Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Release Date: 3/12/2013
Also Available On: PS3 Exclusive
The Good: Fantastic production values, fun new passive abilities, interesting new locales, decent story
The Bad: Combat is tweaked to nearly being broken, no interesting or memorable boss fights, poor pacing and balancing, so-so multiplayer
God of War was once Sony’s unstoppable power house that helped sell consoles and push them to their limits. While God of War was revolutionary for the time it is starting to show its teeth, and it’s never more apparent then in Ascension. While the game shines in production values the quality and content is seriously lacking compared to past games, even the smaller PSP ones.
You play as the angry Spartan demi-god, Kratos, once again. This time you are playing through a prequel of the first game. Kratos is trying to free his bonds from Ares after swearing and giving up his life to defeat his enemy. He has to defeat the Furies along with his living prison Hechatonchires. The game starts out with an epic giant boss fight as usual and even a cinematic torture scene where you get to start beating down one of the Furies right off the bat. It starts out with a bang and quickly fizzles out once the combat system is introduced to you. Honestly, it’s nearly ruined. The combat engine has been tweaked so much that it just doesn’t flow like it used to. It’s now based on a momentum system where the more you hit without getting hit the more damage you do. I honestly hate this as it sets you back in difficult areas. What’s more is that the magic system has been screwed with too much and same goes for the upgrade system.
I like the idea of having four different blades with elemental abilities but they don’t mean anything. Should my fire blades be strong against an ice enemy? Doesn’t seem so. Each sword is supposed to have one magic attack by they are acquired at certain upgrade levels which I really hate. The rage meter has been turned into a bar that slowly fills as you hit enemies. If you get hit it rapidly drops and your damage dealt is reduced along with your more powerful moves. The game is hard enough as it is with enemies wailing on you so your best moves are locked away until you can get enough hits in to “acquire them” temporarily. A horrible system that needs to go away in the next game.
With that said, Ascension has the most cerebral puzzles in any God of War game which is a nice change. I had to actually think on nearly every puzzle and some completely stumped. Some new passive abilities is one where you can decay and heal objects. Another ability allows you to duplicate yourself to solve puzzles and do extra damage in combat. These are probably the only thing in the game that show an overall evolution.
With that aside let’s talk about bosses. God of War is famous for its epic and memorable bosses that are larger than life. Ascension has the weakest bosses in the entire series. First off, there’s a lack of them. Most are small and about the size of regular enemies. The only exception are the beginning boss and the end boss. That’s nearly 7 hours in between with weak fights. The overall flow of the game just feels messed up and broken. I kept looking forward to amazing boss fights that blew me away, but I just kept getting regular fight after fight. This really brings the God of War experience down quite a bit. Ascension just feels like a basic bare bones God of War without all the memorable moments.
Like I mentioned before, the production values are at least here. Ascension is probably one of the top five best looking PS3 games or even game of this generation of consoles. The game just looks freaking fantastic and will blow you away. However, you start to not care if there aren’t those amazing boss fights and fast fluid combat. Ascension is a step in the wrong direction for the series showing that tweaking something to the point of nearly breaking it isn’t the answer to innovation. Should Ascension have never been made at all? We certainly wouldn’t miss it if it completely disappeared, but what’s here is a decent game with some experimental multiplayer that will last for a few weeks and you will move on to the next game.