Thursday, 28 March 2013

God of War: Ascension

God of War: Ascension (PS3)

“Kratos is back in a thrilling yet repetitive adventure that has all the wonders of the God of War experience without really adding anything new to the formula. The result is an underwhelming battle against the Gods.”

Who got out of bed on the wrong side today?

God of War has cemented itself as a staple hack-n-slash phenomenon on Sony consoles so it’s absolutely no surprise to see another title arrive for the PlayStation 3. God of War: Ascension follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, bringing the destructive and menacing power of Kratos onto the screen as he slaughters his way through hordes of demons, monsters and gods. This may not be a striking recreation to the series, but God of War: Ascension brings the full force of the gameplay back and as a result, is heaps of fun for those craving another adventure with Kratos.

This time round Ascension concentrates on trying to become more than a blood-bath experience by opting to change the dynamic of Kratos’s story this. After breaking a blood oath Kratos finds himself in a feud with “The Furies”, a triangle of wicked sisters. While the usual thrill for destruction is present, Kratos is in search for answers and this somehow humanizes the figure we relate to carnage and chaos. The style of campaign is as you’d expect, spread across varied locations filled with entertaining and larger-than-life boss battles – Ascension rarely fails to disappoint as it utilizes the series unprecedented ability to pull off the ‘wow’ factor.

Familiarity continues through to Ascension’s combat mechanics that feel largely unchanged from God of War III. Some subtle changes have been made including opting for only the Blades of Chaos as Kratos’s weapon of choice. Fortunately these blades can be infused with different elemental and magical powers that not only increase gameplay depth, but also provide different resources when used against enemies. For example using a particular weapon will release a health restoration orb, while another might bring back your magic – this is a really clever way to ensure players mix and match their play styles to not only the enemy they are facing, but the position they are in during that particular battle.

Upgrades have always been one of the franchises strongest points and Ascension keeps this tradition alive by rethinking the upgrade trees to provide a little bit more challenge throughout your time with the campaign. This is done by keeping some of the more powerful magic locked away until much later in the game. Players will be forced to master their melee abilities and use what magic they do have as a way to supplement their battle skills, not as an easy way out trump card.

This restructure to the magic system was perhaps necessary considering how easy some sections of the game actually are. Modern video games tend to be quite generous with their checkpoints, health etc and Ascension really is no different. Unfortunately it also suffers from shaky pacing and balance with gameplay become burdensome and frustrating occasionally when Kratos is swamped with enemies out of nowhere.

Well at least the Ascension can hold soo many models on the screen and not go crazy. From a technical perspective Ascension looks, sounds and feels great – the visuals are as you’d expect, simply stunning. A fantastic audio score intertwines with the story to bring about some dramatic moments that entice and excite the senses while Kratos moves and kills with graceful precision.

It’s also nice to know that once you finish with the campaign you can always move on to Ascension’s genuinely enjoyable multiplayer outing. This experience aligns players with a different God granting you particular powers and skills depending and pits you in different game modes against other players. Essentially the game modes rely on killing and point accumulation but it’s a lot of fun and feels relatively balanced and entertaining. When players are swarmed and trapped by groups of other players is where Ascension’s multiplayer can become quite frustrating but despite that, it’s a load of fun. This only lasts so long though once you begin to realize that Ascension relies more on swarming rather than tactical precision and after a while the novelty does wear off.

Ultimately God of War: Ascension’s biggest problem is that it had to live up to a game of God of War III’s caliber. This is by no means an easy task and unfortunately Ascension falls short in almost every department. This is not to say it’s a bad game, on the contrary it is a very good and enjoyable experience – it’s just not as good nor as enjoyable as past instalment in the series. In fact I’d go as far as to say this is the worst God of War in the series. No, worst is the wrong word or phrase, it is the least enjoyable and jaw dropping.

8.0 | Gameplay |

Fans of the God of War formula will be very pleased with Ascension’s ability to stay true to traditional gameplay while altering some minute details to make things feel slightly different. The lack of weapon variety might frustrate some but the new God powers are a lot of fun and create variety in the gameplay.

9.0 | Presentation |

As always God of War: Ascension lives up to the technical masterclass of the series. Unfortunately the story itself feels a little lackluster and although there are magical moments in Ascension, one can’t help but feel that there isn’t as much excitement or oomph as there has been before in the series.

5.0 | Replay Value |

God of War: Ascension is the weakest link in the series and I’d expect fans to get through it and perhaps replay another title like God of War III if they really wanted to adventure with Kratos again. The multiplayer is quirky but fails to hold lasting appeal.

7.0 | Final Thoughts |

Fans of the series should absolutely check out God of War: Ascension but don’t expect a step forward for the series in any way, shape or form. There are better hack’n’slash games out currently that are worth checking out in front of this.

Igor Kharin

Igor recommends similar games: DmC: Devil May Cry & Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

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