God of War: Ascension Beta Impressions: Eviscerating Your Expectations

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The God of War: Ascension multiplayer beta launched this Tuesday for PlayStation Plus members, and, as a member and a person who’s played the previous God of War games extensively, I felt I had an obligation to download it. I was skeptical about the idea of multiplayer in a God of War game, mainly because the entire concept behind the franchise was the struggle of just one man: Kratos. He has created his own mythology, becoming a fixture in the Sony gaming world. So how could they make multiplayer in a game that was so Kratos-centric? My healthy skepticism was almost instantly destroyed when I began playing the beta. Yes, it’s actually that much fun.

Platforms: PS3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
Genre: Angry God Actioner… Now With Multiplayer
Release Date: March 12, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature

The beta begins with a tutorial, and there’s really not much here that you haven’t seen before. You’re a warrior getting ready to fight for your god, so your first choice is which god you want to fight for. Of course, after playing God of War III, I wanted to pledge my allegiance to Hades, but he’s not unlocked for this – nor is Neptune. I tried out the other two gods, Ares and Zeus. I have to admit: I was a little disappointed there were no options for lady gods, and I didn’t really want to kneel before Ares or Zeus, because those dudes are jerks. But after trying them out, I decided to go with Ares, mainly because I liked his choice of weapon more.

Pledging your allegiance to Zeus scores you a hammer, while Ares hooks you up with a giant sword. The tutorial that follows just takes you through all the basic moves – normal hit, power hit, parry, block, grab – you know the drill. There are also special items you can pick up and use with the Circle button, as well as magic moves you can pull off. As with most tutorials, I was eager to get to the actual game, but I forced myself to play it as long as my patience would allow. Then I hopped right into Quick Play, which takes you to the closest match.

As I was waiting for the lobby to populate, I took a look around at my options, of which there are many. Under the “Champion” option, you can customize your character’s weapons, armors, abilities, items, and relics. Each one has plenty of upgrades, which you can unlock by either completing various “labors” (what are you, Hercules?), reaching a certain level aligned with a specific god, or finding treasure in a certain game mode. Labors include things like “achieving five trap kills,” “executing 10 player enemies in brutal fashion,” “achieving five first blood feats,” as well as winning a certain number of games in the different modes, and opening red orb chests.

So far, I thought to myself, this sounds a lot like a God of War game. I found my skepticism wane even more as I read the abilities, items, and relics. Abilities like Fist of Ares gives you a “quick and short ranged explosive punch that launches players,” while the Relic of Mastery gives you “+25% on kill streak for 20 seconds.” I was beginning to see exactly how a God of War multiplayer game was going to work, and my excitement started to mount.

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Then I actually got into a four-player game of Favor of the Gods, in which you fight the other three players in a deathmatch until one player reaches a certain number of points. Two of the players had obvious upgrades – they were annihilating me regularly – and the fourth player was like me, wearing the newbie armor and using the basic weapons. It was played in an arena with Hercules watching, and occasionally jumping down and causing a wave of damage with the Nemean Cestus. Items appear randomly around the arena, giving you an advantage over other players as you tear through their defenses. Brutal kills abound, with entrails pouring out of champions. It’s ruthless, aggressive, and chaotic, and I can’t believe how much fun it is.

After playing some Favor of the Gods, I’d improved enough that I was ready to move onto the other mode, Team Favor of the Gods, in which two teams of four run around the map trying to take over the other team’s objectives. You run around like crazy, jumping from level to level, standing on altars for a few seconds to take them over, pulling the enemy’s levers, and using traps set up around the map to kill anyone in your way. I kept getting killed whenever I would engage an enemy player, so I focused on the objectives, rocketing my team into the lead by taking over the altars. Included within the map is a Titan Cyclops, and at a certain point, the Spear of Olympus appears from the heavens, and you use that to kill the Titan. In the end, my team lost, but I came in first place, so I was pleased (even if the gods were not).

God of War: Ascension isn’t out for another two months, but it’s clear that the developers have put a lot of time and effort into honing this game to a sharp and shiny perfection. Since single player has never been a problem for this franchise, it was wise for Sony Santa Monica to roll out the multiplayer beta early to show fans – especially the skeptical ones, like me – exactly what’s in store for them. Extending the life of a God of War game by adding multiplayer to it is one of the smartest things that could have happened to this series. March will be coming in like a lion, all right.

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Nicole Kline is Warp Zoned's Senior Editor. She first began preparing for the job by climbing a milk crate to play Centipede in an arcade. You can find her on PSN under the name toitle or you can email her at nicole AT warpzoned DOT com.

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