I was lazily sitting around the house this last week when a package mysteriously appeared on my doorstep. Inside were the contents of something so unexpected that I actually sat and stared at it for a few minutes. I get quite a few Sony games mind you, but brawlers and the like are more Tyler territory. I’m the quirky JRPG guy. I for one haven’t played a God of War since the original, but with this being a prequel, I figured it would be easy enough to simply dive right in.
Read on to see how this little mail mix up turned out.
God of War: Ascension doesn’t do anything different from the previous games. In fact, one could make a strong argument that this is just extending its reach too far. I haven’t played the franchise since 2005 and I still could recognize the game’s design patterns from a mile away.
What this pushes God of War: Ascension to be then is a mindless blockbuster. For what we get here, Sony filled that role expertly. It has over the top action, massive destruction and a story that isn’t going to test your cognition. This is a game that you show off to your friends as you battle across crumbling vistas, run up massive snake roads and reconstruct the massive statue of Apollo in an attempt to crush the Furies.
In what could have been a very deep game, Kratos begins the game captured by the three Furies who punished those who swore a false oath. They torture and tempt Kratos in to joining their quest with Ares to destroy Olympus. In an interesting bit, the game almost entirely transpires in a mirage cast upon Kratos while he is imprisoned. It is in this false world that Kratos must discern fallacy from reality and put an end to his prison of lies. What we saw in commercials was the unraveling of what Kratos back story actually was. What we got in reality is the perfect life Kratos might have wished for. A subtle difference I admit, but one that really proves to dumb down the plot.
I say that because nothing in God of War: Ascension really adds to Kratos in either his back story or his motivations. His back story doesn’t get that emotional resonance that it could have. Instead, this is the character at his most primal; a runaway freight train plowing through chimeras and minotaurs, hell-bent on crushing the Furies. The Furies hop in and out to create some distractions, but that’s it. God of War: Ascension is all about showing what Kratos is capable of. That is where Sony really excelled. Kratos’ rampage is simple eye candy.
This is still that quick-time-heavy brawler that we’ve all come to love, but the levels are all massive. Sure they are about as linear as you can get, but in doing this, the team at Sony is able to pan the camera around however they want to accentuate the many major events interacting with Kratos. In doing so, we really get to see how epic climbing the massive statue of Apollo is. It really is a sight to see.
The amazing surroundings provide a great deal of service to distract from a lot of God of War’s more tedious aspects. Most enemies are really well crafted, but they unfortunately begin to get repetitive. The bosses are superbly designed, but fighting the same peons over and over to get to them starts to get dull. This is an unfortunate side effect of the beat-em-up genre, but with such care put on the amazing world design, clearing small area A to get to small area B with the same enemy types just drags on. I do have to say though, those main bosses are all expertly crafted and really make for some cool battles. That is what Sony Santa Monica does really well and they haven’t dulled with age.
Before inserting the disc in to this game, I read the press release copy. In it, it let me know that there is a patch to improve the balance in one small section of the game. The Trial of Achilles on Normal was supposedly a bit difficult. Not wanting to be someone to shy away from difficulty, I tried burning through the game patchless. I’m not going to lie, after about an hour of replaying the level, I broke down and patched the game.
I don’t believe it is impossible (and this almost killed me to do), but in the interest of getting a timely review out, I figured I’d give you all a heads up on how hard it is for those of you that don’t keep your PS3 online to play God of War. What happens is you are hit with a swarm of really tough Echidna and witches that prove to be more trouble than they are worth. Honestly, I simply think the game fails to prepare you for this trial on Normal difficulty. Upon patching the game I was able to beat it in one try. It does significantly change the attack patterns of the enemies, but not so much to make it a simple cakewalk. Just enough to keep the game balanced.
Speaking of the patch, it also changed out my “Bros Before Hos” trophy. I am not one of those that will sit here and claim I was made uncomfortable by the title of the trophy. Its a colloquialism that is used fairly commonly here. I’m not going to deny the sexism, but I’m not going to feign anger over it. It didn’t shock me, but what it took to get the achievement certainly did. To get the achievement you have to brutally beat one of the Furies during an up close over the shoulder shot, then finalize it by literally curb stomping her in to the ground. That was a bit more unsettling. I know there are a lot of horrible things Kratos does in the game, but that was a bit up close and personal for me not to be shocked by.
God of War: Ascension is the first multiplayer God of War title in the franchise. Much like Mass Effect or Bioshock, this is unnecessary. Its also not to shabby. Multiplayer is just how you’d expect it. You can tackle the game in player vs player environments like capture the flag, team death match and a regular death match. One of the more interesting modes is Trial of the Gods which is a cooperative time trial where you fight waves of enemies to get to the boss.
This is actually a well fleshed out multiplayer and only serves to expand what’s already a good game in its own right. I say it is interesting to build a character up from nothing, but Kratos really felt so much more fluid than your online personality does. This is because in balancing everything out, Sony had to create a system of counters much like a fighting game employs. It really produces something very familiar and completely different than the single player game.
It is locked behind an Online Pass, so if you are one to judge your purchase on that, the multiplayer only exists to extend the game. There is plenty of content in the new game plus to keep you going back to the single player. It has the leveling structure that’s common in plenty of games, but this isn’t Call of Duty or even Street Fighter. This really just does its job of extending the God of War experience in to an online arena, which is a logical move for a game that really is an extension of the beat-em-up genre.
God of War: Ascension isn’t as narratively driven as previous titles. While it certainly could have been with the direction they were pushing, it isn’t a necessary component for the franchise. It does little to change the formula in to something new and surprising, and that’s okay.
This is still your action packed, over the top, uber-violent God of War. If you want to play something familiar and fun, God of War: Ascension more than does its job and it is nice that they try to go beyond that. It doesn’t succeed, but as the first game in the series to let you play with your buddies, it does a darn good job.
[+Amazing Level Design] [+Epic Bosses] [+Solid Gameplay] [+Competent Multiplayer] [-Online Pass] [-Repetitive at Times]