The Spar­tan (just about) rises to the oc­ca­sion in this patchy pre­quel

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS -

All herds have a black sheep. In God Of War’s case, As­cen­sion is very much the for­lorn mis­be­hav­ing mut­ton-in-wait­ing. It’s not that Kratos’ final PS3 ad­ven­ture is a bad game, far from it. Yet in a se­ries that has con­tin­u­ally pushed the evis­cer­at­ing en­ve­lope for­ward, both in terms of tech and spec­ta­cle, it’s hard not to feel this pre­quel is paint­ing by (super bloody) num­bers. Look­ing back on As­cen­sion four years af­ter its re­lease, there’s lit­tle ques­tion this is the least mem­o­rable full-fat con­sole re­lease to come out of the fran­chise. Af­ter wring­ing out al­most ev­ery ma­jor de­ity, beast, and hero from Greek mythol­ogy, this slightly un­der­whelm­ing en­try feels like it’s deal­ing with a los­ing deck. In essence, God Of War III tapped up the re­main­ing Who’s Who of Greek leg­end and left As­cen­sion with the dis­ap­point­ing dregs.

See­ing Kratos be gen­uinely vul­ner­a­ble while both phys­i­cally and men­tally tor­tured by the sin­is­ter Furies is a re­fresh­ing ta­ble-turn­ing change of pace. But af­ter you’ve punched Zeus’ face to pieces, fight­ing this game’s for­get­table cast of bad­dies – like a set of pi­ous, per­verse con­joined twins – is quite the come­down.

At least com­bat lost none of its lac­er­at­ing lus­tre. In­deed, As­cen­sion of­fers the most pol­ished, var­ied fights


God Of War has to of­fer. The amount of de­cap­i­tat­ing, limb-lop­ping, bone-break­ing op­tions Kratos has at his dis­posal is dizzy­ing. Tether en­e­mies to­gether with the Blades of Chaos, al­low­ing Kratos to hold one en­emy in place as he grap­ples and mas­sacres an­other. Steal weapons from en­e­mies, like swords, spears, and slings, then put a homi­ci­dal hurtin’ on their own­ers. Fights move with such an ag­gres­sive, mus­cu­lar grace, they con­stantly keep you en­gaged, even when the game’s plot and pac­ing fal­ter.


Speak­ing of which, by Kratos’ hol­lowed-out soul does As­cen­sion ever drag. Aside from a pre­dictably strong open­ing, there are huge chunks that feel strangely bland. On the surface, Kratos should have more mo­ti­va­tion to fight than ever – the game takes place six months af­ter the death of his wife and daugh­ter when the an­ti­hero re­ally has noth­ing to lose – but through­out As­cen­sion there’s a real lack of stakes. The worst sec­tion? A pro­longed se­quence in the bow­els of the Tem­ple Of The Or­a­cle that ends on a drain­ing boss fight against a tele­port­ing swine. Com­pared to the heights of God Of War II, As­cen­sion’s lows re­ally reach rock bot­tom. When you’re deal­ing with a se­ries that has such a high base­line for qual­ity there are, of course, still high­lights. Trav­el­ling through the moun­tains of Del­phi on a sort of quasi-Greek ar­tic­u­lated rail­way as a Man­ti­core hunts you in the dis­tance (think a fire-breath­ing lion/scor­pion thingie), and a trip to the top of the Ti­tan-sized statue of Apollo on the is­land of De­los see As­cen­sion cap­ture mo­ments wor­thy of the orig­i­nal tril­ogy. PS4 God Of War looks to have the sort of re­newed fo­cus we haven’t seen from the se­ries in years. It’s hard not to think that’s not been born out of As­cen­sion’s rather clut­tered pack­age. Yes, in­clud­ing an eight-player (some­what un­nec­es­sary) base con­trol mul­ti­player was gen­er­ous, but c’mon, was any­one re­ally des­per­ate for on­line GOW ac­tion? If this un­nec­es­sary bloat leads to the Norse re­boot be­com­ing a fo­cused, killer clas­sic – and it re­ally looks like it could be – then you should prob­a­bly be grate­ful As­cen­sion is merely a de­cid­edly de­cent, al­beit com­pro­mised God Of War. Kratos will no doubt rise again, he’ll just do it with a big-ass beard and son in tow.

There are three types of el­e­men­tal Ta­los to fight – this is the fiery kind.


Things don’t start well for Kratos, who finds him­self at the mercy of Me­gaera.

You get to take on enor­mous boss Polyphe­mus in the mul­ti­player game.

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