God Of War: Ascension
When news of God of War: Ascension’s existence leaked, many wondered what they’d see when Sony officially spilled the beans on the prequel. I attended a recent preview event in Hollywood for the game, and there was no shortage of chatter and predictions amongst journalists before the presentation began. Would the game take place before Kratos’ family died? If so, would he still have his trademark Blades of Chaos? What antagonists can he take down after slaying so many gods? When the presentation came to an end, we still didn’t have answers to these questions. Instead, we were shown a glimpse of the game’s new multiplayer mode.
Game director Todd Papy took to the stage to begin the demonstration, and it was clear that the team planned on teasing the crowd with some misdirection. The familiar image of Kratos’ face graced the menu screen, and the camera pulled out to reveal his body without his trademark ash-covered skin. He carried a large sword in lieu of his traditional blades, and pulled a mask down over his face. Suddenly, a cyclops burst out of a nearby door and began swinging his club wildly at Kratos. A battle ensued that resembled those of past games, with Kratos slashing at the creature’s legs while evading the swings of his club. Another masked human appeared and began fighting the Cyclops, revealing what everyone in attendance assumed to be a co-op mode. The duo teamed up to bring down the beast, with Kratos gutting him from the front while the other slashed his neck from the back.
Once the cyclops was dead, the two humans ziplined down to another battlefield. Numerous combatants swiped at each other with swords and hammers while the massive one-eyed Polyphemus (Poseidon’s son, a cyclops who was featured in Homer’s Odyssey) struggled to free himself from chains in the background of the arena. It didn’t take long to realize that what we were watching was a full-on multiplayer battle, with two teams of four eviscerating each other in this mode known as Execution – essentially a spin-off of Domination modes in other multiplayer games.
Combat was as dramatic as we’ve seen in God of War’s past, with the camera zooming in on brutal kills that split enemies from shoulder to stomach. When the character we were watching had a chance, he ran to a set of blue-tinted gears and rotated them until they turned red. After repeating this process with another set of gears, the glowing Spear of Olympus plummeted from the skies onto the battlefield. The red Spartan soldier grabbed the spear and began throwing it at the blue Trojan warriors, then worked his way towards Polyphemus in the background. On his way there, he was forced to dodge fire and spike traps that were sprung by the opposing team.
Once the Spartan reached Polyphemus (who Papy refers to as “the Megalops”), he began slashing at his giant fingernails until the beast lurched forward in pain. A Spartan soldier then leapt onto the beast’s face and slashed down across his lips, splitting his mouth in two vertically. At this point, the rest of the Spartan soldiers threw chain blades into Polyphemus’ single eye and pulled him closer to the edge of the platform they were standing on. The final image of the demo was of a Spartan soldier leaping towards the cyclops with a spear, ready to plunge it through the beast’s massive eye.
Considering the tease at the beginning of the demo, many questions were presented to Papy. While the demo began with the image of Kratos, the future God of War will not be included in multiplayer. Papy explained that he didn’t want online play to consist of a team of green Kratos’ going up against a team of yellow Kratos’, and he also didn’t want to give a single player the benefit of having control of him. “Nobody wants to be Robin, and we would have had a bunch of Robins,” said Papy.
Players will have a chance to level up their character and align themselves with a god. Your choice of worshipping Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, or Hades will determine which unlocks, perks, and special abilities your character gains. As you progress through the ranks, you gain access to more abilities and items, including customized armor sets. Papy explains that there won’t be any female combatants in the game, as they “do not look pretty” with the traditional combat equipment that multiplayer characters will be adorned with.
Sony Santa Monica is planning on featuring approximately seven multiplayer maps, with five large, unique environments (such as the Polyphemus stage we saw) and two smaller arenas. Split-screen support and drop-in/drop-out play is not included, and the player will be able to slightly alter the mostly fixed camera. The team says they’re more concerned with quality than quantity, so they want to keep the number of modes limited so as not to segregate the player base.
This first look at Ascension was intriguing, but there was a sense of disappointment in the crowd after they realized that we wouldn’t be learning anything about the single-player portion of the game (although Papy did confirm that the game will include one). Bringing multiplayer modes into a third-person action game presents different challenges than FPS titles, which was made more than apparent in the awful online play of Ninja Gaiden 3. On the other hand, Sony has always ensured that this franchise meets a high bar of quality, and we have to imagine it expects the same from multiplayer. Gauging the depth and fun factor of Execution after one brief demo is difficult, but it left us eager to learn more about God of War’s multiplayer debut.