After releasing three great God of War games on consoles and two handheld versions, people thought what was next for the popular franchise.
Santa Monica went back to the drawing board and decided to release a prequel called God of War: Ascension.
They promise to let us see Kratos on a more human level than we’ve seen in him past games. Not to mention this prequel is the first in the franchise to include an online multiplayer mode as well.
Epic is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days However, it is the best word to describe the incredible level design in this game.
With most modern day video games featuring linear level design, Ascension includes huge breathtaking scenery that is rarely seen these days. God of War 3 had huge and awesome levels too and Ascension is no different.
If you’ve watched Dragon Ball Z before, you will remember that Goku had to travel through “Snake Way”. There’s a similar looking serpent featured in Ascension that Kratos has to ride on too.
The epic scale of the level design is nothing short of amazing. There are numerous other levels in the game that made my jaw drop in amazement too. The sheer size of the statues, monuments and other environments that make up the game are to be seen to be believed.
It’s amazing how Santa Monica have been able to animate such large levels on the aging PS3 hardware. When it comes to modern action games these days, the emphasis is always focused on full-on shooting and explosions and rarely on exploration and puzzle solving.
This is evident with the FPS genre and even the new Tomb Raider was gone this route. Hack-n-slash games usually get repetitive if they feature too much action. This has never been the case with the God of War series and Ascension thankfully continues this tradition.
Only the first level included non-stop action and felt repetitive as a result. After you complete the first level, the game becomes more balanced as you will need to solve a bit of puzzles in order to advance.
Most of the levels are broken up in a series of fights, then a puzzle to solve and then concludes with an epic boss battle at the end.
This is the type of balance I love in games as it’s not a bad thing to slow the pace down from time to time. I was playing Tomb Raider around the same time as reviewing this game and I have to say, Tomb Raider actually features less puzzles than that of Ascension.
When it comes to multiplayer experiences, most games in this area are shooting titles. When hack-n-slash titles enter this realm, things get a bit sticky because the genre has yet to get it right.
People just have to play Ninja Gaiden 3’s to understand what I’m talking about. Much like other people, I was sceptical about God of War: Ascension’s addition of multiplayer.
Having participated in the game’s beta a few weeks ago, I initially wasn’t too impressed with the mode. This all changed when I finally had a chance to play the full multiplayer offering. I have to say, Santa Monica has done a great job for its first time in this department.
Beating up people with weapons and/or using magic is a lot more fun than just shooting at them all of the time. This is the unique aspect of this game’s multiplayer offering that truly makes it fun.
I chose to wield a hammer but other weapons included swords and a spear. You can also customize the look of your own character too giving them armor and other clothing that will improve their stats and attributes.
To effectively win at this game, you have to watch your opponent’s attacks and know when is the best time to block and parry. I did this multiple times and was rewarded with an awesome looking kill animation in the process.
The level design in the multiplayer is very unique too. There are titans and gods that can help or hinder you during gameplay. One player could awaken a god to smack all of the other players.
There are also levels where you can press the R1 button to go on higher levels and some levels even break apart. They’re just not arena based levels as I experienced when playing the beta initially.
There are four modes in total that vary the gameplay to make sure you never get bored. The four modes you get to play include: Team Favor of the Gods, Match of Champions, Capture the Flag and Trial of the Gods.
Team Favor of the Gods is arguably the best mode in the entire game. This is because its objective based and plays a bit like the old Star Wars: Battlefront games.
Not only do you gain points by killing off opponents, but you can also increase your team’s score by collecting special weapons/items, opening treasure chests and even obtaining checkpoints.
This mode can be played in teams of two or for people. I must say, it’s a very entertaining mode to playthrough. There’s not much else I can say about the Capture the Flag mode.
It plays like any other Capture the Flag mode does in any other video game. Match of Champions is the game’s fancy way of saying “free for all”.
This was my personal favorite mode in the game because I could unleash hell on anyone that stood in my way. The four player free for all was fun, but the eight player one was even better.
The last mode is a 2 player co-op session called Trial of the Gods. This is the hardest mode in the game in my opinion because you have a time limit to defeat as many A.I. enemies as possible.
The longer you survive, your time increases. The one thing that made this mode so hard is that you only have one life. If you happen to fall off a ledge, it’s game over. Not to mention the enemies get progressively too. Not much has changed in the overall gameplay in God of War: Ascension.
The controls are the same and the game still has a fixed camera. The fixed camera works in some levels, although it’s still annoying in places where Kratos needs to do a lot of jumping on numerous platforms.
I died multiple times just because I was unable to see a gap between the two platforms I needed to jump from.
Some people might say the familiar style of gameplay is a good thing, but this is the seventh title in the franchise and the series started back in 2005. I guess we won’t be seeing any true innovation to the gameplay mechanics until the series is releases on the PS4.
As much as I loved the multiplayer offering of God of War: Ascension, I do feel that the mode needs more levels. I played the multiplayer for several hours and cycled through the same three or four levels countless times.
Some of the modes offer different levels, although you will play through a lot of the same ones if you are playing this mode for a long time.
The maximum number of players is only eight people. It would have been more fun if 16 players were able to fight to the death. I guess this might be a limitation on the PS3 hardware.
Hopefully this is something to consider when a God of War game is to be released on the PS4 in the future. God of War: Ascension is a very good addition to the popular hack-n-slash franchise.
The single player mode may not be as epic as the previous games, but fans of the series will still not be disappointed by the amount of gory action the game provides.
The multiplayer mode was a huge surprise and was more fun than I ever anticipated it to be. Santa Monica may have played it safe this time around by not adding too much innovation to the core gameplay, but that does not mean that God of War: Ascension isn’t a fun game to play.
If you’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning and don’t mind the same style of gameplay, there’s hours of “bloody”’ good times to be had here.
Lasting appeal: 8.0