Don't let the prequel moniker scare you away. "God of War: Ascension" is far from a lazy addition to the series. With massive visual appeal, new multiplayer options and additions to the combat system, Kratos' latest adventure may end up as one of his best.
Set before the events of the original "God of War," you'll see a much different Kratos.
One of Sony's most popular characters, Kratos debuted in 2005 in the original "God of War" as a man forced to battle the gods in order to reclaim his humanity. Once a servant of Aries, the god of war, Kratos, blinded by power, kills his wife and child. Once Aries' "bond" with Kratos is broken, he vows revenge. In his quest for vengenance, Kratos battles legendary monsters in Greek Mythology in hell and abroad before defeating Aries himself. "Ascension" takes place before Kratos' quest for revenge.
"Kratos was always about rage and vengeance in the other iterations of the games," said Sony's Chacko Sonny. "What our team really wanted to explore was the time period after he inadvertently kills his wife and child and the six months after that, where he's still a human. He's still a man. He doesn't know what's going on. He's got this blood oath that he's taken with Aries, but he wants to renounce it."
Players will quickly notice that the usually chiseled Kratos even looks more human. Lighter and less muscular, Aries has yet to travel to hell. His journey is just beginning. On the run from Aries' "enforcers," they'll do anything and everything to make sure Kratos doesn't forget his oath to the god of war. Unlike the other games, where Kratos begins his journey fighting, this time out, he begins this chapter enslaved.
"It was a chance for the development team to explore new emotions and context for Kratos at a character," Sonny said. "The whole game centers around how Kratos will break his blood oath with a god."
The landscapes and environments in the world are anything but less beefy. The scale of "God of War: Ascension" is mammoth. Many of the bosses require Kratos to climb them in order to strike. Like the scale of an epic action film, "God of War: Ascension" takes you into its world.
This is reinforced by several additions to gameplay that try to give returning and new gamers alike several different ways to kill whoever is in their way. Although "Ascension" plays similar to the other games in the series, the new combat engine addition adds some more fun to the tried and true formula. The new “tethering” system allows Kratos to use his primary weapon, the Blades of Chaos, to latch on to enemies and certain environmental objects and use them to attack. With the press of a button, Kratos can impale an opponent and use their body to attack someone else.
At the same time, the addition is never forced. You could actually play through the game entirely and never use it at all. Gamers looking for a little more spice to their combos however will find it intuitive and rather easy.
Another cool addition is the ability to pick up weapons your enemies drop, including javelins and swords. Much like the tethering system, this option merely enhances the gameplay and gives Kratos more options in battle. With a variety of different ways to play, newcomers to the series may find the diversity refreshing, while dedicated Spartans may be too stuck in their ways to try them out.
The biggest addition in the series however is online multiplayer. With 30 ranks and eight multiplayer levels to play through, Sony's goal was to have players forge their own journey. With the promise of additional downloadable content, Sony is confident it'll play a huge part in the series moving forward.
"It's a hugely important part of the product," said Sonny. "The team feels good that they got the essence of 'God of War' into the multiplayer element."