God of War: Ascension Review Jordan S March 22, 2013 Featured, PS3, Reviews Ever since God of War debuted back on the Playstation 2 it has cemented itself as a part of gaming history. Sony found a franchise that highlighted the strength of their consoles (+ handhelds) and went back to the well several times over the years. Sony owned Santa Monica, responsible for the series’ inception and console iterations, released God of War: Ascension on March 12th, 2013. This new entry, which is actually a prequel to the original game, once again shows off what a Sony console can do while attempting to forge new ground by adding multiplayer elements into the mix. With the announcement of the PS4 it is not a stretch to believe that Ascension will be the last God of War on this generation of consoles. With that in mind it most definitely highlights the capabilities of the PS3 hardware. The visuals are clear and the God of War scale is present in every scene (even though the camera zooms out too far sometimes). Every enemy you come across over the campaign (it’s length is about the same as other titles in the series) is grossly detailed in pixelated mythical glory. This bring up one of the series’ hallmarks: grizzly killing animations. In past games Santa Monica studios reveled in their graphic depictions of killing. In this game, however, the quality of the visuals brings a level of realism to the gaping wounds, decapitations, and be-headings that is reaching an uncanny valley of being disturbing. The scene where Kratos, in the first person, beats a woman nearly to death was something, because of its coverage in the gaming media, that I knew was coming but still bothered me. If you are at all bothered by gory violence steer clear of this game. The visual fidelity of this game is constantly impressive. The second hallmark of this series is using great visuals and fantastic level design to make giant changing levels. Ascension, through its use of a magic amulet, allows you to augment levels: decaying or healing areas to figure out puzzles, rebuild paths to continue, or to attack enemies with. The puzzles here, though few in number, are quite good and even stumped me more than once. This, along with the new elemental weapons powers and two other items that let you do some pretty cool things (I won’t spoil it for you), add something to the God of War formula that helps keep things fresh. In fact the only new addition that is for the worse is the change to the parry system. Before this entry in the series all one had to do to parry was to time their block just right. They have changed this system to now include blocking and hitting the ‘X’ button at the same time (significantly reducing the parry window). It took me many hours to get used to the change and the only reason I can think of for changing this feature would be for the multiplayer. This, combined with a small delay in Kratos’ roll dodge, makes avoiding damage in this game much harder than other game in the series. Though that doesn’t stop you from eviscerating every monster on your way to the end in (too?) bloody glory. Complaints aside, this is still a God of War game and Sony Santa Monica made a hell of a game. The combat, besides the changes, still felt good and the use of elemental effects on the Blades of Chaos (and to the enemies) kept things feeling fresh and varied. The story they put forth does take Kratos to some impressive areas that feature great level design but by the end, because of the way it fits into the overall narrative, feels like something that didn’t matter. You’ll be asking yourself: “Wait isn’t he right where he was at the beginning,” (and that has nothing to do with the flashback story structure) and “Didn’t that happen in the first game?” For God of War fans the game definitely worth buying for its quality, length, and an interesting multiplayer that has you picking a Greek god as your master and battling it out with other Kratos-like warriors in team based games that have the structure and leveling/unlocks system you would normally find in a Call of Duty game. For everyone else? If you love action, violence, and some really cool level/puzzle design (and can deal with really graphic violence) there are plenty of reasons you should play this game. How the journey starts. New elemental enemies galore. Beware the blue ring.