God of War: Ascension’s First 30 Minutes: Hands-On Preview
There was a time, way back, when Kratos wasn’t quite so angry.
Mind you, he was still angry. And he was still the Ghost of Sparta, an unstoppable killing machine in the employ of Ares after having sold his soul to the God of War. But he was less angry — until the events of God of War: Ascension.
A prequel set 10 years before the events of the first God of War (and six months after Ares tricked Kratos into murdering his family), Ascension finds Kratos captured by the Furies, three mythological arbiters of judgment who hate oath-breakers. It seems that Kratos’ annoyance with Ares has landed him in some kind of torture prison, where the Furies are kinda mean to him. This despite the fact that Ares would rather have Kratos back to wreak more havoc. But this game is supposed to show us a “more human” Kratos, which overtly means “less of a merciless, psychopathic d–k,” it seems.
That’s the premise for the first level of Ascension, which I got to play through during a Sony preview event earlier this week. Kratos is chained up and being harassed by one of the Furies, before he manages to break free and start going all vengeful.
God of War fans will notice a slight change right away in the way Ascension handles some classic God of War elements. The opening moments of the game find us controlling the chained-up Kratos, who can’t do much but dodge the slashing attacks of his Fury adversary. This opening moment plays a bit like the mobile title Infinity Blade, with Kratos able to dodge back and forth to avoid the incoming attack. Once he does, he manages to use his chains to break free, return the Blades of Chaos to his hand, and start slashing his way through the prison and its various inhabitants.
That opening dodge scene is an example of the kinds of new quick-time events that players will see more of in Ascension, said Jason McDonald, the game’s lead combat designer. They’re not the only quick-time events we saw in the demo, but they’re a way developer Sony Santa Monica is changing things up. “Those kinds of minigames show up more,” McDonald said. “You have to plan your attack, and time when to attack and when not to.”
After Kratos breaks free, it’s business as usual as he runs through the various rooms and levels of the huge prison in pursuit of the Fury. She throws stuff in his way, like a version of the Satyr enemies we’ve seen in other God of War titles. These Satyrs (actually created by having giant insects take over the brains of normal humans) aren’t quite the agile, deadly adversaries seen in God of War III and before; instead, they function as base-level enemies and showcase a lot of Kratos’ new tricks. (By the way, Sony Santa Monica justifies Kratos’ differing abilities by citing his age; he’s younger in this game, and therefore capable of different things.)
The combat of the level showcases a few of the new tricks that Kratos is capable of rolling out during Ascension. Primary among these are what Sony Santa Monica is calling “world weapons” — that is, the armaments carried by your adversaries. Kratos is now able to disarm his enemies and then grab whatever they were carrying, allowing him to work those new weapons into his combos. All the world weapons have different effects and capabilties: Spears act as ranged weapons, swords are good for bleeding red orbs out of enemies, clubs deal out massive damage and send enemies flying, and so on.