God of War: Ascension (PS3) Box Art(http://www.godofwar.com)  Rated M for Mature by the ESRB.  The God of War series is arguably the most popular series the PlayStation brand has to offer.  The series has six games spanning three consoles as well as Kratos being featured in many other games like Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  Kratos’ most recent adventure is a prequel that takes place before both God of War and God of War: Chains of Olympus.  Not only is God of War: Ascension the first adventure for Kratos, it is the first God of War title to support multiplayer.  In this prequel you will play as Kratos right after he renounces Ares, because Ares tricked Kratos into killing his own wife and child.  By renouncing Ares, Kratos broke his blood oath with a god which leads to the Furies capturing him.  The three Furies are the sanctioned by the gods to protect honor and enforce punishment, and breaking a blood oath with a god is one of the biggest crimes.  Kratos must escape, during the escape he learns of an insidious plot the Furies are planning and must stop it.  This is where the fun and intrigue really begins.  Sony Santa Monica has taken God of War on a great journey of vengeance and retribution since its introduction in 2005, well introducing new features and increasingly gorgeous visuals. God of War: Ascension has a great deal of hype around it and this review will explore whether or not this new God of War lives up to its name as one of the greatest games around.

God of War: Ascension (PS3) Box ArtGod of War: Ascension (PS3) Logo

(http://www.godofwar.com)  Rated M for Mature by the ESRB.  The God of War series is arguably the most popular series the PlayStation brand has to offer.  The series has six games spanning three consoles as well as Kratos being featured in many other games like Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  Kratos’ most recent adventure is a prequel that takes place before both God of War and God of War: Chains of Olympus.  Not only is God of War: Ascension the first adventure for Kratos, it is the first God of War title to support multiplayer.  In this prequel you will play as Kratos right after he renounces Ares, because Ares tricked Kratos into killing his own wife and child.  By renouncing Ares, Kratos broke his blood oath with a god which leads to the Furies capturing him.  The three Furies are the sanctioned by the gods to protect honor and enforce punishment, and breaking a blood oath with a god is one of the biggest crimes.  Kratos must escape, during the escape he learns of an insidious plot the Furies are planning and must stop it.  This is where the fun and intrigue really begins.  Sony Santa Monica has taken God of War on a great journey of vengeance and retribution since its introduction in 2005, well introducing new features and increasingly gorgeous visuals. God of War: Ascension has a great deal of hype around it and this review will explore whether or not this new God of War lives up to its name as one of the greatest games around.



Presentation:
God of War has never slacked on presentation.  When Kratos is in the room you sure as heck know it. One thing that is nice about God of War: Ascension is that it had a lot more bonuses then some of the previous games.  Just by buying the game you get access to The Last of Us demo which will be available May 31st.  If you bought the game new you will get two characters for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  Isaac Clarke from Dead Space fame and Zeus from God of War are unlockable with a God of War: Ascension purchase.  Both of these are things that will possible bring in a larger crowd of people to the God of War series seeing as some people may buy God of War: Ascension just to get The Last of Us demo or to get Isaac and Zeus. 

God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots

Graphics:
God of War has always been a forerunner for outstanding graphics, always pushing the boundaries of the PlayStation systems it is released on.  God of War: Ascension does a decent job of keeping up that tradition. When God of War 3 was released it was mind blowing in a lot of ways but it more or less tapped out the PlayStation 3’s power.  God of War: Ascension hasn’t improved much graphically over its predecessor.  There are very miniscule improvements in the lighting and the textures of the enemies, but overall it has stayed similar to God of War 3.  God of War: Ascension may not be as much of a technological leap as God of War 3 was, but that in no way means it is not a truly gorgeous game. 

There was one thing that could have used a little improvement.  God of War: Ascension felt a little bland at times.  The environments are gorgeous but the backgrounds felt sparse.  For instance in the starting area you are on the Hecatonchires, which is also the prison, there is really not any background besides sky.  They might have done this to invoke the feeling of isolation, but it ended up feeling bland.  Besides being bland at times God of War: Ascension is a gorgeous game.  One thing that makes up for the backgrounds occasionally being bland, is that Kratos now can infuse his Blades of Chaos with power from the gods.  This adds a lot of color to the game.  This godly infusion really brightens the game up and is extremely easy on the eyes.

God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots

Sound:
Kratos is not a very talkative guy, he is more of a down to business let his Blades of Chaos do the talking kind of guy.  This doesn’t mean that his games don’t have great sound though.  From the time you start the game until the time you finish you will be fully immersed in his journey.  The sound is masterfully done overall and it really shows that Sony Santa Monica Studios put a lot of stock in making it a wonderful experience.

The voice acting is top notch.  Kratos has never been much of a talker, and although he does talk a little more in this game, you are not going to get any long winded speeches.  Kratos sounds just as good as he did in God of War 3 and the voice actors that play the Furies are also masterfully done. The only down side is that God of War 3 felt and sounded more epic then God of War: Ascension.  You don’t have the intimidating and booming voice of Zeus echoing with you, really what is more epic then the gods.  The Furies are very well done but they are definitely not as cool as Zeus or the other gods.  The sound the lesser enemies make is satisfying and makes killing them even more fun. 

God of War has always had great music and God of War: Ascension is no different.  The songs make you feel so epic as you control Kratos is his fight against the Furies.  There are lots of little things about the music that make it even better. For instance when certain songs are being played and the volume of the songs are both masterfully done.  The music never feels too overwhelming and does a great job of enhancing the game.  There is also a large range of songs in the game so you won’t hear the same song over and over and get annoyed.  Tyler Bates who was the composer for God of War Ascension did a masterful job of keeping the feel of the God of War series.  It is one of the best game soundtracks around. 

God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots

Gameplay:
God of War: Ascension is a traditional hack and slash game that plays very much like its predecessors, with its linear stage layout and abundance of puzzles.  If this is what you loved from the previous games you will feel right at home with God of War: Ascension.  The controls are just as fluid as ever which makes Kratos feel like the god killer he is.  The game is challenging and the puzzles are just what you would expect from God of War, they are tough.  Everything about God of War: Ascension’s gameplay is top-notch. This is what fans come to expect from God of War and you get exactly that and more in God of War: Ascension.

When you think of a prequel, you probably don’t think about innovation.  You might even think of the exact opposite.  This is not the way Sony Santa Monica Studios looks at a prequel.  God of War: Ascension fixed and improved a lot of things you didn’t even know were broken.  It is a great feeling to have God of War continually improved upon.  They have improved lots of little things in the story mode as well as introducing a new exciting multiplayer mode.

The controls are very similar to previous God of War titles.  You use the Blades of Chaos for almost all of the combat but there is one new feature, you can use world weapons.  World weapons are limited use items which can we used to attack enemies by pressing the circle button.  These weapons include swords, maces, slings and spears.  This new feature can be very helpful in a combat situation.  Each of the weapons has a standard attack and a charge attack and can be fluidly used in combat.  The world weapons are scattered about the stages but chances are you will forget you have it and not use them.  If you remember to use them they can be a valuable asset to your quest.

They have improved the combat with more than just the world weapons.  You may recall the quick time events from the previous games; they have been revamped in God of War: Ascension.  They have introduced a prompt less free-form style.  This is achieved my viewing what your enemy is doing and reacting accordingly.  For instance if you have grabbed an enemy you can start attacking them and when the enemy gets ready to attack you need to lean left or right to dodge the attack.  After a few times of doing this you will kill your enemy gruesomely.  This was done masterfully well and greatly helps to immerse you in the combat.  This was one of the best improvements to the story mode. 

The biggest change to the combat is the magic and the infusing of elements to your Blades of Chaos.  There are now four magic types, one for the Lightning of Zeus, the Fire of Ares, the Soul of Hades, and the Ice of Poseidon.   These are not only helpful for the magic spells but for the melee combat as well.  You can infuse your blades with one of the elements, which changes some of your Blade of Chaos’ attacks.  Each of the elements is unique and has its own uses in combat, which leads to different situations calling for different infusions of magic.  They have also brought back the Rage Meter but it has changed and it dependent on which magic infusion you are currently using.  When your Rage Meter is full you can push in both sticks to unleash a powerful attack which differs from magic to magic.  Also the Rage Meter drains if you get hit or don’t use it which adds a new layer of tactical combos.  You have to play smarter not just better. 

The greatest and most impressive feature of God of War: Ascension is its new and extremely well implemented multiplayer.  When you first start the multiplayer it shows a cut-scene from the story mode and a character in that cut-scene who was thought dead gets saved and pulled to a tutorial stage.  In this area you must choose an allegiance.  Your choices are Ares, Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.  Once you choose a god to align with you will enter an amazingly good tutorial.  This tutorial teaches you the ins and outs of the multiplayer better than any tutorial you will find. The online tutorial may even teach you things you didn’t know about for the single player.  Once you are done with the tutorial the real fun begins.

During the next step you are taken to the multiplayer menu screen.  In this screen you can do a plethora of things to your character.  You can customize almost anything about your character in this screen from armor, weapons, and relics all the way to tattoos and color schemes.  The armor and weapons are not just cosmetic they all have their own unique stats and can be leveled up through playing the multiplayer.  When you first start up there will only be a few options to choose from, but there are a lot of them to unlock and this can keep you playing the game for a long time.  The depth of the customization is a great addition to a great multiplayer and a welcome addition for fans of God of War.

Once you have created your character it is time to get down to business and play some multiplayer.  There are seven game modes to choose from and each is extremely fun in their own unique way.  The game modes range from Match of Champions, which is a eight player free-for-all, to Trial of the Gods, which is a two player coop mode were you must kill monsters to appease the gods.  All the game modes are flushed out extremely well and all of them have their own unique strategies and play styles.  The controls are easy to pick up and feel just like the God of War single player mode, so it should feel natural to pick up the controller and kick some major butt online.  The multiplayer is challenging and rewarding which makes it sensationally fun.  This is easily the best multiplayer experience of the year.

God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots   God of War: Ascension (PS3) Screenshots

Longevity:
God of War: Ascension has the most replay value of any game in the series by a long shot.  Not only are all the Trophies extremely obtainable they have introduced an outstanding new multiplayer.  The multiplayer is fresh and visceral and will keep you playing for hours on end.  Todd Papy, the games director, plays online a lot and it is always fun when a developer loves a game as much as their fans.  There are not many online games like God of War: Ascension so it is a breath of fresh air to have such a unique and amazingly well-crafted multiplayer.  This is one of the best multiplayer experiences in years and it is nice to see it come in such a popular series.  If you are not a fan of multiplayer God of War: Ascension still holds a decent amount of replay value.  The Trophies are extremely obtainable and can be done in two times of playing the story mode as well as a small visit to the multiplayer.

Conclusion:
God of War: Ascension is exactly what you would expect form the God of War series.  It is a fun visceral experience that will keep players happy and engaged.  Although the story mode can be challenging and the puzzles can be frustrating this was one hell of a story mode. This is a great game but it fails to wow the player like God of War 3 did, both graphically and in the sense of epicness. With the introduction of the multiplayer mode Sony Santa Monica Studios really upped their game and brought a new feature that made the game feel exceptionally new.  If you are a fan of the God of War series this game will make you happy and the new multiplayer will keep you from putting the controller down.  This game is one of the best experiences of the year and whether you are a fan of God of War or not you will find a lot of enjoyment with either the story or the multiplayer.  Not only is it a great game it has a lot of bonuses that also warrant a look at buying this game.  This is a must for any PlayStation fans collection.  It is one of the most exciting games in the PlayStation exclusive library and one of the biggest games of the year. 

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