The God of War series is one of Sony’s most lucrative franchises so needless to say I was interested upon hearing that there would be life after the last instalment. Like I said, interested but not necessarily overly pleased. Can Ascension match the epicness of God of War 3? In short, no.
Your initial thoughts may mirror my own, who exactly is left for Kratos to kill (torture and maim) and how exactly does Santa Monica Studio intend on progressing the narrative? Well that’s the real question isn’t it, because after the events of God of War 3, the only direction that they could’ve gone is backwards and that’s exactly what the developers have done as Ascension serves as a prequel to the entire series.
God of War: Ascension is set ten years before the events of God of War, in which the narrative begins with Kratos being tortured by a Fury (Furies were spawned into existence before the Titans or the Olympians and are the guardians of honour, punishing those they deem to be quilty) for the crime of oath-breaker, after Kratos renounced his servitude to Ares. The three Furies; Megaera, Tisiphone and the Fury Queen Alecto serve as the main antagonists in Ascension. Unfortunately, not much can be said about the latter as the Furies pale in comparison to the Gods of Olympus (Gow 3′s Poseidon battle anyone?) and as a result of this, the Fury battles never really feel like boss battles.
To compound matters further, since Kratos has pretty much killed every prolific character in Greek mythology, God of War: Ascension is populated with lesser-known characters that less face it, are lesser known for a reason and because this is a prequel, Kratos wouldn’t have eliminated any of the gods because Ascension is leading up to where the first game begins. Basically, the antagonists in Ascension, be they serpent, beast or Fury, never stood a chance to begin with.
What God of War: Ascension does offer is a look into Kratos’ past as it expands upon the character’s mythos, namely the death of his family and his betrayal to Ares. Ascension gives us a more humanized Kratos as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his family.
To say that the game mechanics have been radically altered or bettered since the Spartan’s last outing simply wouldn’t be true. While there are indeed some changes, Ascension plays fundamentally the same as its predecessors with its ‘modified’ God of War 3 engine. Not to be misconstrued, I did enjoy Ascension thoroughly, the problem is that just doesn’t feel like the first three games, serving as a companion to the series rather than a full-blown continuation.
God of War: Ascension’s combat is fast, fluid and fun (excuse the use of alliteration) and brutally slaying your foes is as satisfying as ever. Ascension just somehow manages to miss the mark, failing to reach the grand scale of its predecessors, least of all God of War 3 which might possibly be one of the greatest games of all time. The shiny visuals of God of War 3 (some of the best graphics seen on the system) have been replaced with what appears to be a pastel-esque colour palette and for reasons unknown, there is very little dialogue in this game and those familiar with the series will know that Kratos is very vocal. The lack of dialogue from the familiar voice of Terrence C. Carson definitely impacts negatively for Ascension, giving the overall experience a (dare I say it) cheap feel.
The sense of urgency and purpose of the original trilogy has been replaced with a more generic hack and slash adventure as Kratos kills one nameless beast from the next. Ascension is devoid of the charisma and awe-inspiring magnitude of the Olympians and while this prequel certainly has its share of challenging nasties, it simply cannot compete with the likes of the (aforementioned) Poseidon battle, Realm of Hades or the impressive final battle with Zeus.
However, what sets God of War: Ascension apart from its predecessors is the addition of a multi-player mode. Players can engage in 8-player death-matches, in specially designed multi-player arenas. Align yourself to a god (Ares, Hades, Zeus or Poseidon), gain special attributes (Ares focusses on melee attacks for example) and level your character up. The online play runs smoothly and it didn’t take too long to find available games to join. While Ascension’s multi-player mode is certainly not the best around, it will add significant longevity to the game once you’ve completed the story mode.
All in all, God of War: Ascension serves as a competent, if somewhat uninspired prequel to an otherwise flawless series. Whether or not Santa Monica Studio intends to bring Kratos to the PlayStation 4 remains to be seen, I can only hope that if they do it’ll follow in the footsteps of God of War 3. Bottom line, if you’re a die-hard fan of the series then I recommend God of War: Ascension, especially if you can get your hands on a copy of the collector’s edition, just don’t expect Ascension to blow you away like its predecessors did.
- God of War: Ascension director joins Crytek (destructoid.com)
- God Of War: Ascension Developer Quits Sony Santa Monica (wccftech.com)
- God of War: Ascension director joins Crytek to direct unannounced game (vg247.com)
- God of War: Ascension director Todd Pappy joins Crytek for unannounced game (polygon.com)
- Crytek nabs ‘God of War: Ascension’ director (digitaltrends.com)