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God of War: Ascension’s campaign gutted & exposed

Friday, 1st February 2013 09:07 GMT By Phil Owen

God of War: Ascension’s campaign is loud, epic and every bit as violent as you’d expect. Phil Owen goes hands-on and interviews Sony Santa Monica director Todd Papy on this brash new outing.

If you’ve played God of War 3, you will know what to expect from the opening of God of War: Ascension. It’s big, it’s very loud, it’s quite epic and it features layers upon layers of action. Within is a boss battle between Kratos and a many-armed giant – a prisoner of the furies, like Kratos at the start of the game – who has a city built on him, and it is exactly as bombastic and ambitious as that  sounds.

As a skeptic of the hack-and-slash genre, even I was impressed by the scope of this opening level as I played through it. Sony Santa Monica have crafted something truly spectacular here, and it is every bit the match of God of War 3′s beginning.

But God of War 3 peaked at the start, and the rest of the game could never quite live up to that standard. I was concerned, then, that we might face a similar situation here. I spoke with game director Todd Papy about that very subject.

“It took two designers probably a year-plus working on that, to get that right,” Papy told me, to emphasize what kind of work it takes to put together a level as large and as complicated as Ascension’s opening. He was then quick to note another section in the game that he believe also hits that mark.

“We have another level in the game that is just as complicated, and the guy’s been on it for two-plus years. We’re talking about 45 minutes of gameplay that he’s just going through and massaging, because it is a technical nightmare. It’s over the top. It is huge moments. It’s a different way of doing Titan tech than we’ve done.”

But you can’t, of course, just fill your game to the brim with wild, maniacal set pieces, and not just because of budget and time limitations, Papy pointed out.

“There’s a point where that stops feeling huge and epic, and basically you need to take it back down and build it back up – be able to have those crescendo moments,” he remarked. “Otherwise, everything just becomes noise after a while.”

Papy also said that the way the story unfolds in Ascension might alleviate my previously stated concerns.

“We’re trying to make sure this one feels more like an adventure,” he told me. “In [God of War] I and II, you always felt like you were going on this long quest, versus III, where you were going up and down the mountain, and it didn’t have that same kind of adventure feel.”

In any case, the only thing I am able to judge at this point in time is what I played, and, as I said, what I played was quite excellent and fun, and the scale was as large as what you could hope for in a God of War game. It also managed to give me a chance to try out some of the new battle mechanics.

Key among the new features is how you can tether foes, which allows you to do all sorts of things with them, who should be, after all, your playthings. Early on I grabbed a hold of a bug and threw it at its compatriots, which resulted in a surprising but delightful explosion. In another instance, I jumped into the air, tethered a human-bug hybrid, and then slammed him down on other foes. This is what the developers refer to as “weaponizing” your enemies. It’s an enthralling new wrinkle to combat.

I also got to play around a bit with what the team referred to as “world weapons,” which you can steal from your enemies and use against them. These add a nice new layer to combat and provide players with new combos to try out, and they are easily accessible from the circle button.

Then there is the revamped rage meter, which fills up a lot faster now. I know everybody is probably excited about that one.

I discussed these additions with Papy, and he shed some light on one other change I did not experience, which is how Ascension focuses on Kratos’s blades rather than giving you the option of using other weapons that you unlock.

“We wanted to focus everything around the blades in this game, and so we have these elements that are infused in the blades and actually switch the way that you play,” he commented. “So, for example, the fire blades that you saw at E3, those will stun enemies faster. So you can get that and pop that grenade into them with L3 and R3, stun ‘em and then from there you can weaponize them.

Papy also mentioned ice and electric elements, and he said the point of including these is to give players more freedom in their approach to combat. “We wanted to change the way that you enter into a level or into a fight. Basically think about ‘How do I want to dismantle this? How do I want to take it down?’”

Another thing I did not see in the demo was the less dickish side of Kratos that we have been told about. In this opening level, in fact, Kratos did not speak aside from letting out an unintelligible roar. So I asked Papy what it really means for Kratos to be more humane.

“He’s still angry,” Papy noted. “We wanted to show a little bit more of the family side to him, and then also show him when he’s a little bit younger. For example at E3 we showed where these three guys are running toward you. He actually pushes a guy out of the way… Versus him taking the guy and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to take you and I’m gonna bash your head in against the wall.’ That’s what I mean by ‘more humane.’ You’ll see him reach out and console somebody who’s dying. It’s those types of moments.”

There it is. Kratos actually will show both restraint and a bit of a sensitive side. That might be the most substantial change of all in this edition of God of War.

You can follow Phil’s rather lovely Twitter chatter over at his feed @philrowen.

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12 Comments

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  1. KAP

    “But God of War 3 peaked at the start, and the rest of the game could never quite live up to that standard. I was concerned, then, that we might face a similar situation here. I spoke with game director Todd Papy about that very subject.”

    So further on in the game where you face the skyscraper Cronos,
    or fighting Zeus while inside Gia’s enormous body just to name a few didn’t in the slightest match up with the start no?

    If you’ve ever played any God Of War from the very first to ascension it’s common knowledge that these titles start of bombastic, it’s tradition, sets the pace apart from many other games out there.

    Don’t misunderstand me though I’m not having a go, I’m just saying because after just watching the first 30mins on Yourube I’m pumped to get my hands on this. I had goosebumps when you see the multiplayer dude shake his fists to the gods. That was a awesome, awesome touch!

    Can’t wait.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. stalepie

    Yeah they tend to shoot their loads early on, but their second and third cummings are still pretty plentiful, so I recommend sticking around.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Sini

    What the hell, Kratos wasn’t more humane before he did the deed. It clearly showed in GoW1 cinematics during the levels he was a ruthless warlord, that’s what got him screwed in the first place. This game better end with him being pissed off at everything that moves.
    GoW1 is still the best game character/story wise in the series, I don’t have much hope for this one in that respect. We’ll see.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. SameeR_Fisher

    The important question, how long is the game, I am a fan of GoW, but no more 6hrs SP

    #4 1 year ago
  5. deathm00n

    @3 So a ruthless warlord can’t have normal life when he’s not battling? Can’t he have family problems? I want this game to know why he bacame so fucked up.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. SameeR_Fisher

    @5: we kinda already knew all along, he sold his soul -in a sense- to Ares, and he granted him power, Kratos then kept fighting on and on, and one day he conquered a town where his wife and daughter was there, making him the Ghost of Sparta, since then he had nightmares about them, he went for the help of the gods as in the PSP game -forgot it’s name- but even after what he did for them, they didn’t help him, then God of War 1 happened, and they still didn’t grant him his wish, so he wanted to kill himself, …………………..etc

    That’s if memory serves right.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. theevilaires

    @1 I agree with you. When I read that part I could almost understand what he meant but then I thought about it again and man through out that entire game there are so many epic segments. I just think that opening is so huge to us because being fans and finally getting to that to be continued part from God of war 2 made us really excited.

    The fight with Cronos was epic, seeing Hercules and fighting him was just as surprising and exciting to me as the opening as well. I do agree with the part about 1&2 felt more like a quest than 3. I hope this one feels like a true adventure with beautiful backgrounds like something out of Uncharted almost.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Gekidami

    Full Super Bowl Ad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aDhfTGkLTg

    #8 1 year ago
  9. theevilaires

    ^ Thats an interesting trailer especially the end with the DLC offerings of 300. I swear I wished that would have mentioned Kratos in that movie just once as they made their way to that Valley with the Persians.

    Anyway like I said very interesting trailer. I bet very people will even know what they are watching before they realize its a game ad.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Ireland Michael

    @9 Why would they have ever mentioned Kratos? He was a footnote in greek mythology… the equivalent of an extra in a movie.

    Mind you, 300 isn’t exactly known for its authenticity, so fuck accuracy…

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Clupula

    That Kratos isn’t even a mythological figure. He was made up for the games.

    There was a Greek mythological Cratus, though, but he was the son of Pallas and Styx, and had wings.

    There hasn’t been any attempt in the games, at least up until now, to say that they’re the same being.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. theevilaires

    O’Connor doesn’t matter we all know Kratos to be a great Spartan in video games. It just would have been a sweet nod to mention him during one of the scenes. Like if one of the spartans in the movie would have said something like “if only Lord Kratos were here with us we would end this in one night”. That would have been fucking sweet to all of us hardcore God of war gamers. If 300 was a SONY movie I’m sure they would have included a line about Kratos.

    That trailer has 300 written all over it. Hell look at the DLC!

    #12 1 year ago