First off, I have to say I love the God of War franchise. If someone was to ask me “Hey, what’s your favorite game series of all-time”, I’d reply “God of War”.
Having said that, I’m not biased enough to cover up the facts and pretend Ascension is the greatest thing since white chocolate covered strawberries (those are awesome).
As much as I love this game, I gotta give it to you straight.
God of War: Ascension
Systems: Playstation 3 [Reviewed]
Developer: SCE Studios Santa Monica
Release: March 12, 2013
There are a few constant things expected in online games these days: leveling up, rewards, clan/friend system, diverse maps, lag free games, etc. Unfortunately, Ascension misses the mark pretty big on a few of these. Let’s begin with leveling up. Traditionally, you hit the max level then choose to “prestige” and start back at level 1, but with new unlocks to be had, such as weapons and characters. Not in Ascension. When you first start the game you’re required to pledge your allegiance to one of the 4 main Gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, or Ares). Once you pledge, your online warrior takes characteristics from the God you sided with. Zeus is strong in magic, Poseidon is a defensive beast, Ares is big on offense, and Hades has a deceptive warping/invisibility kinda thing going on.
I choose Poseidon and hit level 30 within 10 hours of playing, so now I’m maxed out and done. Yep, level 30 is max, no prestige or moving up, done. I can choose to go with another God and level them up, so in a few weeks I can have everything maxed out and conquered. Not cool. Of course there are still weapons to be had, trials to unlock, and plenty of side-quests to do as far as leveling small things up, but my warrior is done leveling up. Most people I know that play online really like the fact that they’re making progress, that they’re working towards something, and Ascension seems to drop the ball here. Not seeing that XP bar move after matches now really leaves something to be desired.
Rewards and unlocks seem to be there, but I was shocked to see only one trophy for online play. Many of you may be jumping for joy hearing that, but not me. Earning trophies online is exciting, it gives me something to shoot for. Not having them really makes an online game in 2013 feel incomplete. I’m not talking about one of those trophies that requires you to prestige 3 times and earn everything ever – I hate those just as much as anyone (looking at you Tomb Raider shopaholic trophy) – but simple ones would have added a sense of accomplishment to online play. Even though there is only one trophy, the weapon system and rewards seem to be there. Every God has their own set of special weapons and armor, and there are plenty of weapons and armor that can be used by everyone.
One cool thing is you can open white treasure chests during matches and obtain fragments of weapons (3 to complete each one). Apparently, many chests are empty, but there’s a chance you get a fragment, so it keeps your eyes peeled for them which is good. There are some nice weapons to be had, and each weapon has their own special attacks which is a nice touch and keeps it fresh. Weapons are broken down into three categories; sword, hammer, and spear. Each type has their own abilities, so it’s fun to try new weapons to see what works best for you. Every weapon also has three ranks, so you can rank them up and make them stronger, but again, only 3 levels isn’t that impressive.
There is a party system in place, but it leaves something to be desired. You can invite three of your friends to join you making it a party of 4 (I just thought of Party of 5, man Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell were hot on that show). The problem with this system is clear, you can’t ask anyone to join your current game. You have to leave the game, go into a empty lobby, invite your friends and sit there and wait hoping they show up (NOT playing the game the whole time mind you). Another issue is that only the leader of the party can invite. So if I invite you, and you have a friend that you want to join us also, you’re not able to invite them, I’d have to do it for us which is time consuming. More than likely I don’t have them on my friends list, making it a major pain really. This party system does not support clan tags either.
Actually, this game is bare minimum on details concerning players. As you’re waiting for your game to load, and you see everyone that is about to participate, all you can do is choose to mute them, that’s it. You can’t see who they’re pledged to, what their warrior looks like, their weapons, armor, relics, magic, etc…You get nothing! You lose! Good day, Sir! I was expecting much more from SSM on this one, very poorly executed.
Map diversity and game modes are there from the start which is nice. There is free-for-all with 4 or 8 players, where everyone kills everyone. There’s team free-for-all, team capture the flag, and a team game where you kill the other team and try to hold stationary posts. There’s even a co-op game where you and one other friend can play online together against game enemies in a timed event, which is pretty fun actually. The maps are excellent. The game mode decides if the map is big or small (4 or 8 players), and within the big and small maps there is lots of diversity.
The coolest thing about some of the maps is that they’re interactive with traps and creatures. On one map a massive Cycloptic creature is in the background and randomly deals damage to players. At one point a spear appears on screen and the first person to obtain it has the ability to kill him and earn his team major points, a very nice touch. As with any game there will surely be DLC for maps, so things will only get better in this area. My only gripe with maps so far is that you can’t vote on them, boo!!! Nothing worse than playing the same map three times in a row, and yes that does happen.
The number one concern in all online games is lag. I can happily report I haven’t experienced much lag at all, which is great. It did happen in a few matches, no one is perfect, but overall, the servers are greased and I like it. If it’s not happening now, on launch week, then I think we’re safe for the future which is great news.
What about fun factor you ask? I can honestly say this game is very fun. Even with some of the negativity I mentioned above, that doesn’t take away from the core combat system and awesomeness of the experience. Will this game outlast some of the big 1st person shooters and a few other new online multi-player games? I can’t say it will, but don’t think of this as a online game, think of it as you would any other God of War game you’ve bought in the past, and it won’t disappoint. The online experience is like the baked potato sitting next to the steak, it’s not why you’re there, but it sure does taste nice along side it.