Although I've been a gamer since Pac-Man (read: really old) I'm not a fan of being stuck on a multiple-stage boss fight or killing an endless wave of re-spawning enemies. I'm looking at you, Devil May Cry - excuse me, I mean, 'DMC' - and Bayonetta. Things start off easily enough, giving me only two attack options (quick and weak or slow and strong), but soon I'm overwhelmed with X, X+O, triangle, circle plus shoulder button madness. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying all games should be a cakewalk. I respect RPGs need to make me spend countless hours leveling up, and I enjoy my shooters a notch above 'normal', but twitchy, button-mashers? Not a fan.
However, I love the God of War series, even though I came to the franchise late. For some reason, I skipped out on the first one, but everyone was all abuzz about GoW 2. On my state-of-the-art PlayStation 2, here were visuals that were gigantic in every sense of the word. Quickly, I went back and played part 1 and was awestruck by a three-headed hydra that filled the screen. The music swelled like a blockbuster film. The blood and violence put Mortal Kombat to shame. As Kratos, the perennially pissed off gray-skinned he-man, I experienced just how badass being a Spartan was before Gerard Butler exclaimed, "This. Is. Sparta!" in 300. I couldn't wait to get my blood-soaked hands on part 3: the end of Kratos' journey, which would be in full HD on the PS3. (Yes, the PS2 ones had a 720p mode, but come on now.)
Presenting a more even-tempered Kratos is God War: Ascension, a prequel of sorts, so I'm back to attempting to be manly. I really wanted that "Bros Before Hos" trophy. (Sony has made a statement after numerous complaints saying a renaming will occur via a patch.)
I forgot how throw-controller-at-the-wall these games are. (Thankfully, the DualShock 3 is wireless so the console doesn't get uprooted when my rage meter burst.) For a nerd that doesn't play these types of game anymore, playing God of War reminds me how wimpy I am.
5 Old School Ways Ascension is Hard:
5. Saw "You Died" a Lot in the First 'Hour'
Fans of the series will recall the now-signature openings begin with Linda Hunt speaking about Kratos and pretty quickly, we're fighting our way out of some hellish world. After tons of centaurs and other mythological beasties, there's a creature the size of a small mountain to topple. In Ascension, Kratos is chained up and some old-timey witch is torturing him. Soon the villainous hag is bewitching an old temple, having tiny beetles slither out of the concrete, transforming into scaly monsters, out to stomp us out. Literally.
Learn from my mistakes: use the right stick to duck and roll as much as possible. Use R1 to hack and slash. One scene took Kratos (me) forever, but no one wants to save the game before finishing the prologue, right? So TWO HOURS later, after being tossed about like a mouse in an apartment-sized hobble, I was victorious. I checked my playtime: 1 hr. 03 min. (Dying doesn't count towards your time.)
The slap in the face begins...
4. Even the Puzzles are Tough
Lara Croft's latest didn't have mind-benders like this. Things start easy, with just pulling some glowing levers - a GoW staple - to open doors, but soon enough there are some pretty fiendish brainteasers that rely on your memory of a room's layout. Fans of Odd World will be pleased as the trick is in what you destroy or create. (And something else that I don't wanna spoil.) I remember when Lara and Kratos used to just push obvious-looking blocks around. Those were the days....
3. Really Kratos, No Bread-Crumbed Path to Lead Us?
Follow the yellow-lined path! NOT GoW (it's Fables 3)
As I'm barely keeping it together throughout the campaign there's still a lot to explore. This series has always had a fixed camera though. The basic rundown is that Kratos will open up some new area and the camera will zoom out to show your path. Except I had a hard time keeping track once the path was set. One of the blessings of this current generation of games is getting a glowing line that shows you which way to go; Dead Space and Fable both have excellently lit up lines to follow. You don't have to have them on, or even use them outright, but it's great that that function is built-in. True, God of War comes from the PS2 era but by now would this feature be that hard to implement? The new Tomb Raider uses a beacon and that series started on the PS1! Light my way Kratos, I'm beggin' ya!
2. Like Most Big Guys, Kratos Still Sucks at Jumping
Kratos is a big guy. His means of dismembering are second to no one in the gaming universe (even poor elephants are not spared this time!), but he has never been able to jump worth a darn. As such, the platforming aspects can be tiresome at best, frustrating at worst. I don't really think this is the player's fault or Kratos', for that matter. I think the level artists are so skilled at finely detailed caves and castles that they don't want to dumb down their visuals by making certain rocks or bricks look like you can reach them. This leads to a lot of trial and error. Joy. There are some stones that light up though. Thanks for that, programmers!
1. New Elemental Attacks are a Great Idea, But Hard to Master
Hmmm.. do not use fire on this thing.
Early on, Kratos gains the ability to augment his blades with fire, demon, ice or lightning. Each has a different effect. Cool idea, but I wish the enemies gave more of a tell as to what I should use on them. Once I got used to it I dug switching powers, but the learning curve was much higher than I would have imagined. Mario always knew when he was in a ice world; just sayin'.