by Lewis Gaston
Upon being asked if I would like a God of War: Ascension multiplayer beta code I replied with a firm “yes”. In fact that’s I lie, I think I simply replied “I love you”. Anyone who knows me, has heard me on the podcast, seen my twitter avatar or even just noticed my username here at TSA, will know that I am a huge fan of the entire God of War franchise. So, hopefully I’m somebody who can inform you about the latest part of the epic saga with some degree of authority.
Obviously, the beta of the Ascension multiplayer is just a portion of what we can expect from the full game early next year, so let’s all keep that in mind as we go.
There's plenty of mythology there.
Well, firstly, from what I’ve played so far, I am of the opinion that it’s the latter.
You start by pledging allegiance to your God of choice. The choices are: Zeus, Ares, Poseidon and Hades. Only the first two are open in the beta but each God offers something different for your champion to use in battle. Zeus is magic orientated whereas Ares is all about strength and might (although magic is still available to you). I chose Ares. After a brief tutorial on the controls, which will be second nature to those who are fans of the series, you descend from Olympus ready to fight.
There are two game modes available in the beta: ‘Favour of the Gods’ and ‘Team Favour of the Gods’. The first is a simple 4 player, all-out fight to the death in an arena; the location of choice for the beta is from God of War 3, where Kratos encountered Hercules (including the wall sections covered in spikes). There’s a 10 minute time limit and an 8000 score limit (in the game this is referred to as a ‘favour’ limit)*. ‘Favour’ of the Gods is won by killing people, opening chests, picking up special weapons, earning kill streaks, kill assists, completing environmental challenges (such as pulling levers when they appear to release special offences) and more. The higher difficulty actions are rewarded with higher favour, so killing somebody with a brutal finish will please the gods more than just a standard kill. Because we all now know that the Greek Gods are a sadistic bunch. All of these actions also add to your overall XP score, which will be broken down for you at the end of a match.
I haven’t yet been able to get a game in the ‘Team Favour of the Gods’ – such are the perils of limited release betas – but I’m assuming it’s either the same thing just in teams of 4, or it’s the same as the demo that was shown at EGX and that can be seen in the videos released earlier this year.
The XP you earn from these matches goes towards levelling up your champion, which results in more abilities, armour and perks becoming unlocked.
At first glance, this side of the multiplayer element appears very confusing and complicated, although the developers have been working very hard on making things clearer. There have been a couple of updates since I’ve been playing and the UI has become a lot easier to get your head round.
With that said, modifying your champion to suit your style of play takes some getting used to. The reason for this is that you have to choose a helmet, upper body armour, lower body armour, magic skill (relevant to the God you aligned with), special relic, and item. Within each of these are even more choices. Different combinations of armour, for example, will affect your strength, health, resistance to both magic and physical attacks, magic strength and more. However, as you get more familiar with the game the chances are you’ll quickly find a set-up that you like and can win matches with.
‘Item’ and ‘Relic’ consists of perks that will aid you in combat and defence. These range from added strength or resistance for a stated amount of time following kills, streaks or parries. Other perks include bubble-like shields that protect you from attack and cause damage to enemies or a sudden burst that will disorientate enemies as well as speeding up your actions.
On top of all of this you also have to chose your weapon: swords or hammers. Again, different weapons have different attributes so choose wisely.
So how does all of this impact on gameplay?
In true God of War style, the action is fast paced, frantic and brutal. Depending on how many players you have in your match (2, 3 or 4) the fight varies massively. The duels tend to be more tactical and skilful, especially as there is no visible level grouping. When it’s a 3 or 4 player bout it becomes a bit more about luck and positioning. If you’re not first in line for the magic or health fountains then the chances are you’ll soon be picked out as the weakest link. These fights, whilst still remaining great fun, also become a bit frustrating due to other people clocking the killing blow following your hard fought effort. You may get the assist but that is not the same as delivering that satisfying killing blow yourself.
But combat overall remains faithful to the entire God of War series in delivery, control scheme and impact. In fact it’s refreshingly easy to just get stuck in.
Kratos won't be the only brawler in Ascension
The true test of God of War: Ascension’s multiplayer mode will come with how it differentiates itself and keeps gamers coming back. As it stands, for me personally, I can see myself losing the enthusiasm for it after a certain period of time. This is not because it’s boring or initially limited but purely because of how I tend to play games. So, I’m hoping for varied and ever evolving game modes and updates. If, however, you tend to enjoy multiplayer gaming then this will certainly offer you a great time because it isn’t a tacked-on experience in an attempt to tap into a wider market, but rather a carefully considered and very well executed addition that, if the constant beta updates are anything to go by, is being cared for by a great studio.
*At first, reaching this limit would end the game but, in subsequent updates, it appears to have become a target to achieve but no longer an automatic match winner. Whether or not this will remain has yet to be seen but I personally preferred it when reaching 8000 favour ended the bout.