God of War: Ascension is likely to be Kratosí final appearance on the PlayStation 3. Perhaps fans will be graced with yet another installment on further consoles, possibly even portables like the Vita, but for now, Ascension is all we have. These are Kratosí final goodbyes to a generation that will no doubt be obsolete within a yearís time, and with that, we ask ourselves, Was it really worthwhile? Did the game top whatís already come? Was it a finale that left even the slightest of fans craving for more, something the series has, naturally, always done? Iíd want to say yes. But, as desperate as I am to justify myself, Ascensionís ambitions of giving Kratos a proper narrative and an actual threat, unfortunately, just donít cut it this time around.
Set prior to the first God of War, Sony Santa Monicaís newest chapter in their ever-expanding series shows a torn Kratos struggling to break free of the mind games and endless torment posed by The Furies, three obscure, and frankly underwhelming, sisters. The game, essentially just a quest to kill The Furies, opens with an introductory boss battle, as weíve come to expect. However, unlike those previous, killing the first Fury is a dumbed down experience that seems to cater more towards younger audiences ó those accustomed to games like Uncharted ó with its simple-structured layout and all. Basically itís a string of Quick Time Events split by smaller waves of enemies. And while one could argue that thatís all itís ever been with a God of War game, this intro in particular just wasnít quite in line with what weíve seen before. Think back on God of War 3 and youíll see exactly what I mean.
Story-wise, Ascensionís mediocrity is a probable result of it being set in such early stages of Kratosí quest for retribution, as many of his most unforgettable moments come later. In other words, a prequel may not have been the wisest decision for SCE Santa Monicaís next project. Prequels tend to limit the developer more often than not, as theyíre mostly trying to work around the sequels. Gods are essentially out of the question, since theyíre practically all killed off in later games. Likewise, second-tier villains like Apollo and Hermes are equally unavailable; theyíve been killed off as well. So in the end, it ultimately came down to the three underdeveloped and uninteresting Furies. Hardly an improvement when weíve been trained to go up against the likes of Ares and Zeus himself.
God of War has always looked beautiful. And while youíd be hard-pressed to say that Ascension doesnít, the game, unfortunately, isnít quite as polished as its sequels. Strangely, this doesnít stem from a lack of detail ó rather, it comes from an excess of it. There is no doubt that Kratos and his surroundings were at their prime in God of War 3, which surprises me because youíd assume that a more recent title would show off even greater visuals. Sadly, Ascensionís Kratos is spotty and looks unfinished, as his environments display a similar convolution. At times thereís just so much going on in the backdrop that your ability to distinguish objects from one another is degraded, and walls suddenly become an uneven mixture of multiple tones of brown. I suppose itís not as bad as I make it out to be, but considering the height at which previous God of War games have set the bar, Ascension admittedly doesnít showcase that same extraordinary graphical achievement.
On a more positive note, Kratosí latest outing is just as enjoyable to play as itís ever been. Being the pissed off brute he is, Kratos will once again venture through this Greek mythology-derived world, mow down wave after wave of demonic beasts, slay monsters literally 100-times your size, and do it all simply to shed more blood. Always filled with unending rage, always corrupted by the evils that torment his mind, Kratos is absolutely inseparable from his Blades of Chaos (for now). Additionally, there are four upgrades youíll be able to acquire throughout the gameís entirety, each one expanding the blades with the godsí elemental powers: Fire of Ares, Ice of Poseidon, Lightning of Zeus and Soul of Hades. Each has its perks and each offers a special attack utilizing your magic. While players are more than likely to stick to their preferred blade, thereís certainly an assortment of combinations and techniques that grant those having a tendency to work out of their comfort zone with a much wider range of play.
Furthermore, God of War: Ascensionís gameplay is diversified not only by its combat but its tendency to throw in a puzzle every now and then, an aspect thatís consistently lightened up my experience throughout the series. Iíve always felt up to the challenge, and I find that incorporating them is a wonderful way to break free of the gameís constant seriousness, like, you know, tearing your foes limb from limb. The frequency of these puzzles, I noticed, was also upped from previous installments, providing a much-needed levity to the overall product.
To describe it as ďbadĒ would be rather off. More in line with most fansí expectations, God of War: Ascension is, very bluntly, disappointing at the least. Sharing a compelling story is nearly second nature to the developers over at Sony Santa Monica, and so it comes only as a surprise that Kratosí latest was far from it. Bland and entirely off-putting, The Furies were also an unforgiving mistake and totally justified my disinterest throughout. Combat was fresh, as it always seems to be with the series, but even that could not help the game through its many dire moments. So close to failure, itís hard not to admit that Ascension is the weakest link among God of Warís other three, nearly immaculate, titles.