Its almost been ten years since the original God of War was released for the Playstation 2. Among many amazing titles for the Playstation 2, God of War may be one of the most influential on the industry. God of War not only helped popularize Quick Time Events (QTEs) but it showed the industry how to pull off some of the most epic, over the top boss battles we have ever seen. Since the original we have seen the end of the trilogy and two PSP games. Today with God of War: Ascension we are seeing the first non-numbered God of War hit a home console taking us back before the start of God of War.
God of War: Ascension is probably the least story-focused entry into the God of War franchise. In fact, for the first hour or so of the single player campaign, Kratos doesn’t utter a word. I honestly don’t remember the last time I played a video game where the main character is mute for this long of a period of time. When he does finally have dialogue, it’s back to the good-old angry Kratos we have all learned to know and tolerate. In fact, Ascension forgoes a lot of its story elements in favor of just having you hack and slash your way through the game.
By forgoing the story, God of War: Ascension puts an even higher emphasis on the hack-and-slash over the top bloody action. Luckily, this too is where the game shines. Right from the onset the game has you going through some truly epic battles. Especially if you missed God of War III, the game has a sense of scale that still to this day isn’t rivaled by many. Santa Monica Studios has such a knack for allowing you to feel like you have a genuine chance against enemies that are a hundred times your size. To ratchet that up even further, not only do you have a chance, but often times you take down these behemoths limb by limb which can make for some ultra satisfying deaths. Speaking of death, Ascension raises the bar once again for brutality. The amount of blood, guts, and other extremities that populate the screen can be staggering.
The single player campaign lasts around ten hours and that felt like just the right amount of time. Often times I would criticize a game for being $60 and around ten hours, especially when lacking a strong story, but for Ascension it seems to be the right sweet spot. I actually really liked the man of few words, and more enjoyed the mindless action romp for the ten or so hours it lasted. However if you’re reading this review you probably already know that for the first time, God of War has introduced a multiplayer mode.
In fact, the multiplayer is a very different God of War experience than we are used to. You start off by selecting your character’s class by choosing a deity (Ares, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon) and learning their distinct abilities. Ascension does a fantastic job of giving a pretty in-depth tutorial on how the combat works and some of the finer nuances of the multiplayer. Then you are ready to go. There are a couple of different modes like Capture the Flag, Team Favor of the Gods, Match of Champions, and Trial of the Gods. The most interesting out of the lot is the Team Favor, which has teams of two or four fighting it out on the battlefield. Aside from just killing each other with combat/magic you also can set traps for your opponents. The environments also play a key role in the overall experience of the multiplayer and can really make or break your team.
I played at least four hours of multiplayer in my time with God of War: Ascension and for the most part I enjoyed it. Unlike the single player there are highs and lows to the combat. At times things seem to get congested in one area and, depending on where you re-spawn, there can be some extended downtime. And because things become so congested I found myself falling back to my single player tactics of just straight-button mashing which seemed pretty successful. I think for the first outing the multiplayer, although not necessary, was actually quite a bit of fun.
In a lot of ways, Ascension feels like a test fire to see what they want to do on the next generation. And for that it’s hard to say it’s as successful as its predecessors. The single player is solid but doesn’t try a ton of new things, and the multiplayer is brand new but has plenty of room to grow. God of War: Ascension is a very well put together game and one made for fans of the series who want to get their Kratos fix in while we wait for the next true successor in the franchise.