God of War Ascension: a long, bloody legacy

Thursday, 7th March 2013 18:21 GMT By Jack Arnott

God of War: Ascension has a long legacy to live up to. Jack Arnott speaks with Sony Santa Monica about raising standards and why toning down the violence simply isn’t an option.

God of War: Ascension

Sony Santa Monica Studio just announced the game’s co-op mode, called Trial of the Gods yesterday. Check out what it involves here.

God of War: Ascension’s latest single-player trailer can be found here. It’s full of violence, unsurprisingly.

The studio recently released a dev diary explaining how it created the brutal succubus Empusa. Watch it in full here.

Europe is getting three God of War: Ascension bundles at release. Check them out here.

You know what you’re getting with a new God of War game before you’ve seen the first teaser trailer or batch of leaked concept art. Blood, violence, muscle, scope and the sound of blades scraping on bone are so ingrained in the series’ DNA that to go back on that now would be a stupid move.

Then again, franchises can’t rest on their laurels, peddling out the same formula every other year. People need a reason to return, and this is exactly why Sony Santa Monica has grown bigger, better and braver than before.

I spoke with lead combat designer Jason McDonald and lead game designer Mark Simon to find out what it takes to go one better in a series that has already hit astonishing peaks.

“The team really pushes itself,” said Simon. “It’s funny because the fans worry,“Oh are they gonna pack it in this time on single player?” No way. Not the team that we have. The team that we have is going to make the render better, they’re going to make the lighting system better, they’re going to add animation blending, they’re going to add multi player, they’re going to rewrite the game code so it works on PSN.

“We’re going to try to do something we couldn’t get to work on God of War 3, we’re going to make it actually happen in God of War: Ascension. We won’t stop working on it until they basically tear the game away from us kicking and screaming.”

The team has been steeped in the God of War franchise since it debuted under the supervision of David Jaffe, and along the way a lot of content has been left on the cutting room floor to ensure that every second of what you experience meets the high quality the series strives for.

McDonald added, “We always benefit as from every God of War there’s lots of ideas on the table. Some of them go into the game, some of them don’t. But they always remain somewhere so if we do another God of War, if we broach the subject material again, we look to these ideas and say “Well we can start with these”.

Simon continued, “We actually have millions of ideas that made it to prototype, through to production but ended up being cut – it’s only the cream of the crop you send up seeing in the game. Our creative process is very organic.

“It starts with the type of director you have. Todd Papy is a designer at heart so one of the things he wanted to work on in this game were design mechanics – he really wanted to make them better.

“When we were brainstorming the first creature in the game, Hecatom, for example, it was just one of those things where the idea comes up, an everybody liked it as a whole. A hundred armed titan – fucking awesome – right let’s do it, let’s make it work.”

The process is always daunting however, but the process demands that the team sit down and brainstorm until something – anything – rises to the surface. “That’s just a programmer’s life”, Simon explained.

“The way we’ll develop an idea like Hecatom is that we’ll all get together in a room, see what people get excited about, and then other people will add their own ideas and start drawing it, modelling it, rigging it – it goes through this crazy evolution. It never ends up where you expect it to – usually for the better.”

Sony Santa Monica is no stranger to cross-generational leaps either, as it worked on the first two God of War games for PS2, followed by the third on PS3. Ascension comes near the end of the console’s life-span, but the team is already confident that whatever it does for PS4 will continue to push the bar higher.

“I remember the transition from PS2 to PS3,” McDonald recalled, “and I thought, my God, how are we going to set the bar even higher? But the truth is we have great people working for us – artists that won’t quit, engineers that just want to squeeze the most out of everything – I think you can always expect great things for any hardware from this team.”

Simon cut in to add that the PS4′s social aspects have him and his team very interested indeed, “The social thing was super cool. We’ve been asked if we’d planned on introducing multiplayer with the new system in mind but its just good fortune – the social aspect is going to become a really important aspect for us.”

Speaking of which, God of War: Ascension’s multiplayer also has a big part to play in the game’s overall package. It’s no mere add-on, but at the same time it had a lot of gamers worried when it was first announced. As always, the team had to be assured of its quality before setting online play in motion.

“Basically, we just found that it was fun to fight each other” explained McDonald. “We tried something early on after God of War 3 just fighting each other in a little arena, it was already kinda fun. So the goal with multiplayer was to provide that type of fun with the God of War scale and the God of War feel to it.

“So that meant brutal kills, that grand scale, like the desert level with the giant cyclops that we showed in open beta. And it was also we wanted it to be accessible. We wanted a lot of people to be able to play it, so that if you’re not an expert at combat, or at fighting, what else can you do?

“So we wanted to provide other goals and other things that you could do to help the team. And because we didn’t want people just bundled together fighting, we didn’t want eight people right next to each other just swinging weapons, because that would get old very quickly.”

To ensure that those less-capable at fighting could still enjoy Ascension’s multiplayer, the team had to come up with other duties for players, such as playing defence, or choosing specific God Allegiances to fit with their play style. The decision came from a desire to find new ways to make the game enjoyable and relevant in today’s market.

“Everyone in the studio plays games,” said McDonald, “and we’re always just trying to find something new and fun and in God of War: Ascension this is what we tried. It was also something we hadn’t touched on before.

“With PS3 we always upped the scale, it looked awesome, but we didn’t touch the PlayStation Network at all, and so right away we were like ‘what can we do with this? There’s a lot of possibilities’ and one of them was: ‘What if we just played together, played against each other?’ And it worked out.”

It certainly did, and you can get to grips with God of War: Ascension yourself when it drops on PS3 from March 12th.



  1. cyberpunk

    i m sure this game will live up to the expectations like earlier gow games

    #1 2 years ago
  2. polygem

    absolutley! the demo was awesome…so pumped!

    #2 2 years ago
  3. NeoSquall

    I wish I could preorder the Collector’s Edition of this awesome game, I CRAVE that Kratos statue :\

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Rafa_L

    There is one thing I don’t like about this series, too many prequels.

    I personally like to see stories moving foward, a prequel can be good to get to know and understand better a character you came to like, but GoW has how many? 3?

    I understand prequels on the handhelds, but I didn’t expect one for the ps3.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Clupula

    @4 – You know they’re not going to move forward with the story until the PS4. Then there will probably be GOW4.

    Personally, as someone who doesn’t play handhelds, who thinks that Ghost of Sparda is the second best game in the series, I’m glad they put them on PS3, because otherwise, I would have never gotten to experience that one.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. polygem

    yes ghost of sparta is an awesome game. ready at dawn did a great job with the psp gow´s. i was blown away by those games. man, i really loved the psp in the first few years. it even had a very good medievil game! – if sony wont make a medievil ps4 or vita game soon i will jump off a cliff kratos style. the ps3 version of ghost of sparta looks and plays great too. it´s tough to pick your fave gow games. i really like them all. 2 the “least” (not a fitting word) probably. cough cough…but i think gow 1, 3 and yea indeed ghost of sparta are my favourite ones.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. MadFingerz

    “artists that won’t quit, engineers that just want to squeeze the most out of everything”

    A very talentend, hard-working team indeed, I think we can all agree that the art and animations in the GOW series are some of the best in gaming history.

    @5 “Personally, as someone who doesn’t play handhelds, who thinks that Ghost of Sparda is the second best game in the series, I’m glad they put them on PS3, because otherwise, I would have never gotten to experience that one”

    Amen brother, I love GoS and don’t have a PSP neither.

    And as a fan of backstories, I don’t mind prequels at all. Besides, it will be tricky to continue the story after GOW3..

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Erthazus

    GoW reviews and it’s not looking so good.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. CyberMarco

    ^ party crusher much?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. CaptPierce

    @8 The lowest score given by all 25 publications was a 70. Fuck outta here with that shit.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Erthazus

    :D Well, can’t do anything about 79 score on metacritic. So-o-o~o~r~r~y!

    @10, it’s not 80, it’s 79 :D

    #11 2 years ago
  12. CaptPierce

    @11 It was when I saw it. Besides, a 79 is NOT a bad score for a game (or that big a difference.) Like I said, the lowest score, still shows it’s worth playing. So wipe that smug grin off your face, jackass.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Erthazus

    Well, first of all I didn’t said that 80 or 79 is a bad score, second, everything that is below 88 or 89 by the gaming industry standard is not really the best game anyway.

    Just sayin’, jackass.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Gekidami

    “Well, first of all I didn’t said that 80 or 79 is a bad score”


    “it’s not looking so good”

    “everything that is below 88 or 89 by the gaming industry standard is not really the best game anyway”

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Erthazus

    “it’s not looking so good” – “It’s not looking so good For the Future of GoW’s score. 79 in it’s first hours already.

    and the second one has nothing to do with my opinion. Sony fanboy.

    *back to ArmA 3 alpha* Have fun kid.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Gekidami

    Back to what? The sequel to a 77 meta score game?

    Must be shit.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. CaptPierce

    @13 Hahaha, look at ‘em. Emotional.

    I love how you talk shit about people like you know them, just because they defend or like something you hate. Not every game on the computer is a blessed gift from God. I own both and love both an Xbox and PS3. Diablo got a 87 – Sold 12 million copies to date.

    @16. Well said, sir. :)

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Armitage Shanks

    We all know Erthazus only does things by number’s,If the score isn’t high enough or the tech isn’t the most powerful than its automatically “consolised shit” He is easily the biggest twat on here and god knows that is not an easy title to obtain with so many other competitors for it around here.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Dragon246

    @16 and others,
    Ignore the PC Retard. Sorry guy is feeling high and behaves like he has played the game.
    And says this-
    “Yeah, water from PS2 era with low resolution textures and 2D environment in the long distance.”
    From reviewers- One of the best looking games this gen.

    Fail harder next time.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Gekidami

    Nah, he’s just a retarded PC fanboy. I mean he loves this not even 90 scoring piece of shit:

    88. Its only barely good by “gaming industry standard”. And even then, 88 would make it ‘low-end’ good, afterall, its the lowest score a game can get to be considered decent, according to a retard.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Erthazus

    @17, relax kid. I said nothing to your precious PS3 game. Just showed a score and there is nothing as a blessed gift from a god on the PC. Have fun.

    @16, Yeah. That one. That game’s issue were bugs in which it totally deserves this score and after they fixed everything it is a fantastic experience.

    Loved that review: “GameZone. Score:74″ Far too complicated for the casual player and not meaty enough for the military nut.”

    Anyway, GoW’s problem i’m sure have nothing to do with bugs and it’s probably something that you can’t fix. Well, you know gameplay graphics.. etc. Good luck Sony fan.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. CaptPierce

    @20, 19, & 18:

    So funny how he tries to distance himself from anything good with stupid arguments just for the sake of trolling, but goes back and contradicts himself in the stupidest ways possible. :)

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Erthazus

    Sony party started. Woohoo. I didn’t said anything at all and look how mad you all are.

    “From reviewers- One of the best looking games this gen.”

    That comes from every reviewer for the AAA exclusive title for Xbox or PS3 that it’s not even funny.
    It’s not one of the best looking games by far. It’s a fact. It’s the same looking game as God Of War 3 which was in 2010. It looks good, but since then there were games that looked better.

    @CaptPierce, first of all there was no trolling. Showing a GoW score in the GoW topic is trolling? U Mad?
    Get a Life Sony kid. It’s a score. You don’t need to be angry about it. Jesus.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. MadFingerz

    Someone ring me when this thread gets back on topic. No matter what you say, successful troll is successful..

    btw, it’s my birthday this month, so if any of you is a kind, rich soul, I’ll send you my address :)

    #24 2 years ago
  25. CaptPierce

    @21 “Precious?” This is what it’s come to? Trying to draw it out like I wanna marry the shit because I have an opinion different than yours? I don’t dickride Sony or any company just for the fact I like a product of theirs. People can like or dislike whatever the fuck they want to. Get real. :P

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Erthazus

    Well, good for you. Stop being mad then, kid. I said nothing about GoW, “my opinion” or anything. Just showed meta score. Damn fanboys.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. CaptPierce

    You didn’t like others showing a LOWER score of a game you like either soo…

    All in all, I’m done here. IT’S A VIDEOGAME. It really isn’t worth arguing over.

    That being said, game looks cool! Looking forward to playing as the “world’s strongest atheist.”

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Dragon246

    “Yeah, water from PS2 era with low resolution textures and 2D environment in the long distance.”
    Care to explain this? Its hilarious how hurt you are when good console exclusives come around.
    KZ is shit, COD is shit, Halo is shit.
    Common thing- None of liked by PC guys and 2 are console exclusives.
    I wonder who are you deluding. You clearly aren’t capable of debating rationally and try to fall back on “You are a fanboy” simply because you are losing a debate , or you pathetically run away, like you did after ps3 can be hacked via dongle with is completely false. Just keep running away.
    Discussing is worthless with you.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Clupula

    Why does anyone pay attention to him? Let’s all get back on topic. Who gives a fuck what the metacritic score is? I can’t remember the last time I played something I enjoyed, only to find out it had a low score, so I had to obviously burn my copy.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Erthazus

    “Care to explain this? ”

    Games on the PS3 has low resolution textures.
    2D environment in the long distance most of the time in the PS3 games. and Water is really bad.

    “KZ is shit, COD is shit, Halo is shit.”

    So CoD is exclusive to consoles? Woo. I don’t like these games. One is not a very good shooter, I don’t like Call Of duty from Modern Warfare. I liked the first one, Halo is indeed big POS. But that’s my opinion and it has nothing to do with console exclusivity. I played all of these games with exception of Halo 3,4, ODST… Played Reach, 1,2.

    “Its hilarious how hurt you are when good console exclusives come around.”

    Nope. You are a retard and Sony fanboy. I’m looking forward for The Last Of Us because previous ND games were amazing looking games, had great gameplay and story. It’s PS3 exclusive. You are happy now?

    “You clearly aren’t capable of debating rationally”

    I’m capable. I’m just not a fanboy. Deal with it Sony246.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. Dragon246

    +100. We have already sent one troll into sleep by ignoring him, haven’t we :D

    “2 are console exclusives.”
    It seems you have reading problems too. I guess I would stop here now.

    PS3 is hackable with a dongle. LOL.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Erthazus

    you have a fanboy issues. Reading problems is not an issue here because “CoD is exclusive to consoles” was sarcasm.

    “PS3 is hackable with a dongle. LOL.”

    Stop crying.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Armitage Shanks

    #28 there is no point trying to discuss it with him,unless its about CD Projekt RED or some shit he wont have anything good to say.As someone who never posts on here but regularly checks the site everyday its pretty tiring to see the same negativity and outright hostility toward other posters and anything that isnt using the most cutting edge photo realistic graphics in damn near every topic thread,i don’t know why he hasn’t been banned to be honest,but then he would just make a new account and continue i suppose so what’s the point right?

    #33 2 years ago
  34. Erthazus

    I have no negativity or hostility to other posters. So far I said nothing in this post that was an insult or anything to anyone except to people who started to say that i’m a Jackass and stuff. I just posted meta score and that’s it.
    You should be banned for saying something that is not true.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Dragon246

    From 2010? Stop making me laugh so hard.
    “(NOTE: requires other tools, PB2 cannot downgrade a console)”
    Your PS3 knowledge is really remarkable.
    77 meta game sequel is waiting for you.

    Come back when you have some facts.

    “I have no negativity or hostility to other posters. ”
    Right. To me 1 hour ago-
    “Best graphics of this gen only Sony fanboys can see.”
    Who are you fooling? If you want to talk this sensibly I am ready.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. Armitage Shanks

    many many times i have seen you jump on people who post anything positive towards a game or developer in comments without having been provoked beforehand “fanboy,kid,retard” on and on…

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Joe Musashi

    @34 “You should be banned for saying something that is not true.”

    If this site used that as a basis to ban then you’d have been long gone by now.


    #37 2 years ago
  38. reask

    In all fairness to erth and I know he loves pissing on peoples parades but some of the reviews appear to pick out faults such as the big difficulty spike for instance.

    I am playing 2 atm and loving it having completed 1 but I will be checking out reviews on this one as I was a little bit underwhelmed on the demo which I found to be quite easy and a little bit lacking as I failed to die once yet there was no difficulty option.

    I was looking forward to it tbh and was trying to finish 1 and 2 to get me in to the mood but 70 scores I never like especially with a big game like this.

    anyway just my opinion and I will await eurogamer uk as I kinda respect there reviews unlike ign which I just go to for the video review and then totally ignore it. :)

    #38 2 years ago
  39. MadFingerz

    @38 “reviews appear to pick out faults such as the big difficulty spike for instance.”

    Since when is this supposed to be a fault? Especially with a GOW game? Fucking game reviewers…Seriously, this is pure nitpicking with the single purpose of downgrading a game. That’s why I don’t give a turd about review scores anymore, I could swear games are graded now based on hype alone..

    Well, whatever, I really don’t care, I’ll get the game and have lots of fun with it. Everything else be damned.

    #39 2 years ago
  40. xxJPRACERxx

    Erthazus may have a negative attitude but I never saw him write personal attacks against anybody. I don’t think saying “fanboy” to someone is personal attack.

    But I agree that when people are excited about a game and someone is always saying negative comments this is not cool.

    #40 2 years ago
  41. ps3fanboy


    you here again you rented simcity ea chinese spammer, havent you done enough damage?…

    #41 2 years ago
  42. xxJPRACERxx

    @41 I’ll stop when your anus is bleeding and you’re crying like a little baby!

    #42 2 years ago
  43. Fin

    |Erthazus may have a negative attitude but I never saw him write personal attacks against anybody.

    I actually laughed out loud.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. Armitage Shanks

    sure make excuses for the guy,whatever its not gonna change,he is still gonna be on 90% of the threads spouting hate and negativity.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. xxJPRACERxx

    I don’t disagree about the negative attitude and sometime this get on my nerve too. But calling someone a fanboy is not personal attack.

    #45 2 years ago
  46. mitesh

    See what went behind creating Inception VFX –

    #46 2 years ago
  47. Kuwabara

    I thought the 2 single players demos for GOW4 were great. I loved the scale and the moving environments, along with the graphics and combat refinements. I hate how review scores are affecting people’s decision to buy this game. If a game gets low scores people will see it as a shit game and miss out on it’s value through their own judgement, the same game can get high scores, getting them hyped up and they play the game on a positive note and suddenly everything is fine. Gow 4 is a very good game by the reviews i have read. It got it’share of 90′s and 80′s. You have to remember this game shipped with multiplayer as well which has affected it’s SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN SCORE. I think it was gamespot who gave it an 8, praising the single player, but saying the multiplayer was bad. Now what if the game was released with no Multi player, would it still have gotten an 8, or higher??.. The multiplayer is affecting the final score, so smarten up people.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. Armitage Shanks

    Calling people kids is condescending though,nevermind how he throws around the word retard…

    #48 2 years ago

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