The main series having ended with God of War III, Sony Santa Monica had to take a different course to bring Kratos back onto the Playstation 3. That meant giving the players a Kratos they hadn't seen before. This is where the basis of God of War: Ascension lies. You will see him much different than you're used to, that doesn't mean he goes easy on any of his enemies though. There's still plenty of over the top action gore for fans here. Harpies are ripped apart, gorgons are dismembered and heads are stomped on but that doesn't mean Kratos enjoys any of it. God of War: Ascension isn't about an angry man hell bent on his revenge over the gods, it's about someone who's lost everything and is in desperate search to find the reality of his situation. One of the finer features of God of War III was the amount of scale it provided, giving you an outlook from a different perspective, this has been doubled here. The game play elements have been amt up to provide a much bigger sense of scale than was present in preceding games. The story line has been taken into account this time round, a departure from the angry man routine of Kratos where he would generally kill first and ask questions later. The characters are given more time to familiarize themselves, a tool used to make the subtle Kratos shine. However, with all these components present it's still hard to move on from the sight of the anti-hero mercilessly killing his way through to his goal without any conscience. The changes introduced have a way of making their flaws outshine their appeal.
Story is made to enthrall the viewer in it with a lot of time given to its characters so as to sympathize or loathe them. The furies and Orkos are all given plenty of screen time to get their stories straight. The game deals with the after effects of Kratos renouncing Ares. After murdering his family due to Ares' deceit, Kratos finds himself relentlessly pursued by the furies, sisters who will stop at nothing to make him pay for abandoning the God of War. Orkos, the son of the furies, aids Kratos and helps him realize the illusion within which the furies had him trapped. You will see him much more subtle than before, a shell of a man after losing his family, he is too distraught to fully realize his anger. Humanity is seen in him probably for the first time in the series as you get to see him in moments where he saves the life of an innocent bystander, interacts with Orkos with compassion and reflects on his actions. It makes for some interesting take on Kratos' personality but it is also quite unsettling. The main appeal of the game being the gore and to see the hero so detached from it is a sort of turnoff. For the fans who prefer to see him in his usual angry state, the story will not be of much value. The narrative is efficiently executed, shifting frequently from the present to past to give the player a sense of mystery on the situation they find Kratos in at the start of the game. The fury sisters are well played as well and show a lot of potential as opposites of Kratos, however, after having faced of against the likes of Ares and Zeus, they tend to feel like side dishes. It's hard to see them as viable threats to a man whom players have seen brutally kill of gods. Then there is the fact of the knowledge that Kratos' humanity doesn't matter much as it is already know that he becomes morally ambiguous later on. All in all the pace of the story is well maintained and the characters are well thought out but their significance is of question.
The God of War series always makes its fans feel at home with its game play. The reason is the similarity of movements and attacking style. In Ascension you will find things a little harder to get used to. The classic attack of repeatedly pressing the triangle button is diminished greatly, so has the combo of light and heavy attacks. This time round you'll have to manage yourself while in combat. While previously one would have been able to get away with a perilous situation by repeatedly going for the aggressive, here it won't work out as much. The restriction is that Kratos' Chains of Chaos will need to be upgraded to unleash their full potential. Even after that things won't be too easy for you as the move set remains one to be utilized and not get carried away with. The savior in many situations, magic, isn't as useful as it was before. In this game it is imbued within the chains wielded consisting of elements of Ice, Fire, Electricity and souls of Hades. You cannot rely on these to save you as you did before. If you want to use it effectively the you'll need to use it smartly, timing is of the essence. In certain situations damage from magic and melee attacks is minimal on advanced enemies, there the player would need to wait it out and persist in the battle. It is probably present in the game to give it a fresh feel of challenge but in more instances than not feels like a frustrating drag as enemies still aren't very tough. The player might continue with fight begrudgingly just to get to the next phase and sigh in frustration the next they're forced to fight again. The source of frustration is the occasional bombardment of enemies on screen at the same time, they are easily disposed of initially but respawn for the next few minutes. There will be mixed reactions over the heightened sense of scale so heavily revered in previous games but they're implementation with quick time events might cause a headache or two. However, they are still a treat to watch in many moments such as when you get to climb up and slide down gigantic kraken like monsters or battle your way through the prison Aegeon.
There is the introduction of a nifty mini battle mode as side replacement for the QTE where Kratos can hack on a certain enemy and dodge its attacks and the player can command him without any restrictions. To gain access to a wider range of attacking postitions the rage meter will have to be maximized. Here, the meter is changed to incorporate the action and damage reduces it so it has to be earned but the drawback is the fact that it isn't nearly as effective as it has previously been. Other than the Blades of Chaos, secondary weapons are dropped by killed enemies which Kratos can pick up use in an advanced way, they are great to keep the combat interesting in the initial stages of the game although their usefulness runs its course later on when things get tougher. Scale is a major factor in this game and is incorporated in numerous places, even in boss fights where the climax is usually reached through a QTE event which makes use of the environment and frequently leaves you in awe of the pace at which the encounter ends and the location where it takes place. It is no way all hack and slash, one of the plus points of the game are the variety of puzzles to tackle, easily doubled from previous installments. An inspired aspect of the game is the healing and decaying factor, a power acquired around midway, it is used to renovate and destroy areas to enable Kratos' path forward, it can also be used in combat but it's use is mainly toward solving puzzles. Some thinking is required in moments such as leaving the debris hanging so as to climb through them to reach higher ground or deteriorating and fixing chains to use them.
God of War games are particularly well known for the amazing graphics that they display and Ascension rightfully takes its place among them. The attention to character models is exquisite, you will be able to see every fragment of ash emblazoned on to Kratos' skin. Orkos' pathetically feeble appearance is apparent and the wrath in the faces of the furies is ostensible. The magnificent scale of the environments is a treat, the fluidity with Kratos jumps over from one ledge to another, the panache with which he slices away at his opponents is brilliant. Gore has never been this beautiful to watch such as when the face of a gorgon is violently split into two yet you love the sight of it. The locations are all well made, sound is great, the clinking of the chains is heard along with the fury with which Kratos lands them on the ground upon hos enemy. Voice acting is top notch, even if you feel the furies aren't very intimidating in game play you will feel them threatening when you see the madness of their expressions and the screams with which they attack. Kratos and Orkos have interactions, especially around the end where you see Kratos feel empathy towards the oath keeper.
God of War: Ascension is an efficiently made game with a lot of plus points but there is the nagging question in mind the whole time. What is the point of all this? It's not as bad as it sounds, the thing is that the story, while well planned out, doesn't have much significance and the game eventually feels like a side dish not to be taken as seriously as other games. But that is all probably nitpicking over a pretty satisfying game which offers over 7 hours of single game play, along with other difficulties to try out, and a multiplayer feature to keep fans occupied.