Review: God Of War Ascension (PS3)

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As this is an origins story, I feel its important to bring you up to speed with the Ascensions storyline, so here it is.  Before Titans and the Gods of Olympus, there was a war between the ‘Primordials’, the higher powers that created the Earth in which we live.  The war spawned those known as the ‘Furies’, they were the guardians of honour and those that were deemed guilty, they inflicted unimaginable pain on the unfortunate ones.  The first victim of the Furies was a titan known as Aegaeon the Hecatonchires, he broke a blood oath with the might Zeus and as a consequence he was forged into a giant prison, called the ‘Prison of the Damned.  He not only endured an eternity of unimaginable pain, but he was made a symbol and a reminder to those that would ever consider breaking a blood oath to the Gods.

Kratos is imprisoned by the Fury and he is being tortured by the very sinister Megaera, who loves her job just a little too much.  But she gets a little carried away with the task at hand and Kratos is freed by accident at her hands.  Now if there’s one character in the video game industry that you would not want to get on the bad side of, its Kratos and I think we all know how this one might end.  This is the origin story of Kratos and this is one of the untold and defining moments in the world of Kratos, let Kratos’s fury begin as we see the birth of the true God of War.

The God of War games have always pushed the Sony consoles to their limits, whether it’s on the PS2, PSP or the PS3.  God of War 3 is visually one of the most impressive looking games that you will see on any gaming console.  God of War Ascension is not leaps and bounds above GOW3, in fact it’s pretty much on an even par I’d say, but in my humble opinion, what Ascension has over the last game, is the incredible level designs.  God of War has never been a game to shy away from epic environments and stunning visuals.  So from the moment that your Ascension experience begins, you are greeted with one of the most original levels that I have ever seen in the ‘Prison of the Damned’, a prison forged within the mighty Titan ‘Aegaeon’.

Seeing is believing with this one and it’s quite difficult to explain, but if you have already played God of War Ascensions whether it be the full game or playable demo, then you will know exactly what I mean.  But these impressive environments are not just something that you will witness during the opening moments of Ascension, there is another stage that involves one hell of a huge Snake train, again seeing is believing.  The snake train is not something I noticed from the start, other than the snake skin like floor, I never really thought much of it.  But then you enter what ends up being the snake train and it takes you up with huge mountains as it takes you to the ‘Temple of Delphi’.  It’s most certainly worthy of a ‘WOW’ factor.

Kratos is looking as angry, bad ass as ever.  Kratos’s facial expression never really changes all that much, he will basically go from angry to angrier with the occasional blank expression in-between.  But that’s by no means a dig, because the facial animation, especially in the PS3 version of God of War are some of the best that you are going to see on the current gen.  Consider this, I think nothing in the God of War series would be more intimating then Kratos cracking a smile, it would not only look wrong on his behalf, but it would probably send the enemies fleeing  for the highs of Mount Olympus before Kratos even cracks out his Blades of Chaos.

The mythological creatures in the God of War series are almost just as iconic as any of the main characters within the franchise.  I’ve always found the Greek mythology very intriguing since a very young age, so when God of War first made its way onto the PS2 way back in 2005, it was pure gaming Greek bliss.  After all the series has giving us epic battles with Medusa, Ares, and a Minotaur all the way to the mighty Zeus and so much more.  I won’t go into the big boss fights that you will encounter within Ascension; I wouldn’t want to take the joy of discovering them yourself away from you.  But what I will say is that Santa Monica have found new ways to bring us some more great Greek mythological fights, from the more common enemies to some big epic boss fights and I have to say, that I believe this is one of the, if not the most gruesome and bloody God of War games yet, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

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Throughout the God of War series, there has never been nothing complicated about its gameplay, but that’s been a big part of its appeal.  This remains pretty much the same with Ascension, but if anything else the gameplay is a little more simplified.  With previous God of Wars and especially with 3, there were several weapons at your disposal.  For me this felt a little clustered, there were just simply too many weapons to concentrate on and upgrade.  This information maybe a put off for some (please don’t let that be the case), but the only weapon as such that you have in your arsenal in Ascension, is the legendary ‘Blades of Chaos’.  Now calm down, because as always the ‘Blades of Chaos’ are upgradable with several unique different powers.

The powers that you will be able to unleash with the Blades of Chaos is the ‘Lightening of Zeus’, in which you will be able to electrify the enemy with God like speed, ‘Ice of Poseidon’ which will enable you to summon of cold Ice from the God of the Sea’s, freezing the enemy into submission and also aids your ability to breath under water.  The ‘Fire of Ares’ turn the enemy into burning ashes as you release the fury of the original God of War and the ‘Soul of Hades’ as the souls of the underworld fulfil your bidding and sends them underground for an eternity of torment.

The action very rarely stops in Ascension, as the screen can be full of enemies like lambs to a slaughter.  This of course will aid you in achieving a personal best high combo, the key to achieving a high combo is to simply keep the action flowing and remember to use the dodge via the ‘Right Analogue Stick’ and always remember to use the block with ‘L1’.  You can give yourself a little rest bite when a red glow appears above the enemy, once you press ‘R1’ you will unleash a devastating execution kill.  But before that red glow appears above the enemy, it’s always handy to get ‘R1’ in mind.  What this will do is perform a move that will grip the enemy to the ‘Blades of Chaos’ in which you will be able to keep that enemy at bay, so that you may concentrate on the other enemies or you can fling your latest victim with your Blades of Chaos like a ragdoll, which can be very satisfying.

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Overall aside from a few minor tweaks here and there, God of War Ascension plays how you would expect it to play.  But there is one piece of gameplay, that not so much I find strange it being in the game, but how frequent it is used.  By this I mean there are a lot of sections which has Kratos sliding his way through steep set pieces.  You will come across these kinds of sections from the opening stage and throughout the game.  What’s perhaps a little more odd the frequency is this gameplay mechanic is that you would expect this to be used in the more slippery and icy locations, but no this can and will happen on what appears to be the most roughest of surfaces.  I’m not knocking that this element features in the game, just how often it’s used.  If it was a fresh and new idea from Santa Monica then you can perhaps understand them wanting to show off their new idea, but this is something that we’ve seen a lot in many other games over the years.

As I begin to write about God of War Ascensions audio, I instantly have the iconic theme music playing in my mind.  Fans of the series will know exactly what I’m on about as they read this, when that happens, you know that a game has a good soundtrack.  There’s only one way you can describe God of War Ascensions soundtrack and that is ‘Epic’.  Whether you are fighting a titan, common enemy or entering the palace of a God, Ascensions soundtrack sets the tone for each situation effortlessly.  The use of the soundtrack works best of all when you are in the middle of a big; the God of War games have always been what I describe as “Grit your teeth” kind of game.

The voice acting as you can expect from a God of War game is also of a high standard, other than the Greek Mythological theme that originally drew me in, one of the other big factors that always brings me back for more, is the excellent story telling.  Other than Kratos himself, who is voiced by ‘Terrence ‘T.C’ Carson’, when I think of a standout voice from the franchise and Ascension, I will always think of the instantly recognisable and iconic voice of ‘Linda Hunt‘, who is always at hand to narrate Kratos’s story.  It’s all these elements and more, that are all wrapped up into impressive package that tells a story better than most games can ever do.

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By now you are probably well aware that for the first time in the series, a God of War game now features online multiplayer.  In a lot of ways this does add even more value to the overall package of Ascension, but it does come at the expense of a slightly shorter single player campaign.  Now at first, even though I always had intensions of purchasing this game, it did raise a few questions.  Firstly does it such that the campaign will now be shorter?  In some ways it does, but then I asked myself another question “how often have a returned to previous God of War games after completion?”  The likely answer to that in short, is not very often.

Take God of War 3 for example, personally I thought that game was amazing and along with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, it was one of the main reasons that I decided to purchase a PS3.  But once I had defeated the single player campaign for the first time, I only really returned back to get to clear up a few extra trophies and I also failed miserably at defeating the game on a higher difficulty setting.  So now even though I very rarely return back to God of War 3, it remains in my collection collecting dust.

The other question I asked myself, “will the multiplayer be any good?”  Well from the dabble I had into it, it surprisingly wasn’t all that bad (I had expected far worse).  It’s not great by any means, but its ok and its there if you want to use it.  If God of War: Ascension had no multiplayer of any kind, then the chances are that it would also be collecting dust along with my God of War 3.  I’m only a casual online gamer, I’m much more into my single player campaigns and the occasional co-op, but at least with the multiplayer being available in Ascension, it’s there if I want to use it and it gives you an extra reason to jump back into the game.

Now lets talk more about that multiplayer.  God of War Ascension originally featured eight multiplayer maps and five multiplayer modes, ‘4 vs 4 Team Deathmatch’ and a ‘2 vs 2 style Team Deathmatch’.  Surprisingly Ascension also features a ‘Capture the Flag’ mode.  Then there is ‘Match of the Champions’, this is Ascensions take on the ‘Free for All’ and this is basically every man and women for themselves.  The first player to reach the match point total wins.  Last but certainly not least, we have the ‘Trial of the Gods’.  This is Ascensions version of the wave based mode; basically the name of the game is to fight off hordes of enemy attacks for as long as possible.  Trial of the Gods can be played in either co-op or on your lonesome.

Though recently thanks to the kind folks at Sony and Santa Monica, four new maps and an all new mode has been added into the mix.  The new mode is called ‘Bout of Honour’ and will pit two online gamers against one another in a heated 1v1 battle.  The four new maps and mode are free of charge and will be added with the 1.09 update.  You can read further details in regards to the free DLC by clicking HERE.

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The God of War series has always been about the mighty Kratos taking centre stage, but not with the multiplayer, so Kratos please step aside for this one.  Ascensions multiplayer has a clever twist on the usual character classes, what you must do in its multiplayer is swear allegiance to one of four Gods.  Here is breakdown of what each God will bring to the table.

  • Ares:  The original God of War, a powerful figure that loves nothing more than strong physical attacks and destruction.  If you choose Ares, you will lack in the defense abilities, but it will certainly be made up for in all out physical prowess.
  • Hades:  He is the God of the underworld and the keeper of tortured souls.  Should you chose to align with the mighty Hades, stealth will be your point of call as you take out the unsuspecting enemy and you can use their souls to aid you in the battlefield.
  • Zeus:  The main man himself, the God of Lightening and ruler of Olympus.  While other Gods will aide their warriors with physical attack, join Zeus and you will gift you with powerful magic’s that would serve any god well.
  • Poseidon:  The God of the great seas!  Join Poseidon and you will be a respected team player as you heal and protect your allies and grant the power to reap icy fury on the soon to be fallen victims of Poseidon’s servant.

Like many other multiplayer modes, God of War Ascension features a levelling up XP system.  As you work your way through the multiplayer rankings, you will earn additional weapons, armour and magical powers as you set out to be the online God of War.

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The single player on the other hand offers what you might expect if you are familiar with the franchise.  As I’ve mentioned, due to the multiplayer, Ascensions single player campaign is a little shorter than usual.  This isn’t really a bad thing, as quantity does not necessarily mean quality.  The God of War games have also offered difficult challenges and on many occasions will test your patience, but once you finally pass a certain area or defeat a certain boss, it makes it all the little more rewarding.  With that in mind, one major aspect that I have noticed with Ascension is that it seems as though the difficulty has been turned up a notch.  This may be off putting for some, but it does make it that little more unlikely that you will be able to fly through the campaign with too much ease on the normal difficulty or above.

Throughout the campaign you will find various hidden treasures or artefacts if you will, but not only will these take you a step closer to the 100% completion, but once the campaign is defeated, then they will grant you additional perks come your second playthrough and beyond.  For all completionists out there, you will also be pleased to know that along with the hidden treasures, you will also be able to search for hidden documents (which to be honest, there not that hard to find) and they will give you a little extra back story on Ascensions characters and locations.

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Then on top of all that you have all the powers to acquire and upgrade throughout the single player campaign, the various difficulty setting and the trophies for all you hunters out there.  All in all, yes the campaign is a little shorter than expected, but unlike previous God of War titles there’s also the surprisingly decent multiplayer which will always be their once you’re done with the single player campaign.  While other than the decent multiplayer, Ascension doesn’t really offer anything all that new.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because with games with such high standards as the God of War series, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to top each game.  So Santa Monica have played it safe with Ascension by giving us a revamped and winning formula and the only element that they could add into the mix to offer something a little different with the franchise, was with the multiplayer.

But not taking into account the very high bar that the God of War series has set, Ascension is still a very good game.  It has a strong and untold story for the Kratos sage, visuals that you would struggle to find a better looking game, a well-acted cast and soundtrack and a little more replay value with the multiplayer.  So if you’re new to the series, then Ascension is a great place to start, but if you are a veteran to the series, just do go expecting too much.  But what you can expect is an angry, gruesome, button bashing; grit your teeth kind of game that should have enough content to more than satisfy loyal fans and new comers.





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About the Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

In my 30+ years on planet Earth I have been an avid gamer for a month and I have never looked back since. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion of gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming franchises are Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Call of Duty, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I like to collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I also love my football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake

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