Why four is a four letter word for franchises (and a God of War: Ascension review)
Sequels can only work for so long before they begin riding the success of the previous games and lose focus on making a new and unique experience. God of War: Ascension takes chances in its attempt to push forward and reinvigorate the franchise. See if it works after the jump.
Three seems to be the magic number when it comes to story arcs. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Gears of War and Uncharted are just a few examples on how to tell a decent story without selling out or over staying their welcome. The mega-franchises’ need to keep their stories alive, even to its own critical detriment in the search of more money borders on the bizarre. These quick turnaround filler-stories lessen the appeal of the franchise and fill out lore only the hardcore fans care about. Although there are plenty of fans happy to jump forward with cash in their hands, these stories could have far greater impact after a timely break so gamers had time to feel excited about the franchise all over again.
Unfortunately, these stories very rarely garner the attention such companies are fiscally aiming for and end up bringing the series to a grinding halt, ultimately remembered by the poor reception received. God of War: Ascension is no exception to this rule. Santa Monica Studios has put effort into every aspect of the experience; the graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is similar to its predecessors and even the story has its moments. However, it is the similarity of the experience and formulaic style that lost me from the moment it begins. The sense I have done this all before dampens any excitement the gameplay experience might have offered.
Kratos has had his story told and come to its resolution leaving two options. Either expand and take your character in a new direction or make a prequel. God of War: Ascension reveals Kratos’ incarceration before the original God of War. Even though this journey has some breathtaking cinematic moments, the game in-between feels all too familiar, combat, puzzle, combat, boss, repeat. Sure, the same could be said about ant title in the action genre, but this is why diversifying is so crucial for any franchise to stay at the top of its game.
In saying this, I have enjoyed all three previous God of War titles. However by the third game of any trilogy I am usually ready to call it day. Once a franchise goes beyond the magic three I believe that the stakes need to dramatically increase. Gamers expect a fourth offering to be better than the previous titles and judgment is, and always should be, harsher. If the development team delivers a similar experience to the last with only some surface differences then the end product should be attacked for all of the same problems of the previous titles.
To put this in perspective, God of War: Ascension is far from a bad game, it’s just a slightly depressing one. God of War: Ascension offers more of the same and very little else. The only leap Santa Monica Studios took was its interesting take on multiplayer, which is one of the highlights of the game. The plot is predictable, with no surprises nor does it have the focus of the previous titles.
Kratos ends up coming across as bland, feels lost and confused, leaving the player without the rabid sense of purpose seen in his previous endeavors and majorly takes away from the overall enjoyment. God of War: Ascension further proves my point that three is the magic number for gamers to digest and remember. Past this developers are mostly forcing content and creativity suffers for it.