God of War: Ascension (PS3)

By Moe Rantala

Published on Thursday, April 18, 2013

God of War: Ascension starts off a little slow compared to the other entries in the series but it ultimately does ramp up to something you’d expect from Santa Monica studios.  This entry takes you through Kratos’ past, revealing more of what happened before the first game.  You progress through a good portion of it, and then suddenly back track to a few weeks before, after which you pick up where you left off.  With the items you got in the past.  That you didn’t have at first.  This is kind of ridiculous but once you get about halfway through, once you start getting all the elements and the other items that allow you to manipulate the battles and puzzles, the game really gets going.

This is essentially the same God of War that you’ve been playing since the PlayStation 2 days, but without the extra weapons and weapon upgrades.  You get your chained blades, and you get to upgrade them with red orbs, but you don’t get any other weapon than that.  Instead, you get elemental attacks.  Fire, ice, lightning, and souls.  You also get to upgrade all of them, ultimately allowing you to unleash the magic attack contained within each one.  The game is rather generous with orbs, red, blue, and green, and it’s actually really easy to get all the health and magic upgrades.  You would think this makes the game easy, yeah?  It isn’t.  If all you do is mash square and occasionally hit triangle, you’re gonna have a bad time.  Enemies often surround you, and most of their attacks will either knock you down/away or stun you.  You legitimately need to use your dodging abilities and rage powers in order to progress through the game, which the game teaches you about in the first couple hours.

In fact, rage is a central part of the game.  It no longer turns Kratos into an unstoppable juggernaut for a short period of time.  It no longer turns him into an invincible hulk who destroys and dominates.  It makes him hit harder, and allows him access to more advanced and powerful combos, for as long as you can keep hitting enemies.  However you can still get hit, and when you get hit your rage meter goes down, which takes you out of rage mode.  Which means you, again, actually have to learn how to play the game instead of just mashing square.  I cannot stress this enough, but it was truly a wonderful thing to have a little bit of strategy in God of War.  Using fire to build my rage meter, then switching to ice when the enemy was almost dead, freezing them with my rage attack, and then killing them while they were frozen to get more red orbs, or using the souls of the underworld with Hades to get my health back, using the lightning of Zeus to get my magic back.  The game truly does get pretty deep in its puzzles as well although sometimes they are a bit too simple, others are so ridiculous that you might get frustrated until you get that moment of brilliance and actually figure it all out.

In addition to the elements you also get three different special moves, that help not only with puzzles but with combat as well.  Upgrading them basically makes them last longer and have a smaller cooldown time, but truthfully they add a lot to the game even if you don’t really remember to use them.  The items, which you use with circle, seem very forced and rigid sometimes.  After picking up the club and using it to get the trophy, I had it for about 2-3 more chapters without using it before I found a shield and decided to give it a whirl.  When you first get them they’re useful but they’re quickly forgotten as you progress through the story, and they just seem like a last minute addition.

The multiplayer is pretty fun, although a lot of people never wanted it and I was skeptical at first.  It turns out to actually be a wonderful little addition that adds a lot more replay value to the game itself.  Now, that isn’t to say that it’s some big amazing wonderful thing but, it has some depth to it and there is more than just a God of War Deathmatch.  You can pick from deathmatch, team deathmatch, single player or co-op Trial of the Gods, and surprisingly, capture the flag.  When you first select the multiplayer mode, you’re taken to a podium at Olympus and you must select from Ares, Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.  Each God gives you different abilities and a weapon, as well as armor that must be unlocked by leveling and completing challenges, such as killing a certain number of enemies or opening a certain number of treasure chests, etc.

Each challenge and each completed match gives you experience points, and obviously when you get enough of them, you level up.  As you level up you gain skill points which allows you to unlock the better armor, weapons, spells, and even upgrade them.  Zeus and Ares give you the sword which is great with combos, and hits fast and hard.  Hades gives you the hammer, which hits ridiculously hard but is extremely slow.  Poseidon of course gives you a spear, which is great for support.  The deathmatch and team deathmatch and capture the flag are all what you think they are, however the most interesting mode is Trial of the Gods.  You, or you and a partner team up against waves of enemies culminating in a boss fight.  However, you’re at the mercy of time.  Each kill gives you a little more time and if you get a brutal kill you get even more, but time is always ticking away so kill fast.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is superb as always.  There isn’t much that can be said about it that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times.  All of the environments are stunning but it’s the final level that truly wowed me the most.  Without revealing too much, it was truly a wonderful experience to fight through that area, solving puzzles and slowly but surely making everything right again, and repairing an amazing landmark.  Truthfully, the snakes (you’ll see) were a little ridiculous but in the end this game does a great job of showing you how Kratos came to be the God slayer that he is.  Some elements of the story are kind of weak, and it isn’t as all as powerful as the third game but rest assured that you will absolutely get a fix of the God of War series in this, with a fantastic multiplayer to boot.

This is not a bad game by any means but it isn’t perfect and some parts feel very unfinished, and very tame compared to the others in the series.  In fact, this game is to a degree a letdown if you compare it to the others, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying it out.  The single player also felt a bit short but it was truly enjoyable to play.  If you love God of War, you’re going to get this and play it and you’re going to enjoy it but you will be left wanting more.  If you’re new to the series, this is a great game to get you into the series as it is a part of his past.

The Good

+ Gorgeous graphics, wonderful cutscenes.

+ The same sense of beautiful destruction you have come to expect.

+ Deep elemental combat system despite lack of new weapons in single player.

+ Incredibly unique and interesting multiplayer.

The Bad

- Secondary weapons are useful but feel rigid and kind of forced.

- Non-linearity of the story takes away from the total package.

- Slow start compared to the rest of the series.


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