Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/10/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I’m gonna be upfront here; God of War: Ascension is the point where the series gets stale. After playing this, I understand why they changed the formula so much for God of War 2018. That’s not to say that Ascension is bad by any means because it’s not. It just feels very rote. I don’t know what the actual budgets for each game were, but Ascension feels like a much lower budget game than 3 or even 2 when you take into account the different generations. It’s not bad, but it does feel like they’re following a blueprint rather than making art. God of War III was Sunkist, and Ascension is Omazing Orange. God of War III was the Wii, and Ascension is Kinect. God of War III is Sonic the Hedgehog, and Ascension is Awesome Possum. Okay, that last one might have been a bit harsh, but you get my point.
Despite being the second most recently released game, this feels like it should be the third game in the series, not the sixth. The combat is super repetitive in every game, but it *feels* more repetitive here than it has since the first game. Part of the issue, I think, is the weapons. Normally, you get at least a couple of different sub-weapons you can switch two, but here, they’re “magic” enhancements. So you can fiery chain blades, or ice chain blades, or electric chain blades, but everything you unlock is a chain blade. You can pick up dropped weapons from enemies like a sword, or a shield, or a sledgehammer, etc., but those are items you pick up, and you can only hold one at a time. They can’t be upgraded, they don’t get special combos or magic attacks, they’re temporary, and their use is frankly kind of limited.
The puzzles were fine. The level design was fine. The story was fine. But that’s the problem; it was all fine. Nothing stood out as a major improvement. It was the first game in the storyline chronologically, so there weren’t any huge plot twists or character revelations. The interactions between Kratos and Orkos were nice, and I legitimately enjoyed Orkos as a character – his role in the end scene was actually one of the best scenes in the Greek saga – but other than that, everything about it was painfully average. Ascension just didn’t really stand out. Pretty much everyone told me going into this game not to expect anything amazing and I see why. The relics you find and their abilities were kind of cool, but as far as gameplay goes, that’s about all that stood out, and even there, only two of the three were all that cool. One lets you manipulate time to repair or decay parts of the environment, and one lets you create a shadow clone. Those two played a huge role in puzzles, and that was a fun added element. The third one just dispelled magic barriers, and it honestly wasn’t used a whole lot.
God of War: Ascension is fine. It really is. It’s just not great. It’s like Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash or Kirby: Planet Robobot; it’s painfully okay. It’s extraordinarily ordinary. It stands out only in how little it stands out. It tells you how Kratos began his journey to defeat Ares, but other than that, it doesn’t really add anything meaningful to the lore or the story. I can see why a few of my friends forgot this one existed when I mentioned playing the series; it really doesn’t do anything memorable. You’ll play it, you’ll be entertained enough to justify the ten hours you’ll probably spend on it, and then you’ll put it on a shelf to collect dust and never give it a second thought. That’s a shame, too, because even the two PS2 games in the series that failed to really impress me in a major way were at least memorable. This one just fails to make a meaningful impact in any way.