Ascension in the Ranks
Kratos is one of the angrier heroes around (seriously, he looks like he has a perpetual case of hemorrhoids), but even if he is somewhat unlikable, the fact that he can kick so much ass and look like a god doing it makes for an entertaining character regardless. The God of War series constantly throws in a tremendous story line of redemption and revenge, tremendous set pieces, and combo-heavy combat that makes fans return to the franchise time and time again. God of War: Ascension is the latest in the series, and the second new installment to hit the PlayStation 3. Does God of War: Ascension light up the sky like Zeus, or does it fall faster than a damned soul to Hades?
God of War: Ascension is a prequel to the original God of War trilogy. It begins with Kratos's imprisonment and subsequent torture by one of the Furies for breaking his blood oath to Ares. The Fury becomes too reckless and actually inadvertently helps Kratos escape from his chained imprisonment. The story moves from past to present, showing the events leading up to Kratos getting captured. The game is all about getting revenge on the Furies and escaping their grip over Kratos, resulting in many illusions throughout the story. While the Furies are competent foes, they really don't hold a candle to Zeus or Ares. That said, God of War: Ascension's story is well told, and one that is just as epic as the set pieces the game contains.
|The chains that bind...|
|The beginning of Kratos's quest|
When Kratos is through with you, you'll have
your obituary printed on some nice Papyrus scroll.
The combat in God of War: Ascension is a lot more skill-based than what was seen in previous games. That isn't to say past titles were blatant button-mashers, where slamming onto the attack button guaranteed victory. Regardless, Ascension requires more finesse to stay alive. Sure, even on normal mode getting hit by an enemy's attack takes off a small sliver of health, but in order to survive and keep a combo going, you need a skill set of proper timing for attacks, blocking, and evasion that goes above and beyond what something like the original God of War required.
|Even enemies have elemental abilities to them.|
As for the exploration, platforming is a huge part of that. There's your superhuman climbing that would make even Nathan Drake jealous, leaping across pits and other chasms, and scaling and sliding down walls. Discovering chests is a common element of God of War games. There are still magic-increasing Phoenix Feathers and health-boosting Gorgon's Eyes to uncover in hidden chests around the game, and there's multiple treasures to be found that, once the game has been beaten, unlock cheats for the player to use (though these will not allow you to unlock any trophies if they are turned on). Many items and treasures can be found with a minimal amount of exploration, but some are tucked away in truly clever locations.
|The boss fights are really enjoyable.|
The Amulet of Uroborus grants Kratos the ability in combat to levitate a fearsome foe while he can dish out damage to them, but it is mostly used outside of combat. Certain pulsating objects can be healed or decayed to, for instance, construct what was once a broken bridge to make it whole again or to decay a colossal chain to sever it and open a closed door.
|Let's see Bob Vila fix something this fast!|
For the first time in the God of War series, online multiplayer is an option, offering skirmishes between up to eight players. First, players align their custom warrior to one of four gods, Zeus, Ares, Hades, or Poseidon. Their choice makes the difference in what kind of combat play styles their warrior has. Through battles, players earn experience points which in turn earns them new magic, upgraded or totally new weapons and armor, relics, and other helpful treasures.
There are four modes to be found in Ascension: Team Favor of the Gods, Match of the Champions, Trial of the Gods, and Capture the Flag.
|Take on friends and foes online.|
|Fe-fi-fo-fum, multiplayer has finally come.|
Multiplayer can be somewhat chaotic, maybe too much so, as there is a lot of things happening on the screen at the same time. I don't just mean action, I mean there's icons for treasures, kills, requests from gods, etc. It can be a bit overwhelming at first. Ascension's multiplayer also has bouts of slowdown when there's a good deal of action on the screen at once. That said, the multiplayer is something I can definitely see myself coming back to, if only to increase the options available to my own warrior. It's not the greatest that the PS3 has to offer, but it's competent enough to be fun.
God of War: Ascension looks absolutely amazing, as would be expected from a late-gen game from one of Sony's own studios. Environments and characters are meticulously detailed and outside of multiplayer everything runs at a steady frame rate. The set pieces, while not as glorious as past God of War games, can blow one's mind. From climbing aboard colossal stone snakes that slither in the sky to climbing aboard an enormous jaw-dropping statue of Apollo, God of War: Ascension does not fail on delivering memorable locations. As is standard for each God of War game, Ascension also uses a fixed third-person camera that generally works well. The only time it doesn't do so well is when the game zooms out really far to create a sense of immense scale. While it's cool to see a gigantic creature, it's not so cool to see Kratos and the creatures he's fighting look like ants on the screen in comparison. It's sort of difficult to dodge, evade, and heck, even know which character is Kratos.
|Some vantage points are just jaw-dropping.|
God of War: Ascension does stray a little too close to the traditional formula of the series than I'd like. The game's ascension is more like a trip from ground level to the fifteenth floor of a 50 story skyscraper rather than a trip to the very top. That's not to say Ascension doesn't impress. It does, but I really think the series needs a serious shakeup. There's far more familiarity than total surprise with God of War: Ascension. That notwithstanding, God of War: Ascension treats players to a wild adrenaline-pumping ride, full of masterful combat, engaging puzzles, and tight platforming to make a game that is an essential purchase for God of War fans and action fans alike.
[SPC Says: 8.5/10]