When the world found out that God of War: Ascension will feature multi-player, a first in the series, many gamers were rightfully left on the edge not knowing what to expect. I was among them. First we learn that Kratos will return once again to annihilate anyone who dares to stand in his way and now this. A bit surprising, I know. But hey, it’s Kratos we’re talking about here. He can do whatever the hell he pleases and if this is his will, well, so be it.
Right off the bat I have to admit that the multi-player beta left a much more positive impression on me than I initially expected. Although there wasn’t anything astounding or out of the norm, all of the gameplay elements nicely tied together and provided an enjoyable straightforward experience that felt familiar – and most importantly – smooth.
At the beginning you can choose who you’ll pledge your allegiance to (Zeus/Poseidon/Hades/Ares) and after you do, you’re provided with a main weapon that will accompany you in your first battles. Before you jump into the character screen, you’ll be also offered to test your might against several different enemies to learn the basic fighting mechanics if needed.
The character screen is layed out pretty well and the menu is easy to navigate through. Everything revolves around the huge omega symbol in the upper left corner and the options that surround it – Training, Champion, Quick Play and Game Mode. Selecting Champion will bring you to the Character Upgrade sub-menu, where you can choose and buy various weapons (swords, hammers, etc.), armour (helmets, upper and lower armour) and even abilities (relics, items, spells). Right in the middle of the screen you can see your current weapon of choice and next to it your warrior, who’s standing on a rotating platform allowing you to observe him from the best angle. The upper right displays current level progress and located below it are stats (health, magic, power and resistance).
The beta came with three different game modes: Favour of the Gods (4 players), Team Favour of the Gods (8 players) and Capture the Flag (8 players). Favour of the Gods is set in a closed arena, where you battle it out against others until the end – which can be due to its small size a bit frustrating at first. The action is concentrated in a small area, making it harder to plan moves ahead. At times it can even feel like playing Mortal Kombat blinded – you keep bashing all the buttons you can press until you end up either dead or victorious. It is fun, but it can also become easily repetetive. One element that I found cool, though, was that you can get thrown/kicked out of the arena. You have to be on alert, always. The second mode – Team Favour – I liked the most as it takes place on a much larger and more interesting map. Eight players make it more enjoyable and there is enough space for you to think shortly about your next move.
The basic gameplay mechanics in Ascension have essentially stayed the same, making anyone who played a previous instalment in the series feel at home. There isn’t much to it, apart from good timing and getting the combos together in the right order. And perhaps luck. The more you play and progress, the higher your stats will be and the more items you will eventually unlock. I’m glad that these upgrades aren’t purely visual, but show also in actual combat. It takes some time for you to rank yourself up and become highly superior in fights, but after dozens of rounds you’ll start getting there. It’s pretty addictive. On a side note, it is possible that even more content will be added later on through updates or DLC.
Despite running on a modified God of War III engine, Ascension still holds up really well and I am confident that some parts of the single-player campaign will, just like in the last game, manage to take your breath away. From what we’ve already seen, there certainly is a lot to look forward to and the experience is bound to be even more cinematic and engulfing than what we’re already used to.
The beta build was relatively stable (just one restart) and in terms of connectivity, I haven’t experienced any sort of lag or crashes. It seems the game’s multi-player code is already pretty polished and, except a few tweaks here and there, ready.
Both the game’s text and audio are localized into numerous languages – from english, greek, turkish, french, spanish and german, to italian, dutch, russian, polish and portuguese. This is something many international fans around the globe will surely welcome.
For comparison, here’s Patrick’s take on the MP Beta and his thoughts:
First off let me say that I’m a fan of the God of War series. I’ve played through the first three games in the series and apart from a few minor design problems (spinning blades…I still hate you) I thought they were fantastic. God of War 3 is easily my favorite of the bunch. Kratos’ jump into next-gen proved to be the high point of the series in my opinion. The beautiful graphics, the absolutely gigantic bosses and epic battles that followed were enough to sell me. With that said, it never seemed like the kind of game that needed a multiplayer option. Let’s be honest, most games these days don’t need a multiplayer option, but developers feel the need to shoehorn them in there to satisfy everyone. God of War Ascension is the latest installment in the series, a prequel that promises to include a multiplayer that will seem more than just thrown in for good measure. In the time that I’ve spent with the beta, I can safely say that it feels fresh and surprisingly satisfying.
The final game will give you the option of swearing allegiance to a specific god, including Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and of course the original God of War himself, Ares. The allegiance you choose will affect your skills as well as armor and weapons that you can equip. In the beta, you can only choose between Zeus, or Ares. I chose Ares and was given a special weapon as a gift from the god. After you make your decision and get through a quick tutorial, you can jump right into the game. I’ve spent most of my time with the 4v4 mode that pits two teams against each other to kill a Cyclops that’s towering over the level. The teams rush into battle to score kills and race to earn a special spear that you can use to kill the Cyclops and win the match. It’s very satisfying to play a multiplayer game that feels like it borrows from the best modes from first-person shooters and adds its own twist to it. The game plays fast, fluidly and shows off some incredible graphics. As you level up, you unlock items such as armor pieces and weapons, that actually affect the stats of your warrior and are not just for show. Of course, there are a lot of things that you can’t unlock in the beta, but it gives you a nice taste.
Honestly, I expected to hate the multiplayer because I felt a series like God of War didn’t need it and that it would just feel thrown in. After actually spending time with the beta, I can safely say that it’s not the case. If you need a break from your standard FPS fare, God of War Ascension looks to satisfy your itch for multiplayer that doesn’t include guns or grenades.
All in all, as you can see, including multiplayer for those who like to take the battle online was a good idea. The concept is well thought out and though it may be simple at its core, it provides a different experience and shows the series for the first time from a slightly different angle. Truth to be told, it was about time. I’m relieved to say that folks at Santa Monica have done a great job and the multiplayer aspect of the game doesn’t feel half-baked like it was added at last moment just for sales sake. It should last long enough, or at least until God of War IV arrives, and that’s probably all you need to hear. In the meantime, be on the lookout for a brand new demo that is scheduled to come out later this month and is supposed to be “very different” from the one we’ve seen back at E3. Kratos is ready. Are you?