Friday, March 22, 2013

God of War: Ascension Review

Released March 12th, 2013
Developed By: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Published By: Sony
Platforms: PS3
NOTE: SINGLE PLAYER ONLY - God of War: Ascension has a multiplayer option, but you need an online pass to play it.  I rented my copy of the game, so I did not have access to the multiplayer.

God of War: Ascension is a prequel to the God of War series that follows the tried and amazing design of the franchise; cringe-worthy Gore, intense combat, epic scenery, cut-scenes littered with quick time events, and a story decent enough to keep things interesting.  
                The story is told through flashbacks, jumping back and forth over a three week period. The game begins when Kratos first decides to break his oath to Aries and kill the God who destroyed his life.  Unfortunately for Kratos, the three Furies punish anyone who breaks an oath to a God of Olympus.  In order to exact his revenge, Kratos must first defeat the Furies and clear a path to Aries. 
                Kratos is equipped only with the Blades of Chaos this time around.  Using the blades feels as smooth and substantial as in previous GoW games. However, one irritating change to combat is the addition of a Rage Meter.  The rage meter fills as Kratos attacks enemies, and drains when he is hit. The Rage Meter must be filled in order to do more than a three hit combo.  Limiting Kratos' powers is not a fun idea. The meter also buffs attacks, adding devastation to combo finishers.  In addition, there are special magical attacks that can be used once the meter is filled that will empty the meter when they are used. 
              Another annoyance is that counterattacking no longer solely entails blocking at the right moment. In Ascension, you have to be blocking and then hit X at the right moment.  This makes counterattacking feel clunky, as opposed to previous titles where it mixed smoothly into combat.
The Three Furies
Adding some variety to the combat, Kratos learns four different powers that he can imbue on his Blades; the Fire of Aries, the Ice of Poseidon, the Souls of Hades, and the Lightning of Zeus.  Blades imbued with the Fire of Aries add flames and explosiony finishers to attack combos.  These blades also cause the rage meter to fill very quickly.  Blades imbued with the Souls of Hades summon demons from the underworld to punctuate attacks.  Blades imbued with the Ice of Poseidon pack a heavy punch, and smash enemies with blades turned into ice-clubs. Blades imbued with the Lightning of Zeus can stun enemies.
You can quickly change, even mid-combo, between the four Blades by using the D-Pad.  Filling the Rage Meter with the Aries Blades and then switching to another Blade type is essential at times.  As in the previous God of War games, enemies drop red orbs which can be used to upgrade Kratos’ weapons.
There are also five weapons, referred to as World Weapons, which have a limited number of uses; a sword, a club, a javelin, a sling, and a shield.  There is no real need or incentive to use any weapon besides the sling and javelin, and that is because those are the only two range weapons Kratos has access to.
              Also in Kratos’ arsenal are the Amulet of Urborus (which can control time), the Oath Stone (which summons a copy of Kratos for a short time), and the Eyes of Truth (which allow Kratos to see through the Furies deceptions and break their magical barriers.)  Some of the harder spots in Ascension require the utilization of Kratos’ entire stock of weapons; slowing one enemy while summoning a clone to attack another enemy, while also smashing and dodging the rest of the enemies.  
Some old-fashioned Epic combat
The combat becomes more entertaining, once you become accustomed to it. I think that the combat in the previous God of War titles felt smoother though.  A huge problem in combat is that certain animations can’t be interrupted. Some animations that occur when you are hit are long enough to allow the enemy to hit you again, trapping Kratos in a stun filled loop. Not being able to interrupt attacks to block flanking enemies causes a lot of headaches. The number one cause of death for me was animations completing. Another blockade in the way of awesome combat is that at times the dynamic camera (which you have no control over) zooms out so far you can barely see Kratos.  Fighting enemies when you can’t see what is going on is tough.
              There are a few platforming sections throughout Ascension which offer a change of pace from the intense combat.  A nice feature is that you don’t need to hit a button to jump to the next handhold; you just use the analog stick to seamlessly transfer between them.  There are also some sections where Kratos uses his Blades to slow him down while falling, which require him to dodge of obstacles.
              God of War: Ascension doesn't quite live up to the amazingly high standard previous God of War titles have set, but it is still a Gore-filled, Terrifically Entertaining game.  All the elements that make up a great God of War game are present, though some of them don’t feel as crisp and polished as in previous titles in the franchise.

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