God of War: Ascension Review: Similar, But Not Same Kratos
The big thing about Ascension is its multiplayer mode, though: It’s by far the primary innovation on the disc, and as I mentioned when dishing out my impressions of the game’s beta, it’s definitely fun in its way. Adapting God of War’s combat to a multiplayer mode is no easy task, but Ascension handles it by making most every move operate on something of a “rock-paper-scissors” foundation. Light attacks are quick but are easily blocked or parried; heavy attacks can’t be blocked but are slow and unwieldy. Combos, special attacks, special items that can save you from a combo and other elements are all set to cooldown timers, so players can’t spam irritating moves — often, the battles really do come down to smart combo skills and reactions to the other guy’s moves.
Multiplayer combat feels a great deal like a fighting game, to its credit. There are four different modes, all of which are pretty standard: Capture the Flag, a four-player free-for-all battle, a cooperative time-trial for gathering red orbs, and Team Favor of the Gods, which is not unlike a capture-and-hold game mode. That last one is Ascension’s multiplayer signature, with players capturing command points, opening chest for orbs, and eventually activating a big map-wide element for a big point bonus. In the beta, the bonus was killing a giant cyclops; on other maps, different elements can affect the way the match plays out.
Ascension multiplayer comes off better than one might initially expect when looking at the God of War formula, and it can actually be quite a bit of fun. It certainly doesn’t have that “tacked on” feeling, and depending on which of the gods you pledge yourself to and which weapons you use, one player’s style can be pretty significantly different from others. The big question is just how much it will ever catch on, and I think it might be limited in that regard because the learning curve to be any good is steep. Players unlock new and better armor, weapons and abilities over time, and while going up against any player comes down to whether you use the right moves at the right times, the skill gap can feel really big. To its credit, Ascension offers players plenty of ways to contribute to their teams even if they’re terrible at combat, but the frustration of getting decimated repeatedly — which can and does happen — might be too much for some players to get over.
But for a game that feels like it might just exist to get a new multiplayer mode in front of players, and coming at the end of the Playstation 3′s life cycle, Ascension is a fun investment. Fans of God of War won’t be disappointed by Ascension, but it’s not an incredible, epic breakthrough. The star is the multiplayer mode, and it’s often inventive and fun to play if you’re willing to stick with it. And single-player is no slouch either, packing around eight or so hours of play, but it’s both not as polished or engaging as earlier titles, and not as exciting a story to work through — even though I don’t hate Kratos this time out.
- New combat mechanics like elemental Blades of Chaos are a fun addition to fighting
- Emphasis on grappling gives Kratos lots of cool new abilities
- Tight single-player campaign with a number of quality set pieces
- Kratos is not a horrible, merciless, murdering piece of crap this time
- Some interesting puzzle mechanics, some fun boss fights
- New versions of some quicktime events are a welcome change from the norm
- Multiplayer is fun and intuitive, leaning on fight game-style mechanics; it really does feel like God of War with other people
- Some really bad camera angles; some weird graphical glitches and other bugs
- Many mechanics feel like they don’t reach their full potential
- Couple of really brutal woman-murdering moments feel like they go over the line (although the “Bros Before Hoes” trophy has been patched out of the game)
- Story is disjointed and less interestin, with fewer good characters, than past outings
- Multiplayer learning curve might keep it from really taking off
Final Score: 75/100
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