God of War: Ascension follows the footsteps of the franchise in practically every way. From the quick time events riddling the otherwise chaotic combat, to the puzzles scattered throughout the world, Ascension delivers a truly God of War experience. Though the cinematics may have been improved from earlier iterations in the series, the sense of carnage and mayhem in Kratos' actions, both during gameplay, as well as in cut scenes, has remained largely intact.
In his continued struggle to free himself from the bond forged with Ares, Kratos now seeks to vanquish the Furies, the creatures responsible for enforcing oaths made to the gods. The story of Ascension is not exactly linear, as you wake up imprisoned by the Furies and eager to vanquish them and be done with it, only to have a flashback bring you three weeks back in time, where you'll have to cleave your way through the backstory. Along the way, you'll find yourself visiting the temple of Delphi to see the Oracle, climbing through a gargantuan statue of Apollo in a bid to restore it to its former glory, and eventually making your way to the Furies' prison, which is the core of the narrative.
You start off armed with little more than your trusty chained blades, which you'll eventually be able to imbue with fire, ice, lightning, and soul. Each of these elements has its own special moves associated with specific button combinations. Throughout the game you'll collect Red Orbs, which can be used to upgrade your items, by defeating enemies, smashing objects, and battering chests. This leveling system allows you to unlock the full move list for each weapon element, as well as powering up your blades and other objects you use throughout the game. While you are progressing, you'll have to make a decision as to whether you want to go all in on improving your basic attacks, or level up your various items. While you can eventually upgrade everything, in the short term, you'll need to balance the value of upgrading a number of smaller items, or spending all of your points upgrading the high-cost chained blades. Leveling up your gear will give you a well-deserved sense of accomplishment as you move through the story, though if you want steady progress, you'll need to upgrade lesser items before going all in on your expensive main weapon upgrades.
The combat system more than makes up for the other minor failings of Ascension, since spamming attacks simply doesn't cut it, forcing you to learn special moves, combos, and the subtleties of dodging. It's no simple feat to implement an interesting combat system into the hack-and-slash genre, but Ascension did a stellar job of keeping the combat fraught with action, while requiring use of more than just the attack buttons. If you try to dive headlong into every fight swinging, you'll find yourself loading checkpoints very frequently. Sure, button-mashing will suffice some of the time, but for a good portion of the encounters in Ascension, you'll need to be able to execute a well-timed dodge before you can even really get into the fray. Your enemies can interrupt your attacks, and they're often coming at you from all sides, so it is imperative to avoid the interruptions if you hope to keep hammering away at the enemy. You'll learn a special move that lets you follow up your dodge with a powerful attack, making dodges all the more essential to a successful battle.