With the last home console release, we saw the end of Kratos’ story, and so the only place to go with God of War: Ascension’s single player is back in time. Further back than we’ve ever really seen before.
The game’s opening cinematics fade to the traditional shot of Kratos’ face, before letting you gaze through his eyes for the first time as struggles with being chained up by his very own weapons. It’s interesting to see Kratos so completely defeated at this point, and yet so stoically defiant.
You join him just in time for his daily dose of torture by Megaera, one of the three Furies who have him imprisoned for the act of renouncing his servitude to Ares. Through her own overconfidence, Kratos is able to escape, and begin to chase her across the captive body of Aegaeon, the Hecatonchires.
To be fair to her, this game is just set just months after Kratos was tricked into murdering his family, and well before he established himself as the murderer of absolutely everything. So I guess she really wasn’t to know what a force of destruction Kratos is.
As you’d expect from the beginning of the game, it slowly but surely reveals gameplay to you.
As you chase Megaera through passageways and rooms, battling through the insect mutated enemies she sends your way, the vast majority of what you relearn will be familiar to fans of the series and genre. Quick attacks and heavy attacks sit in their usual places, you dodge with the right analogue stick, and those mainstay combos are the same as they always have been.
If not for the original, by the time God of War 2 hit the shelves, the formula was already honed to perfection, so it’s quite interesting that amidst all this familiarity there are some healthy little changes and tweaks to the mechanics. For example, here’s a new ability to grab an enemy from distance with the Blades of Chaos and effectively take them hostage, holding them with one arm whilst hacking and slashing with the other, before hurling them into further foes.
Another new element is the ability to pick up the weapons used by your foes and turn these back on your enemies mid-combo, in an interesting twist. It’ll help you keep the variety in the combat and could very easily play well with some trickier opponents further into the game.
It actually took me a little while to fully realise that some of these elements were new to the game, I’ll admit, but I think that simply shows what the aim has been during development. They’re making changes but not rocking the boat too hard, and if you have better memories of the various moves from previous games than I, you’ll be absolutely fine.
This is all just gently tweaking what has worked so well before.
The same can very easily be said of the visuals. Though I know there are many who hate the inability to control the camera, and I did take an occasional combat roll (in game) when I wanted to take a peak round a corner, having the camera locked lets Santa Monica Studio push some incredible vistas out of the PS3’s aging hardware.
The PS3 exclusives for 2013 all show Sony’s first party developers at the very pinnacle of what this machine can do.
During the running battle with insect infested Hecatonchires hands, fighting all the way across his body, I still found it endlessly impressive just how much the environments shifted.
We’ve seen such things before in God of War 3, but having absolutely every element on screen animated and in constant motion just doesn’t get old for me, especially when tied up with the variety of combat you see just from fighting these infested hands in different situations.
So really, for the single player, I guess this is a case of bringing more of the same to the table. A few changes here and there without disturbing the near perfected gameplay of before, all wrapped up in a plot which hopefully shows a more human side to Kratos, as promised.
Let me be clear that this is hardly a bad thing. For those that bemoan a lack of change there’s the headline grabbing online multiplayer, but for those that just want another spectacular adventure with Kratos, this is still set to be another entry worthy of the name.
For more on GoW:Ascension’s multiplayer, TSA dipped a toe into the online beta last December.