Though little is known about the single player mode for Santa Monica Studios newest title featuring the mighty Kratos, other than it is taking place years before his ruck with the Gods themselves, the biggest news is that Ascension also has the inclusion of a multiplayer mode, a surprising addition as the saga of Kratos has up until now been a solo experience and with Santa Monica Studios dishing out plenty of BETA codes these past few weeks we have had a real good play on what we can expect on the final release.
Starting off in the Rotunda of Olympus, it is here that you will earn your initial training and also pledge your allegiance to one God. Surrounding the Rotunda are the four gods that wish you to join them, although with Poseidon and Hades locked out for the BETA you can currently choose from Zeus and Ares. The God you choose allegiance to will offer you specific powers in return, with Zeus granting you a hammer and boosting your magical powers, defence and escape abilities as well as imbuing you with electrical magic. Ares meanwhile is more about raw power with a sword, boosted melee and the ability to use fire based magic.
The fighting is classic God of War, using identical moves to the single player versions, light and heavy attacks, blocking, counters and parrying, though rather than an easy to figure out attack pattern from an AI you are now fighting against unpredictable human players online. Starting with the weapon ordained to you by your God you are more than welcome to swap between the two once you have unlocked them, with a variety of swords and hammers to unlock and choose from.
The modes on offer for the BETA event are based on the Favours of the Gods rule set for four players or a team mode of four versus four, with each one taking place in a very different arena. The four player mode takes place at the Forum of Hercules, a simple round arena with spikes on the walls and Hercules watching over you. The aim is simple, keep on killing the rivals until you earn enough souls to win. Though for the most of the time you are focusing on the enemy in the arena, Hercules himself will at times jump into the arena, sending destructive ripples through the ground or you can even set of an arrow barrage, hoping that your enemies rather than you will come a cropper.
The four versus four team Favour of the Gods takes place at the Desert of Lost Souls, with two teams again trying to earn the set amount of souls first. To boost the collection of souls are sacrifice points where you can secure them for your team, through these come at a very large risk, with each surrounded by traps like spiked floors or fire traps that can be triggered by any player. As you are collecting items at the northernmost part of the map is a huge cycloptic titan who continually smashes away at certain points of the map, squashing any who are foolish enough to get too close though near the end of the round a lightning spear will appear, granting whoever grabs it first a chance to take down the titan and earn a huge soul bonus for the team.
Taking some inspiration from all of those first person shooter multiplayer games we play, Santa Monica studios have also included a very deep and rewarding experience system with you earning points for many different reasons like kills, winning or just participating, with each rank earned allowing you to use even more items. As you progress you gradually earn sets of armour for your lower and upper body and also helmets, each having a variety of pros and cons, altering stats and also the overall look to your warrior. Items, magic and relics are also available to purchase when certain criteria are met, equipping your warrior with magical powers like a fire punch called the Fist of Ares or storms that launch players into the air, items like the horn of restoration or a shied that blocks and causes a small detonation or temporary invulnerability and then you have the relics which alter your warriors stats like extra throw damage and kill streak boosts. All of these experience gained items are steadily released as you play, with a few new items opening every couple of games, allowing you very quickly to move from the bottom of the table to a more even match or even a few wins.
The overall action is really rewarding and things can only get better with the inclusion of the other Gods to join, more weapons, maps and even more game modes. With the fast, furious and often violent (rivals guts and intestines spilling out) gameplay this is going to be a big change in the long running God of War series.
Words by Ash Buchanan.