DEVELOPER(S): SCE Santa Monica Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
RELEASE DATE(S): March 13th
There is one man you don’t want to be on the wrong side of and that is Kratos. He didn’t get the title of God of War for his ability to tie complicated balloon animals, he got it for his brutal pastime of decimating Titans, killing gods, and the occasional decapitation with his bare hands. God of War: Ascension is a prequel set just before the original God of War, which makes sense since God of War 3 ended off the trilogy. So back in time we go, where players will be introduced to a slightly more human looking and less battled damaged god slayer.
The game opens up with Kratos in chains, put there thanks to the Furies. Kratos has broken a blood oath with Ares and instead of the wooden spoon he is tortured and bound in the very chains that become his weapon of choice, the Blades of Chaos. It’s not long before Kratos is on the move to track down the three Furies that beat him senseless, aiming to settle the score in true God of War fashion. The story shows a softer side to Kratos, diving a little deeper into the man he is. The Spartan warrior is not just the mindless rage monster you have seen in previous games. Kratos even starts off a little weak than usual, he’s not as powerful from the outset as he is in previous games.
Building your way to maximum badassery is once again done by collecting orbs to upgrade your weapons and skills. This time though developers Sony Santa Monica have scaled back the weapon selection to just the Blades of Chaos. At first this was a bit disappointing as I enjoyed the various weapons you get in the previous games. Instead now you can pick up weapons either dropped by foes or scattered on the battlegrounds. These include spears for ranged attacks and massive war hammers for heavy block-breaking strikes. These appropriated weapons can’t be upgraded like the Blades of Chaos can. Instead Kratos’ trademark weapons can be enchanted with four elements such as the fire of Ares and the Ice of Poseidon. Each element has a small upgrade tree and their effects can be activated on the D-Pad to quickly change up combat strategy mid-battle.
Fans of the series will feel right at home with the way the controls and combat handle. There are a few new fighting mechanics implemented such as chain-grappling enemies, like Scorpion does in Mortal Kombat, and old favourites return like using your enemy as a battering ram. As brutal as the new mechanics are they don’t hold a candle to the new violent finishing moves you can perform on minibosses. Kratos will slice stomachs open, remove limbs and split open skulls like they were coconut shells, making me think that perhaps Kratos missed his calling to be a medical surgeon. The violence is not the only thing being taken to the next level; the visuals have been pumped up as well.
There are several jaw dropping wow moments throughout God of War: Ascension, especially during its epic boss fights. The massive scale seen in God of War 3’s Titan battles returns but this time it’s done through a clever puzzle segment involving mechanical snakes, and believe it or not it’s even bigger than anything you would have seen in a God of War title before. The locations are beautifully put together and bear a resemblance to the lush tropical locations seen in the Uncharted series, a far cry from the bowels of Hades and other gloomy caverns Kratos is used to. There is also more platforming this time around and fewer puzzles, a move which I think makes for a better balance when fighting your way through the well-paced 6 to 8 hour campaign.
The action doesn’t stop at the campaign though because, as a series first, multiplayer has been added. After you have decided which of the four Gods you want to serve you can jump straight in with several multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag and the good old trusty Deathmatch that you can play with up to 8 players. These modes reminded me a lot of PlayStation All Stars with its frantic chaotic action and are thoroughly enjoyable. There is also an online co-op mode that you and a friend can tackle which will test your reflexes. This mode sees you go up against waves of different beasts and is basically Horde mode with a Spartan flavour that you can also take on solo if you’re feeling brave.
Now having played the beginning and end of Kratos’ story I don’t see where the series could go from here. Rumor has it that the next God of War game on PS4 will dive in to Egyptian mythology and see a new hero rise. All I can say is that if that is the case then God of War: Ascension is a fitting end to the tale of Kratos and is a great way for one of Sony’s biggest IPs to say goodbye to the PS3.