God of War: Ascension’s multiplayer feels like a hi-def Power Stone 2, with eviscerations
Todd Papy, director of God of War: Ascension sounded a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of T2: Judgement Day when he talked about wrapping up work on the upcoming prequel. “After this, I want the whole team to take a vacation.” He was clearly tired, but he smiled every time his eyes caught some player at his PAX booth getting torn in half from another player's sword in Ascension's new multiplayer mode, “Favor of the Gods.” Papy has worked on the God of War series since the first title, and he understands the importance of keeping the game fresh while maintaining the theme everyone loves. “I understand it's a franchise. I'm not going to take Kratos into space and say, 'Okay! You're on Mars!' But I understand this is a franchise. People expect certain things because of that, but it's more about how can we take what they expect and freshen it up to make it feel new?” Papy asked. “I worry more about complacency than I do the new stuff. The reason for that is after awhile it might start feeling stale. To me, if you're not pushing, you're losing ground.”
Playing a healer in the God of War universe
The inspiration for multiplayer came from a broken, unbalanced modding of God of War III. “At the end of God of War III, there's a challenge mode, where you can fight Kratos on Kratos. One of our content designers got it working where you could actually play against each other. That was really the genesis of the multiplayer,” Papy said. “It was like, 'Oh shit, we could do this!'” He laughed and then explained that while the team found it fun, modding single player content into multiplayer came with a large amount of problems. Much of Ascension's development time and tech has therefore been spent refining and updating the new multiplayer mode. “Ugh. Ugh!” These are the sounds Papy made when asked about stress levels prior to revealing multiplayer. He explained that there was intense debate over how and when to reveal the mode, and even though ultimately Papy feels the team made the right choice, he admits reception has been mixed. “It was one of those things where I think if we went out and we said 'We're doing a single-player game and oh, by the way, we're doing multiplayer too,' and we didn't show anything, I think people would've been like 'Why the fuck are you ruining it, why are you doing this?'” “For us, we wanted to squash any rumors. Why are we doing this?” Papy pointed to a nearby screen, where a player was smashed to pulp with an enormous hammer. “That's why we're doing it. We wanted to be able to point to it and say 'This is what you should expect from us.'” When it came time for me to pick a warrior, Papy said that, although I wasn't able to customize at the demo kiosk, players will be able to choose things like weapon loadouts, armors, and the god to whom they'll swear fealty. Each of these will grant bonuses or new abilities. The nice part is, although God of War is known for its violence, Papy told the Penny Arcade Report that a variety of play styles can work within Ascension's multiplayer mode, “Favor of the Gods.” “If you want to be a team player, almost like a healer or something like that, you'll be able to choose a certain allegiance to a god that supports that and you'll be able to go through and do that,” Papy said.
I will open the hell out of those chests; you're welcome, team
“Favor of the Gods” is structured as a team exercise, but there's a reason it's not called King of the Hill or Deathmatch. The mode plays out like a blending of those plus chest collection, across a three-dimensional battleground. “The whole idea behind [Favor of the Gods] is that you can play however you want to play. There are different ways to score points: you can kill people, you can use traps, you can open up chests, you can control altar points, and then you can also kill the big creature at the end,” Papy said. As I ran about the battle in my scorpion-themed armor, I could perform basic combos with my sword and magic, or utilize randomly-spawning weapons. At the far edge of the map, an enormous cyclops roared and pulled against the chain and collar embedded into its neck. If I stood near this creature, it would slam its fists down, damaging me and knocking me back. The hectic, do-what-you-can play style reminded me of Power Stone 2 for the Dreamcast. The hits connected with a solid shudder of the controller, and while I struggled to get free of some nasty dogpiles, it never felt unfair. I learned there were certain players I could reliably take on, and others to avoid. When I saw a group, I ran to try and score points by capturing altars or opening chests. The chests actually ended up being one of the biggest boosts to my team's score. In the end we still lost, as the fight came to a climactic end with the defeat of the cyclops. I attempted to stop the Trojan forces from delivering the killing blow, and ended up with my stomach split open, intestines spilling into my hands. The game is as graphic as you'd expect from God of War. The Trojans split the cyclops' jaw in half, then proceeding to latch two hooks into its monstrous eye. They tugged and pulled, as the orb bulged from its socket. Finally, a Trojan leapt at the creature's face, plunging a spear into the eye. Game, set, bloody match.