God of War: Ascension Multiplayer Hands On

Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / Platforms: PlayStation 3 / Release Date: March 12, 2013 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated

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When you think God of War, multiplayer is not something that comes to mind. From the beginning, the God of War saga has been a solo experience, hence the hesitation in what God of War: Ascension has in store for multiplayer. Last week I was invited to Sony Santa Monica Studios to get a taste of what this new mode has to offer.

Jumping into multiplayer has you picking an allegiance between Ares, Zeus, Hades, or Poseidon. At the time they only had two gods available, Ares and Zeus. Should you pick Ares, your character focuses on strength, with a sword as his weapon of choice, but you’ll have a weakness to magical attacks. Choose Zeus and you get the hammer; your character has more spell options for long ranged combat to make up for his lack of physical resistance.

After pledging your loyalty, you are then introduced to the vast amount of customization options available for your warrior. To boost your defense you customize each piece of armor to increase aspects like magic resistance. Your gear options are dictated by your allegiance, so a helm with physical damage resistance is something an Ares warrior would have and a Zeus follower would lack. On top of weapons and armor, you can choose passive abilities that reward you with an attack damage bonus from kill streaks, for example, as well as items that restore health.

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Inspired by its single player mechanics, in God of War: Ascension you must unlock armor and weapons, but instead of red orbs you use skill points. Each weapon, armor and ability has different levels that you can upgrade using skill points, and these skill points are earned by competing in matches. Whatever you unlock in one allegiance does not carry over into another, giving much depth to each god.

There were two modes available for us to play: Team Favor of the Gods and Free-For-All. In Team Favor of the Gods, I played on the Polyphemus map showcased at E3. To win you have to earn the most points, and that can be accomplished in a number of ways that accommodate different gameplay styles. You can capture altars, set traps, open red chests, (brutally) kill enemies, or defeat a giant boss that’s present throughout the match. In for Free-For-All, this is an ‘every man for himself’ arena battle. Here the goal is to acquire the most kills, which becomes complicated when bosses like Hercules keeps slamming his lion gauntlets on the ground.

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After winning a couple of matches, thus claiming myself ruler of the heavens, I had a moment to speak to Todd Papy, game director of God of War: Ascension. When asked if there will be story elements for multiplayer to explain its existence in the God of War universe, Papy confirmed that there will be a moment in single player where Kratos interacts with your multiplayer Avatar. You will also be able to play that same scene through the eyes of your Avatar, but how that’s going to play out is something we’ll have to experience ourselves.

When asked how the notion for multiplayer in God of War came about, Papy explained how some ideas come together for the franchise, “(There are times when the) team’s fiddling their thumbs and trying out new things. That’s where Pegasus came from for God of War 2, and where the Titans came from for God of War 3. With multiplayer it was at the end of God of War 3, the moment where we have Kratos fighting Kratos, that one of our combat designers actually got it working as multiplayer.” Papy went on to express that the team likes, “to push ourselves as well as push the industry forward in different ways,” which is why they’re doing their best to get multiplayer to “feel right.”

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The multiplayer offers an assortment of customization options that are sure to keep players grinding for hours, and that was just from seeing two allegiances. The God of War: Ascension multiplayer beta will be available for PlayStation Plus subscribers soon, and the game itself is slated for a March 2013 release.

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