Episode Zero for Kratos and Ares
God of War: Ascension marks the very first tale about Kratos ever told in the series - chronologically speaking. This game shows the players the events that lead to the start of the very first GoW game by exploring how Ares manipulated Kratos and why our Spartan protagonist is just so darn violent and angry all the time. Despite being a prequel story, the developers behind the game have kept up a steady pace of escalation in terms of bring players to the edge of their seats; so yes, if you thought that the battles in God of War 3 were already outstanding, prepare to have your socks blown off.
The Fury of Furies
Ascension digs even deeper into Greek mythology by showcasing the Hecatonchires, in particular, Aegaeon -as well as the Furies. Of course, like anything else in God of War, throw anything you know about historically correct mythology out the window as the game takes a very artistic interpretation about the primordial beings that predated Zeus and the other folks are Olympus.
It does not take too long before Kratos is sent right smack in the center of Ares' bid for power -his attempts at manipulating control of Olympus centers on Kratos' ability to fight and wreak havoc, and that certainly does not turn out well for the Spartan. While we will not spoil the details for you, we can say that GoW: Ascension finally explains how Kratos' nightmares began and how he was tricked by Ares into destroying everything that was important to him. Naturally, the game ends with a very vengeful Kratos seeking Ares' blood -which starts off the very first game of the series.
Chains and Blades are a Thing
One would think that the notion of wrist-mounted chain-blades would be a pretty rare thing, but apparently, it is present all over the world of God of War. We've already seen the Blades of Exile, the Blades of Athena, and several other fancy new gear from the other sequels -but Ascension goes back to the roots: the Blades of Chaos. This was also the same set of weapons that appeared in the first GoW game, with these, the story goes full circle, and combat is as familiar as it ever was.
How much fun can you have with two big swords and with chains? Plenty! Kratos uses the blades to deal short, medium, and long ranged damage. The chains allow for moves with wide damaging arcs while the blades ensure that every move you execute deals plenty of hurt or even instant death.
This prequel even adds a few new moves to the list that take advantage of the blades' intrinsic qualities: you can now use the weapons to yank enemies from far away. This means tethering flying opponents has been made even easier -and dealing with larger foes just got a lot more fun. As happy as we are with the new moves, we really wish that they had been already present in the previous titles.
A Careful Balance
The irony of Ascension's hack and slash system is that thanks to the stage design and Kratos' new moveset, this is probably the easiest God of War game to have ever been made. Combos are as abusive as ever -find one favorite and you can stick with it till the end. And the enemies drop like flies thanks to huge amount of instant kill QTE sequences made available. At the same time, this is also the game with the most annoying and difficult puzzles and event sequences ever designed for GoW.
Like all other God of War games, the meat of the game will be spent with players running around big stages while cleaving across (almost) hapless enemies scattered in the path. There are a few points where the sheer volume of enemies can get a little staggering, but it never happens often enough to make anyone feel bogged down. Playing this game makes you truly feel that you are controlling an unstoppable avatar of destruction, and that makes it plenty of fun.
Know What to Expect
If you are looking for gameplay depth, then this is certainly not a good option. God of War: Ascension is as loyal to the series as the main numbered iterations, and that means sticking to the good old formula of killing first, then forgetting the questions entirely. The story does a good job of mashing up elements of Greek mythology into a solid narrative, but it is not something for players to think about while they are busy cutting furies down. There are plenty of greek war games out there to choose from, both adventure and strategy alike, but few deliver the wanton destruction in the style that Kratos goes and you will love God of War Ascension all the more for it.