Keeping the ball moving, today’s installment showcases the titan God of War: Ascension. It’s almost time to wipe the blood from our eyes and wade through tides of bodies once again in today’s Most Anticipated!
God of War: Ascension is the seventh title in this loosely based Greek mythos series, which was first birthed upon us in March of 2005. Since then, these Playstation exclusives have given us some of the most gargantuan boss battles to date. Protagonist Kratos has hacked and slashed through more Gods than I was aware existed, using his signature chain blades to execute some of most deliciously excessive combos and finishers we’ve seen. Coupled with massively scaled platforming and even larger fights, the God of War franchise has come to be a household name amongst gamers of any preference.
I remember the very first boss in God of War vividly, as it was something I had never seen before. The mere scale of the fight against the Hydra was daunting. To be such a tiny speck of a hero against an enemy so vast really gives the player that feeling that they are taking part in something truly epic. This mechanic has been widely successful in games of similar genre, being since mimicked in titles such as Shadow of Colossus and Dante’s Inferno. However it’s clear that the master artisan award of over the top battles will continue to be given to God of War.
Kratos first hit the scene as a Spartan warrior under service of the Olympians. During a fight which he could not win, Kratos made a pact with Ares, the God of War. Ares bestowed the Spartan with the means to overcome in exchange for his servitude. During the campaign against Athena, Kratos wass tricked into murdering his own wife and child after Ares transported them to a village which his army had under siege, hoping that severing ties from his family would turn Kratos into the ultimate soldier. The first God of War told the story of Kratos’ revenge against Ares, and every title since has been chalk full of double crosses and dirty deals between the various Gods with the protagonist being driven almost exclusively by revenge and power as he fights his way up Mount Olympus.
Now, SCE Santa Monica hopes to fill us in on the events that drove him into his vengeance driven rage against the God of War. Ascension takes place roughly six months after the death of his family, or ten years prior to the first game. It features a much smaller, more human Kratos which will no doubt play into the bond that we players develop with him. During previous titles I never felt a sense of loss anytime Kratos went down because he was an unstoppable pseudo-God. Hopefully this change of image will make for a more relatable character. Or at the very least give us a glimpse of what the warrior was like before he was all consumed by his quest to topple the thrones of Olympus. The story is rumored to be slightly shorter than previous titles, but much more involved emotionally.
Combat has been revamped and quick time events have been done away with. Sort of. At E3 2012, a single player showcase demonstrated how button prompts have been removed in favor of a more fluid timing procedure. Enemies will now prompt the player to evade or attack through visual cues. This will absolutely challenge players and force them to pay much more attention to what is happening during battle. I have never been a fan of quick time events, and feel that they make hack and slash games (which already have problems with repetition) dry and unimaginative.
Kratos can also disarm and steal weapons from his enemies mid combat. In theory, this would multiply the number of combos performable by such a degree that players could spend hours beating on foes and still not see the full spectrum of combat. The variety of moves has always been a personal issue for me in these types of games because it doesn’t convey realistic combat. Not to say that God of War in any way means to come across as realistic. However you would think that a game based entirely on how gruesomely excessive murder can be would try to cram as much as possible into Kratos’ repertoire. This addition comes most welcome, showing that the developers are actively trying to refine the core game play.
So what makes Ascension stand apart, and why should I be excited? After all, isn’t it just another hack a slash? Something we’ve all seen and done a thousand times? The answer to why I’m hyped is simple. Narrative. As gaming reaches a broader audience, a lot of the more casual gamers fail to realize that sometimes the most beautiful part of it all is just taking part in a story. And at seven titles long, God of War is by no means short of content.
Every little sell point that has made God of War the game it is has been nothing more than a tool of the narrative. Every over the top combo and bloody execution contributes to Kratos’ character as the living embodiment of war. Each extravagant boss battle isn’t just an exercise in “How big can we make it?”, it’s there to reinforce the scale of what Kratos is trying to accomplish. Even the score accentuates the events of the story. What keeps me coming back is how perfectly all these mechanics come together to tell the tale of this behemoth of a warrior. I’ve become so immersed in the world that, honestly, the developers could copy and paste the combat system from title to title and as long as they promised an original story each time, I’d throw my money in their collective faces.
There are several titles set to hit shelves that look absolutely phenomenal; even several new IPs. Featuring a fresh new story, retooled combat, that all too familiar macabre atmosphere, and the addition of a multiplayer mode, God of War: Ascension looks to tower above all others, standing vehemently over the corpses of all its competition. Expect to see Kratos encased in blood on March 12th. In the meantime, here’s a preview to whet your appetite for chaos.