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Review

God of War: Ascension Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

The multiplayer's a bust, but God of War: Ascension's campaign is a gloriously bloody adventure filled with exhilarating combat.

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It's hard to imagine a time in Kratos' life when he wasn't whipped up into a mad, revenge-fuelled frenzy. After all, if his last five outings have taught us anything, it's that whether you're a demon, or a monster, or even a god, Kratos isn't afraid to quench his bloodlust by severing your head. So it comes as something of a surprise to see a calmer, more thoughtful side to his character in God of War: Ascension. This isn't a story about revenge, or uncontrollable rage, but the tale of a tortured mind in search of the truth.

Sadly, that makes things a little less exciting. Sure, like in all God of War games, the action is bloody, over the top, and entertaining. And the sense of scale as you clamber over vast statues that stand as tall as mountains, or joust with the tentacles that topple entire cities is impressive too. But without that constant fury permeating every punch, kick, and bloody hack-and-slash dismemberment, God of War: Ascension doesn't deliver that same gut punch of instant gratification as its predecessors.

There's an element of series fatigue at play too, mostly because there's little mechanically in Ascension that wasn't taken to its logical conclusion in God of War III. The mythical beasts, the huge sense of scale, and the grotesquely violent combat are all here, but Ascension is not a fresh take on those things. Instead, it's mostly down to the story (set 10 years before the original God Of War) to provide a change of pace, charting as it does Kratos' descent from a regular, albeit uber-strong human being into an unhinged ball of rage.

It's a story that tries so very hard to have you relate to the mellowed-out Kratos. And sure, there are a few touching moments when Kratos reminisces about his deceased wife and child, but for the most part Ascension's emotional impact is limited to cut scenes of him looking moody, or getting a bit angry with one of the three evil furies he's chasing. It's hardly enough for you to empathise with his character, particularly since those scenes are surrounded by many hours of Kratos viciously tearing the heads off demons while he happily splashes around in their blood without a care in the world.

But it's those hours, gruesome beheadings and all, that prove to be the most entertaining. Combat is God of War's forte, and it's as exhilarating as ever in Ascension. Slaying goat men by snapping their spines in two, disemboweling a centaur, or tearing through the skull of a harpy are dark pleasures that few games can replicate with such ferocity. If you're a fan of the series, they're all things you've seen before, of course, and they're even performed using the same button-mashing quick time events.

That's not to say there haven't been a few changes, though. An enjoyable new minigame replaces many of the quicktime events, letting you take down larger foes without following a specific set of commands. Instead, you're free to stab away at enemies, only stopping to dodge attacks that are handily highlighted by a brief moment of slow-motion swinging. Dodge enough attacks and stab enough times and your foe is torn in half. Or its brains are squished. Or its jaw is turned inside out. God of War certainly isn't for the squeamish.

Kratos' blades of chaos make a return in open combat, letting you conjure up all manner of impressive looking combos with just a few simple button taps. After just a few battles you can hack, sweep, and hurl enemies into the air with a fluidity that's mighty impressive, and mighty rewarding too. As enemies get stronger, combat becomes more challenging, with a greater emphasis placed on the timing of blocks and dodges in order to avoid enemy attacks.

There's also elemental damage to worry about, with Kratos able to switch between fire, demon, ice, and electricity powers for his blades at will. Each of them doles out a different status effect, with electricity's ability to shock enemies for a brief period of time and suspend them in mid-air a particularly useful one. There's also the usual array of devastating spells to unlock, each of them linked to an elemental power.

It's all very slick and precise, and as you tear out the heart of a fallen medusa after a wonderfully skilful combo, it's hard not to be impressed. The simpler secondary weapon system does wonders here too. Now you can pick up various weapons, such swords, spears, and giant mallets, from fallen victims, which can be used for a brief amount of time to mix up Kratos' fighting style. Having a constantly cycled secondary weapon keeps the combat fresh and interesting, and the different effects of each weapon--the giant mallet knocking enemies to their knees, for instance--open up new ways to attack and string together combos.

Where the combat falters slightly is in boss battles, which remain formulaic and require you to memorise each boss's repetitive movements before launching an attack. And unlike the boss battles in previous God of War games, Ascension's boss battles aren't particularly taxing, thanks to simpler patterns and quick-time events. The battles do at least play to Ascension's impressive sense of scale, though. Whether you're attacking a giant bug that has sprouted from the hands of a decrepit statute, or are fighting a fire-breathing demon that towers above the city, you can't help but be in awe of the sights on offer. Plus, the final boss is one of the scariest to have graced a video game: those with a tender disposition may want to watch out for nightmares afterward.

Numerous puzzles break up the action to great effect. They start off simple enough, often just requiring you to pull a lever to open a door, or pull a block around to reach a tall platform, but they soon become complex, particularly during the latter half of the game. It's there that you pick up powers that let you rebuild and destroy sections of the environment and create a replica of yourself to pull switches or stand or blocks. Combining powers results in some excellent brainteasers that mix up spatial awareness with old-fashioned logic for some interesting challenges.

Less successful are the drawn-out platforming sections that make use of Kratos' blades to swing and leap across the environment. Awkward camera angles that don't quite line up with platforms make them trickier than they should be, while many of them simply go on for too long; you're itching to get back to the combat long before you leap across that final chasm. Fortunately, there aren't too many of these sections to deal with, and on the whole, the campaign moves forward at a fast-enough pace to keep you interested, even if it doesn't reach the exciting breakneck speeds of God of War III.

But there's more to Ascension than just a single-player campaign. Yes, for the first time, God of War has a multiplayer mode. And like most multiplayer modes tacked onto a largely single-player adventure, it's not something you're likely to play more than once, and only then out of morbid curiosity. The focus is on arena battling in matches of eight or fewer players. You pick a faction for your character--which mimics the elemental powers found in the single-player campaign--dress him up in some fancy coloured armour, and then get to killing.

Combat is similar to that of the single-player, although it has been noticeably slowed down, no doubt to give other players more of a chance to dodge, block, or parry attacks. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference when it comes down to battle. There's a certain amount of timing involved, for sure, but more often than not simply mashing buttons is enough to land yourself a kill. You can break up the physical attacks by performing impressive-looking special moves with cooldown meters or by launching magic attacks by collecting mana. Magic is useful in a crowded battle, but one-on-one physical attacks can rarely be beaten.

The vast majority of Ascension's multiplayer modes are based around Favour of the Gods. In these modes, you must collect a certain number of favour points by killing others, opening chests, and taking control of altars scattered around each of the arena-style maps. The maps themselves are pretty to look at, with plenty of cool environmental weapons for combatants to use, such as fiery flamethrowers and spikes that brilliantly impale multiple opponents at once. And for a brief amount of time, the mode is fun too, but there's little to hold your attention for long. Combat is slow, while the environments themselves are often too big, meaning you spend most of your time looking for opponents rather than fighting them.

Trial of the Gods fares better. It's an endless-wave mode where you and a friend are pitted against CPU-controlled enemies to see how long you can survive. Here, the arenas are much smaller, and each wave brings with it a new set of enemies, which keeps the action focused and exciting. It's not a particularly original mode, but it's well executed and challenging too. The reward for all your hard work is experience, which can be used to unlock new moves, magic attacks, and weapons for your character. The levelling system doesn't bring anything new to the multiplayer party, but it works well enough.

You're unlikely to play the multiplayer outside of a few practice sessions: it simply isn't deep enough to hold your attention for long. Fortunately, the single-player has a few tricks up its sleeve with a New Game Plus mode that unlocks after you complete the game, allowing you to use objects that give you unlimited mana, or dole out extra damage for some truly wondrous action-packed combat. There's a harder difficulty level too, should the single-player not be challenging enough, and there are plenty of unlockables in the form of artwork and behind-the-scenes movies.

The single-player is where you should spend your time. No, it doesn't quite reach the audacious and rage-filled moments of God of War: Ascension's predecessors, nor does it move the series forward in any way, but it's skilfully put together, and wonderfully satisfying to play. The mix of Greek mythology and lurid schoolboy fantasy still manages to simultaneously charm and gross out all at once, and that's a trait few games can boast, let alone execute with such confidence. Not to mention Ascension looks stunning, from the lighting effects that make for moody encounters in darkened dungeons, to the detail that has been thrown into each and every stab of a knife, and each drop of blood that flows from a downed enemy's recently spilled guts. Yes, it's all very juvenile, but boy is it fun.

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The Good
Tight, satisfying combat
Impressive sense of scale used to great effect
Revels in its own juvenile bloodiness
Stunning visuals
The Bad
Chilled out Kratos isn't anywhere near as exciting as angry Kratos
Multiplayer lacks originality and compelling modes
8
Great
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1387 comments
7C7R7N7
7C7R7N7

I give 9.5 to God of War: Ascension. Kill me if you want, but this game is better than GoW III, by the battle system, sound effects, soundtrack, and of course, the epic battles, mainly for the final battle. I say that because the final battle against Zeus in GoW III is the worse battle in the whole series.

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

If I were a reviewer, I wouldn't take points off for the multi-player. People don't really buy games for multi-player anyway (except for COD, Battlefield, and the such).

thekazumalord
thekazumalord

a fun game so far.. even though i haven't played through all the way ...but there are some issues in the game.. mostly it's the audio.. it  cuts out and is delayed frequently.. the frame rate occasionally stutters as well... im also not too fond of how the camera pulls out so far at times.. too far.. it makes it difficult to see your character during fights.. given how good the other god of war games are, especially GOW 3, these issues are inexcusable..  ultimately, its a good game but more flawed and not as good as GOW 3 was.

Arkman2014
Arkman2014

Santa monica what have u done to us, this is nothing like god of war, short story play,  but good cobat system ,

daviz88
daviz88

i just finished the game & i must say the game deserve a higher score.

first of all the combat is the smoothest  and most refined in the entire series

plaforming has been vastly improved 

and the graphical superb

the level design is just BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

better puzzle section

and the larger than life battle which GOW is known for is here

the only problem i had was the story, not that it was bad it isn't just as compelling as the previous instalment. but overall its a great game that every hank n slash fan should should play.

GOD OF WAR 9.5

GOD OF WAR 2 9.5

GOD OF WAR 3 9.2

GOD OF WAR ASCENSION 9.0


zzamaro
zzamaro

I enjoyed this game, but I think it's far from perfect. 

Story isn't as great as in previous console gows, and it lacks epic boss fights. Score fits.

Jonnyblaze2008
Jonnyblaze2008

I love your glasses Mark Walton, "Senior Staff Write".....Looks like your really fantastic at calculus....You look like you climax to an algorithms....

 

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Actually it's the 6th release, not sure how that got past your copy editor. Oh right, you're GameSpot.

MAY9096
MAY9096

I really enjoyed playing this game but not like the previous parts specially GOW 2 

DIqhwan
DIqhwan

Awesome !!! This game will definitely be in  my birthday list

amin7224
amin7224

WTF is wrong with Gamespot lately!! The reviewers don't like third person action games!! they stuck on rpg games!! then go play dragon age!! F***ing  haters!!

QtrArt
QtrArt

i wonder if there no online,sure the review will get 9 or 8.5 :)

Trea1-4
Trea1-4

Fuck them i bout it anyway i have the GOW bundle that came wit all the GOW ever made!!!!!

Isamu_36
Isamu_36

Sony is doing to the GOW franchise the same that Square has been doing to the FF's since FFX.

chiefgul
chiefgul

Gamespots incoherent point system is obvious ,and thats my opinion and thank you for letting me post mine, BUT

What i see at least in many cases is that gamespot gives scores to games with some sort of planning = meaning How to review the next installment of a game.

God of War 3 IN MY OPINION was a game tha deserved at least a 9,5.

Then they review it 9 because the had to be somewhere at 8 for the next installment!!!

REMEMBER (and i insist on Grand theft auto and other COD games)

Grand theft auto V is at least a 9,5 game BECAUSE  Grand theft auto IV was given a 10!!!!!

Thank God Kevin VanOrd gave a 10 for Metal Gear 4!!!!


BUT BY FAR THE MOST UNFAIR - OUT OF PLACE - BIASED REVIEW IS 

Chris Watters FOR PORTAL 2


03469186617
03469186617

Mark walton is a jerk.......he dont even knw how to make a review.......da only person from gamespot who knws whts hez doing is kevin venord.............and mark i hav played the game and its classic GOW.............i hav all the fun i wanted from this game..........go and eat shit u jerk and santa monica hater ......... :P :P

Assemblent
Assemblent

To all the God of War fans that are afraid to buy the game, don't be. The game doesn't put its predecessors to shame, it only raises the bar! This is what you where expecting! I've just finished it, enjoyed all of it. It's a God of War, you can't be wrong here. If you're a fan of this series, you'll feel the same goosebumps the other GOW offered you. You have the brutality, you have the awesome storytelling, the stunning graphics, the fluid action, you have the larger than the universe epic moments, you have that perfect mayhem of chaos and over the top action, you have everything that ever made God of War so great.

Gamespot is a good gaming site but its staff is filled with fanboys in the worse sense of the word and when they have a grudge against a game, either because of its console or personal taste, they can't stop being biased and write shameful reviews like this one here. 

Of course there isn't that element of surprise that you had with the previous installments, but that's obvious, this is what happened right before Kratos set out is plan to kill Ares and take down Olympus, of course this game wouldn't be as "big" as GOW 1, 2 and 3 where, I mean, common, how can you top chasing and killing the olympian gods in such a fashion? 

This review is worse than bad and it's completely incoherent. Has for the difficulty, this is peanuts compared to God of War 2 and never gets as hard as the Zeus fight in GOW3. Can't wait to beat it again countless times because it's just plain fun and it just gave me urges to play its predecessors again, over and over until I reach this most recent masterpiece of one of the greatest gaming series of all time.

harryfoker
harryfoker

Gamespot high as F**K

Telling me that GOW is worse than MGS Rising and slightly better than DmC.

it cant be true

Kentation
Kentation

Completed the game twice, once on Hard, ready to do Titan now. I have to say this game was disappointing at first, met a few glitches, one crash, saw some ugly looking tables in some cut scenes lol. I felt this game wasn't needed at all but playing on a higher difficulty made it more epic, it changed my opinion and made me appreciate the game alot more, it made me want to play the entire series again :) Though I find God of War 3 the best out of all the series.

I haven't played multiplayer much but it is fantastic and addictive. I find Mark's opinion on true multiplayer however playing with God of War mechanics and gameplay style make's up for the lack of new modes in my opinion.

And that secret easter egg tease they put on that painting :P "When the Earth stops a new journey begins"A new game or a new God Of War? I'm surprised Gamespot created a article about it since they do quite a lot on speculation.

weedman336
weedman336

Hey guys this will be my first god of war game .. is it ok to play this one now an catch up on the others later (because I really wanna play this game lol)  or DO I MOST DEFINAETLY NEED TO PLAY THE OTHERS FIRST?..          I PLAN TO JUST WANT THIS ONE ASAP

THANKS

nobbsie86
nobbsie86

Just completed this on hard and jesus! was it! Trial of Archimedes is one of the toughest  unforgiving parts in a game i've ever played . Awesome game tho!  looks incredible plays great. Best overall gow game for me

coldaschris
coldaschris

@DiverseGamer  The multiplayer is a part of the game. A reviewer should review the whole game, and not leave certain things out because they don't really consider it a part of the game.

jakcul
jakcul

I see where you're coming from, but it is included and supposed to help replay value. I haven't played this one yet, but I didn't have high hope for multiplayer in the first place.

khoofia_pika
khoofia_pika

Nope, it's the seventh entry. 1, 2, 3, Chains, GoS, Betrayal and Ascension.

sofijadante
sofijadante

@AmerHazaimeh  and whats worth of playing ? for example i played new tomb rider and thats not worth of playing, the game is toooo boring that i almost slept ! and i have throw my money for nothing :P 

thats not even an tomb rider ! thats an new call of duty !

Alpr1010
Alpr1010

@Assemblent Thanks! I saw gamestop has it marked down to $20 but I always put it off because I felt like it'd kill the series for me. You sold me on it.

Assemblent
Assemblent

In one sentence in what might define this game, this is the story of the deep breath before the plunge into the insane ride that is from God of War 1 to 3. And even as being the deep breath, this is one hell of a ride through the rollercoaster that God of War is, as we all know and love. Go for it! : )

Jynx04af
Jynx04af

@weedman336 Probably responding after you have already purchased this, but it is a prequel, so story wise you COULD play this one 1st, but then in my opinion, god of war 1 and 2 would be disapointing as the graphics and gameplay only get better as the series continues.

Supabul
Supabul

@nobbsie86 ...I'm thinking of quiting and starting again on normal, the combat is to infuriating, I can't do any combo's with enemies, its nothing but evade and attack because the blocking just doesn't work, enemies have unblockable attacks and even attack when hit and there's to many enemies to deal with, stupid it is and its sucking all the enjoyment out of the game


DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

@jakcul I'm not sure how it helps replay value, seeing as how you don't have to replay the game to access the content. The multi-player does add content and is a nice little bonus. But does not affect the single player campaign which most people buy it to experience. That's like a critic taking points off of a movie for having crappy special features.

josh7845
josh7845

@Assemblent They gave it an 8 (which means GREAT if you would ever so kindly read the score system). I wouldn't even consider it great though. A great game is a game that will be remembered years from now like the first and second God of War games. While this game may meet the standards of those games that came before it, it just doesn't have the same freshness as before. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since God of War is still good. I'd give it a 7.5 because it is a GOOD game but I don't think it really pushes any boundaries. But I'm sure you feel differently towards it and I respect that, so do go ahead and enjoy this and any other installment in this great franchise that comes out to your heart's content.

Ravennelli
Ravennelli

@weedman336  hey man, it's a prequel so you won't miss anything in terms of story. Might be harder in terms of gameplay to go back to the beginning as they have evolved the gameplay somewhat over the years, but yeah you can play this first and enjoy the original trilogy (and the PSP games) afterwards...

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

@weedman336 I'd pick up the older ones first, but that's just me. I think you can get all three in once collection now. I never played the PSP ones. But GoW 1 and 2 are epic.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Supabul @nobbsie86 Sounds like every hack and slash ever made, Revengeance comes to mind and Ninja Gaiden and Lollipop Chainsaw and everything else.

jakcul
jakcul

I hear ya, I'm just satin it's there, so it's worth mentioning. I'm with you as far as GoW being single player focused. I probably wouldn't even touch it til I finished the campaign. I'm just saying that if you have good multiplayer, you're more likely to go back to it more than to just play the campaign over and over.

josh7845
josh7845

@Assemblent @josh7845 The thing is, great games exceed expectations. That is why I don't think this game is worthy of being called great, after all, it only meets our expectations. I have no doubt that I will enjoy this title and I appreciate the not-calling-me-a-fanboy. I think you should remember though that it's unlikely a person would skip this game or any game that has an 80 or above average rating on metacritic, especially if they are already established fans of the franchise. Although it is kind of baffling how people are asking whether the game is good or not in the comments when they can read the bloody reviews instead.

Assemblent
Assemblent

@josh7845 @Assemblent I respect your opinion because I really do know what you mean. I speak mostly as a fan, not as a casual God of War gamer. But not pushing boundaries or not being as epic as its predecessors was perfectly expectable as it isn't considered the fourth installment for the franchise and that was expected from a game that's a direct prequel to the trilogy.

It's just that some fans might be put off by the reviews, this one for example, because it's a bit unfair while trying make this game go head to head with the previous 3. I mean, you aren't hunting gods or climbing mount olympus, I know... As for the story and lore, it's as beautiful as was before but without the epic sense of scale from the previous ones, but still, it's brilliantly as put as it was.

One thing I'm for sure, if you're a fan (and I don't even mean a fanboy) of the previous games, you'll absolutely love this one because it has it all, even though not being innovative, but here, that isn't necessarily a bad thing when it comes to enjoy this game to its fullness and as you did the other God of War games.


God of War: Ascension More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    God of War: Ascension is the seventh release in the series and is a prequel to the original trilogy that will tell Kratos' origin story by revealing Kratos' initial betrayal by Ares while human, and the source of his rage.
    8.2
    Average User RatingOut of 805 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate God of War: Ascension
    Developed by:
    SCE Santa Monica
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCEI, SCEE, SCE Australia
    Genres:
    Open-World, Adventure, Action, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content