on March 13, 2013
God of War has always been one of my all time favorite gaming experiences for two generations, and we have one more huge adventure upon us before the 7th generation closes. God of War 3 was one of the best games on PS3, with a scale unprecedented and a well realized sense of epic (hopefully you know I mean that in the dignified sense) storytelling. Not to mention one of the all time best game play models in the action genre. Ascension follow in the first PS3 entree's footsteps, and it's a fitting coda for Kratos on the PS3. At the end of the day, Ascension is simply another great game that sheds even more light on Kratos and his long journey throughout the series. That's pretty much what I wanted from this release. If you are a God of War fan, you'll want to pick up the next chapter in Krato's saga.
Story wise, Ascension is the first game chronology. What's new this time around is Ascension's attempt to give Kratos a much more human side, instead of the downright off-putting, and downright scary at times, Kratos of the later series that most certainly polarizes people (and one that certainly causes debate amongst gamers, but I'll refrain from ranting regarding that notion. Indeed, Ascension is pretty much marked by Kratos as he was during the early days of service to Ares and the others, and Kratos is certainly more of a mortal than a man; you can just tell he is at this particular state. This time around, The Furies are to blame for his troubles, and, as you might expect, Kratos is on another journey to track them down. I won't spoil the story, but what follows is what you would expect from a God of War game, with a more human Kratos being the point of the story. He suffers, suffers, and suffers some more. It's a really interesting thing to see, and it's easily the most well rounded and sympathetic portrayal of Kratos, one we haven't seen since the first game.
Despite all of this new chance for character development, God of War, for better or for worse, follows the same classic story formula. The ultra-violence, the Mount Everest sense of scale, the overblown, larger than life dramatic tone, the appropriately bombastic score; it's all here. The performances in God of War are A-grade World of Ham, and dialogue is as over the top as usual, but God of War simply wouldn't be God of War without that. It takes a certain sort of taste to enjoy God of War's brand of storytelling, and if you hate the series, Ascension probably won't change your mind. Personally, I've always felt that the series benefits from never holding anything back. It's because of this reason why the God of War series is such an entertaining ride, why the series is arguably, in the end, so memorable. Once again, if you don't like God of War, this probably won't change your mind, but fans of the series will be utterly pleased with the single player this time around.
There have been a few people out there who think Ascension's story doesn't have some of the memorability of the previous main games, and its pacing to be rather spotty. While these people are no doubt entitled to their own personal views, I have to disagree. I found the pacing of the campaign for me to be excellent, and there were plenty of awesome moments from start to finish. Aside from a couple of difficulty spikes, I really didn't find myself pressing myself to go on due to pacing issues. I rather enjoyed the somewhat subdued sections in the beginning, as it definitely had a much more relaxing pace that I rather enjoyed. Besides, I never found myself bored, whether it was traversing an Ice mountain, roaming my way through ancient Greek Cities, and plenty more. So I personally had no problem with the campaign at all.
Game play wise, Ascension keeps the same basic formula that defines the series. As someone who's been playing the series since the beginning, I had absolutely no problem jumping in. Using an arsenal of weapons and powers, Kratos will, as always, battle through hordes of soldiers, the undead, mythical beasts, and just about everything else that happens to get in his way. The same God of War game play interventions remain as well, including puzzles (including some that revolve around time manipulation) and platform sections. As usual, you collect orbs to replenish your character, as well as items that improve your overall character maximums. Combat is fluid as ever, and as rooted in the God of War series as you would expect. If you're into the series and understand the core combat concepts, there is little to nothing else that can be said here. Once you get your hands on the controller and start playing as Kratos, you'll be slinging combos together in no time.
Much like the other games in the series, there are some new things the games do that are different from previous games before it. Tweaked moves such as the new chain tethering move make for some welcome additions to the combat. One thing that particularly stood out was the inclusion of a new game plus, which lets you start the game over with the weapons and magic you unlocked in a previous game. However, the best addition for m was the implementation of new power and weapons. Once again, you get the chance to develop and unlock new moves, but there are also enemy weapons strewn out amongst the adventure. You can pick them up after they are dropped from enemies, and you have the chance to use weapons such as Spears, Javelins, and Swords. It makes combat all the more exciting, knowing that they're might just be another interesting weapon to use right around the corner.
You still have the Blades of Chaos at all times, along with supplementary weapons, dropped from certain characters. I particularly found the Blades of Chaos system to be the best it has ever been in the series. You still certainly will be using them with the same familiarity that you do in every other game, being able to use them to perform devastating . In this game, however, the Blades of Chaos now house elemental magic. The magic at hand can be used in various ways to enhance combat, and they all feel useful; being able to an addition of magic in the heat of battle works wonders for you as a player. Each of the elements contain awesome powers, such as The Fires of Ares (which let's you stun enemies with fire) and The Lighting Of Zeus (which let's you electrify enemies with electricity). Finally, while minor, I found it to be useful to use one of the acquirable items (Oath Stone of Orkos) in battle, although I wouldn't use it all the time.
Despite all of the satisfaction the single player game has given me, there are some slight misgivings with the game. For one, sound occasionally drops out in strange and unusual ways. Apparently I wasn't the only one who ran into this, either. Granted, they don't really detract from the game, but they are still sort of annoying. I also ended up having the camera get in the way, which was strange because the fixed camera angles usually work well for the series. Be aware of how to beat the sometimes awkward camera angles. Also, and while this last one is more subjective, some of the puzzles in the campaign are sort of cheap (remember that conveyor belt block puzzle from the first game? Yeah, there's a couple of equivalents), and there are a few points in the game where they're are some atrocious difficulty spikes. Other than that, I can't really think of any shortcomings that were noticeable.
Now, the newest feature is obviously the MP. I played a lot of Beta, and I've given the final MP mode plenty of time, and I have to say that I found what I played to be quite fun, if a bit decent instead of mind blowing. (in other words, don't expect the MP component to lead to a Tf2 style boom of popularity and staying power), I also can't help but think it's a tad wonky when it comes to longetivity (I'll get to that later). The game certainly follows many MP standards, including experience points, teams, leveling up, and so forth. Much like a standard MP, you will be able to participate in a variety of modes, such as death match and capture the flag. With God of War's stellar combat being the crux of the ways to battle against one another, Ascension's MP ends up being pretty interesting, to say the least.
Basically, all you really need to know is that combat is very fluid, with an excellent mix of the various modes of attack you would expect (light, grappling, heavy, etc.). You'll need to fight with tact though, or else matches probably won't end up being fun for you. You basically select one of four distinct character classes (each with their own unique statistics, strengths, weaknesses, etc), and once you do so, you can start racking up experience points. In addition, be sure to be aware of Labors, which are essentially specific challenges that will give you extra XP upon completion. You can use those experience points in order to level up, as usual, and once you do, you'll end up getting new weapons and perks. The perk system, as you might expect, gives you passive abilities, so use them wisely. The use of weapons, the extremely fast and fluid combat system; it all works. Finally, here is a quick rundown the modes available. Their most basic overall design are familiar, but they suit the game play and lay the ground work for some MP fun.
Favour of the Gods: Basically, a simple free-for all death match. Whoever gets the most kills wins the match.
Team Favour of the Gods: Two teams of four are basically given objectives throughout the mode (I won't spoil them, but they are all challenging and fun to accomplish). The team that hits 8000 points first hits the match.
Team Capture the Flag: Basically, much like you would expect, each time must work with one another to capture a group's flag and bring it to their own empty base. The group that collects the most flags wins the match.
Trial of the Gods: While this can also be played solo, this mode is also a free for all mode. Together with a group of people, everyone must fight against waves and waves of enemies until both cannot go on. This is the only mode where you don't fight against one another.
However, despite all of this, I do want to address my concern on the longetivity of the MP mode. As of writing this review, I really have to wonder: will the MP of this game last? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but given how so many games sadly end up losing much of the MP audience, I have to wonder if this will happen to Ascension as well. I immensely enjoy the MP, personally, but I think the consumer should have ever right to be concerned. I find it a tad hard to predict, given how many MP modes from various games have been shut down because nobody plays them not long after the launch of the MP servers. If you were thinking about buying this game strictly for MP, I'd probably think twice if I were you, due to this.
Regardless, anybody who's a fan of the franchise will want to pick up Ascension. I know that there were sneaks around the gaming community about GoW's supposed series fatigue, and some gamers think Ascension is not worth buying because its the 7th game in the series. I am not one of those people. Yes, Ascension may not appeal to a casual God of War player, but as someone who's played every single game in the franchise and hasn't been let down yet, the streak continues with Ascension for me. It's another exciting adventure into the world of Kratos and Greek Mythology, and an excellent send up for Kratos as the 7th generation comes to an end. Even if the MP may not last (though it is very enjoyable, so I hope it does last for a while), the campaign is long enough to be a single player along the same line as the other games in the series. Regardless, if your a fan of the series, I highly recommend Ascension