God of War: Ascension
plays almost identically to its predecessors. As Kratos, you traverse a series of increasingly dangerous areas on an unavoidable collision course to a well-known figure in Greek mythology, where you will engage in a duel to the death. Kratos is athletic and agile enough to slaughter his way through the beastly hordes and scale the heights of the outlandishly huge environmental pitfalls that litter the world.
It just wouldn't be God of War without the Blades of Chaos, Kratos' trademarked giant chain knives. However, they come with a twist in Ascension. As Kratos' journey progresses, he will come across special boons granted by the Gods themselves. Each of these boons is an elemental infusion that can be applied to the Blades for special effect. By the end of the game, you'll have the Fire of Ares, the Ice of Poseidon, the Lightning of Zeus, and the Soul of Hades. Killing enemies with one of these elemental buffs yields special orb bonuses; one yields more red orbs (upgrade currency) than usual, while another might yield solely green (health), blue (magic), or gold (rage) orbs. It's a neat system, but I'm always an upgrade-minded person, so I stuck with the Ice of Poseidon for most of my playthrough.
Kratos' journey is not only about his freedom, but it involves a quest for knowledge, so obviously his journey takes him to Aletheia, the eyeless Oracle of Delphi. Through a series of death-related events, he acquires the Amulet of Uroborus, a device that is capable of reversing or speeding the effects of time while having no effect on the user. It is most commonly used to solve one of Ascension's environmental puzzles, but it can be used in combat to slow down a foe.
For some bizarre reason I can neither understand nor forgive, someone made the decision to hobble the already simplistic combat system that the franchise has used for eight years. This is a direct result of the new function of the Rage Meter. Many of Kratos' most powerful combos are locked out until you fill the meter completely. How do you fill the meter? By landing enough successful hits and acquiring gold orbs from fallen enemies. But you can only land those hits through the execution of short, unsatisfying combos.
Making things worse is the baffling decision to complicate the parry mechanic. In previous God of War games, a well-timed defensive posture would have Kratos automatically parry most strikes. In Ascension, you must defend and press another button to activate the parry. The new parry command doesn't feel natural, especially if you wish to parry in the middle of a combo. For a while, I was so annoyed by this that I simply chose to evade every enemy attack. How did anyone think that this was a good idea?
God of War: Ascension comes with a playable demo for Naughty Dog's hotly anticipated apocalyptic action game The Last of Us, but don't be under the impression that you'll be able to dive right in if you purchase a copy of Ascension: it's timed to release in just under two months. We'll be back with impressions once the demo drops on May 31.
Despite its technical and artistic excellence, God of War: Ascension is not the best game in the series. In fact, Ascension may even be the weakest link in the franchise. But don't let that statement make you think that it isn't enjoyable. The game has some really excellent ideas and some flat out horrible ones, but they mostly wash out when you take everything into account. If you're a fan of the series, you'll probably want to check this game out. Just keep your expectations in check.