God of War: Ascension Preview

With Season 2 of Chapter Select tackling the God of War series, I have spent some time digging around my files and tweets regarding the Kratos and his slaughter of Olympus. Turns out, I was embarrassingly excited for God of War: Ascension in 2013. I tried finding this preview I wrote back for my blog on MyIGN, but the whole backend is gone and I can’t find it on the Wayback Machine (here is the link, if you’d like a crack at it). Thankfully, I wrote it in Pages (sorry Jason Snell) and still have the file, albeit without whatever images I scrapped together.

With episode 2 of this season leaning into the last PS3 God of War game, I thought it’d be fun to share this. It really captures my excitement at the time, as well as the energy of the multiplayer mode during its beta. While the servers are still active today, it’s harder to gauge that 2013 experience nearly a decade later. So here is my entire God of War: Ascension “preview” that I published a few weeks before the game’s release in all its original glory.

God of War: Ascension Everything We Know

By: Max Roberts

With the PlayStation 4 just being announced it can be easy to forget about current generation and the upcoming games, even huge blockbusters. The PS3 has three big exclusive titles still coming out and we are fast approaching the first of the trio, God of War: Ascension.

SINGLE PLAYER

Sony Santa Monica’s latest entry is the third prequel the God of War series has seen, but it is the first console prequel, with the other two being on the PSP. It has been six short months after Ares fooled Kratos into slaughtering his own wife and daughter. Tormented and lost, Kratos has only one purpose; to kill Ares. But before he can slay the God of War, the furies capture Kratos and imprison him. This is where the game starts. Kratos wakes up, chained by the arms and around the neck. It doesn’t take Kratos long to escape and injury one of the three Furies. From there Kratos wrecks havoc on the Furies’ prison, “freeing” the enslaved and killing the bug monsters that spawn from the one of the Furies.

Recently released to Santa Monica’s online campaign, Rise of the Warrior, participants (more on that below) the game’s single player demo takes you into Ascension’s first 30 minutes of gameplay, shown across the web just a few weeks ago. The demo goes live for all PlayStation owners next week, February 26. Having finally played the demo, let me say this – it is one thing to watch the first 30 minutes online, it is another thing entirely to play them. In just 30 minutes alone I felt immersed in this game with that familiar God of War feeling of destruction and total violence, but with a deeper combat experience and a huge gorgeous world. The God of War series is known for its mashing of square and triangle and minigames to perform grotesque brutal kills. And all of that is back, but with a new depth found in the way players can now use foes and their weapons as part of Kratos’ attacks. Santa Monica has given Kratos combos, real genuine combos. Chaining kills has never been so thrilling before. I could easily combine square and triangle attacks, then tap R1 to grapple a foe, swing him around as a weapon before smashing him into the nearest wall. After blocking an incoming attack, I could hit circle to disarm my foe then another tap of R1 to pick up HIS weapon. This unlocks a whole new way to string attacks between a foe’s weapon and the Blades of Chaos. Hitting the circle button replaces physical attacks with the secondary weapon moves. Then as a powerful finisher I could hit L1 and circle to get rid of that secondary weapon while killing enemies. This new combat style for Kratos gives the game a much deeper combat experience that makes the player feel like an even bigger badass at the end of a battle.

The game, as expected, is drop dead gorgeous. Santa Monica is pushing the PS3 to its very limit, taking every ounce of power it can. Skin on characters looks palpable and when Kratos rips enemies in half above him the blood rains down and sticks to his skin. By the end of a battle Kratos is red, soaked in his enemy’s blood. Besides character detail, the environments are huge, sharp, and just as detailed as character models. The Furies’ prison is massive with detail stretching far into the background of the scene. One part when Kratos is scaling a wall on the outer wall of the prison, I could see how far up from the Earth’s surface I was. But instead of just a green field below, there were sections of farm land, hills, forests with birds flying between myself and the ground. It was breathtaking to see the amount of detail Santa Monica has poured into this game. This very well could be the best looking game on the PS3.


MULTIPLAYER

The biggest shock with Ascension was the announcement of a multiplayer mode. Todd Papy, the game’s director, knew this would be the hardest selling point to fans of the series so Santa Monica has spent a majority of the game’s publicity showing off the new multiplayer mode. This was a huge mountain for the team to overcome with the fans, and after my time with the Beta (courtesy of Todd Papy and Twitter) I can say they overcame the mountain and went above and beyond my expectations. The premise of multiplayer in God of War is mortals pledging allegiance to one of four gods; Zeus, Ares, Hades, and Poseidon (note: In the Beta only Ares and Zeus were available to players). Once your oath is sworn you gain skills, power, and magic specific to each god. I aligned with Ares gaining stronger physical attacks at the cost of magic points. Ares warriors wield fire based magic and Zeus, obviously, wields electricity. One important note is that you can switch between allegiances any time before a match, so you, technically, have four characters. The final choice players have for their characters is weapon type. In the Beta there was either a sword or a hammer, but when the full game launches on March 12 there will be at least one more weapon. I personally chose the hammer, again for power over speed.

The modes are straight forward, with three confirmed and one still a mystery. There is Favor of the Gods, Team Favor of the Gods, and Capture the Flag. During the Beta all three modes were open at one point or another and I had the opportunity to play them all. The two Favor of the God modes are death match rounds. Simply kill the other players as brutally as possible and rank up the most points. The controls are the same as the single player, adding combos and chain kills, throughly rewarding players. Team Favor of the Gods involves capturing any of the three bases on the stage to rack up points, while kills also go toward your ultimate goal. Another very cool factor in Team Favor was the ability to kill the giant Cyclops as team for the win, no matter the points. At any point in the match the Spear of Olympus comes down on the field. After that it’s a mad slaughter race to grab the spear. Who ever gets it can damage the Cyclops and use teammates to kill it for the win. Incorporating the cinematic style kills God of War is known for, both in Brutal Kills and the Cyclops fight, make players feel like true champions of the gods. Capture the Flag is just as you would expect. Instead of bases like in Team Favor there are flags and after a score of 5 the team wins.

As far as stages go there were only two in the Beta, The Desert of Lost Souls and the Forum of Hercules. The Desert of Lost Souls is a large map used for team focused matches. It has two levels to it with plenty of stage hazards players can set to trap opponents, or teammates. The Forum of Hercules is straight from God of War 3. It is a tight arena were combat is forced. Combos can be easily interrupted if you aren’t careful. There are many more stages promised for the whole game, mainly from key God of War locations.

The multiplayer mode is exciting for both God of War veterans and new players alike. It definitely raises Ascension’s replay value with a highly satisfying and rewarding experience. Old fans should not be scared of this new mode and try it, because I promise you when you start playing you won’t want to stop.

RISE OF THE WARRIOR

As part of Sony’s promotional campaign for God of War: Ascension, they have a digital comic prequel on the official site (http://www.godofwar.com/). While this initial concept may only interest some, what should interest all future Ascension players is that Rise of the Warrior is littered with exclusive multiplayer DLC and concept art you won’t find anywhere else. To unlock all the goodies all participants have to do increase their points, leveling up. To earn the points you simply have to answer riddles at the end of each chapter and then share to a social network for additional points. If a riddle stumps you there is a convenient “seek help” button that’ll link you to a site to help. The riddles themselves aren’t too difficult and if you want all the answers fast a quick Google search should pull them up. It’s a unique promotional campaign that gives out FREE content. I’d encourage anyone planning to buy the game to try it out, it can only reward you. Sign up using your PSN account or any social network here (Rise of the Warrior) and unlock that DLC.

MISCELLANEOUS

As a huge God of War fan, I have taken in every detail about Ascension that I can and in this little section I wanted to share them with you. First up are the games multiple editions and pre-order bonuses. There are just two editions, Standard and Collector’s. The standard costs $59.99 and is just the game itself with whatever pre-order bonuses you may have. The Collector’s Edition is one sweet deal. It costs $79.99 and comes with plenty more. It comes packaged with the game itself, a 6 inch Kratos statue, a premium steelbook case for the game, the official soundtrack, a 48 hour multiplayer XP booster, a DLC season pass, a PS3 dynamic theme, and PS3 avatar pack. For only $20 more it’s quite the deal for God of War fans. For pre-order bonuses all retailers include the Mythological Heroes multiplayer DLC pack. It includes four ancient greek heroes for multiplayer; Perseus, Orion, Achilles, and Odysseus. For exclusive pre-orders only three retailers have special bonuses so far; GameStop, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. GameStop has special King Leonidas “300” Amor and Spear multiplayer DLC, a 48 hour multiplayer XP boost, and a double sided Ascension poster. Wal-Mart has the Blade of Judgement, a multiplayer exclusive weapon. Then Best Buy has the Mjolnir Hammer (Thor’s hammer) as a multiplayer DLC weapon. GameStop clearly has the most benefits for preordering, but that Blade of Judgement DOES look sick.

Another interesting tidbit about God of War: Ascension pertains to the Player’s Guide, or the game’s lack of one. Curious if the game would launch with a Collector’s Edition Strategy Guide (to be a companion to my copy of the Collector’s Edition) I tweeted at Sony santa Monica hoping for a reply. The respond shortly after with this information “We have no strategy guide plans but we will on our MOBILE website”. It struck me as interesting for the company to have a mobile player’s guide, rather than a printed copy. It’ll be interesting to see how the guide itself is done and how it will compare to other guides or wikis across the internet.

The final piece of interesting news for God of War: Ascension isn’t even about the game itself. Instead it is about what come packaged with the game. For anyone that purchases a copy of Ascension they automatically get first access to a demo of The Last of Us, Naughty Dogs latest title and one of the three final PS3 blockbuster exclusives. This is very very exciting for fans of either franchise. Whether the demo will be available right at Ascension’s launch or not I do not know. Either way it’ll be great to finally play The Last of Us, after so much hype and great press about the game.

God of War: Ascension is a highly ambitious title for both PS3 and Sony Santa Monica. With the PlayStation 4 finally upon us, it’s important for people to see why PS3 is still relevant and also why a God of War game is still relevant. Being the sixth entry in the series, Ascension has a lot to prove to players and so far it’s going above and beyond expectations. With launch only 19 days away and the PS3 on it’s final leg we shall see how Santa Monica’s latest game goes for the Ghost of Sparta.