Having played every other God of War game from the PS2 up, I couldn’t pass on God of War: Ascension. The main story may have ended in God of War 3, but I was more than happy to play Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta to learn more about Kratos’ past, and why he has so much anger and hatred in his heart. Ascension was meant to be a extravagant look into Kratos’ past, before the time he sets out to kill Ares in the first game of the series, instead, I was left wishing this game never existed.
The game starts out with Kratos’ locked up, after a cutscene tells us about the sisters of fate, who uphold any mortals or gods who make oaths that are broken. Kratos manages to escape from his chains, and starts out on taking on one of the sisters that was beating him whilst chained. This all takes place on the back of a titan, so the visuals certainly impress so early in the game. This start piece is one of the only points in the game where you’ll have a straight bit of story telling, as the rest of the game jumps back in the past and future time and time again.
Upgrades will be found throughout the duration of the campaign, with Kratos getting stronger and your arsenal of attacks increasing with each new additional item found. These items and upgrades are also related to the story, so when you learn that Kratos gained the item in the past, he miraculously has it for use in the future. It all felt a bit contrived and not at all natural like I was expecting, but the developers wanted to tell a story, and they stuck by it until the end.
The game is comprised of the same gameplay and mechanics of all previous titles in the series, with fights taking place on epic set pieces, which then turns into some puzzle sections, and finally climaxes in a big boss fight with gruesome consequences. This can all get repetitive, especially if like me, you’ve played 5 games of this so far, and don’t need to see the same sequences play out over and over. The one mechanic that Santa Monica studios unveiled to keep this game refreshing and new was the time travel object, that allows you to change an objects physical shape by altering it back to a previous state in which it used to be. This means that statues can be rebuilt or destroyed at your whim, but it doesn’t add much to the game other than a bit of spectacle at times.
Puzzles are boring and occasionally confusing when the answer cannot be seen after 5 minutes of wondering around. At times, the puzzles would feel more like you were breaking/hacking the game to get past constraints rather than actually coming up with the correct solution for the given circumstance. There were platforming sections that would be spaced out too far to the point that if you did make it you felt like you were glitching through the geometry. The times between fighting weren’t to be enjoyed.
Ascension was easily one of the buggiest games I’ve ever played. Period. I would have instances where all sections of levels wouldn’t appear, and throughout the whole campaign I was victim to a terrible audio problem, where sound effects were 1-2 seconds delayed, with my music also skipping and jumping once every few minutes. It made for a terrible experience, with myself getting angrier and more frustrated at each glitch that would occur. There were times that I would do quick time events perfectly, but where Kratos had fallen through a hole to the next level, I had instead died as the game didn’t realise it had to load the next section and instead just killed me. It was so buggy that at the end of the game when cutscenes were happening, all audio and speech was spoken at the same time, with the camera just zooming in and out on a Kratos that I could control, something that clearly wasn’t meant to be happening for a ending.
The bugs and general story of God of War Ascension were abysmal, making for a terribly inconsistent and annoying game. I barely understand what happened with the story, but that may have been more because of the bugs and audio problems than the story telling itself. What I will say about Ascension though is: it makes me ashamed to call myself a God of War fan. Every God of War game up to Ascension was breathtaking; they all had fantastic stories, all delved deeper and deeper into the insanity that made Kratos who he is, and all bought something new to the table. Ascension confuses itself by trying to refine the same things that came before it, and fails spectacularly. If you enjoyed my previous reviews of God of War games, and enjoyed them yourselves at one point, stay away from Ascension. It was a story not worth telling, and will only bring sadness and despair.