PAX Prime 2012: God of War: Ascension Preview

Earlier this year, Sony and Santa Monica Studios treated us to the reveal of the latest God of War title, God of War: Ascension. And while we’ve seen our favorite angsty and ghostly killer about four or five times now, Santa Monica boasted the inclusion of multiplayer, and a refinement to the single player experience was also promised -- mighty big words from the studio, but the results surprisingly surpassed any predetermined expectations.

So obviously single player is a bit of mystery as to how much emphasis is being placed on the quote-unquote “refinement” for the game, and the difference is pennies on the dollar. The first new mechanic to make mention of is the sub weapon dynamic. Encountering different enemies throughout the game in will at times prompt weapon drops; these weapons can be picked up, and instead of replacing your main weapon (as was the case for anything new you received in previous entries) it becomes mapped to your to your O button, and you’re able to exchange blows between your quick and heavy swipes from the Chains of Chaos, and litter the sub-weapon stikes in between them to create a frenteic combo extending even further depending on your equipped weapon set.

The complexity of the mechanic may seem droll in comparison to other action titles currently available that already provide a similar feature, but it’s the excecution in Ascension that’s novel as the element of swapping blows with another attack from a variety of weapons that manages to polish the combat to a whole other level. The quick time mechanics involved with battle have also changed up. You’ll have to actively evade while you’re finishing off certain foes and exchanging movements between rapid button tapping adds a layer of excitement that feels refreshing for your play through of Kratos’s return. Combat is further bolstered by the new grapple abillity used in battle to where you’re able to attach your blades on to anyone of your hapless foes, and fling him about in successive attacks against the remaining mob in order to play a numbers games with your odds against the size of enemy mobs. These features and the existing subtleties making up the fighting of God of War are polished to a finer point, and swinging about aginst any Greek monstrosity that was unfortunate to come upon you feels more intuetive and much more satisfying.

The next mechanic that was touted was Santa Monica’s take on the time manipulation craze we’ve seen done through this generation, which they’ve presented as Life Cycling. Beyond some stage set pieces that demand contextual interaction and how you use it in certain puzzle settings, the mechanic was much too bare bones to be much of any merit in the experience other than act as break up for the constant action. But Santa Monica claimed that the feature would be updated with more depth for the involvment within the envioornment, as well as the use within battle which we were unable to see.

The multiplayer aspect, the franchise famous for its single player experience and story driven narrative that never needed to dabble in the realm of competetive play has managed to do so, and do so well. The combat is nerfed for the sake of balancing, but the simple layout of quick or heavy strikes with a small arsenal of special moves doesn’t limit the experience. Joining in on the frenzy of capturing camp points for extra score and collecting items within in arena becomes satisfying on the simplest level.

Multiplayer also features condition-sensitive events that can trigger from a number of circumstances that will provide possible bonues to your team’s point score. The effort in representing the most out of the series's trademark aesthetic and lore is faithfully portrayed. Overall, the multiplayer is solid and like Assassin’s Creed has plenty of potential, given how active the community will be once released.

God of War: Ascension is poised for release on March 13, 2012.

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