I should start out by saying that I’m a big fan of the God of War series, that I have played them all, and that God of War: Ascension isn’t a bad game. But it is the least good in the series. And here are what I found was the problem:
This time around, however, they messed up.
Mind you that it had been about five years since I played another God of War game, so this might all be in my head. And whenever I’m playing as Kratos I go for the hardest setting available from the start of the game, which is usualy the Hard setting, unlocking more difficult ones when you’ve played through the game, so that’s my baseline.
One thing that has always been important, and that they’ve often gotten right, is precise and responsive controls. Meaning that when you press a button, Kratos reacts. This has always been very tight and I’ve felt that once I press the block or dodge-button, that’s what happens. During the harder parts of the previous games I’ve noticed I need to change my strategy to be successful, and some animations will leave me open for an attack from a different enemy than the one I’m focused on. I’ve been fine with this, it’s been part of the game, it’s forcing me to change strategy.
This time around, however, they messed up. This game contains more invulnerability-frames (frames of animation that makes the character invulnerable and/or pass through attacks) than all the previous games combined. And it’s not for you, the player, no no. It’s for the enemies. Meaning that in previous games when you could clink weapons with an enemy, by both attacking at the same time, and both of you stagger back, is now skewed towards the enemy. Your attack will either make you stagger, or just phase through the enemy, while their attack continues and strikes you without hesitation. And when they’ve started their animation there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
And from my perspective they’ve given you nothing to counter-act this. Previously you could block or dodge out of there to avoid the damage and stagger from the hit, but this time they make your animation play through. So when you realize that your attack will fail you try to block, but nothing is happening, because your attack animation has to finish first, and by then it’s too late.
And this is hindered even more by the unbalanced difficulty.
I have no problem with me failing as long as I feel it’s my own fault for not playing well enough.
I enjoy a challenge, something that I have to grind a bit to get better at so that I can beat it. But Ascension lacks this balance. The game is either too easy or too difficult. And when you hit the difficult part it’s like running into a wall. There’s no sense of just not being good enough and needing to change your strategy or tweak something to get trough it. Instead it’s just a stop, there’s nothing wrong with your strategy, it’s feels more like luck with what attacks are thrown at you and in what order to give you a window of opportunity that you can take advantage of.
And this is the main problem, when I die I don’t feel like it’s my fault. Playing games where I’ve died a whole lot more (Dark Souls comes to mind) I haven’t felt this frustrated or angry, because I haven’t felt it’s the games fault, it’s been mine for not being strategic enough, or going in too boldly. I have no problem with me failing as long as I feel it’s my own fault for not playing well enough. But when the combination of mechanics and level design is set up in the manner it is in certain sections of Ascension I don’t feel it’s me lacking, it’s the game cheating. Even when I get passed it I don’t get a sense of accomplishment, just that I had the luck of the draw.
And the developers have even admitted to making the game too difficult at one of these section, by releasing a patch to make it just a little bit less hard.