God of War: Ascension Preview
Life is full of tough decisions. As my hero (or villain) stands in the center of the chamber of the gods aloft mount Olympus, yet more are presented to me. Which god do I follow? Poseidon? Zeus? Hades? Aires? All will bring power and none will be defeated easily. What is the best way to pummel my competition? Do I play defensive or aggressive? Welcome to God of War Ascension multiplayer, trust me when I say regardless of your choices, this is going to be fun.
Like many other franchises, God of War has made its name firmly in the single player realm, and this venture into multiplayer comes as an interesting turn of events for the staple Sony IP. It seems more and more established franchises are opting for the inclusion of a multiplayer element and often with mixed results. Many are simply a ploy to stop the player trading in or include the infamous online pass to hinder the pre-owned market. Some however are attempts to take the game play to a new level and God of War Ascension sits firmly in the latter category. Strangely, this new game mode is better than many would expect, and given the franchise’s history it is better than it has any right to be.
So first things first, the visuals are stunning (as they are in all God of War titles) but this mode is not all about aesthetics. At level 1 you are given a relatively standard looking Spartan and basic grade equipment. This will differ slightly depending which of the Greek Gods you decide to swear your allegiance to. Although much of the content was limited during this beta version, it was clear that as you progress through the levels this opening decision will become increasingly more important and shape many of your abilities. This decision will also determine your character’s ‘look’ in later levels via the Armour and Cosmetic upgrades.
Each match takes place on a surprisingly small map (depending on game mode) with a somewhat fixed camera view. This strangely doesn’t hinder the action but simply serves to make the game still feel like a God of War title, something fans will surely enjoy.
The game’s visuals are one thing, but God of War has also always been about great gameplay and Ascension’s multiplayer is no exception. The really impressive thing here is the re-balancing. Sony and Santa Monica Studios have managed to keep the God of War feel but added many new features that are a necessity for multiplayer.
The first of these is a refined block/parry system. This allows players to gain the upper hand when in a jam with some well-timed blocking or parrying. A successful parry will allow a few seconds of much needed reprieve from the opponents attacks to flee or begin a counter attack. The great thing about this however is the fact there are often 4 of you fighting at once, meaning you must pick your battles.
The second are the Abilities system, which allows you to unleash a variety of powerful combos and cause serious damage. The thing is, these abilities have to recharge after use meaning, again, timing is key. This coupled with item drops and healing abilities make for some interesting brawls.
These are just a few of the many new additions to the combat system designed to enhance the online experience, and with plenty of content still under wraps until the games March release, there is sure to be plenty still to discover.
In terms of game types and maps, there are two 4-player game modes and one 8-player game mode across two maps available on the beta. Team Favour of the Gods (team deathmatch) and Capture the Flag are the available 4-player modes and Favour of the Gods (standard deathmatch) is the 8-player mode. The two maps shown off here are the Forum of Hercules and the smaller Desert of Lost Souls, both impressive enough but more a backdrop for the action in the foreground.
Although many more modes and maps are sure to ship with the full release, the real star here is the Favour of the Gods mode. This standard deathmatch cuts out the middleman and really shows off what this new multiplayer has to offer. It is this mode that you will undoubtedly find to be the greatest populated post launch.
But here we arrive at what is sure to be God of War’s greatest obstacle when it comes to the online market. The problem here is many won’t expect this mode to have the potential that it is showing, or simply won’t be interested in trying it due to the franchise’s previous focus on single-player only gameplay. In an online space dominated by titles like Call of Duty, is there room for this new venture?
It would be a mistake to ignore the great potential shown by this beta, especially with it being free for all PSN gamers to try in the coming weeks. Although I worry for how populated it will end up being, I am certainly no longer worried that it won’t be fun.