Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Review: God of War: Ascension (PS3)

It feels like a long time since I've entered the God of War universe. In fact, I've been holding back on playing the PSP game "God of War: Ghost of Sparta" just because I didn't want my love affair with the game franchise to end. I've waited for Ascension to get here, and now it finally is.

First of all, this review is strictly for the single player game. I have just finished the campaign and I'm not quite ready to jump into multi-player. It feels wrong to me somehow, having been in this universe since it first graced the Playstation 2 in 2005.

The story here revolves around Kratos, who I'm going to expect you to know by now. The story takes place around 10 years before the original God of War, and explores more of the back story of the Furies. To be honest, the story itself is not as compelling as previous installments in the franchise, but then again, not everyone is here for the story.

The game features a retooled God of War III engine, with slight improvements to graphics rendering (I finally have not noticed any 'tearing' that often plagues some Sony titles) and while technically it is the best yet, I did feel a slight lack of grand moments as I have seen in previous releases. Perhaps the reason is simply that we have come to expect so much from this series that when it does deliver, it seems like it's only slightly above average. If this is your first time in this game world, you are going to be blown away.

Overall, the game seems a tad bit easier than previous releases. There are a couple of places where you are going to die and have to start over at the plentiful checkpoints. Earlier instalments required you to find a save point, something that is thankfully gone in a 2013 game.

The one spot that will probably frustrate you is near the end of the game at the "Trial of Archimedes." Even with the patch that makes it a little easier to swallow, this three-round enemy blast-fest is going to test your patience regardless of how good of a gamer you are.

The gameplay overall consists of moments of furious combat, followed by slow times where you can enjoy the environment and explore. As usual, there are hidden items off the beaten path for those that like to explore but they are exactly the same items you have seen before: Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix feathers.

The puzzles are relatively easy and the camera pans at the beginning of the levels give you all of the clues you need on where to go and how to get there.

There are a couple of new elements at work here. A special amulet will allow you to repair or decay parts of the game world, al la the Lego games. It works pretty well and in some cases you have to leave structures in a "half fixed" mode in order to progress. There is also a mechanic that allows you to create a copy of yourself that is needed to solve certain puzzles (and can be useful for confusing enemies in combat). This reminded me of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. It was certainly unexpected in this universe but a welcome addition.

This is where the game gets hard to score. It's clear that the developers spent a good deal of time working on the new multiplayer component of the game. If you are like me, however, you aren't really too worried about that and just want to experience some more time in the God of War universe. The single player campaign will be defeated in around 12 hours and there are no trials to try afterwards. There are a few items that you can use during a second playthrough, but I'm not sure you are going to do that after a slightly lacklustre story without the big moments we all remember from the previous games.

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about all of this. At the end of day, it's a new God of War game that hits most of the high notes we have experience before, with a few new mechanics. That makes for a song we've heard before, so if you're just looking for more of the same this game is perfect for you. If you are expecting something really different from the previous releases, with the exception of the multiplayer, there are only a couple of new items.

Maybe that's okay.

It's still God of War, remember. And Kratos? He's still pissed and ready to fight. If you are willing and able, he's ready to go.

- Syd Bolton

The Good:
- More of what you have expected in the God of War universe, with a couple of new mechanics plus a really decent multiplayer mode

The Bad:
 - It's more of the same and the story and the blockbuster moments feel a little disappointing

 Score: 8.5 / 10

Syd Bolton is Canada's top videogame collector who surrounds himself in thousands of classic video games at the Personal Computer Museum (http://www.pcmuseum.ca) in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.