The God of War series has been one of Playstation’s strongest franchises since its debut in 2005. The titles have been known for their graphics, scores and the accessible combat that carries its gameplay. Early in 2012, SCE Santa Monica revealed that their next project in the series, God of War Ascension, is a prequel exploring the events “before Kratos became known as the Ghost of Sparta.”
Kratos’ journeys aren’t known for riveting stories or innovative gameplay, but rather how its epic scores and visuals come into balance with accessible fighting mechanics. This creates a presentation difficult to rival. The concept of a God of War prequel is quite intriguing. The first instalment had an interesting story of Kratos willing to go through anything to exact revenge on Ares and put an end to his tyranny by retelling the story of a hero selling his soul to the devil. However as the series went on, Kratos became more of bloodthirsty barbarian than a tragic hero.
This is a dive into the uncharted waters of the God of War universe and no doubt there’s a lot of work going into the project. I found the first game to have the best plot and it’ll be interesting to see how Kratos came to the suicidal state he was in at the beginning of the series. Though I believe most people desire a new story. One that’s a genuine Greek tragedy and hopefully stays clear of the usual theme of futile journeys and ironclad fates. It’s also difficult to relate to Kratos when all the previous games had him constantly yelling and murdering gods for no greater purpose beyond power. To see Kratos as a general with emotions and realistic ambitions will be a welcome addition to this Spartan’s story and I’m excited to find out how Sony Santa Monica will tackle this.
Historical events like the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Thermopylae would be interesting to partake in. These battles could be even more fascinating if Kratos fought alongside historical figures like King Cleomenes or King Leonidas. In addition, it would be nice to see Kratos simply expressing some actual affection for someone or even meeting new characters that don’t end up dead soon after their introductions.
Though this untouched narrative shows a lot of potential, I have my concerns about the gameplay. As simple as it’s always has been, the main hook in the gameplay was the sheer brutality of Kratos’ actions, the scope of his fights and the feeling of empowerment the player gains. I’m sure Kratos will find someone or something that gives him some form of superhuman abilities, but the total scope and feeling of empowerment is worrying. Kratos having fought every interesting mythological creature and god I can think of, I’m curious as to what may be considered enough of a threat for him to go out of his way to kill this time and still maintain a sense of vigor. Both the titans and gods have already been defeated in past entries and having to fight mere mortals in God of War Ascension would far from enough because of the precedents set within the series. When I first saw Kratos climbing about the Colossus of Rhodes my jaw dropped. The scope of his goal is something that is rarely shown in video games and is never well executed when replicated in titles outside the series.
As fun as the games may be, Kratos’ story is being dragged out quite the bit and this prequel is a result of Sony Santa Monica painting themselves into a corner. I’m hoping the studio soon moves away from Kratos and tries a new idea with a fresh approach. But I’ll be the first to admit that I love everything the series has to offer and wouldn’t mind them just starting anew with a different setting. For instance, it would really interest me to see a God of War style game set in Egypt fighting the creatures and gods of ancient Egyptian mythos. An intricate story and well written characters would be welcome also as that’s been a weakness of the series in its recent entries. That being said, Sony Santa Monica hasn’t made a second-rate God of War title so there’s no fair reason to doubt them. The series needs a breath of fresh air and I’m hoping that God of War Ascension is the title to do so.