God of War: Ascension Multiplayer Beta Impressions
Other Ways to Be Useful
Fortunately, at least in the beta, we’ve seen a few team-based models for Ascension that help to make every player useful. Sony Santa Monica has rolled out a fairly big team-based map that has two different game modes going for it — a capture the flag mode and a territory holding mode — and in that scenario, you don’t have to be the best fighter if you’re smart. Running around taking objectives and busting open the randomly spawning treasure chests adds points to your team’s score, and it’s usually helpful to have a player who’s not actively engaged in combat slip by into enemy territory in order to actually win the match.
The big map also contains a number of traps that can be set or utilized by players, either instantly or to be triggered later by an enemy touching them. These and other items that drop onto the map, like a big powerful hammer or a spear that shoots lightning bolts, can give less-skilled players a little bit of an advantage. The result is that there are a few ways to help your team that don’t require you to kick ass.
However, this is tougher in free-for-all games on the smaller Forum of Hercules map. That location has players running around mangling each other, and there’s not much you can do there if you’re not much with a sword. The good news is that it’s possible to play clean-up crew in Ascension and snake kills. This would be cheap if it was easier to do, but kill-stealing in the final seconds not only requires sneaking up on a fight in progress, it still requires the right moves at the right time. You can definitely get thrashed by an attentive player you think you’re about to surprise.
Will It Last?
The big question when it comes to Ascension’s multiplayer is whether players will stick with it for any meaningful length of time. At this point, I think they might, for a couple of reasons.
First, Ascension has been carefully, meticulously balanced, and it shows in the gameplay. The game really does reward you for being good, and in an ultra-violent, totally satisfying way, with up-close executions and brutal take-downs. When you win a fight, the game gives you the time to really savor it, and so you’re not only earning the victory because you’ve learned to play well, you get a few seconds downtime as a reward. It’s not unlike the rush of chainsawing some poor schlub in Gears of War, worth doing just for the cutscene and knowing that on the other side of the Internet, the loser is probably voicing some gutteral frustrations.
Second, the God of War audience is a pretty big one, and Ascension really does manage to nail that sort of high-action engagement on a multiplayer scale. I found playing the Ascension beta to be much more interesting and exciting than playing God of War 3 on my own, from a mechanical standpoint. So the game feels like God of War, it plays well, and fans will likely be happy with both elements. It’s also a very different change of pace from most multiplayer offerings, and novelty — especially well-made novelty, like the Assassin’s Creed’s multiplayer — is also welcome to a lot of players.
On the other hand, Ascension is probably going to turn off a lot of players. It’s not nearly as easy to pick up and understand as most popular multiplayer titles, and when you’re at a low skill level, getting trounced happens quite a bit. Because the gameplay is combo-based, even though Sony Santa Monica has added a lot of combo-breakers to keep things from getting too aggravating, there’s still plenty of frustration to be had until you get good.
That said, Sony Santa Monica has done well to create a deep multiplayer experience. The studio is walking a tightrope in attempting to make the God of War experience work with what amounts to multiple Kratoses, but the beta shows that Ascension does a great job of managing it. Throw in some solid objective-based game types and a whole lot of unlockables that you can use to deck out your warrior in custom, meaningful ways, and it seems players should go ahead an be optimistic for Ascension’s multiplayer offering. If the beta is any indication, it’ll be a fun change of pace.