Falling like a God discarded from Olympus. The franchise has once again resorted to repeating itself, in an effort to regurgitate whatever remained from a once satisfying meal. That’s what God of War: Ascension is, it’s a warm plate of leftovers vomited from the mouths of Santa Monica studios.
How is this for convoluted, the game takes place ten years before the original God of War; in terms of events, we’re given no touchstone that we might recognize and relate with. To add more confusion, when Ascension begins, we’re closer to the end rather than the beginning of the prequel story, and then as you get further in it, the story proceeds to flash back to events three weeks before and while doing so, frequently leaps back to the prequel present. Huh?
Also maddeningly, the game’s protagonists often use illusions to trick Kratos’ mind, forged from memory, thoughts that seek to induce him into submission and under their control. What’s odd is the game’s cut scenes don’t try to trick the player; they only seek to confuse its main character. The problem is we know it’s not real; we know better that when murdering mythical elephant brutes then walking through a doorway, it’s somewhat strange to find ourselves magically home with our wife and daughter, who we know to be dead. It’s frustrating to watch because you aren’t really sure how you’re supposed to feel. For instance, at some point each time, Kratos himself realizes and it feels as though we’re supposed to say “whaaaa?” Instead we tilt our heads and struggle to understand what the game was trying to show us.
The series has never been known for having a clear plot but it has been known for telling an interesting story. Ascension as far as story goes is not interesting, you’re never quite sure what Kratos is attempting and you never really care, which sums up the experience kindly.
Just as the series has never been known for clarity, it has been for addictively brutal combat. It seems the years have caught up to the franchise, no longer innovative or savvy, Ascension feels more like God of War 3 DLC than a stand-alone release. It doesn’t help that the genre has mined and striped God of War of every mechanic it ever instituted, then played it to death, so that now, doing things like controlling a large enemy to fight mobs doesn’t feel fresh anymore. True to series form however, the beginning still has that slow unsatisfying grind that makes you question whether or not you’re having any fun. Eventually, you find a groove, and the game inexplicably becomes tolerable.
No other series of games repeats itself like God of War. As I was playing I decided to list many of the franchise’s tired staples.
· Kratos can deftly control the nervous system of almost any creature with his blade.
· Every mythical creature must have breasts and they have to be fully exposed.
· Kratos’ blades of chaos aren’t subject to any real world property of size or cutting ability.
· Every large structure is always a massive living creature that you must fight.
· There is always a large puzzle in the background you are never quite sure you’re solving.
· The regret Kratos has for spilling innocent blood is voiced at some point; even though he spends a large portion of the game watching several innocents get slaughtered.
· A God defying brutal warrior who has the time and patience to do this many puzzles.
Like any dead tree that falls in the woods, you can spot its age, the series has begun to decay, God of War 3 was a boring rehashing of former greatness. God of War: Ascension has fallen victim to the same failures, never overly interesting and never particularly fun, there isn’t an experience to have.