God of War: Ascension marks the seventh title in as many years in what is usually a pretty safe gaming franchise.
The series is known and well loved for its outstanding button-mash, combo-stacking action and the “hardcore” inspiring Kratos character.
God of War: Ascension is unique in that it deals with the backstory of the Kratos character, serving as a prequel to the entire series. But does it reinvent the series after so many titles?
If I could sum up the entire God of War: Ascension experience in just one word, it would be “frustration”.
God of War: Ascension concerns itself with Kratos’ origins. The game kicks off with an imprisoned Kratos, remembering some awful event from his recent past. He is there, in case you miss it when playing the game, because he broke his oath to Ares.
Suddenly, Megaera shows up and proceeds to torture Kratos. Lucky for him, since it allows him to escape his shackles and hopefully the Prison of the Damned.
The escape is your basic tutorial level where you’ll encounter under-powered enemies and an excruciatingly annoying final boss. To say God of War: Ascension relies on Quick-Time Events is putting it mildly and throughout the game, you will find the most challenging aspects are trying to remember where the Triangle Button is in record speed else failing to perform some underwhelming super-power that fells your enemy.
There’s just no challenge; and if it wasn’t for the half-baked storyline the incentive to play this game quickly runs dry.
You see, the story is so interesting because fans of the series will want to know where Kratos’ story begins. They want to know why he does what he does, and what exactly happened to get him to where he is today.
To that end, one wonders why a movie wasn’t made to spare us from what is a humiliating waste of time.
This time around, Kratos only has one weapon to rely on; the Blades of Chaos. That’s not a horrible thing and I’ll even go as far as to commend it for its canon. This weapon can be upgraded along the way, though, for example giving it Fire or Ice abilities. The idea is that defeating an enemy with the right upgrade will dole out better rewards, like Blue Orbs to restore magic. While some enemies will go down faster using the right upgrade, this system feels largely under-used.
Kratos does have access to secondary weapons, such as the javelin or shield, however as you progress through the game and get better upgrades, you will use these less and less, to a point where they become forgotten as part of the gameplay.
While the gameplay is hardly original or challenging, it is good for a couple of hours of mindless button mashing through uninspired, linear levels. You will, however, be let down by random difficulty spikes (which are just cheap, not challenging) and the inevitable frustration that is the boss battles.
God of War: Ascension brings back the extremely huge boss battles but misses the mark in terms of originality and awe-inspiration. It’s business as usual — run around, hitting whatever small part of the boss you happen to have access to until the game prompts you to partake in a Quick-Time Event. Hit ‘X’. Watch the character pull off a move. Repeat. Again, these Quick-Time Events are too heavily relied on, but executed poorly. They simply demand too much accuracy; if you miss the button in the woefully short time you’re allocated, Kratos will fail and you’ll have to start again.
God of War: Ascension also brings multiplayer to the table. Much of what you know and love most about the God of War series is mirrored in many ways in the Multiplayer side of things and while there is a couple of fun modes on offer (such as Favour of the Gods mode), in general it feels a little lacking. Solid, but not satisfying enough to make you crave more.
As a whole, God of War: Ascension is frustrating. Frustrating because there’s nothing really news, frustrating because of the annoying reliance on Quick-Time Events and frustrating mostly because even after seven years, there’s no innovation here.
Newcomers will do well to give this one a miss, and long-time fans of the series should give it a once-over, purely for the story.