God of War debuted on the PS2 back in 2005 to critical acclaim. Based loosely on Greek Mythology, it starred vengeance seeking Kratos in an ultra-violent romp through Ancient Greece. The series only got better with its 2007 sequel, God of War II, which many consider to be the ‘swan song’ of the PS2 generation. A PS3 version arrived in 2010 and so did the accolades, God of War III was everything fans of the series wanted and more; bringing Kratos thirst for vengeance to an end. Or did it? Kind of. God of War Ascension is a prequel to the main trilogy of games and, like most prequels, is the weakest of the sequence so far (handheld spin-offs aside). That’s not to say it’s a poor game, it isn’t, as fans of the series will find much to love here but it isn’t the jumping off point for gamers new to the series either.
God of Prequels
We’ll get this out of the way – enjoyable as I found my playthrough of GOWA, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking this was an unneeded addition to the franchise. Kratos’ story is complete as of GOWIII and anything of importance that happened before had been told. Make no mistake, GOWA is a well-polished, gorgeous looking game (one of the PS3’s very best looking, in fact) that is going through the motions. It feels very much like a stop-gap for the next big, PS4 outing. There is no denying though that everything it does, it does well. The combat feels as good as ever. The graphics and sound are BETTER than ever. Sadly, the set-pieces fail to match up to previous outings – a problem that can be laid at the feet of the story. It’s a problem shared by most prequels; the action can’t top what is going to happen in the next games otherwise we’d have heard about it already (and the stakes HAVE to get higher) and we know Kratos will survive to fight another day.
GOWA is set 10 years before the original God of War. 6 months have elapsed since Kratos stood before the bodies of his wife and child, his hands stained with their blood – duped by Ares into killing the only people he ever loved. Vowing to avenge them, Kratos shattered the blood oath that bound him to Ares. Sentenced to an eternity chained within a prison for the living damned, Kratos battles insanity at the hands of the Furies. He will be tested as he seeks freedom, redemption for his sins, and the clarity to avenge his family – thus starting the God of War saga. Fans of the series will be familiar while newcomers will no doubt struggle with the mythology and name-dropping the ensues. While the story suffers, the series core-mechanics have seen improvements. The series excellent combat has seen further refinement while its much copied Quick-Time Event boss fights have been overhauled. The biggest new addition comes in its multiplayer, a series first.
Multiplayer supports up to 8 players and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear in all future God of War titles. Players are either on two teams of two or four, or alone, and try to take control of a map in order to earn rewards from the gods. Before entering multiplayer battles, players are introduced to their warrior, who, like Kratos, is an oath breaker and imprisoned in the Prison of the Damned. You then align your chosen character one of four Gods, who have unique combat styles and perks. Weapons and armor can be customized to grant a more personal look and varied stats. Multiple modes are available, including Team Favor of the Gods (where players capture altars, kill enemies and open chests to earn favor), Match of the Champions (a fight to the death where every kill earns favor), Trial of the Gods (a cooperative race against the Hourglass of Olympus in an epic trial of endurance) and the self-explanatory Capture the Flag. Add customization and XP to the mix and there’s worthwhile multiplayer here that is something a group of friends (or clan) could get addicted to.
We’re fans of the God of War series here at Low Fat Gaming but can’t recommend this as a must-buy title. Fans of the franchise will no doubt enjoy taking Kratos on another adventure and will find lots to enjoy in the excellent multiplayer. However, we found ourselves thinking of GOWA as a stop-gap for bigger and better things and a fairly forgettable experience, not helped by a little franchise-fatigue – this is the 7th God of War game since 2005. We look forward to seeing Kratos again, after an extended leave and on the PS4.
– Dave Green. Seek vengeance on Twitter @davidpgreen83