GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION
The Spartan (just about) rises to the occasion in this patchy prequel
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
“ASCENSION OFFERS THE MOST POLISHED, VARIED FIGHTS GOD OF WAR HAS TO OFFER.”
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.
FORMAT PS3 RELEASED 2013 PUB SONY DEV SONY
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.