We’ve all seen how the story went, how Kratos killed Ares for vengeance, and set out on a killing spree that ended somewhat vaguely, but we’ve not known why Kratos had to kill Ares, what happened before all of this, and most importantly, why is Kratos having such a bad tantrum? God of War: Ascension does a splendid job of explaining all of the above questions and more.
God of War: Ascension is Santa Monica Studios’ latest entry in the God of War series, and most probably the last on the PlayStation 3, set even before God of War: Chains of Olympus, Ascension serves as a prequel to the prequel, a means to explain how everything came to be.
In Ascension, we are introduced to a different Kratos, a “calmer” Kratos, however unsettling this might sound to some of the hardcore God of War fans, it isn’t actually terrible, just not what we had come to expect for the God of War himself, of course this game explores how Kratos came to be in conflict with Olympus.
Throughout the game, Kratos is usually confused and sad rather than angry and lash out at every single thing that moves, don’t get me wrong though, there’s still a satisfactory amount of lashing out as far as a God of War title goes, just not nearly enough.
God of War: Ascension starts off with Kratos, chained and being beaten by what we’ll come to know a little further down the road as one of the furies, the furies are three sisters that settle torn oaths made to gods, and, you know, the occasional “he hit me first” argument as well. As Kratos breaks free and proceeds to punishing his own captor, all hell, erm, Hades, breaks loose with all the new types (and some old appearances) of monsters you’ll be graciously dismembering in God of War: Ascension. Some fighting ensues and you are transported back two weeks prior to the events that you have just witnessed, where the game picks up pace from that point onwards.
Ascension, as all God of War titles starts off on a high note, fighting an immortal, in this case, it’s one of the furies, along with the beasts she summons, so it definitely stays true to that formula, but if you’re looking for ground shattering changes, look elsewhere. Graphically, God of War: Ascension is almost exactly similar to God of War III, minus some HUD changes, including a very welcomed change to how the quick time event buttons look, and I realize this might be a minor change but it is one that I personally appreciated a lot.
One thing that irritated me to no end, were the at times, extremely awkward camera angles, in certain chapters you’ll find the camera zoomed out so much you can barely see anything, and are expected to fight off a horde of enemies. The camera issue occurs more than once, so that is certainly a down side for Ascension.
Kratos no longer carries a large array of weapons, you only have your trusty Blades of Chaos that get infused with the gods’ powers, which is an interesting new addition to the game, you get to infuse the blades with Ares’s, Zeus’s, Poseidon’s, and Hades’s powers, each god giving you new ways to wreak havoc on your enemies with completely different approaches, for instance, Ares’s is (surprisingly enough) fire, holding L1 and square does Kratos’s signature move of extending the blades while turning fast around the arena he’s in, whilst Zeus’s same button combination sends off an electric spark towards enemies. Each power infusion has its own rage combos as well and magics.
A new nice addition to the game as well is the inclusion of world weapons, albeit being a bit too over powered, Kratos can pick up enemy weapons ranging from swords, clubs, spears, to slingshots which come in handy when fighting those pesky flying electric spewing lizards that may very well be the most irritating foe in a God of War game, but my personal feelings towards the damned creatures aside, the world weapons add a nice new array of ways to fight enemies, including a special attack of each weapon that triggers by pressing L1 and circle, in most instances, the weapon is just thrown though.
Also added were three new special abilities Kratos acquires throughout the game, the one that got all of our interests peaked at the first trailer was the amulet of Uroborus, which allows you to decay or heal certain scenery pieces (along with the occasional chest) although I like to think of it as though it visits certain time periods of said items life in the past and the future (a little bit more awesome that way). The second ability is that Kratos can clone himself to solve certain puzzles, which certainly adds a nice new dimension to the really nice puzzles present throughout the game. The third and last ability I will not discuss to avoid spoilers, so, yeah, go play the game.
Mostly God of War: Ascension retains the exact same formula God of War III set out to achieve, but that one was already good anyway so I wouldn’t have wanted more changes myself, the subtle ones are more than welcome.
The game relies mostly on heavily cinematic pieces, bits that are very awe inspiring and will definitely have your jaw dropping looking at your TV screen, couple that with the always outstanding God of War soundtrack, and you get yourself a winning formula.
Another difference I forgot to mention (Or did I?) was that the checkpoints system was removed, no longer will you see a yellow beam of light that you can save your game at, the game has some autosave points that take away all the hassle of pressing some buttons on your controller to save your progress. (Thanks, Santa Monica.)
Now to the biggest difference from any previous God of War game, the multiplayer! Yes, Ascension has multiplayer! And it is GOOD! Actually, I might go as far as saying it is the holy grail of gladiatorial style multiplayer games, given that there’s not many of that style, and Ascension is probably the only one, my statement holds. Of course though, every flower has spikes (or, something meaningful to that effect), the multiplayer right now is seriously overshadowed by how God awful the matchmaking is, I honestly stayed once in a matchmaking queue for 45 mins only to give up and go to sleep, other times it connects fast, but connection issues aside, let’s talk a bit about what the multiplayer is actually like.
You have a slew of game modes including Team Favor of the Gods, which pits 4 (2v2) or 8 (4v4) players in a big arena with altars to capture along with some world events you can take advantage of to give your team an edge, there is Match of Champions (8 or 4 players) which is essentially a free for all, Capture the Flag (4v4), and two Trial of the Gods modes, one is solo, the other is 2 players co-op.
You start the multiplayer with your champion in Olympus, as a tutorial for the multiplayer as a whole, and to align your self with a god, you have Ares, which is strength and brute force based, Hades, which relies on stealth and assassinations, Zeus, which gives tremendous magic powers, and Poseidon which is the tank/support of the multiplayer. After that you are supposed to customize the appearance of your champion through various armors and weapons including Swords, Hammers, and Spears, each with strengths and weaknesses that you will learn to exploit as you get better at the multiplayer.
All in all, as daunting as it is to deal with a sad/confused Kratos, instead of the angry Kratos we got used to, God of War: Ascension delivers a vastly satisfying and emotional experience, making you really relate to the Spartan warrior. And while the multiplayer isn’t certainly a game seller right now, it is still very fun to dabble with.