredibly detailed and eye-catching, forcing the player on more than one occasion to just stop and look around. Ascension is the best looking game in the series, and one of the best on the PlayStation 3.
The single player campaign is a real thrill ride, with very little that can be criticised. Besides the relative lack of advancement in the gameplay from the previous game, the only other real gripe is the fixed camera. As with the previous game, the camera once again can get fixed in positions which that don’t allow the player to properly view the action. It is a minor gripe, but one that becomes more obvious in a game that is so highly polished.
But the single player game does fall into the category of “more of the same” for the most part. Which is why the addition of a multiplayer mode for the first time in the series is such a big deal.
When a game that is known for being single player suddenly adds a multiplayer mode, the fear is always that the mode will be “by the numbers”, just to keep the suits happy and try to pull in some more cash. Obviously the Greek Gods had a hand in the God of War: Ascension multiplayer mode though, as it is pretty good fun.
Players get to create a warrior that is aligned to one of four Gods – Ares, Hades, Poseidon or Zeus – with your choice of God affecting attirbutes or imbuing abilities. It is then into one of the modes to fight it out amongst some very nice maps with the occasional environmental hazard to catch out the unawares. The combat itself is very similar to the single player game, so should be easy to pick up and get stuck in to.
Players will gain experience for their warrior through winning or earning kill streaks. There are also challenges offered to the player, in the form of Labors, that will net yet more experience. This will allow the player to level up and move along a skill tree, unlocking more abilities and equipment.
The modes include your regular multiplayer fare, such as the free for all deathmatch or a capture the flag style mode, and even a co-op “survive the waves of enemies” mode. As something new to the series, the multiplayer is incredibly successful and will likely prove to be a deciding factor in the purchase of the game for many.
God of War: Ascension could have been disappointing. The single player game just doesn’t seem to have moved on. Don’t get me wrong, it is still as impressive as ever, but if a game doesn’t evolve, it runs the risk of becoming stale. Fortunately, the inclusion of a highly entertaining multiplayer mode saves the day and raises God of War: Ascension to a level that even the Gods themselves would be happy with.