The lights are on
God of War, generally-speaking, is a genre-defining series that prides itself upon brutal action sequences, button-tapping minigames, unique puzzles that are easy-yet-perplexing all at once, and soaking the main protagonist Kratos in many, many buckets of his enemy's blood. The series is one continuing story of Kratos' ever-lasting quest for revenge against those who crossed him.
The series came to its ultimate crescendo in 2010's God of War III, which I still consider to be one of the best PS3 titles of all-time. In addition to bringing us a game bursting at the seams with powerhouse graphics and smooth gameplay, its story mode brought fans the conclusion they were waiting for, and that was the bottom line. Its post-credits sequence left many wondering if there would ever be a God of War IV.
While that's still up for debate, Santa Monica Studios made many fans happy when a new God of War title was announced. With a story mode set up as a prequel to the entire series--even before the PSP prequel Chains of Olympus--God of War: Ascension hoped to bring something else into the mix that would attract long-time fans and newcomers alike; an all-new multiplayer mode that pits Spartans all-around the world against each other.
With its single-player mode, Ascension gets it mostly correct with very few missteps. It all begins with Kratos being imprisoned and tortured by these three judge-jury-executioners known as the Furies. Being imprisoned for breaking his blood oath to Ares, Kratos manages to get away which sets him in motion towards this story's ultimate goal--to eliminate the Furies so he can free his bond with Ares completely.
The gameplay itself is the good ol'-fashioned God of War gameplay we're used to; kill your enemies with your blades which can be upgraded through red orbs, battle some bosses, solve some puzzles and keep going. Like the other entries, Ascension has its challenges that will either leave you completely confused, or ready to throw your controller out the window.
However, a few incremental challenges prevent this from being the best entry in the series. Magic abilities are now dictated by what blade element you're using, which is convenient sometimes but most of the time can get annoying. The World Weapons introduced in this entry are cool and all, but ultimately feel pointless after a while of getting used to the upgraded blades. The buttonless mini-games are something wild, but definitely requires getting used to. Especially later on, it's harder to determine when that medusa's gonna hit you with a beam.
One thing I feel needs to be said, is that I personally found the story mode to be way too short. I had the game cleared in a little over nine hours, and other than to clean up the last of the trophies I haven't earned yet I feel little or no reason to get back into it. Not even New Game Plus can make the Furies, as the game's main villains, any more interesting. They feel more like occasional mini-bosses than actual big-bad monsters to be afraid of. Also, I'm assuming because of the multiplayer portion and The Last of Us demo access, there isn't any kind of arena or challenge mode like previous entries, which for me is a real bummer.
Maybe it's time to discuss multiplayer. Upon loading it for the first time, you're asked to choose an allegiance. You can pledge yourself to any of five gods, such as Zeus, Ares and Hades. The alliance you choose determines what kind of abilities your character will have. For example, I chose Hades, and that gives me quicker regenerative powers and makes me more stealthy in combat. Now, I wish I could further discuss my time with my own character, but I can't because I haven't yet been able to connect to a match through PSN, which sorta hurts this game's reputation for me.
Luckily I'm never one to review something without having fully tried it, so of course I was able to check some multiplayer out thanks to a friend who has it. From the three matches or so I played in, I was very impressed by the core mechanics of it. The game has various game modes, such as free-for-all deathmatches and variations of capture-the-flag. I personally find the multiplayer aspect of the game neat, so I look forward to finally playing a match using my own character.
For a solid PS3 action game with a functioning multiplayer component, or for God of War fans in general, God of War Ascension is a must-have. Newcomers should maybe skip ahead until this goes down in price. Ascension is the God of War prequel I wanted, but not the experience I expected.
Maybe once I'm able to connect to a multiplayer match without issues, I'll republish this review with a different take on it. For now though, consider this my definitive review.
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