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God of War: Ascension keeps the seat warm

Friday, 15th 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.

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14 Comments

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  1. Digital Bamboo

    An interesting idea. If true, I wonder how many other devs are doing the same thing now?

    But I’m curious about these review embargoes, and about what exactly constitutes a “review”. I mean, VG24/7 doesn’t write reviews in the traditional sense, in that you don’t provide a number score, grade, or little chart breaking down the +’s & -’s. (And that’s cool) You don’t even refer to them as reviews, (“this piece”) and I think VG24/7 offers something different from a standard review anyhow, more like informed impressions, with a twist.

    So, I guess my rather convoluted question is: why must you obey the review embargo, if what you write is both more (the twist) and less than (no scores) a review?

    P.S. “It never seems to match the dizzying highs that made the series *to* enjoyable back in the day.”

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 It’s just a blanket rule really, you can’t talk about the final code until the review embargo is up. Every copy of a new game comes with an embargo sheet that is sort of your contract not to talk about it until they say so.

    Most sites wouldn’t ave told you that ^ But I like to think I’m transparent on such matters.

    We’d go early if we could, but in some cases that’d get us sued. We don’t want that of course ;)

    Thanks for reading.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. OmegaSlayer

    I still have to receive my copy and will receive it late due to messes between credit card holder and Amazon so I watched some walkthrough vids.
    What I must say is that I liked what I saw more than GOW3.
    It reminded me so much of GOW2 especially in the set-pieces.
    Yeah, no Cronos but the mechanical snakes are even more awesome in my opinion.
    Santa Monica were quite brave and after seeing lots of other devs copying big scale boss battle, they did something different, and I welcome this choice wholeheartedly.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. KrazyKraut

    We passed the snakes now and entered a big temple.

    So far I can tell that the game is awesome. But sometimes it feels like a last make-over is missing:

    - The climbing parts are very…”beta”-like. Kratos arms are very often not grabing the edge, they hang in the air. And it takes in some situations some tries to grab a ledge.

    - The shadows on smaller objekt are pixeld (expecially in Kirra)

    But the rest is *so far* awesome and still fresh. Especially the part against the first fury and the snake part in the icey mountains are extremely bad ass.

    And I agree with you, that it is a filler ofc, but it doesn’t feel like one.

    If you like to get your ass kicked on multiplayer, add me:
    MaveraUS

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Hellhound30x

    GoW3′s b side? More like its a step down from Gow3. Its a good game, but nothing as good as Gow3 was/is. The sound is glitchy. It almost sounds like a scratched cd, or sometimes there is a delay in the sound effects. From what I can gather my friends tell me they have the same issue, although they would refer to it as, “crappy sound.”
    I think the pacing is garbage in comparison to previous Gow games. There were a bunch of times, that I just felt bored, with the mildest interest to keep me going. (What ever trophies I get, I get…) Not just that but Kratos this time around doesn’t speak much…
    Also there some some serious choke points in the game. (forget about balance?) Thats what I think…
    Still the graphics are beautiful as ever… I love some of the design pieces even if they seem like, “I’ve been here before” in other gow games… to be honest some set pieces almost seem like they were re-purposed from Gow3.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. cyberpunk

    kratos definately coming to ps4

    #6 1 year ago
  7. redwood

    alright.. stupid question but i can’t seem to find the answer, can i play this offline with my brothers ? meaning does it have some sort of offline multiplayer?

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Rosseu

    I don’t like prequels, they all seem fillers to me

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Soft-Is

    check this out, hahah:
    http://youtu.be/LOZBjQlMTaI

    #9 1 year ago
  10. YoungZer0

    The GoW3 Demo had making-of footage for the Series VIKINGS. One Video in particular talked about the difference between Odin and Ares. The over Videos didn’t even talk about the similarities or differences between GoW and VIKINGS.

    So why would they do that? Why promote a series on the History Channel? This has nothing to do with Sony.

    Might just be Sony promoting an interesting series (It is) or it might be a hint to where the series goes.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Djoenz

    @11
    I actually found out about Vikings yesterday and the protagonist is said to be a descendant of Odin. I was immediately thinking about the Greek Mythology lmao.

    So new series about Norse mythology from Santa Monica now tht would be interesting indeed. :)

    #11 1 year ago
  12. YoungZer0

    @12: Yep, they could try to adapt the story of Norse Hero Ragnar Lodbrok (That’s also the protagonist of the series).

    The Opening Sequence to the series is also damn awesome:

    http://youtu.be/1Cg_5UVL3fs

    And some footage of the series:

    http://youtu.be/Wn8lrGYsbVc

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Djoenz

    @13
    Thx for the footage bro, but im already watching episode 3 as we speak. Cheers.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. YoungZer0

    Cool. 8)

    #14 1 year ago