Before continuing, we recommend reading this – it will explain the intentions of the Expansive Overview and what it sets out to achieve.

Kratos has solidified himself as one of the true great gaming icons. A hard-hitting series of games, the blood-thirsty warrior has already built quite a legacy for himself. That’s what makes Ascension such an unusual choice of game. It’s a prequel and a look at life before the original God of War games.

Do we necessarily need to know where Kratos came from and how he became the man we know him to be? Not really. Yet here we have Ascension from Santa Monica Studios. The final major God of War game on the Playstation 3 platform, and the first God of War game to feature multiplayer. Just when you think you’ve seen everything this franchise has to offer, Ascension comes along and blows expectations apart.

Or does it…

(Please note: We weren’t able to play the multiplayer component prior to embargo. A seperate Overview will be created once we’ve had some online hands-on time)

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Release Date: March 12th
Format: Playstation 3
Version Tested: Playstation 3

2013 has already proven to be the year of action/adventure game. DmC. Dead Space 3. Metal Gear Rising. Tomb Raider. Without question, each of these action/adventures has presented cutting-edge, raw, unbridled violence and edge of the seat action from beginning to end.

But just 20 minutes with God of War: Ascension, and I realized that all of their brutality combined paled in comparison to this gritty greek-mytho inspired splatter-fest. Cutting open an Elephant guardian’s skull then slicing its brain in half? Check. Lopping off the horn of a Chimera and then spearing it through its eye socket? Check.

Physically cutting a lizard god in half from top to bottom? Yeah, we got that too.

This is vintage God of War. Through and through, this is as savage, bloodthirsty and gut-wrenching as any installment we’ve seen before. At times, even unnecessarily so.

But the major concern for God of War is the action fatigue. We’ve been spoiled for quality since the beginning of the year, and because of that, there is a lot of competition. Even for Kratos. However, just like its competitors, Ascension does things a bit differently from standard conventions we’ve come to expect. This isn’t the most sophisticated and well-balanced of all action-games we’ve seen this year, but it’s full of dramatic, entertaining set-pieces; rife with action, and ever doused in gore.

The major point that seperates Ascension from any of the aforementioned action/adventures (much like previous God of War games) is the right stick isn’t used to control the camera. Ascension is played from a fixed camera perspective, and in this case, the right stick is used for evasion. Flick it left or right, Kratos will roll in that direction. The game’s camera is fully determined by the engine. We have no control over it whatsoever and are forced to see the game the way the designers intend. And that’s fine most of the time. They should be proud because the game is absolutely glorious. One of the finest looking games on PS3. The problem is the designers aren’t always fully considerate of their audience.

God-of-War-Ascension-multiplayer

Regular panoramic shots while you’re still whipping and slicing your enemies to pieces is one thing, but being so far zoomed out and still being expected to perform similar actions while being horded by an army of enemies is another. Regardless of how much you may be into the action and wanting to play the game for your enjoyment, on many occasions  the designers aren’t satisfied until you’ve seen their living, breathing creation in full, even if that means interrupting your own experience making it harder for you to play the game you’ve purchased.

It’s still quite refreshing to see an action game perform in this way, but you’ll quickly come to learn the limitations this interface offers when navigating the overall gaming world.

However, the implementation of this interface raises an important and poignant point as we move forward to the next-generation of systems. Why are we still controlling cameras in games? It’s essentially a technical element used to get full-view of our environment. While its used to help a player solve puzzles, or peer around corners, essentially its a developer tool in a more integrated form. Is it really something a player should be forced to handle to fully appreciate a game? Should they have to deal with it through another 8 year lifespan of games? Why are we using up a whole controller stick to manouerve the landscape around our character in a third-person envrionment?

That right stick could be used as an extra way for a player to contribute to the core of a game. While God of War: Ascension doesn’t always get the views and angles right, it does its job pretty well, and will instil confidence enough in some players that developers are capable enough of handling fixed-camera action.

Save for some hiccups, there’s not much here a patch could rectify.

The narrative in Ascension is decent enough, but being completely honest, this is much more of a ‘switch-off and smash’ kind of game.  The game is driven and dictated through the most unreal set-pieces and crazy boss battles. While the creativity in these fights doesn’t create a series high, they’re as good, if not better, than anything we’ve seen so far in 2013.

The action also handles really well. Players will assume power from the gods. For example, they can add  fire, ice and lightning to their blades, and that’s just the start of the opportunities available. The diversity in combat doesn’t feel as strategic or deep as DmC, but it works very well, and makes this more than your average mindless masher.

Ascension oozes trophies; whether you’re killing mobs, dishing out combos or progressing the story, and coupled up with some big-scale, jaw-dropping action, the game has you hooked from start to finish, and it’s almost impossible to put it down.

In terms of the story, there aren’t many expansive opportunities to be found. Side-quests or stories could be implemented, but we envisage any future DLC to be released for the multiplayer component. Players already know what happens to Kratos beyond this point, the story of Ascension is already bridging that gap.

Regardless, the single player portion of God of War: Ascension is unflinchingly audacious, and unwittingly awesome. Fun, fast and furious, it’s as solid a contribution to the genre as anything else out there.