I absolutely adore the God of War games. All five games in the series, from God of War to Ghost of Sparta, rank up with not only the best action games I’ve ever played but some of the best games I’ve ever played, period. With all five games in the series being awesome, the expectations for Kratos’ sixth adventure, God of War: Ascension, are high. I’m ready to wield the Blades of Chaos yet again and quicktime my way through bosses 800x the size of me. That’s why I’m disappointed to say that God of War: Ascension doesn’t live up to the previous games in the series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game.
God of War: Ascension takes place before the events of Chains of Olympus making Ascension the earliest point in Kratos’ story. It’s been six months since Kratos was tricked by Ares into killing his wife and daughter. Kratos avenges them by breaking his blood oath to Ares; but doing so causes Kratos to spend an eternity chained to a prison with other oath breakers. While a “Fury” named Megaera is torturing Kratos, she accidentally sets him free. We then head back three weeks where we begin our journey as Kratos, leading to our eventual imprisonment and eventual escape.
While the story was never the highlight in any of the God of War games, the story here is particularly disappointing. Without spoiling the events of God of War III (the current final God of War game in the timeline), let’s just say that we want to see what’s next for Kratos. Thus many God of War fans, including myself, were immediately disappointed to hear that Ascension is yet another prequel (Chains of Olympus was already a prequel). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the story simply because it’s a prequel, I dislike it because we never got that awesome story moment that’s in every God of War game. Think back to the other God of War games. Each and every God of War game had that fantastic story moment that made the God of War fan inside of you jump for joy. I wouldn’t dare spoil any of them for you here so I’m not going to pick out those moments. The point is we never got one in Ascension. The story wasn’t necessarily bad but I never got into it even for a second.
The game looks phenomenal. That’s all that needs to be said. It might not be bursting with colors that will give your TV a workout but that’s not what a God of War game should be. God of War games are supposed to look dark and dreary and even though you might get a little bored of seeing similar looking environments again and again, the game still looks impressive all the way through. The music and voice acting are equally stellar with that classic God of War theme still getting me hyped to kick some ass.
For the most part, Ascension plays like every other God of War game. Blades of Chaos, quicktime events, button mashing; it’s all there. The combos you remember from the first God of War game can still be pulled off a whopping eight years later which is always nice to see. What’s unfortunate about the Blades of Chaos this time around is that they are your primary weapons. You don’t have the option to switch to a sword or a gauntlet unless you’re holding one (more on that in a sec). What’s different about the Blades of Chaos is that you can switch elements (or as I like to call it, colors) with very minuscule differences between each. I would’ve preferred having gauntlets or some other type of weapon that Kratos can always pull out on the fly.
What the developers did differently is you have the option to pick up weapons on the ground. Swords, clubs, and more can be found throughout the game and you can pick one up and keep it for as long as you like. You access the weapon by pressing circle and that will do your one and only attack for that weapon (although I do believe if you hold down L1 and press circle then it does a “special attack”). Here’s why I don’t like this. I can’t even count the amount of times I’m doing a combo, I press circle, my combo is broken because I accessed the weapon, and before I can get back to business, the enemies are already annihilating me and taking away my health. It happened quite a bit to me and it took me some time before I got used to it. I like the variety of weapons but I personally prefer the other method of pressing on the D-pad to access one of four weapons.
That’s not the only thing different about God of War: Ascension though. Little things like the classic “Circle Icon” above an enemy’s head (meaning you can do one hell of a finisher on the poor thing) has been replaced by a little red or white ball (red means you finish off the enemy for good and white means you can take off a bit of the enemy’s health). Red orb and collectible chests have been replaced so instead of opening a chest, you smash your fists on it and you receive your goodies. Finally, the platforming in the game has changed to an Uncharted style (hard to explain, play the game). While none of these changes are bad per se, they do fall under the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule.
Finally, let’s talk about the difficulty. I found the game to be pretty easy. Yes, I’ve played the other games many times and am an experienced gamer in general, and I didn’t exactly push myself by putting the game on the “Normal” difficulty, but I was able to breeze through this game pretty quickly. A couple of puzzles actually had me stumped for a second and the Trials of Archedemes had me and many other God of War fans throwing their controllers across the room but I rarely died in battle and blasted through the game no problem. I’ll go back and play the game on “Hard” difficulty to get the trophy and see if it makes a difference.
Of course we must to talk about the multiplayer. The biggest new change to the God of War series is the addition of multiplayer. I didn’t play the Beta or even watch too many clips of it so I didn’t entirely know what to expect. What I got was a fairly decent multiplayer mode that doesn’t really do anything too special. It sucks that I can’t wield the Blades of Chaos and am stuck with other weapons but it’s still a blast smashing someone’s head in when they’re giving you and your team a hard time. The modes are the only slight problem I have with the multiplayer. There’s nothing special about them. You have your basic Team Deathmatch and Co-Op modes but I would’ve liked something new. Something that only God of War had to really make its multiplayer special. We unfortunately did not get that. The multiplayer is a lot of fun though and I think it’s a welcome addition to the series.
God of War: Ascension is a great action game. Slicing through enemies with the Blades of Chaos is still a blast five games and eight years later which really goes to show how great the series is. The game looks and sounds phenomenal and the multiplayer, while nothing new, is something that will have me coming back for a bit as it’s pretty fun. Unfortunately, the story never had its great moment, was mostly easy, and has many changes that still need a little work. I still love God of War: Ascension even if the other games have a superior single player.
For reviews and more from Petey Oneto, you can check out his blog or check back with Resident Entertainment for more of his posts in the future.