Why God of War: Ascension Sucks

Our next guest piece is written by EraofShamus, an indie game lover who dabbles in game design himself. Suffice to say he’s not the biggest fan of formulaic game design in general.

—Written by EraofShamus—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

God of War: Ascension (or GOWA for short), created by Santa Monica Studio, was the worst 3 hours I’ve spent playing any video game this year. I’m going out on a limb and saying it’ll probably be the worst game I will regret playing this year. Yeah I didn’t finish it. I didn’t have the stomach to sit through any more. Bite me.

Let me premise this by saying I have played other GOW games before, so I am somewhat familiar with the series. I didn’t play the previous title on PS3 because I had a go at the demo, and felt pretty underwhelmed by the nature of the gameplay. A demo really should demonstrate the best parts of a game, you know? I feel as though the God of War 3 demo brought me a craving for variety, and not a desire to see more. Nevertheless, I decided to give Ascension a chance, and hopefully it would turn me around. I was wrong.

For those who haven’t played any of the franchise, the burly, Stone Cold Steve Austin-looking guy’s name is Kratos, and SPOILERS, he’s always angry. That’s literally his thing; he’s always pissed at something, and you can see it in his face, because he has the emotional range of Kristen Stewart. And conveniently the complexion of RPattz, with the clothesless body of that wolfman. How do you feel? Considering I just blew your mind.

Anyways, the God of War story stems from big daddy Zeus mixing Kratos’ colours with his whites, so the white shirt he wears is stained with a tribal red pattern to show Zeus how annoyed he is. Kind of like an angry letter, only with a lot more context. Get used to feeling vengeful, because if anyone can say something about Kratos, it’s that he sure is unhappy. Except for the end of GOW3, where the contents of Pandora make a 5 year panty-bunched tirade come to an end. However, that is a different title, and not the one I’ll be looking at today. So let’s continue to the issue at hand.

The first problem is the opening scene of GOWA. Kratos is being held captive by the Furies (more spoilers: they’re furious at things). But they use his own weapons to tie him up, which if you didn’t know, are his trademark Blades of Chaos. These are essentially oversized daggers attached by magical chains to his wrists. Upon reflection, I would think this is a pretty balls-to-the-wall dumb idea. It’s like if I tried to drown a fish in water – not exactly a practical use of time, resources, or fish.

So yeah, Kratos breaks out of (his) chains that bind. Enter combat. Again, if you’ve played a God of War title before, get ready to walk down the old beaten track. If you haven’t, press square. Maybe triangle if you’re feeling adventurous. The addition of picking up enemy weapons on the fly is not enough to warrant a brand new title, though it does add some extra obstacles to avoid when you’re destroying souls with the touch of a single button. I suppose there is a method to the madness though. Why break what isn’t broken? But it is this kind of mindset that halts innovation and creativity, making other new IPs (note: The Last of Us) exciting, and reinventions of titles (note: Bioshock Infinite) just so darn amazing.

Then, you get to the quick time events. Oh boy, do you get to them. Granted, they have tried to limit how many there are in this game (apparently), but enough of them still exist to drive me batshit insane. GOW prides itself on the Blades of Chaos as its mainstay weapon because of the flow it encourages. A QTE is the Joker to that Batman. There’s nothing that breaks a game’s flow and immersion more than making you faceroll your controller to beat an enemy, then stop and press a particular button with precise timing to confirm a kill. And the punishment for missing a cue? You have to just do it again. If I didn’t want to do it the first time, there’s no way you’re making me do it twice, Santa Monica. *proceeds to mash square*

Finally, and definitely the most jarringly, there’s the fixed camera. GOW is a series which is built around epic scaled battles with giant creatures, which I’ll admit can be pretty interesting. The first major battle you fight this serpent thing and you swing around its tentacles, which is fun. But as you get closer and closer to the massive imprisoned head, you get to this one particular part which blew my mind when I played it, in a bad way. This is a time where my previous strategy (Read: mashing square) doesn’t work. So this guy has you in his hands, in this corridor he’s ripped out from a building, yeah? And you’re flailing around in there, and enemies are spawning, right? I don’t know, because I could not see shit. The camera is so far away from the actual action, just so they can enhance the dramatic effect of the scene. It was like being in a Magic Eye picture, except the trick is that the image is of someone flipping you the bird, and it turns out you’re actually on Mars. A friend told me the best strategy is to just block, and then all the enemies just fall out the sides. Because that is optimum gameplay.

If you really want to feel small and alone with a camera you can control, you should play Shadow of the Colossus. That is a game done immaculately. Personally, I will skip the next couple of GOWs, because I don’t sense much progression in the immediate future.

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