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God of War: Ascension PS3 Review

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God of War: Ascension

God of War: Ascension

Image © Sony
Is it possible to get too much of a good thing? Playing through the sixth adventure of Kratos since 2005, I started to wonder if the "God of War" franchise had worn out its welcome. The critical problem is that it's usually easy to point to a bad game as the point where a franchises loses its way and this isn't really a bad game. Certainly not like some other franchises. Show me a great "Silent Hill" or "Resident Evil" fan and I'll show you someone disappointed at one point in their gaming life. "God of War: Ascension" isn't a bad game. And there certainly wasn't a bad game before it in this series. The trilogy is arguably the most essential series of game in PlayStation history. "God of War" and "God of War II" redefined action gaming on the PS2, the two "God of War" games released for the PSP were the two most essential titles in the history of that handheld, and "God of War III" is a masterpiece. So why am I getting bored? I like "Ascension" and those of you curious about whether or not Kratos works with multiplayer, the answer is yes, but the game feels overly familiar, like deleted scenes from the far-more-essential trilogy. You should play it, but only after you've played the entirety of the other five games first.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Sony
  • Developer: Sony
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Action
  • Release Date: March 12, 2013
  • Pros: Looks Amazing, Action Heavy, Multiplayer
  • Cons: Can't Live Up to Franchise Legacy, Feels Slight in Comparison

The second-most-dreaded word in entertainment (after "remake") might be "prequel." That's what we get here, a story set ten years before the first "God of War." Ares has trapped Kratos and forced him to combat the Furies. The storytelling here is thinner than ever in the franchise. To be blunt, I never cared about what was happening because, as with all prequels, I knew where we were going. A younger, less-angry Kratos? Who thought that was a good idea? It might have made sense to fully pull back and really change the game in terms of the presentation of Kratos but do you want another Spider-man game with lesser powers or another game with Batman learning his skill set as Bruce Wayne? Nope. Those roads have been creatively run.

Gameplay

God of War: Ascension

God of War: Ascension

Image © Sony

Of course, it's not like the Kratos of "Ascension" is a wimp. You'll still slice, dice, and smash your way through hundreds of hapless enemies, many of which are familiar. With the blend of heavy-light attacks that have become the norm in dozens of "God of War" rip-offs, "God of War: Ascension" features the action that fans expect. Upgrades are earned through gameplay, boss battles end with Quicktime events, and the scope of the combat is massive. Combat is based on elements like fire & ice and you'll quickly figure out your favorites weapons of godly destruction and use them accordingly.

While the prequel nature makes for a less-compelling story, "God of War: Ascension" still features some incredible set-pieces -- creatures so gigantic you only see part of them on your widescreen TV, waves of enemies, complex puzzles that need to be solved, and the artifacts of the Gods. And while combat may seem identical, it has been slightly tweaked. There are some new special powers and ways in which typical "GoW" combat and typical "GoW" Quicktime events have been merged into mini-games with certain enemies. You also have a rage meter, which fills if you're not hit and can be used for special powers. You'll also find secondary weapons in the environment but they feel unnecessary. Wait, I can swing blades around and shoot flames from the ground, but, look, I found a shield! I typically just picked up the weapons to get them out of the way.

"God of War: Ascension" includes multiplayer for the first time and it's a successful venture. It's somewhat chaotic to be running around an arena, setting traps, taking objectives, and picking up weapons but the chaos works. The customization in "Ascension" is deep enough to satisfy serious multiplayer gamers without making it feel too haphazard. Having said that, the multiplayer in "Ascension" feels somewhat thin. When you've played through six games of combat against the most legendary creatures in the history of mythology, pulling a killer move on a kid from Peoria doesn't have the impact it would in another game.

Graphics & Sound

"God of War: Ascension" may be the best-looking, non-essential game in the history of the PS3. What I mean is that if another game looked this amazing, I'd tell you to run out and buy it immediately. But with "God of War III" and "God of War Saga" (which captures all the games in one release), this title had a hard act to follow. Once again, is it fair to compare "Ascension" to "God of War III" or should we compare it to what else is on the market right now? Either way, "God of War: Ascension" looks amazing. It sounds great too. You won't find many better-looking or sounding games until we move on to the PS4.

Overall

God of War: Ascension

God of War: Ascension

Image © Sony
Through no real fault of its own, "God of War: Ascension" was destined to be the interesting footnote to this franchise. "God of War IV" is inevitable for the PS4. "God of War" and "God of War II" were essential to the PS2. "God of War: Chains of Olympus" and "God of War: Ghost of Sparta" justified owning a PSP. "God of War III" is a must-own for the PS3. Where does all of this franchise acclaim leave the good-not-great "God of War: Ascension" other than a legacy to which it couldn't possibly live up? A good game in franchise of godly ones.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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