I've been a God of War player since the very first game. It's a great series, not really for a deep character or intense introspection, but for the way the games have felt to play and my joy at seeing things I learned about in Greek/Roman* mythology coming up in a bloody violent beat 'em up. They've been an absolute blast, even the ported PSP games were a complete riot to go through. I just recently got the latest attempt, God of War: Ascension and I have to say... majorly disappointed.
Let's start with the least of it's problems: The story. From the very beginning of the game, I had no fucking clue what the Hades was going on. I'm as big a fan of stories told out of sequence as the next Tarantino fan, but seriously, what is going on here? It seems Kratos has been captured by... someone... who he kills with no explanation of who she was... two weeks after whatever got him captured... that I haven't been let in on yet. After some light detective work, you find out, if you recall your GoW history, that this game has to take place before the first God of War, because you're still in service to Ares, apparently. It never comes out and SAYS that, but just implies it lightly. Oh look, Kratos' reverse Batman origin story is apparently STILL pissing him off. Neat.
Aside from the incomprehensible story, they're really plumbing the depths of Greek mythology on this one. The Hecatonchires? Also, is that the prison he's been captured in or the thing I killed (after many, many failed attempts, see last paragraph, below) with the bug legs coming out of it's mouth and hands? I'm glad the Oracle at Delphi is apparently going to make an appearance later, but we already had the Oracle of Athens in the first game. How many Oracles does one civilization really need? Also, flying snakes? Who built these? And why such an insanely complicated activation system for... whatever I activated when I managed to turn on all 3 giant flying snakes?!
Aside from all the story, narrative and mythological problems in here, the major problem is the actual gameplay. When it came out, God of War on the PS2 was a revelation to the genre. It became the new gold standard for action beat 'em ups. The controls were so tight and made you feel so powerful, you understood why the gods would fear a mere mortal like Kratos. Now, I've played all of them and beaten them on at least hard, if not higher difficulties. Hard always felt about right to me as being just challenging enough without being monstrously cheap. Like Super Meat Boy or Trials, you knew right away that the reason the "YOU ARE DEAD" screen came up was your fault for not controlling the crowd or letting that Satyr get it's wind up in, etc. It wasn't easy, but at least it was fair.
Ascension kind of throws all that out the window. It's cheap. It's frustrating. It's mean. It's not well designed. The camera occasionally pulls so far out that I can't tell which lighted dot is Kratos and which ones are the enemies with glowy swords (Which led to my repeated death at the mouth of the thing with bug feet coming out of it's lips). The encounters take far too long to figure out and basic foot soldiers have far too much power. Kratos can't break out of certain animations by blocking or rolling anymore. When you do block, it seems to accomplish very little in the "stop enemies from damaging you" field. The parry system is absolutely fucked to the point of being useless. The battle where you get the ice power up had me stalled for at least 30 minutes, dying and retrying and dying again. I've made it to the top of the tower where you fight a dragon-dog-thing before entering the Oracle at Delphi and... I think I might be done. I have almost no interest in continuing a game like this. Is it me? Or did something utterly terrible happen to Sony Santa Monica?
*They're interchangeable, after all... and Hercules is a Roman name. He was Heracles (Hera's glory) in Greek mythology.