God of War: Ascension Review
- Posted March 7th, 2013 at 13:01 EDT by Steven Williamson
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While not quite the high-point of the God Of War series, Ascension delivers an action-packed, gloriously-produced, freak-bashing extravaganza with an addictive multiplayer component to boot.
- Looks incredible, brilliant character and level design.
- So much variety in combat that it never gets tiring killing creatures in all kinds of brutal ways.
- Multiplayer brings the universe to life in an addictive online arena.
- A lull in action a couple of hours into the game with boring platform and on-rails sections.
- Pushing objects and pulling levers - some of the puzzles can be tedious.
- Concern about longevity of multiplayer if core players level up too quickly
(continued from previous page) ...before slamming it into the ground causing everyone around to fall over and catch on fire.
Another great new addition is the ability to steal enemy weapons, thus giving you even more ways to smack enemies around. Kratos can steal clubs, spears, shields and more, and use them as a secondary weapon. Combining his elemental weapons with traditional arms adds to the chaos and variety of moves you can execute in fight sequences, which are made all the more exciting by the range of enemy types you face.
Sony has pulled all the stops out once again to deliver a hellish cast of creatures, mini-bosses and big bosses, some of them so weird that I’ve struggled to think of words to describe them. Take the Hecatonchires chapter as a prime example. Here, after wandering through what appears to be a brothel, a gigantic stone skull with teeth intact and mouth wide open appears to be nothing more than an elaborate entrance to the next area. A lady with spider legs jumps on the eye of the statue and flies crawl out of her skin and penetrate the stone head. It then comes to life, but now this giant head has giant spider legs coming out of the gaps in between its teeth. It then uses those spider tentacles to pick up the platform that you’re standing on and it’s up to you to hack at its pressure points to make it let go. Words don’t do the sequence justice, but when playing it, it’s one of many times where you’ll be shaking your head in disbelief at how some of the crazy scenes play out.
With such incredibly fluid, fast-paced and brutal combat providing most of the thrills, the platforming and puzzle-sections do occasionally feel a little dull as a result. There’s a lull in the action a few hours into the game where I seemed to spend most of the time engaged in on-rails sections where I had to move left and right to avoid obstacles while waiting for on-screen prompts to jump over gaping chasms. There’s an overload of these sections at a certain juncture in the campaign and a fair few areas where climbing, grappling and shimmying across ledges gets a little tedious and rudimentary.
That's not always the case as some platforming sections serve to showcase the environment from a variety of angles and perspectives, displaying the scale and detail of the graphics superbly. When that’s the case it works really well – once again I’ll compare it to Uncharted’s platforming in terms of clever level design and integrated set-pieces – but personally I’d have preferred more fast-paced boss battles than slow-paced, ledge-hopping.
I have the same feeling about some of the puzzle-elements in GoW: Ascension. The switch in pace from fighting a dozen Furies to, for example, the section where you meander around an aqueduct wondering what on Earth you’re supposed to do, pulls you right back out of action and feels empty in comparison. During this particular section, in an area with a huge broken water-wheel, after reading clues from notes scattered around, I presumed the puzzle was to fix the wheel, but after an hour of banging my head up a brick wall not knowing what to do, I discovered that I simply had to bypass the whole section by shimmying across a thin ledge in the far corner of the area which was difficult to spot. There’s a few of these sections where I’ve just thought, “can I just get on with it, rather than fanny around with pulling levers and moving statues around." I’m not saying that GoW should be free from platforming and puzzling, but I do think these sections need to live up to the rest of the game in terms of immersiveness, and that's not always the case.
Nevertheless, there are some stand-out puzzles and interesting mechanical-based conundrums to get stuck into. The best puzzles undoubtedly come from a brand new feature in the series, dubbed the ‘Life Cycle’. This enables you to manipulate time, either to ‘heal’ or ‘decay’ objects, perhaps a collapsed bridge or a broken pipe. There are also instances where you need to both heal and decay to progress, perhaps bringing a crumbled building half-way to resurrection so you can climb up it and reach ... (continued on next page)