God of War: Ascension keeps the seat warm

Friday, 15 March 2013 08:26 GMT By Dave Cook

God of War: Ascension is a perfectly enjoyable game, so why does VG247’s Dave Cook think Sony Santa Monica is holding back the big guns? Warning: may smell like next-gen.

God of War: Ascension

The game has reviewed quite well, but hasn’t set Metacritic on fire. Check out our score round-up here.

One of the game’s trophy names caused such a stir that Sony had to patch it out. Find out why here.

God of War: Ascension comes with a demo of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. It unlocks on May 31. Get the details here.

We recently interviewed Sony Santa Monica Studio about what it takes to keep the series at such a high level of quality. Find out what they said here.

Ascension also includes a co-op mode called Trial of the Gods. See it in action here.

March sees the release of two big budget prequels. Gears of War: Judgment drops next week, and God of War: Ascension launched in the UK this morning. It’s no coincidence that these games are releasing now. They’re filler, plain and simple.

Think about it. We’re too late in the cycle for numbered sequels, so what better way to keep franchises rolling than to create some prequels instead?

They don’t alter the canon too much, it gives developers a test-bed for new concepts and it keeps a series fresh in the mind until next-gen rolls around.

I can’t speak about Gears of War: Judgment until next week, but Ascension certainly feels like God of War 3’s ‘B-side’. Think of it as a seat warmer for whatever comes next.

Does that make it a bad game? Absolutely not.

That’s because the studio has still applied the same level of care and attention to detail that it did in God of War 3, and that in itself is commendable.

It’s no slouch in the visual department, it has the series’ trademark scale and it handles perfectly. There’s just a sense of troubling familiarity running throughout.

The battle and climbing mechanics are largely the same. Changing them in this game would have been a mistake, so their copy-paste nature can be forgiven to a degree. Elsewhere new tools – such as an Ouroboros Amulet that lets you move objects back and forth through time – makes for some interesting puzzle solutions and combat.

But nothing will really bowl you over. Think back to how you felt when facing Cronos in God of War 3. Chances are you won’t feel that way in Ascension. Naturally there are moments of awe – it comes with the territory after all. But Ascension also lacks the same minute-to-minute spectacle of its predecessors.

In keeping with tradition, the opening scene is a riot. Within seconds you’re fighting Ascension’s first boss Megaera, one of three Furies sworn to protect the oath between gods and mortals. Because Kratos is trying to back out of his allegiance to Ares, Megaera and her two sisters want him dead.

It starts violently and erupts from there, as Kratos leaps and fights his way through a shifting city that convulses and wobbles erratically. You quickly realise that the city is built on the body of Hecatonchires, a hundred-armed giant who also broke his oath to the gods. His punishment is to wear the city for all eternity.

Colossal arms and chunks of rubble fly around the screen, the camera swings and twirls to keep up with the action, and you really do get caught up in the absurdity of it all. Once the madness is over Kratos travels – via one of many flashbacks – to the quiet village of Kirra. This level feels castrated by comparison, and this is where the game enters auto-pilot.

It’s still visually epic. You’ll ride huge mechanical snakes around a snowcapped mountain, scale a humongous statue while fending off a giant sea beast and more. It never seems to match the dizzying highs that made the series to enjoyable back in the day.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony Santa Monica Studio was saving its top material for God of War 4, or if was the game was development for PS4 as you read this. But despite all of the deja vu and diminishing returns, Ascension still manages to deliver an enjoyable experience.

You’ll still get a sick thrill from stomping the heads of your enemies into fine powder, as Acension still nails that childish level of gore that makes you smirk at the sheer audacity of it all. At the end of the day it’s fun, slick and full of attitude..

It definitely isn’t a quick-buck project, but it’d be remiss to call it a full sequel. Fans will love it, while newcomers should still check it out if their game collection is wearing thin.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this piece, Sony sent Dave a copy of God of War: Ascension on PS3. No merchandise or advertising were offered or accepted.