God of War: Ascension Interview w/ Jason McDonald
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / Release Date: March 12, 2013
During a recent Sony press event, we got some quality hands-on time with the upcoming entry in the dash-and-slash God of War series, God of War: Ascension. Our own Adam “Dead Pixel” Kovic was on the scene with an interview with the game’s lead combat designer, Jason McDonald. Take it away, Kovic.
: The thing that always surprises me when we see it [GoW: Ascension] is you somehow made it better than God of War III. I always say God of War III was the best looking and playing game of this generation and it somehow looks better. How are you guys doing that? What kind of dark magic do you use to get this power out of the PS3?
You’d have to talk to our engineers and our artists. They just do amazing things. I did get some tech here, I don’t know exactly what it was, but just some magic fairy dust that makes everything look better.
: It’s been so long since I’ve played God of War III though, have there been any drastic changes, like get nitty and gritty with me. I like the button layout, love everything about it. It felt like the evade was a little slower, maybe not as fast?
As you said, we’ve made three games before and wanted to make sure this time we still kept the stuff that fans liked but make some improvements where we could. The first improvement we made was getting the “throw” off the circle [button] and putting it on R1. R1 was never usually used in the God of War series except for picking up stuff and doing random things, but now it’s actually an integral part of the combat system. Circle is now your world weapon button. So, you can use R1 to pick up a weapon and beat people up and so on.
: There’s always been a secondary weapon since God of War 1, I mean you never really used it that much…
Yeah. Every God of War has had different weapons that you acquire throughout the game, and this game is the same. These [new weapons] are a bit different. They’ll appear in the battlefield, they can be disarmed from enemies and you can pick them up and use them right away. Each weapon has their own strengths and weaknesses.
: Will it degrade or is it something you can use so long as you hold onto it?
For all the melee weapons like the sword and shield, you can just hold them the entire game if you want. Other things like the javelin or sling which actually have ranged projectiles, they will be limited so you can’t just use them too much.
: Story-wise I know you guys work within a set canon of God of War. Does that give you a certain liberty to work with certain weapon sets or maybe add something that you didn’t’ get to work with in previous games?
Well, the world weapon system definitely allowed some of that, because Kratos is a Spartan dude, you know, and he knows all about the greek weapons and all that stuff. He never really picked up a sword and just whacked people with it, like some “mystical sword of Olympus” or something like that. So now he can just go straight barebones melee weapons and integrate that with his blades for some different combat.
: Actually, going back and adding the throw button to R1, I found that, when I was playing, I was doing combos up to about 30 right off the bat. Is this you guys going for a more streamlined system or does it just feel more natural to map it that way?
Your combos might have been a little bigger in the beginning when you have little defense, so you just wail on guys. And your combo meter does get extended when you grab guys and slam them around and all – it helps out a little bit. But really what that did was, typically the throw button was kind of useless against some enemies, they’d have to have circles over their heads and stuff like that. Now with the tether system, it allows us to grab people around, pull them, and have a different mini-move set within the throw which we’ve never had before.
: I noticed that! I was able to turn and smack other guys and that kind of extended the combination. And thankfully it was just swarms of enemies that weren’t doing anything. Which made me feel good about myself.
Well, that’s good, because that means when you grab a dude, you just naturally hit other dudes and continue to combo and that’s exactly what we’re going for.
: It is, hands down, one of the best if not the best of the third person fighting combo systems. It feels so natural and literally is 1 to 1.
Yeah. One of our tenants is to make sure the player can do whatever it is he thinks he should be able to do, you know? Sometimes it’s reasonable where you do a move and it’s like “Ok, it looks like I shouldn’t be able to move like that” or something like that. If you want to move a block or something, we feel like we should try our best to make that happen.
: You don’t have to spoil anything, but I always go back to the fight with Cronos in God of War III being the biggest fight (I think) that’s in the game. Also, there’s fighting Poseidon – anywhere where you’re fighting a Titan and you have the camera pull back like that. Can we expect anything like that [here] or are you guys doing something completely different that we haven’t seen yet?
Well this opening [we played] hopefully had elements of that. This dude is a Titan just like those guys and he’s got a lot of arms and, you know, the one giant head. There’s going to be a lot to that fight. We expect that throughout the game there’ll be some other big encounters as well.
God of War: Ascension is slated for release on March 12, 2013. Rev up your PS3 consoles, ladies and gentlemen.