By Steve Wright
Well, it must be a Tuesday, because I'm about to do a review and mention games like DmC: Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance again. Yep, it's time for another hack and slash game review, and yep, it's another in a long running franchise. The only difference between this game and the previously aforementioned button-mashers is that God of War: Ascension isn't a reinvention or a different take on a franchise, but merely a prequel to its original trilogy.
You know, the one in which Kratos practically killed everything ever. Kind of makes it hard to continue the story along, eh?
Playing through Ascension, I could see how pretty it was. I could see the level of care and detail that Sony Santa Monica had put into the game, and I could easily appreciate it. At the same time -- despite the polish -- I couldn't help but feel like this prequel was merely a sideways step for the God of War franchise, whereas DmC and Revengeance, two other hack-and-slashers of 2013, were giant leaps forward. The result is a game that's competent, but nothing to write home about.
Fans of the franchise will notice the subtle changes to the mix; you can grab enemy weapons and pummel opponents. You can use a revamped combo system to mix-up encounters. Kratos' Blades of Chaos have been infused with new, elemental-based powers such as the Lightning of Zeus, and using those powers changes up the orbs you'll receive when besting baddies. Finally, the game's magic system has changed so that you won't be able to max out powers until well until the game, ensuring combat stays fairly challenging as you move from sequence to sequence.
Despite the innovations listed above, they're basically inconsequential when you find you can just spam the same combos over and over to get through the game. Ascension is a literal exercise in button-mashing to get from quicktime-filled cinematic to cinematic. In a new world where button-mashing would destroy you in DmC. Sure, the scripting in the quicktime events mean that the game looks absolutely gorgeous, but I just wish it had a bit more depth. Moreover, I feel that I had to trade off camera control for gorgeousness… and to be very blunt, I'd have been quite happy if the game looked a little more drab so I could just move the bloody camera where I wanted to.
Multiplayer has its moments of fun, but much like Tomb Raider before it, doesn't add nor detract from the experience; it's simply there to try to prolong play and show some further innovation in the title. The sad truth is that multiplayer doesn't have enough gusto to change Ascension's sideways progression. Nor do I believe it will keep players coming back for more.
The problem with Ascension is that it's a technically sound game that's simply more of the same. God of War fans will flame me for saying that instead of giving the game a glowing rating, but it's so very true. Fans, if you're filling with rage --just like your hero, Kratos -- take some deep breaths; rest assured, God of War: Ascension is exactly what you're expecting and what you want.
For those of us on the fence, Ascension will merely be a placeholder; a game that's filling the gap until its PlayStation 4 equivalent is ready. If you're looking for a hack-and-slash game and haven't tried DmC or Revengeance yet, your choice is clear… and it's to give Kratos' average adventure a miss.