To break the God of War franchise down into the simplest of terms, it is a beautiful challenge. Since the first game came out for the PS2 in 2005, God of War has set new visual standards with highly detailed rendered environments, while simultaneously building a fan base of gamers who want games to be tough, the end cinematics and game credits serving as a reward for not just time logged, but for skill displayed. And to that end, Santa Monica Studio’s latest iteration in the critically-acclaimed series, God of War: Ascension, is a rousing success.

The elements that made past iterations of God of War so enjoyable—giant set pieces, outrageous, sprawling boss battles, and epic cinematography that would put some Hollywood action flicks to shame—are all here. If anything, the pace is even faster than before as wave after wave of enemies descend upon you and monsters the size of small mountains take up the screen. Against such outsized enemies you’ll often appear so small it’s almost comical, but the effect of scale is powerful, and adds to the sense of challenge, and subsequent sense of satisfaction, that the series is famous for.


How you wind up judging God of War: Ascension might depend entirely upon how loyal you’ve been to the series. If you’re new to God of War, you’ll no doubt be blown away by the game’s amazing visuals, fantastic sense of scale, and brutal, addictive combat paced nicely with short bouts of puzzle-solving. If you’ve been playing the series since the beginning, though, you’re likely to be hit with an inescapable sense of déjà vu. It’s a game that’s true to the series roots, but almost to a fault. There is no quantum leap in the game’s mechanics, though Santa Monica Studio’s commitment to a competitive multiplayer arena is a good step toward innovation.

But that’s really where any real criticism should end; when the only knock you can give a game is that it isn’t especially groundbreaking, it’s not necessarily a sign of stagnation, and in this case, it’s as much of a nod to how great the series has always been. Series loyalists will find everything that made them fans in the first place while newcomers get to enjoy a prequel tale without a whole trilogy worth of story to bog it down. What’s not to love?