God of War has been associated with many things. It has been related to violence, action, epic boss battles, and so on; nonetheless, no one ever expected it to be associated multiplayer. When the multiplayer aspect of the game was not only announced but debuted the actual gameplay of the franchise, the skeptic in every fan arose. The folks down at Santa Monica Studio or SCE, on the other hand, were stern with their choice. As an act of good favor they sent out a few codes for a closed beta. I was fortunate enough to get a small taste of Ascension’s multiplayer and am happily surprised.
Before I get to the specifics of the modes, maps, and customizations, let me begin with the general gameplay. Primarily, the game feels great. It handles like Power Stone, plays like a 2d fighter, and contains the simplicity and hectic attitude of Smash Brothers. The controls themselves have been largely untouched. You will have your typical quick attacks, strong attacks, dodging, running, parry, etc. that you have in any God of War game. There are a few things added, such as a combo breaker and super powered weapons that you can pick up, but not much else. In fact, each and every player plays the exact same way. The differences lie with weapons. The type of weapon, be it a hammer or sword, changes your general quick and strong attack. Each individual weapon, for instance the Sword of Ares or the Sword of Athena, contains two special attacks. These special attacks are very powerful but have short cool down periods to prevent spamming.
Next up are game modes. The two game modes that were available were “Favor of the Gods” (free for all) and “Team Favor of the Gods” (a form of king of the hill). Both modes contain a score goal and the first to reach that goal wins. Points can be gained through kills, assists, opening chests, or, in the case of king of the hill, activating the icons for your team. Free for all is your basic 4 player slaughter fest but the king of the hill mode contains a breath of fresh air. King of the hill involves teams of 4 vying for control of icons. Each icon is surrounded by some form of environmental hazard that can be activated by a player. These traps can be used as protection, a means of murder, or to stall an opponent. There is also a monstrous Titan that looms in the background and interacts with the stage. During the scuffle, however, the gods would send a special weapon. This weapon can be used to slay the Titan. The first team to kill the Titan wins the round regardless of points accumulated. This one facet has frequently changed the flow of battle during my experiences. It adds an extra dynamic that just feels unexpectedly novel. It is always a delicate judgment call to either battle for the weapon or focus on the score board.
Customization is rather deep in Ascension. You must first choose allegiance to a god, which cannot be altered later on. Allegiances give you specific power ups and a type of magic, such as fire or lightning. You are then allowed to choose weapons, armor, magic attacks, items, and relics. I already touched on weapons previously but it each weapon also gives specific stat boosts. Armor gives stat boosts as well and can be interchanged between head, torso, and legs independently. Moreover, weapons and armor level up as you use them. Magic attacks range in a wide variety from a burst of fire, a stream of lightning, or a temporary but significant buff. Items activate with the use of the combo breaker and can range from healing some of your injuries to a transient invulnerability. Lastly, relics are used to give momentary buffs for death/kill streaks or random abilities, such as a chance to heal when parrying.
Overall, the multiplayer of God of War is looking pretty good. The graphics are gorgeous, slow down has never occurred, movements are organic, the music is haunting, and the glitches are slim to none. Sure the special weapons littered throughout the stage sometimes feel overpowered and a few of the magic attacks feel cheap but, in my opinion, the game is extremely well polished. I personally can’t wait to what else SCE has in store in terms of customization, levels, modes, and everything else. All I can say is if they have done this much already and still have 3 more months for tweaking, we have a lot to look forward to.