New God Of War: Ascension To Share The Pain With Multiplayer Mode

I’ve been given only the slightest of glimpses into the next entry in the hit PlayStation series God of War. The next game will be sub-titled Ascension and all that can be said for Kratos, the angriest of anti-heroes, is that the story will take him back before the beginning, to a time when he showed a great deal more humility as a person and his task was to curry favour with the Gods rather than to destroy them. Beyond those small morsels, nothing more has been said. Instead the first details being released focus on a new multiplayer mode where up to eight players can battle it out across an arena or join forces to take down the massive monsters the series is known for.

In the multiplayer mode you play a Champion of the Gods, choosing and pledging allegiance to one of four who will imbue you with special powers and weapons that match. As you enter online arenas and compete in teams or gladiator-style battles, your abilities and attributes will go up and you’ll unlock new bonuses to play with. You’ll have an online career to manage and guide over time that will see you changing from being a regular human, to a Champion of the Gods, to even becoming a God yourself.

Online the game can support up to eight players with the demonstration I saw involving two teams of four. It was a bit confusing at first as the session began with one player donning his helmet only to be joined by another in order to take down a mini-Cyclops. As they ran into an arena they were then joined by the rest.

The arenas draw heavily upon from the elements we known throughout the single-player mode. There are intricate walkways and platforms that connect different opens spaces for fighting. Chests appear here and there to replenish abilities and offer bonuses. Four champions in matching coloured armor chase after another four champions in matching armor of a different color. They hack at each other with swords and chained weapons, but in a more personal, one-on-one way rather than Kratos’ massive area-slicing weapons. When they clash, the Champions can engage each other in one-on-one, two-on-one, or even three-on-one combat, although for balance, there are moves that will give the surrounded player an out to escape.

The level we saw featured a large Mega-Cyclops (the tusked Polythemus) overlooking the fight and chained partially to the exterior of the arena itself. Throughout the complex there were a series of wheeled mechanisms and the goal for each team was to fight their way to each device and turn their team’s wheel. Doing so pulled the chains holding the Mega-Cyclops tighter, bringing him closer to the arena’s walls.

Amongst the arena floors were traps that could be triggered, if you lead your enemies across a platform you can activate a set of spikes to rise up and impale them. As you battle, the points you collect can be traded in to the God you serve in order to pick up radius-effecting magical attacks or unlocking massive weapons, such as the God Spear we saw, for increased damage.

Even in multiplayer there are many gore-kills and takedowns that trigger grotesque and elaborate deaths. At one point a Champion, armed with a multi-bladed sword from his god, cleaved another in half, from head to sternum, and had to pry his blades free as one section of the body flopped loosely.

Team-mates can join together for elaborate take-downs, and despite being on separate teams, all eight players can join up for a coordinated assault against the game’s massive monsters. When one team managed to turn all their wheels in the demo I saw, this is exactly what happened to the Mega-Cyclops. All the players flanked him and linked holding chains to the beasts head while the winning team’s leader first sliced up the creature’s mouth (dividing the jaw into lifeless mandibles, with blood gushing out) before leaping head-long with blade in hand into that one, massive eye.

That’s all we’re being given for now. Can you play the multiplayer from your couch or only online? Still to be decided. How will the multiplayer mode impact the single-player story? We’ll have to wait and see.

The demo that I saw was in real-time, not rendered, and it looked visually stunning and impressively over-the-top. The combat seemed well-balanced, diverse, and was easy to follow. While I’m keen to experience the take-down of the game’s epic monsters and giants as a group, I don’t see multiplayer as being a top priority. Not every title needs to have a multiplayer mode. As an expression of extremes I’ve felt that the God of War series has been more rewarding because it’s focused solely on a single-player experience. The new multiplayer dynamic has value, but let’s hope it takes little away from Kratos’ focused journey and mythological feats.

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