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God of War: Ascension: What the critics are saying

 God of War: Ascension : What the critics are saying
March 12, 2013 | By Danny Cowan




This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to SCEA Santa Monica's gory brawler God of War: Ascension, which reviewers describe as "a car riding in the spectacle slipstream of its predecessors, never quite able to surpass them." God of War: Ascension currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Destructoid's Dale North scores God of War: Ascension at 9 out of 10. "As I see it, the God of War franchise could have progressed in one of two ways. Either go bigger, or go deeper," he notes. "Thankfully, God of War: Ascension does both."

"This prequel story kicks off not long after Kratos killed his family, at a time where he is still dealing with that pain," North explains. "Kratos is still in full-on badass territory in Ascension, but he's not quite to the level we're used to yet, with a slightly trimmer build and less in the way of scars. You'll see him grow in both strength and rage over the course of the 8+ hour single-player campaign."

The narrative shows particular strength. "Developer Sony Santa Monica did a wonderful job of weaving its story into gameplay, making Ascension feel more like an adventure than ever before," North praises. "Story beats are smartly tied into Kratos' journey, getting us away from the stage-boss-cinematic rotation of previous games."

Combat is similarly refined. "The hack-and-slash core mechanics of the series are still intact, though a new progression system adds elemental magic to the Blades of Chaos," North writes. "Fully upgraded, these elemental magic additions allow for some pretty explosive attacks -- ones that will prove highly useful in the final chapters of the game. Overall, combat feels and looks a bit tighter than before. This improved fluidity goes nicely with some additional moves to Kratos' arsenal."

"God of War has never looked or played better than this," North says. "Kratos has never been as deep or interesting as this. They've set the bar so high that I have no idea how they'll be able to follow this one up. Sony Santa Monica should be proud. Series fans should be proud."

Mark Walton at GameSpot rates God of War: Ascension at 8 out of 10. "This isn't a story about revenge, or uncontrollable rage, but the tale of a tortured mind in search of the truth," he explains. "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. [...] 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."

Walton continues: "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."

"That's not to say there haven't been a few changes, though," Walton admits. "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."

The new multiplayer component isn't as successful, however. "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," Walton warns. "The focus is on arena battling in matches of eight or fewer players. [...] 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."

"The single-player is where you should spend your time," Walton asserts. "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."

Joystiq's Xav de Matos gives God of War: Ascension 3.5 out of 5 stars. "In response to the angry protagonist's bloody evolution, Santa Monica has ventured to the only place left for Kratos to wage war: the past," he notes. "God of War: Ascension tells the story of Kratos before the events of his all-out war against Ares, the Greek God of War. But the narrative fabric woven throughout the franchise has begun to split, and Ascension's thinly constructed premise does little to enhance its characters in any meaningful way."

"The pacing of Ascension's narrative structure is just too chaotic, slowing down to show sympathetic moments for a second before throwing you into lengthy platforming sections or thrusting you immediately back into the fray," de Matos continues. "There's hardly room to process the narrative, which is surprising considering how well previous installments managed to balance it alongside the blood-soaked action."

De Matos also finds that Ascension's combat has been pared down, in comparison to previous series entries. "God of War's gameplay continues its trend of brutality over finesse, with a less complicated combat system than the one found in God of War III," he writes. "Rather than wielding a dizzying array of weapons, Kratos sticks to his trademark Blades of Chaos, which can now be imbued with elements derived from the power of the gods. Though these elements offer new abilities and damage types -- fire, lighting, ice, soul -- the game rarely requires much adjustment. Ares' fire worked best, so I rarely selected other elements."

The multiplayer component is ambitious, despite a lack of depth. "Multiplayer options include variants of free-for-all, team deathmatch, team objective, and capture the flag," de Matos explains. "The maps are well designed, with environmental flairs that reference other characters and locales from the series. Adding to the environment's quality are elements that you can use to your advantage, like pre-set traps or giant, static creatures that can be enthralled and used to attack your enemies. Nearly every map has its own special feature that can be harnessed to give your team the upper hand, save for a few maps that are simple battle pits."

"Ascension's multiplayer is a fun distraction, and can be completely satisfying when you decimate multiple online foes without taking a hit, but it doesn't feel deep enough to command much more than a furiously dedicated fan following," de Matos concludes. "Paired with a campaign that does little to enhance your understanding of Kratos' journey, this multiplayer addition is where God of War starts to break down. Ascension is a car riding in the spectacle slipstream of its predecessors, never quite able to surpass them."


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