Kratos is angry again in this prequel to the God of War franchise as he travels throughout Greece and beyond in search of the Furies to do what he does best and kill them. It’s a standard affair for a God of War game and Ascension handles it well. Did we need another installment of the franchise? Not really, but the visuals and brutality alone warrant at least a single playthrough.
Visually, Ascension is a testament to what these generations of consoles are still capable of From spanning vistas to massive bosses, Ascension has mostly captured the Greek Epic. The Prison of the Damned epic was impressive doesn't quite hold up to the opening of God of War III’s stellar Gaia opener climbing Mount Olympus but very few (if any) games can. Sony Santa Monica has proved their knowledge of Sony's oft-disliked cell processor with each installment as they are able to push it to the max. Lighting is at a perfect luminescence, brutal kills zoom in brilliantly, and superb attention to detail make this experience a stunning one.
While visuals impress, narrative does not. God of War's writing staff is in quite the predicament and it's beginning to show through. Playing through the console trilogy, it's easy to notice that God of War was meant to be 3 games. The concept and basic back story for Kratos' battle with the gods was in place with the 2 PSP games, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, working as prequels to God of War and God of War 2 respectively. Ascension is a prequel to Chains of Olympus which was a prequel in itself. Would we have been better off with a prequel of God of War 3? Possibly, but I think at this junction the story of Kratos has reached its Exodus.
There is a multiplayer mode to try out but little more is offered after a brief stint. Players join with 7 others to compete in one of 5 multiplayer events while competing for rewards from the gods. Each player selects one of 4 gods to align with, each with their own distinct fighting styles and perks. In theory, this sounds like an extremely interesting concept and well worth hours of devotion. In practice, it ceased to amaze me. In fact, it looks as though this should have been a standalone download with a $14.99 price tag labeled something completely separate from any God of War series. For what the multiplayer is, it can be fun enough to dabble in for a few hours, but don't think this will be a time-sink for months to come.
The God of War franchise and Sony Santa Monica are in an interested fork in the road. Going left continues to lengthen their IP but at the expense of inventing new ways of continuing a interminable story. Going right ends the franchise completely. After losing 3 million sales from God of War 3 to Ascension, it might be time to leave Kratos to the Fields of Punishment. Ascension is worth playing for the eye candy alone but doesn't warrant a full purchase unless it can be purchased on a high discount.