Here we are, the last year for the PS3 to show its best before the PS4 comes out later this year or early next year. Personally, it has done well this year so far. Not counting the multi-platform titles, there are quite a few exclusive titles that the PS3 has going for it in 2013. There is the platformer, Puppeteer being made by Sony Japan, and directed by the guy who was part of the horror franchise, Siren. The developers of Heavy Rain have Beyond: Two Souls. Naughty Dog has The Last of Us. Even if you don’t care for Sony’s consoles, you can’t deny that this line-up of games is more impressive than what the Xbox360 has going for its last year before the Xbox720 is released. Now that I got that out of the way, let us talk about today’s review of God of War Ascension, the most recent in the long line of high quality action games made for Sony’s Playstation consoles. Even though I am a huge fan of this franchise, it doesn’t mean I go in blindly, and think everything about the series is perfect because there are some faults with each of the games. For example, God of War doesn’t have that many boss fights and two of the later levels are a pain to go through at times. Chains of Olympus has the same problems, with not a whole lot of bosses and some levels being kind of tedious, and God of War 2 has a pain in the butt set of puzzles later on in the game. I think the games that hold up the best are the third game and Ghost of Sparta. I think they had some of the best bosses and the best level design out of any of the games in the franchise. So, what do I think of Ascension? It has a lot of changes to the system like a revamped combat system, special secondary weapons being taken away for secondary weapons that are everywhere, multiplayer, and a more focused intent on making Kratos a more relatable and human character. What do I think of it? Well, it is one of the best games of 2013 alongside Ni No Kuni and the new Tomb Raider. Does it have its share of problems? Yes, it does, but I guess I’m more than happy to embrace the new changes. I do admit that this game does have problems, but they are minor enough not to ruin the entire experience.
How about we get started with the story? It takes place at the earliest point of the timeline, chronologically. It has been about 6 months since Kratos accidentally murdered his family and pledged his loyalty to Ares. Krato now sets off on a quest to find a way to break his bonds from Ares, the God of War, and redeem himself from his past sins. Unfortunately, his plans don’t all go according to plan, with the interruption from the Furies, 3 female demi-gods who take down or kill anyone who breaks their oath with the gods. The story has an interesting progression, beginning with Kratos being held prisoner on the giant multi-armed being known as Aegaeon the Hecatonchires , and then flashing back to the beginning of Kratos’ journey to redemption. The story is, for a lack of a better phrase, story driven. You see a more human side of Kratos. While it might not hit the emotional spot every single cutscene, I did end up feeling very invested in the story. I like some of the characters Kratos meets, like Orkos, the son of Ares, and one of the Furies, who is voiced by Troy Baker. It is just a shame that the story is a prequel story, since you already know from the other games in the franchise, what is going to happen in the end with Kratos.
The gameplay is still the same hack-and-slash action gameplay you know and love, but with a newly revamped battle system that anyone can and has sadly written off as the same as past games, and that just isn’t true. For one, you don’t get any other weapons besides the iconic blades. What I mean by that is you don’t get the traditional secondary weapons like in the past games. Instead, you can obtain secondary weapons from either disarming them from enemies or finding them while playing a level. You get a good variety of temporary weapons so you can pick up whichever weapon fits your style of fighting. Your blades also gain special magical abilities that subtly give you different moves, depending on what magic you are using. The rage meter even has a facelift, and fills up each time you successfully land blows onto the opponents. If you get hit, the rage meter drops so the entire gameplay has been more along the line of being skill-based, and not just bashing your way through. This new combat system can take a little getting used to, but it is really darn fun once you find out how to do everything. The entire single-player campaign took me about 6-7 hours to beat and it is, sadly, a bit shorter than the normal God of War length. However, there is a multiplayer option. If you remember during the beginning of the game or the demo, you see another locked up buff guy who mysteriously vanishes before getting impaled by the giant parasite that you were fighting. Yeah, multiplayer revolves around you being that prison escapee. You then choose a God to swear an oath with. You either choose for right now, Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, or Ares. Each God has his strengths and weaknesses in what spells and weapons your character uses. The modes are pretty much some of the usual stuff, like death match, team death match, capture the flag, a two-player survival mode, but there is one mode that most of the players or gamers who own this game will be playing. The main mode basically has you joining a 4-person team and taking down another 4-person team while trying to favor the gods by doing different things. These include but are not limited to taking control of a giant catapult in Troy, taking down a giant Cyclops in the Desert of Lost Souls, and you get the idea. While playing multiplayer, your warrior can either wield a sword, hammer, or spear. Each plays differently, so combining the perks of whatever God you chose, along with the different kinds of weapons you get, can make battles intense and strategic. Be careful though, sometimes the teams like to travel in groups of 3, and if you are alone, that isn’t a good thing. While there are some minor issues with multiplayer, it is super fun to play through, and I make sure to play a few rounds of multiplayer whenever I can, or want to.
Graphically, this is the best-looking console game of any console as of right now. I mean, God of War 3 was already a darn good-looking game, and they just injected another dose of amazing graphics into this game to make it look even better! You just need to see the graphics for yourself. The bosses are fun as usual, with a couple of bosses really standing out, but I’ll talk more about them in the next paragraph. Music is once again amazing, and all written by composer Tyler Bates. He has created music for a lot of things, from games like the two High Moon Studio Transformer Cybertron games, Army of Two; The 40th Day, and Rise of the Argonaughts, to films like Rob Zombie’s Halloween films, 300, Sucker Punch, The Darkest Hour, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. It just fits everything seen within the game. Along with good music and graphics is good voice acting. Terrence C. Carson once again provides the voice of Kratos, and does a great job trying to make this muscular killing machine more human. You also get voice actors like Troy Baker, Jennifer Hale, Debi Mae West, Nika Futterman, Robin Atkin Downes, Steve Blum, Fred Tatasciore, Kevin Sorbo, and Corey Burton to name most of the cast, that provide the voices to the characters in the game. Overall, it is once again a high quality production value. There are even some great scenes that kind of screw with you and some of God of War’s more infamous traditions. I won’t spoil them for people who haven’t played this game yet or know what traditions I’m talking about, but the one you encounter during the first part of the game is really funny and memorable.
However, even with all this amazing stuff this game offers with its revamped combat system, more character driven story, and surprisingly fun multiplayer, there are a few minor problems that bring this game down from a perfect 10. At first, I was having a blast playing through this game and the more I played, something did bug me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was that was bugging me. I then took a break from the game one day and decided to think what was bothering me. Then it hit me, the first issue I had with the game were its bosses. Usually in the God of War series, you fight a variety of different bosses, from human characters, giant monsters, to Gods. However, in this game, you are mostly fighting bosses of the human variety. Not counting the two manticore mini-bosses, the giant Hecatonchires, and the giant sea monster you have all seen (no spoilers for people who haven’t played the game), you are fighting characters that are human-sized. Don’t get me wrong, the boss fight with the prophet characters in the game is fun, and the fight with the Furies is enjoyable, but I think there needed to be more bosses, or focus more of the characters as bosses. For example, the furies aren’t fought all that often. You don’t really get to directly fight one of the furies until later, but that is only when you fight one of the other Furies who uses illusions, and that is about 3 or so hours into the game. Since we are talking about the Furies, they are my next complaint. While it is very cool to have not one, but 3 main female villains, they really aren’t that interesting, personality-wise. They have their little quirks here and there, but they act the same around Kratos, and it is a bummer since if they decided to make the single player campaign longer, they could have easily fleshed out the Furies more. I think what makes them not that interesting is how the story is told. The game’s story kind of has a Max Payne 3/ Pulp Fiction progression of story where it jumps around from one point of the story in the past to current time. Final complaint is with the secondary gadgets you gain, and it really focuses on the last gadget you get literally at the last hour or so of the game, so it isn’t developed much as an item.
However, do all of these complaints bog down the game for me? Not one bit. It is still a fantastic game. It’s well designed, epic, there are actually less quick-time events, the bosses are fun, the combat is great, and the multi-player is an interesting and entertaining addition to the God of War franchise. I hope in the future they support the game with more mult-player and single player DLC, since a lot of the complaints I had with the game can easily be fixed with DLC or patches. I say, if you want one of the last great PS3 games, I would recommend getting this game along with other PS3 games coming out this year like Puppeteer, The Last of Us, Ni No Kuni, and Beyond: Two Souls. You can get the standard game that comes with an online pass and a little manual that helps you get early access to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us demo. You can also get a special edition that comes with a soundtrack, or get the collector’s edition that comes with a Kratos statue, a soundtrack, and a season pass so you don’t have to pay for all of the future DLC. While I feel like this is a fantastic game and one of the best games in the God of War series, I do think they are going to have to REALLY bring it on the PS4 to wow us. They need to do stuff like maybe take what David Jaffe’s version of God of War 3 would have been and change it up for the next game, or take on different mythologies all together. How cool would it be to have the God of War franchise be like Assassin’s Creed and have you tackle different mythologies, like Norse or Chinese or even Japanese mythology? Let us just hope we get to see our favorite muscle-bound God-slayer in yet another fantastic game in the future.
This game gets a 9 out of 10.