Although it finished in a masterly way and left little loopholes for a sequel, Sony Santa Monica could not ignore fan requests, eventually announcing another God of War title, called God of War: Ascension. It is yet another prequel to Kratos' already turbulent life, in which we witness Ares' betrayal and leading to Kratos murdering his own family. The pact was made when the protagonist was still a power-hungry Spartan commander, facing both death and defeat after fighting a much stronger barbarian army. Kratos literally wears the ashes of his wife and daughter, a constant reminder of the tragedy he imposed on himself.
David Hewitt, Ascension's design director, said this kicks off the game's main plot. It shows a more vulnerable protagonist, still learning how to deal with his powers, as well as his actions. Kratos will also go through “disturbing" moments that will help shape the angry personality we all know and love (or hate). Ascension's game director, Todd Papy stresses Kratos is still as brutal and destructive as ever. Only this time, he is trying to undo the pact that cursed him. Things, however, don't go so well, and family murder is just the beginning of Kratos' neverending problems.
Some of the aforementioned will affect game mechanics. In previous God of War titles, Kratos was not without his trademark Blades of Chaos/Athena. Rather than use them to climb mountains, for example, Kratos will climb using his bare hands and feet, making navigation feel more natural in the environment. Kratos' agility and dexterity while in heights are similar to Nathan Drake's Uncharted, considering you can now pass slopes and irregular angles, with controls that are modified to fit such actions. Naturally, new versions of combos, and special attacks were also implemented. Weapons from enemies not only can be picked up or stolen, but also have their unique movesets.
Another feature that caught my attention is 'Life Cycle,' a magic ability that rebuilds damaged objects in the environment. Such was the case with an elevator that was ravaged by a sea monster called Charybdis. Life Cycle can also be used in battle, which immobilizes an enemy and leaving them completely open to attacks. Quick-time events in Ascension have also been changed. In place of waiting for button prompts on screen, you'll have to time and evade oncoming attacks yourself based on enemy actions, giving you more freedom of movement during these moments. It's a great improvement, because now you can watch everything that's going on instead of focusing most of your attention on random button prompts.
There is also multiplayer in God of War Ascension, perhaps the most notable addition to the series. It supports up to eight players, and possibly a response to a rather unfortunate short single player campaign, I'm told. On the other hand, it is quite strange to think about multiplayer in God of War -- especially when it comes to hack-and-slash games -- which work better as singular experiences compared to other genres. Still, seeing it a few more times were enough to convince me that it works well. Gameplay doesn't deviate much from the God of War formula, and you're still doing double jumps and traditional combos against other human players. Commands displayed on the screen cover fast and heavy attacks, dodges, jumps and defense. One of the highlights for me is the option to grab opponents in midair. It opens up a space for attacks that can cause significant damage, and can lead to some bloody, cinematic endings rivaling that of Mortal Kombat's Fatalities.
You set the weapon of your choice (between spear and hammer), the types of armor and magic at the start of each match. For example, the 'Zeus of Reckoning' enables you to release a divine attack on opponents. One specific mode called 'Favor of the Gods' has two teams of four -- the Trojans and Spartans -- competing (and of course, killing each other) for territory and points to satisfy the Olympian gods. Meanwhile, the cyclops Polyphemus is in the area, and will attack anyone who gets too close to him. When enough time passes, the Spear of Olympus appears on the map. Whoever gets to it first automatically triggers an event that delivers the killing blow to Polyphemus, granting a team extra points. The team that earns more points than the other naturally wins the match.
Perhaps it is still a bit risky to assume everything Sony Santa Monica has shown is set in stone for Kratos' anticipated return. Well, except for the fact that they're upgrading the game's graphics to accommodate a console that's almost at the end of its cycle. Considering that Mount Olympus is a wasteland at this point, the idea of a prequel to the series seems right for the occasion. Especially if the idea is to give meaning back to the recurring revenge theme that, long ago, lost some of its significance. God of War: Ascension is set to be released on March 2013 (March 12 in North America and March 13 in Europe) exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The multiplayer beta will begin sometime this winter, so stay tuned.
Marco Cecilio, NoobFeed