I’ve played my share of God of War games and while it’s easy to attribute my disappointment with God of War: Ascension to “franchise fatigue”, the fact of the matter is that I’m not tired of these games at all. I actually want to go back and play that second PlayStation Portable title, God of War: Ghost of Sparta. I also have high hopes for the inevitable PlayStation 4 instalment.
The issues I have with God of War: Ascension were not on the surface; it was a technically sound game and easily one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 3. My issues were with the regression in gameplay variety and how they presented the narration.
God of War stories aren’t difficult to digest and I’m a fan of non-linear storytelling but I couldn’t wrap my head around the Ascension’s tale. Gaia reclaimed her role as narrator and hopped back and forth between the past and present, telling a story of oath breaking and the consequences Kratos had endured because of it. While the story was told in a non-linear fashion, Kratos was gaining experience and abilities as if it was a linear timeline. It was nonsensical and when you’re already going beyond the familiar hallmarks of Greek mythology, the events that unfolded lost a lot of their impact. It also doesn’t help that Kratos never made reference to any of these events in subsequent titles.
God of War III introduced a trio of new weaponry that brought a substantial amount of flavor and style to the combat. For once, I didn’t feel the patented blades were the only effective weapons. In this prequel, Kratos’ weaponry regressed into elemental palette swaps. The differences between the four elements seemed moot. I couldn’t tell if any of them were more effective with certain enemies or what. They also didn’t change the flow or pace of combat in any significant manner.
Kratos was given the ability to pick up the discarded weapons of this combatants. They were distractions at best and an ignored feature at worst. I felt they always left me too open and didn’t gel well with the primary move sets. Admittedly, watching an unarmed Kratos uppercut his opponent with his new found ability to punch was a hoot. He often hit his enemies with a force reminiscent to that of the Nemean Cestus.
Polish was always something I associated with Sony Santa Monica Studio. God of War II and III were some of the most polished gaming experiences from both a production and gameplay point of view. Ascension held up the production level side polish but the gameplay was rough and uneven. I haven’t encountered so many cheap platforming related deaths in a God of War game since the first one where they were toying with different ideas. And why did they think the sliding mechanic was worth repeating so often?
I had troubles with some of the combat encounters but I blamed many of those deaths on my stubborn refusal to use magic, me forgetting magic existed or my fruitless attempts with the different elemental weapon types.
There’s a multiplayer component to God of War: Ascension that I will likely never experience unless the online pass requirement is lifted. Sony Santa Monica thought it was a good idea to hide a trophies in the multiplayer and since my brother got the platinum trophy, I’m effectively locked out. It’s a shame because the multiplayer could be the redeeming aspect of an otherwise underwhelming installment in this franchise. Let us all hope this was only a stumbling point in the franchise and not a sign of its decline from grace.
For more information on God of War: Ascension, visit the official website.