By Chris Matulich, October 15, 2012
The New York Comic Con 2012 Convention held close to 150,000 people of the nerd persuasion as they walked through the halls and show floor. Yet, while a very large variety attended for the comics, I flocked to Sony to demo a dream I've had ever since playing the first Devil May Cry: a multiplayer 3rd person action adventure. Skepticism may run high, but even with the small sample matches on offer here, God of War: Ascension multiplayer is definitely shaping up to be something special.
The demo showcased multiplayer matches that are essentially multiflag Capture the Flag scenarios, where the Spartans and Trojans (the two factions) compete for the favor of the Gods. Capturing key points is quick work, making for many lead changes and frantic sprints to recapture or protect one of the flags. Points - earned from kills, capturing flags, executions and other performed feats - are the real object of the game, the winner obviously being the one who has the most. But even if a team is thoroughly whooping the other, the losing faction still has a way to close the gap with ease. Close to the end of the match, a spear of lightning is shot down from the heavens. The first team to claim the spear and slay the magical beast in the background receives a giant point boost and usually a guaranteed victory, and every team is graced with a quality cinematic that only God of War can pull off, ending with the Titans' jaw split in half a la The Thing with Kurt Russell, and a spear to the ocular cavity. Priceless.
Many of the staples of the God of War series are included; chests can be opened, sub weapons can be found, magic is ready at the fingertips, and brutal executions await to be performed. Combat plays out just like any other God of War game, where light and heavy attacks are the main focus, but Ascension's multiplayer sees the addition of a very addictive grappling hook. Using the hook adds a whole new level of violent fun to the already brutal action, allowing either the Spartan or Trojan warrior to pull their opponent towards them, whether in the air or on the ground, for a rather damaging combo. Its use also takes some skill, as the opposition can easily defend against it by simply blocking or being in mid combo. Grappling is a great way to keep combos alive after staggering a player with a quick or heavy combo, making a bit of juggling possible in the process.
The Spartans and Trojans, based on their chosen deity, also have the use of magic throughout the match. The demo saw just two Gods to choose from, but the magic ranged from enhancing the warrior and calling down a rain of elements for an AoE spell. Magic can only be used once some MP has been collected from around the map to keep things balanced, since the spells can be very powerful, but they do have a bit of delay, which allows others to interrupt you with quick combos, so picking openings is key. While magic damage is rewarding, the lengthy casting time makes sticking to combos and the grapple more effective.
Expectedly, Ascension impresses visually, utilizing the usual fantastic lighting effects, finely detailed landscapes and enormous background Titans, superb fluid movements, and excellent execution cinematics. Running around the desert themed level was a blast. It lives up to the GoW namesake, and even manages to make some minor improvements. The level design is pretty good, though the fixed camera makes for some annoyances, as it is a bit hard to tell if making a jump is possible or if you're dropping down to another section of the level (or about plummet to your death).
God of War: Ascension's multiplayer is definitely hitting a great stride, making a gaming dream of mine become a reality. Be sure to look out for it next year.