Making Changes for the Better (E3 2012)
When a game studio finds a successful formula that both makes money and is fully satisfying for the consumer, there's rarely a reason to change it. You can't say God of War really needed anything new, yet the decision to update the franchise was no doubt the right one.
I had the pleasure to sit down with a couple of the God of War: Ascension developers during E3, and what I saw put a smile on my face. Ascension is not just a worthy prequel to Sony's successful franchise set in the mythological world of Olympus, but a breath of fresh air for those who didn't have faith in the possibility of making the game feel new and refreshed. In fact, even if you weren't hoping for changes, you'll be pleased with what they've done.
First off, I sat down with the combat technical director to check out the single-player demo. This part was hands-off, but what I saw was enough to understand the new direction the game is taking. God of War was never just a hack 'n' slash game, but certainly the combat possibilities felt a bit limited at times in previous entries. You had the light and strong attacks with a variety of combos, and other than that, you could use magic to execute special attacks which were often devastating for the beasts around you, but that was it. Now you can do all that and more. In God of War: Ascension, players have access to secondary weapons Kratos picks up from the enemies. He gets to keep them as long as he wants, though some may be more effective than others against your adversary, so it's mostly up to you. Also, melee combat has been added. Kratos can punch, kick, and combine these hand-to-hand attacks with the always satisfying offensive moves with the Blades of Chaos, orange glow and blood splatters included.
The combat changes don't end there, however. If you remember the previous GOW games, a circle command would appear above the enemies after taking a good beating from the game's brutal demigod, indicating you could finish them off. Instead, in God of War: Ascension, a white halo will light up above their heads, indicating you can use the nearly defeated foes as a shield or even a weapon; just protect yourself from incoming attacks or swing them around to bring down any remaining aggressors... the choice is yours. Oh, and there were some enemies with red halos too; those are barely alive, and the moment you touch them, they're toast.
The types of enemies were different too. As you might have seen in the God of War demo shown at Sony's E3 presentation, there were satyrs, your everyday warrior, and an elephant humanoid that's quite strong. Of course, when facing Kratos no one stands a chance, and even the huge kraken has seen better days. The dev team has cut down on standard QTEs (quick-time events), sometimes requiring other types of actions that involve the use of the control sticks and a bit of intuition to finish a foe. When asked about other mini-game additions such as the popular, "secret" sex games, the developer grinned and said he could only hope Ascension will have that too.
Between the fast-paced, varied combat, the mini-game breaks, and the exhilarating boss battles, what else could you ask for in God of War: Ascension? Well, how about an update for the platforming mechanics too? Everything feels much more organic this time around, and rather than traveling and climbing while following a linear path, the platforming will take you from point to point, adapted to the environments that surround you rather than creating artificial paths for you to follow. Amongst other powers Kratos will acquire is the ability to manipulate time in order to alter scenarios. For example, structures that you may find damaged as you enter an area obviously served a purpose in the past, and by rewinding you'll be able to get through segments that would have been otherwise impossible. You can overcome puzzling situations like that with the abilities you'll obtain throughout the game, but of course there'll be switches and plenty of other puzzle types too.
Since I talked about abilities, it's also worth noting that rather than upgrading your powers with orbs like in previous games, you'll be leveling up as you go, becoming stronger as you acquire experience with your actions. Magic and health will still be available in chests scattered throughout the game, though you can get it by attacking enemies too, and hidden items like the good ol' gorgon eyes and phoenix feathers (perhaps not those specifically) will be part of this GOW game too.
As you can see, the game hasn't changed too much, and the essence of the barbaric God of War titles is there, pretty much intact, gore and all. The graphics are realistic, detailed, and will impress you more than ever. I felt God of War 3 needed a little something (Kratos sometimes looked too small and dark), and this game has it. What may catch you by surprise, however, is the addition of multiplayer to the series. Check out the God of War: Ascension multiplayer hands-on preview for the lowdown on that.
An enthusiast of gaming adventures as well as party and puzzle games. Writer, editor, translator, graphics designer, and a multitasker at heart. Maria has worked in the gaming industry since 2007, though she's been a gamer since the eighties. She proudly wore her Spain jersey when they won the 2010 World Cup!
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