I'm covered in blood and my enemies have fallen at my feet. Anger fills every cell in my body. Neither gods or Titans can stop my revenge, and all who try will suffer just as much as the demons that lie slaughtered on the ground in front of me. Such grand-standing is expected as Kratos' mythology-gutting celebration continues in God of War: Ascension, a predecessor to the original series and now with multiplayer included.
With its extremely beautiful environments, crisp animations and a relatively deep combat system Ascension continues the proud God of War tradition. Sony Santa Monica's experience with the angry god has us playing the most polished exerpience to date, even if the fierce cries of Kratos have by now got somewhat tiring.
Ascension's prequel status means a time travel backwards as we see how Kratos earns his classic angry expression. The game director Todd Papy has stated that Ascension will show the more human side of the otherwise inhuman Kratos, and let the player understand what he was emotionally going through come the original trilogy. It's a deeper characterisation that is very nearly realised during the course of the game's campaign.
Kratos must break his ties with Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology, and he can only do that by defeating the three Furies. It's another bloody revenge tale, but the deeper emotional focus allows the story to breathe; it's a great victory for the series, as, other than the broad strokes, the story has never been a priority before. Kratos has had a bad reputation in the video games world as an extremely one-sided character and therefore this is a step in the right direction, finally adding some depth and something meaningful to the frantic action.
In his relentless pursuit of the three Furies, Kratos travels to different parts of Greek mythology including the Oracle of Delphi, and like before adds a grandeur to the classic stories with a God of War flavour. The game's story is still nothing particularly striking, despite the more serious approach to the series protagonist, and the insane action undermines the serious tones the game is trying to hit. It is commendable that the developer has tried to create a more humane image of Kratos, but the truth is that he is not strong enough of a character that you want to expend too much energy in exploring his dark past.
The God of War series has, since its birth in 2005, been one of the most visually impressive game series on the market, with expansive, extremely detailed environments and foes, and every frame of each entry into the franchise has screamed quality. How does Ascension match what's come before? Quite brilliantly actually, for God of War: Ascension is one of the most visually stunning games I've ever played.
The series' third chapter is often seen as one of this console generation's most beautiful titles, but Ascension is able not only to provide a technically superior outing, but also deliver an expressive and more saturated experience, both in relation to colours, as well as environmental and character design. The gigantic environments also return in a big way, and you get to both to explore enormous mountain ranges and fight epic battles on top of huge statues and at the bottom of the sea.
The game's shouldered a multiplayer mode into proceedings; there's an opportunity to personalise your own warrior and there's a whole separate challenge in throwing your fighting spirit into online battles. It's something we'll be investigating further in the weeks to come post-launch, so check on the website for a follow up article on God of War's entry into the multiplayer royale.
God of War: Ascension has a lot to prove. With the PS4 due later this year, it feels that this is the console's visual swan song, and the question obviously arises whether this prequel is the right way to mark Kratos' departure from this generation. Fortunately with a mix of magnificent boss battles, a tight combat system, wonderful visual style and great audio it continues in the tradition of the series rather than spoiling the legend. It's a twelve hour epic that once more roars quality.
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