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Review – God of War: Ascension

17 April on Blogs, Reviews  
Kratos está de volta, e não mudou muito

Kratos is back, and hasn't changed much

Sony has guaranteed its place in the pantheon of gods on the PlayStation 2 with the release of God of War: the beginning of a violent odyssey that broke ground with epic graphics and divine fun. The series took a while to get to the PS3, receiving even more impressive visuals, but keeping the classic gameplay, in its third chapter that fully tied up the protagonist's story. But a lot has happened since the franchise started. I mentioned before that narrative on videogames is still in its infancy, but that doesn't mean that the medium hasn't matured since... unfortunately, the same can't be said of Ascension.

Kratos' tragedy was truly ended – we have seen his rise and fall in the original trilogy, with a few extra chapters on the PSP. Much was said of his human side before he was a god, but isn't really the focus of the story. It's about how he got the nightmare that put the events of the original game in motion – something I simply assumed he'd always had since he killed his family, and pretty much a desperate stab at finding something relevant to say about him... not that he opens his mouth much during the 8 hour long game.

Espero que goste de ambientes escuros... eles não são poucos

I hope you like dark places... you will be in those a lot

The first reaction as you begin to control Kratos is noticing the new graphic engine, which receives a lot of attention in its shiny particle system and High Dynamic Range. Visually, it's quite breathtaking at first... but quickly reveals itself as one of the many missteps of production. Since a lot of the game takes place under shadows or in dark places, colors are muted and you have a hard time telling Kratos apart from foes – something made worse by the abuse of flashy particle effects and the hero's diminutive onscreen presence. It's true that the series has always played with scale, with absurdly gigantic environments and buildings – but the new team seems to have mastered the game on a computer monitor one inch from their noses, for Kratos is but a speck for a good chunk of the game, and even the interface has poor readability due to size.

Uma das novas mecânicas: descer ladeiras

One of the new mechanics: grinding

These mistakes are enough to be a nuisance, but even more stack in an almost comic fashion. God of War differs from other examples of the genre like Ninja Gaiden or Metal Gear Rising – both games that create a constant notion of risk for the player. Kratos, on the other hand, has always had a huge advantage – something that changed in Ascension. His dodge isn't quite as untouchable as before, he loses control more easily and some enemies can even grapple him with a hook. This changes the balance a lot – usually in a pretty frustrating way – and it only starts making sense once you dive into multiplayer, where theses checks and balances make a lot more sense. Except the solo campaign abuses this with its small variety and creativity in creating opponents, throwing some combinations that are more of a bother than a challenge.

Os puzzles de manipular tempo quebram o ritmo do jogo

Timeshifting puzzles really don't add much to the game

Any attempts to improve the formula seem to fall flat as well: the traditional QTEs (scenes in which the player must input on-screen commands quickly) also have a variant in which you can attack with two button and dodge with the left stick. It's a cool idea, but the game hardly differentiates both... and if you start mashing the attack button on a QTE, you fail instantly. The same happens with the puzzles, based on three artifact collected during the game, but are all vastly inconsistent, confusing and counter-intuitive.

But perhaps the biggest offender may be the fact that the series just hasn't kept up with the times. Not only is it more linear than before, and many times relies on barrier to keep you from coming back from where you came, the player will end wrestling invisible walls most of the time, since there are many instances where it's not clear where you are supposed to go (Protip: want to find hidden items? Most of time you just have to walk towards the camera). In cases in which there is a secondary optional route, the player doesn't always know which is which, and you can totally miss it by going the right way and being stopped from going back. And the game can't even argue it's to avoid backtracking, since a few environments are recycled... and in one specific case, it would make sense to just turn back instead of going a long way around to get back to the room he had just left. And that is not even going into the fact that the narrative is deeply rooted in flashbacks... but the items acquired all work in a linear fashion, contradicting the plot.

O multiplayer é uma das melhores partes do jogo

Multiplayer is one of the best parts of the game

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game lays in its new multiplayer mode, which rethinks the combat basics in a pretty creative way – and adds a nice variety of power-ups that allow for different playstyles. I went in without big expectations and was very pleased with it. It should be noted that it's not exactly geared to long sessions, with small arenas and a small number of players.

God of War: Ascension, like Kratos and his fellow Greek gods, are a relic from another era. Sony tried to make a homage to its main hero, but ended up desecrating a body that was better off in our good memories of mashing Square and Triangle.

Tech Sheet
God of War: Ascension
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment - Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.