God of War: Ascension Review: Similar, But Not Same Kratos

I’m no fan of God of War 3.

Yes, the game is competent in its fighting mechanics and in the occasional puzzle, but I found it as a whole to be really off-putting as Kratos ripped apart one character begging for mercy after another. It seems that Sony Santa Monica heard complaints from me and others about what an unlikable d–k their protagonist was by the end of the God of War trilogy, because in going back to the beginning of the god-killer’s story, they’ve backed down his douchiness significantly.

Trouble is, while there’s less to hate about Kratos, there’s really not a whole lot more to love about God of War: Ascension. The game itself remains the often-beautiful, mostly competent brand of God of War beatdown we’ve come to expect of a series we’re four games into on consoles (plus two more on handhelds and one phone game). But it’s a lot more of the same, and despite the addition of an impressive multiplayer mode, much of God of War: Ascension fails to fully capitalize on its new systems in a way that truly refreshes the formula.

God of War: Ascension
Platforms: Playstation 3 (Reviewed)
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
Publisher: Sony
Released: March 12, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

We’ve been promised a more “human” Kratos in God of War: Ascension, but what Sony Santa Monica has actually delivered is a Kratos that doesn’t say very much and has few opportunities to interact with anyone not actively trying to kill him. The story focuses on Kratos’ quest to escape the Furies, three sister-monsters who capture, imprison and torture people who break their blood oaths. Ascension starts not too long after Kratos was made to kill his family in a fit of insanity triggered by his oath to Ares, and he’s since decided, “Screw that Ares guy.” That means the Furies are after him.

From a storytelling standpoint, Ascension is a bit of a disjointed mess. We’re supposed to gather that 1. Kratos is inflicted with some form of insanity or hallucinations because of the Furies, which makes him see moments from his past as they work to manipulate him; 2. Kratos can’t remember murdering his family, and is not yet haunted by that guilt (which is a major driving force of, like, five games’ worth of wanton destruction). With his mind all screwed up, the story bounces back and forth between the present — in which Kratos is escaping from the Furies’ living prison built into a huge creature called the Hecatonchires — and the past, in which Kratos was searching for a way to get the Furies off his back.

God of War has never been known for phenomenal storytelling, but why it was decided to tell Ascension in huge flashback sequences is beyond me. The result is a series of situations in which it’s hard to understand what’s going on or what’s important about the scene, or even who the major characters are. It’s lucky that the game isn’t more complex than “Kill that thing!” because if it was, it’d be really hard to follow.

But Ascension is primarily a game of “Kill that thing,” and if you’ve played any other God of War title, you’re aware of its various tricks and enemies. There are a few tweaks to the overall gameplay, but for the most part, Ascension’s single-player campaign felt a lot like stuff we’d seen before in God of War. All the same enemies, like gorgons, satyrs, cyclops and so on, are back, and they handle in pretty much the same way they did in God of War 3, with Kratos enacting the same strategies to beat them. One of the better additions are new “brutal kills” that replace some of the game’s many quicktime events with buttonless versions, in which Kratos has to dodge incoming attacks while continuing to stab away at the thing he’s fighting.

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1 Comment on God of War: Ascension Review: Similar, But Not Same Kratos

Michael

On March 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

As a Hack and Slash player I found this game the most disappointing out of the entire series.
Not to knock the entire game, but I believe the multiplayer aspect of the game saved it and I play it every day. The only problem with it is it needs a female character so that women can play it.

Back to the single player. When I played the demo of the game I was sold that Kratos was going to fight his way out of this prison which was built around this giant. But that didn’t happen. What happened is what I call a bait and switch tactic. After the 4 chapter I forgot what I was playing and what my purpose in the game was about until I got to the end and remembered who the real enemy was. It felt like I played the demo to play a different God of War game. This was not the game I wanted to play. Everything after chapter 4 was pointless and it had nothing to do with the story that was laid out for me when the game started.

Its difficult to explain the anger I feel with this game but as an example there was another game that pulled this tactic. Remember the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo? I played that demo who knows how many times and when the game was released and when you beat the demo part it turned into a new game in a new area with a new character. Imagine the anger that I and many others felt when this happened. That’s exactly what happened with God of War Ascension.

This game had so many wonderful possibilities to be one of the greatest entries of the series after that disappointing ending in God of War 3. I could have came up with better ideas for this game that has not been done yet or could have been done to make this game 100 times better than what it was. But HOPE is for the weak and I’m tired as a gamer with all the crap that’s out today. I think I will dust off my PS1 and play some of those great Jrpgs I missed playing.

Lastly for those who believe I’m overreacting about what I wrote which is the truth, there is another thing I’m pissed about with this game and I guarantee many others are as well. Its something called, “The Last of Us Demo”. Another bait and switch tactic. We were told that if we preorder this game we will play the demo. But what happens we get a countdown that ends in MAY, a month before the game comes out. Who does that? Imagine the number of people who preordered this game just to play the demo and were kicked in the nuts for it. I received calls from friends asking me if my code worked, just to be pissed as they were once again. Whats the point in releasing a demo a month before the game is released like that you release it like you did god of War Ascension.

I suggest that they should let us play that demo now. I and many others preordered our copies and we deserve what we was promised.