PlayBack: God of War Ascension

Since its debut almost a decade ago, the God of War franchise has consistently produced hit after hit for Sony’s PlayStation consoles. Carrying the torch two years later, a sequel took the series to new heights before the amazingly brutal spectacle that was God of War III.

Since then, and in the years between, there have been a number of spin-offs and prequels, two of which were developed by The Order 1886 studio, Ready At Dawn. A third, set before the events of the entire series, was released last year by series creators, Sony Santa Monica.

Ascension, as it was to be known, came at an odd time in the PlayStation 3’s life cycle. Though it had been announced the year before, gamers were already expecting the grand unveiling of next-gen hardware. Therefore, when Kratos was wheeled before punters in yet another blood-soaked episode, worries began to crop up that he would miss the PS4’s grand debut. And he did.

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Worst Bit

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Unusually, we’re going to look at the low point first, this week, and while God of War: Ascension is fundamentally a good game, one of the common criticisms is that it was just unnecessary. With God of War III still fresh in most people’s minds, many of us thought the Grecian gorefest would be put on hold until Sony Santa Monica came forward with a proper idea for a sequel.

Announcing a title to sit ahead of the rest of the series, then, seemed like a step backwards straight off the bat. Any fan would have already played a progression that saw Kratos go from Spartan fighter, to God, then from a fallen Olympian to king slayer. All the “good” bits from the trilogy’s narrative arc had already played out, so how could Ascension possibly set the bar higher?

Put simply, it couldn’t. As much as fans might enjoyed exploring some previously-unseen character facets, the story dissolved into a predictable A to B murder-fest with a bunch of mythological cameos for good measure. It simply wasn’t able to reach some of the highs that the rest of the series managed.

After finishing the game, I just didn’t feel that same sense of reward I did upon completing previous titles in the series.


Best Bit

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Ascension still got plenty right, though. For a start, the game looks absolutely stunning, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with The Last Of Us in terms of visual fidelity. Kratos was now even more detailed and the set pieces even more immense. This was all while retaining a solid framerate that failed to dip once, keeping the action fluid from start to finish.

Combat, as one might have guessed, was fully preserved from previous iterations. Combining light and heavy attacks, as well as a myriad of other abilities and special moves, Kratos could rip through entire hordes of enemies in his own, trademark fashion.
To spice things up a bit new weapons were dropped into the game, encouraging players to experiment, even during combos.

These new additions also fuelled Ascension’s step towards a higher overall sense of challenge. Though not everyone’s cup of tea, certain special moves required filling a gauge without being struck, something that’s easier said than done.

All in all, it looked and played like a God of War game, but came across as a collection of ideas that hadn’t made it into the original trilogy. One of the ideas I appreciated more than many was the inclusion of competitive multiplayer.

When it was first unveiled I honestly couldn’t see how it would fit in with such a rapid, brutal game like God of War, but it did. Combining multiplayer staples such as loadouts, challenges, and experience points, Santa Monica creating a rich 4-on-4 experience that more people should have given the time of day.


God of War: Ascension is certainly recommendable, but it’s not one those 2013 hits I’d immediately tell people to go and buy. As an action game it’s one of the best in recent years, yet it felt like Santa Monica had snookered itself in terms of where the story could go.

Ultimately, Ascension was a stopgap, albeit a good one; filler to keep fans happy while – hopefully – the team beaver away on that much-anticipated follow up for PS4.

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12 Comments

  1. In all fairness graphic wise, it looked superior to TLOU just my opinion.

    Anywho this was an insult to the series, I failed to love it. Nothing about it was prequel, they missed an opportunity to make this awesome by not making it similar to 300, show Kratos as a normal Sparta in his cruel days before selling his soul to Ares.

  2. I loved the final boss battle, and some of the climbing the big statue bits.

    Apart from that, absolutely pointless and a bit rubbish.

  3. I think the controls in 3 were more refined as well. I really think they should have just held onto it and made it a PS4 launch title.

  4. Good read. That last paragraph pretty much sums it up. I hated the idea of GOW:Ascension. As much as I love the God of War series, I refused to pay full price for a game that appeared to focus more on multiplayer features than a solid single player experience. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case (I didn’t even try MP) and when I did eventually get round to playing it, I thought the main campaign was actually pretty fun. Sure, it wasn’t on the same epic scale as the previous games but it still had the same feel and incredible gameplay we know and love. I found it to be a much easier game than the others (which might explain why I enjoyed it so much) and visually, the series has never looked so good with some truly breathtaking backdrops. It was definitely unnecessary but it was still a lot of fun.

  5. Shamefully, I have not played this.
    It’s sitting on my shelf unplayed.

    I keep meaning to when I get a spare day to get involved, but spare time is a rarity.

  6. I certainly enjoyed Ascension. It had the smoothest combat in the series, but unfortunately lacked any other weapons than the chains.

    It felt a bit rough in some areas, but was overall a good game with some very cool locations. The visuals are spectacular.

    Not the series finest, but certainly not the worst either. That would be Chains of Olympus IMO, unless you count the old mobile game. But I don’t think any of the games are bad, just varying degrees of great.

  7. I only picked this up recently and i’m quite enjoying it. At this stage i’m not too bothered about the story until there’s a reboot of the series. It delivers on the visuals and enjoyable gameplay we’re used to from the series so i’m happy with it.

  8. Let’s be honest; as a standalone game it was nothing to turn your nose up at. It’s when it gets compared to it’s predecessors that it comes up short.

    I love the series as a whole. I have clear, fantastic memories of playing the first (and best!). This entry lacks a little something, or perhaps relies to heavily on the series’ name and reputation.

    If given the option I’d take a PS4 launch GoW over Ascension, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this one.

  9. This game was fine. A bit like a tuna cucumber sandwich, it wasn’t going to revolutionise anything but grabbing a cheap one didn’t leave a bad taste. I would advise picking it up if you enjoyed God of War and want some more time in Kratos’ blood soaked PEGI nightmare. Equally, you aren’t missing anything if you buy that ham and cheese sandwich instead.

  10. My most disappointing game of last year along with metro last light and the last of us only played it for the platinum to go with the other 5

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