God of War on the decline with Ascension

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For fans of God of War, it’s hard not to remember the larger-than-life battles Kratos fought in the first three games. From the first boss battle against the hyrdra in God of War to killing Zeus in the final moments of God of War III, each game has been packed with hard-wrought victories of epic proportion.
Maybe this nostalgic feeling for carnage gone by is part of what makes God of War: Ascension, a prequel to the first three God of War games, so disappointing.
With slow-paced and repetitive challenges, the first half of Ascension is painfully dull. You spend the majority of these five hours fighting low-level enemies and completing run-of-the-mill obstacles courses.
While part of the appeal of the God of War series for me is its simple hack-and-slash violence, even I was ready to pull my hair out after hour three of braining rabid hounds and using the Blades of Chaos as grappling hooks.
Also, many of the enemies and magic attacks used in Ascension are just rehashes of old elements from the first three games.
Remember the sirens you took down in God of War and the wraiths you fought in God of War III? How about Cronos’ Rage in God of War II? Expect to see a mediocre rework of all of them in Ascension, where the only difference is often just a wardrobe change or a new name.
While I understand designers sometimes got to do what they got to do, there was something scummy about making fans pay $60 to fight watered-down versions of past foes and use stale magic attacks.
I was just about ready to put down my controller when I reached the Apollo-centered section of the game, which requires you to rebuild a statue of Apollo and retrieve a magical item inside. But I didn’t want to start research for a paper I had due in a week, so I decided to give Ascension one last shot.
Man, am I glad I did. The second half of the game is a polar opposite to the first and was surprisingly enjoyable.
Probably most importantly, the battle sequences were finally up to snuff. No more would the gamer be tormented by piddly sirens and centaurs – Ascension was bringing out the big guns and sending out enemies that actually required a bit of strategy and effort to kill.
While I died quite a bit more frequently than I did in the first half of the game, killing the game’s later opponents actually got my heart pumping and reminded me of the God of War I loved.
I mean, if slaying elephant-giant hybrids and spike-limbed women while encircled by a ring of molten metal isn’t epic, I don’t know what is.
Also, Ascension features a complex and detailed puzzle system that meshes well with the game’s more action-packed sequences.
While the previous games did feature the occasional brainteaser, Ascension’s challenges require you to actually sit down and think for an extended period of time before plunging ahead to stick a blade into a cerberus mongrel’s head.
But what really ties up the whole second half with a nice, pretty bow is what the game’s creators did with the Blades of Chaos and combat system.
Whereas before the God of War series would feature different weapons Kratos could use, Ascension has only the Blades. I have to admit that I was bummed about this change at first, but this more narrowed weapon system allowed designers to focus on the combat system and gave players at least some amount of customization.
You actually had to plan out how you were going to use your points to level up your attacks, which kept Kratos from being an overpowered man-beast like he was in the first three games and added a strategic element that had been lacking from the series.
Add to this the smoother and more refined combat system free from some of the more obnoxious glitches of past games, and you have yourself a winner.
I finished the game feeling a whole lot better than I did at the halfway point, but I still have some reservations about God of War: Ascension. It definitely feels like the game’s producers were just trying to milk a popular title for all it was worth.
So while I liked the last half of the game, paying $60 and wasting five hours of my time just to get to a few good fights and puzzles still just doesn’t sit right with me.