The gazillion selling God of War series has an easy formula — Angry Spartan warrior, swords attached to long chains and a path of bloody vengeance tearing through much of Greek mythology.
Ascension doesn’t tread far from the path and Studio Santa Monica does a very competent job serving up the dismemberings and the large scale level design. But after threegames in the main trilogy, and three on the PSP, the entire experience has started to feel a little bit stale.
Ascension is a prequel — the events of the game pre-dating the first God of War, and follows Kratos, just six months after being tricked into killing his own family, as he battles the three Furies in order to successfully break his blood oath to the God Ares. The plot keeps the action moving at a decent clip — though it lacks the stature and urgency of the earlier games.
Gameplay has seen subtle tweaks — the lack of secondary weapons being key among them. Kratos is now limited to using the Blades of Chaos and a few temporary weapons found in battlefields. These temporary weapons cannot be levelled up and serve as distractions rather than viable alternatives.
However all is not lost, as the Blades can get powered up by four different elements, with each getting its own set of combos and strengths. Add in the ability to change the elements mid-combo with one touch on the d-pad and the tactical options increase.
Combat is smooth and familiar, though Kratos does feel marginally underpowered this time around —which fits with the position of Ascension in the larger timeline of the series. However, on higher difficulties the game encourages a risk averse approach as you chip away at enemies rather than blowing through them with a perfect combo.
Level design is more of the same - and the game tries hard to replicate the scale and inspiration of God of War 3.
This then is the issue — Ascension is a follow up to probably the most epic (in the truest sense) video game ever made. It tries hard and often comes close, but can never quite fill its shoes. It is a good outing for Kratos, but far from the essential God of War experience.