Hands On With God of War: Ascension

Sony has one of the larger videogame booths at the 2012 FanExpo Canada convention this year, and has decided to focus their efforts on two of their biggest upcoming releases: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and God of War: Ascension. I got a chance to sit down with the God of War demo, and although relatively brief, I managed to come away with a decent impression of what to expect from the single-player in the full release.

The demo seems to take place early on in the game, as the main menu transitions seamlessly into gameplay, where our famed antihero, Kratos, is battling his way through a coastal setting. The tagline of Ascension reads “Before He Was a God, He Was a Man,” implying that the Kratos we see here is different from those of the previously released games. To be honest, I didn’t notice much difference. Kratos is still in his possession of his chain blades, can still use magic and overpowered attacks, and still battles quasi-mythological creatures. For those who love the existing God of War formula, this is good news, but it does make me wonder why there is so much emphasis on Kratos lacking his godlike powers if the gameplay remains so similar.

The Ascension demo focuses on Kratos climbing a decrepit monument in what seems like a chain of islands, and features a familiar mixture of incredibly gory battles, simple puzzle solving, and brief spurts of platforming. The one new element to gameplay that I noticed was an instance of Kratos being able to reverse time to rebuild a destroyed structure on the island, which gives him the ability to climb to the next area. Kratos is actually able to pause the reconstruction halfway through, climb what he can, and then finish the job, so he can climb the rest of the way. You don’t see too many ordinary men being able to do that.

If Kratos’ abilities can be seen as abnormal, however, just wait until you see what he has to battle. There’s the usual combination of multiple smaller enemies, and the occasional larger mini-boss type creature. In this demo, that included a Minotaur, an armoured figure who looked somewhat like GoW III’s Hades, and an elephantine pirate with a giant club made of tusks. Kratos dispatches these enemies in the same way as we’ve come to suspect, dismembering the Minotaur, and slicing open the head of the elephant to reveal its pulsating brain. Ascension certainly isn’t lacking the series’ usual charm.

As the game is still over six months away, it’s understandable that there are still some issues, and I noticed a couple of instances of iffy clipping, mainly with characters passing through other characters. I also felt the button prompts during QTEs were a little too near the edges of the screen to see and react to in the time required, although this is a problem I have experienced throughout the franchise, and may well be an issue solely limited to myself.

From the evidence on show here, God of War: Ascension looks to be a perfect fit with the rest of the GoW series, and fans will surely lap it up. My main concern is only that it seems too similar to the rest of the series, particularly considering the focus on Kratos being a different man than experienced previously. However, the gameplay is as smooth as ever, combat is equally accessible to button-mashers or combo experts, and the environments and details look as engrossing as anything we’ve seen before in the franchise. God of War: Ascension will release on March 12, 2013, and looks to be a sure-fire hit.

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August 26, 2012 - 8:01 am