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In April 2012 a new God of War game was announced and to many people’s surprise it wasn’t the much mooted God of War 4 but a prequel to the entire saga by the name of Ascension. Therefore is the 7th entry in the franchise an exciting, fresh evolution or an unoriginal, rehash of a once great series?

 

The player controls the protagonist Kratos, the former servant of the God of War, Ares, who tricked Kratos into killing his wife and child. Kratos renounced Ares, breaking his blood oath to the god. For this act, Kratos was imprisoned by the three Furies, the guardians of honor and enforcers of punishment. Helped by the oath keeper Orkos, and finding out that Ares and the Furies plan to overthrow Mount Olympus, Kratos escapes his imprisonment, kills the Furies, and reluctantly Orkos, finally freeing himself from Ares' bond, but beginning the nightmares of his horrible deed.

God of War: Ascension (Single Player)

24th March 2013 KingofMetal79

GoWA Cover god-of-war-ascension-logo

I will start by saying that while the story might not be as engaging as the previous entries it is still highly exciting even if there were several bits where I got a little lost. That said it is admirable that the developers can still tell interesting tales now that the main deicide story arc has concluded. Actually this element instilled confidence in me that future entries, if they are to include Kratos, can be highly entertaining and still have the ability to impress and surprise with the narrative still being based in genuine Greek mythology. However, while the overall story might not resonate with you on the levels that the previous games may have the game does show a side of Kratos hitherto unseen in the series. There are bits where it could be said that our favourite God slayer is almost smiling and a scene where he is teary. Who knew that Kratos had an emotional side? That said I wish the developer would have been a bit braver and proper shaken it up by doing a prequel that was set during Kratos’ time as a Captain in the Spartan army. I would have loved to have controlled everyone’s favourite Spartan in the famous battle that saw him swear allegiance to Ares and receive the legendary ‘Blades of Chaos’. The game could have ended with the notorious Ares’ betrayal that results in Kratos murdering his family that sends him on a vicious downward spiral that culminates with the ‘Ghost of Sparta’ killing the Gods and laying waste to Olympus. Now tell me you wouldn’t want to play that?

GoWA SS1

One thing you will notice is the tweak to the fighting/combat. In a word it’s the best yet. It has been fine tuned and the introduction of 'elements' (Fire of Ares/Ice of Poseidon/Electricty of Zeus/Souls of Hades that can be used to enchant your trusty blades) is better than the previous, easy to over look, additional weapons on the earlier games that weren’t a patch on the Blades of Chaos. The combat is again harder and a definite strategy is needed if you are to complete the campaign. Spamming the square button will no longer work! Furthermore the QTEs, while reassuringly present as always, have, in some instances, morphed into a more skill based mini game. For example instead of following a few on screen prompts to dispatch an enemy, now following a quick cut scene and some awesome grappling skills, you may have to continually hack at your opponent while using the joystick to avoid their futile attempts to throw you off before landing the fatal blow. This addition again adds another layer to the combat which ultimately creates a deeper more rewarding experience.

 

My final comment regarding the combat is in relation to the Trials of Archimedes; A lot has been said about the Trials of Archimedes chapter and I can tell you it lives up the hype. Put simply it is the hardest section of any God of War to date. That said I enjoyed the challenge as the excellent pacing of the game had meant you, the player, had been expecting the aforementioned confrontation and when it drops it doesn’t disappoint. You will have to use all the skills, techniques and combos you have learned up that point to pass the trial. While crushingly hard I actually thought this was one of the highlights of the game as you need to understand and master the combat system to suceed and the sense of achievement on completion is refreshing.

 

As mentioned above the pacing of the game is excellent and in that respect is far superior to God of War 3. I felt the previous entry in the series in hindsight had a very uneven pace and excluding the incredible Cronos section and the sublime Poseidon crushing opening the game suffered from slight lazy repetition and a distinct lack of puzzles - something the franchise is known for. However Ascension suffers from no such short comings as the game gradually builds to a truly epic, crescendo of a conclusion with an excellent balance between battling and puzzling.

 

One thing that has remained constant throughout the franchise is the level of violence and this entry is no different. From lobotomizing giant Elephantaurs to slicing Gorgons in half from head to toe, this game has blood and gore in spades and will keep all gaming gore hounds happy. Let’s be honest it wouldn’t be the same if Kratos wasn't decapitating or dismembering every living thing he came in contact with would it now?

 

As people have come to expect, the game looks and plays stunningly with virtually zero technical issues and a visual polish few can replicate. The scale of the levels is mind blowing as usual and Santa Monica have avoided the easy pitfall of going down the path of simply making everything bigger than God of War 3 - which they could have done and appeased most people. That said when they do amp up the scale it truly is a sight to behold and creates some of the series' most memorable sequences - See Statue of Apollo and the imprisonment of Aegeon. Furthermore there are some great cut scenes in the game that are on par with anything we have seen before in the series. For me the approach to Apollo’s Statue was akin to the scene in Jason and the Argonauts and the appearance of Talos; very atmospheric, very cool.

GoWA SS3

With all the above in mind it feels like this game is the culmination of 8 years worth of experience and evolution. It’s just a shame that the story just falls a little short. I would have loved to see this game contain some of the emotional grunt and story brilliance that made the main trilogy arc so great.

 

 

In conclusion, not only is this the best, most polished God of War game to date it is also the best game of 2013 so far in this reviewers opinion. This might seem like hyperbole but even in this incredibly rich and AAA game saturated opening quarter of 2013 this is a genuine stand out hack and slash adventure game that is deserving of applause and recognition and is not a simple rehash of the former franchise entries. I was so surprised how great this game turned out as when it was announced and confirmed a prequel I, like many thought, especially with all the early press centred around the multiplayer element, assumed this would be an identikit, rerun of past glories and bit of a 'place holder' while we wait for the inevitable next gen reiteration of Kratos. I have never been happier to be so wrong and I cannot wait to see what Santa Monica Studios can produce with the newly announced PS4.... The skies the limits (or should that be Olympus?) Welcome back Kratos, God of War.

Agree or disagree with our review? Either way let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on the forum.

5.0