In today's world every game must have multiplayer. First Assassin's Creed, then Mass Effect and now multiplayer has come to God of War too. The multiplayer aspect, somehow, fitted perfectly on AC and ME, but it is the same for God of War?
The God of War games are known for amazing and epic singleplayer campaigns with tons of combat, amazing stories and set-pieces, epic boss fights, light platforming and puzzles and a sh*t ton of blood and gore. So adding a multiplayer aspect to it, with the same epicness as the singleplayer, is the step in the right direction, right? Well as long the epic singleplayer isn't affected by it.
I had the chance to be part in the beta of the multiplayer that ended Monday and I was surprised how good it was and how good it fitted into the God of War universe. You start the multiplayer with a quick tutorial/introduction where you had to choose your allegiance to a god. Only Ares and Zeus were available in the beta with Hades, Poseidon and another god locked out. Each god granted different stats buffs and different abilities, but you could change freely your allegiance in the menu between matches, so there was no point in choosing one, I think.
There were three modes available in the beta: Team Favor of the Gods, Capture The Flag and Favor of the Gods. Team Favor of the Gods 4 vs 4 is like the equivalent of Domination on Call of Duty, where you have to capture and hold a flag/territory till you reach a certain number of points and win. Capture the Flag is the standart game mode 4 vs 4, where you have to capture the flag from the enemy "base" and bring it to your "base". And lastly Favor of the Gods is the standart deathmatch mode, where 4 players are thrown in a small arena and try to kill each other.
There were only two maps in the beta, one for the 8-players mode and one for the deathmatch. Desert of Lost Souls was the big map where you could play Team Favor of the Gods or Capture The Flag. It is the map that featured the big chained Polyphemus you might have seen in some screenshots. The level design is great with two levels or planes where you can fight and kill the opposition, traps to activate such as firetraps, spikes etc, health and magic fountains, special weapons drop spots etc. The other map Hercules' Forum is most remembered from a boss battle in God of War 3. Nothing special here apart that from time to time Heracles would jump down in the arena and cause a shockwave that could catapult you and the other players off the map.
Enough about the maps, lets talk weapons, armor, magic, items and combat. There are two weapon classes, swords and axes and each one of them has different unique stats. The different sets of armor also have different unique stats. You unlock new ones by leveling up or by finding pieces of them in the special white chests that appear around the maps. Magic powers are different on each allegiance and you can level them up or upgrade them by using tokens you earn when you level up. You also have an item which you can use in battle that can give you a buff, make you invincible etc.
Square is light attack, triangle is heavy attack while circle is your physical attack. Pressing L1 and one of these buttons at the same time, you would unleash special attacks that cause a lot of damage. L1 alone is used for block, which works most of the time, but if you press L1 and X you can parry most of your enemies attack and getting the upper hand in combat. You can also launch a "grappling hook" with R1 which you can use to catch foes that are sprinting, launched in the air, or dodging. R2 is used to activate your item and L2 to use your magic power.
The combat is super fluid and the controls are pitch perfect, just what you should expect from a God of War game. In 1 v 1 fights if you string together normal attacks with special ones, parry when needed and utilize magic and your item correctly, your enemy has no chance of surviving. But that's only in 1 v 1, if two or more players attack you at the same time, you might have a slight chance of surviving. This happens if you're a noob or a low level player, or just a casual player, but if you are a badass player like me you won't have any problem. One time I fought against three players and slayed all of them. Yes, in God of War Ascension multiplayer you will experience moments you've never experienced before and this is where it shines. Executing an enemy is super uber satisfying! Cutting him in half, slashing his guts out, smashing his head with the giant hammer or violently punching his head a million times is, as I said, super satisfying. The gruesome moments that this game offers are amazing! And helping in achieving this epic level of gruesome are the animations which are fantastic and very very well made. In fact the whole game looks beautiful, the environments, character details, weapons, the color palette etc. everything is just perfect.
So thats what is good about the multiplayer, now onto the "bad" things and how can it improve. The first and most important "problem" I have with Ascension's multiplayer is its lasting appeal. I played a total of 12 maybe more hours on the beta, but I saw everything and unlocked everything in around 3 hours. Yes all animations, weapons, armors, magic powers, items etc. I also upgraded to the max most of them. I read somewhere that the complete game will have another mode (unannounced till now), so that's up to four modes. Sure it will have different maps, but for how long would play it? I mean the game is cool and all, but it doesn't hook you up like Call of Duty or Battlefield does, at least for me. So for how long will players continue to play it and continue to enjoy it? What will bring them back to it? I didn't see anything like that in the beta.
The matchmaking was a little wonky, but I think that by the release date they will have fixed it. Another thing that bothered me, was that during Team Favor of the Gods matches, when have the Spear of Gods and are prompted to execute Polyphemus, many times the second part of the execution (after you slice his mouth) where you jump and hit him in the eye didn't happen. Or many times an enemy could stop all the action by hitting you while in the middle of the execution. What's up with that? Strange... Also very strange I found the whole stats thing. Each weapon or armor piece had different stats that combined made your character's overall stats. But to me it felt like nothing changed when I switched the armor or the weapons. Maybe they need to work more the stats or something like that.
Now some ideas that have been cooking in my mind on how the game could improve more. The UI or user interface in the menus was, for my opinion, messy. They should start "cleaning" it by making the font a little bigger and another color cause it was difficult to read or see. Also they need to work on the information given to the player for example, when you a weapon or armor level up, maybe a menu should pop-up showing before and after stats etc. Another thing that I think was missing was an announcer, maybe something like Halo games have. Imagine hearing Kratos voice every time you kill, execute someone or capture a territory/flag. Yes... EPIC! Also I found that the automatic lock-on was a little spotty, you often missed someone with a throwing weapon even if you had the analog pointed in the right direction. Another addition I would like to see in the game is a fully fledged character creator or well at least a face creation tool. It would be pretty rad! And lastly, in many of the matches that I played, one team was very good and the other one was bad meaning that one team was in front of the other by 4000 maybe more points. Now would it be cool if there was an intervention from the gods? Maybe a big angry bald guy came down from the sky and started helping the losing team...think about that! Uncharted 3 had a similar system and it worked fine.
So should you get excited about God of War Ascension's multiplayer? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Sure playing, killing and executing other players is very satisfying, but for how long can you enjoy that? Maybe eventually people will like it cause there's nothing like it out there right now and that it is a lot of fun, but is the multiplayer the main strong point that will get people to buy the game? I think not, I think people will buy the game mainly to play as Kratos, fight hordes of soldiers, slay elephant men (god knows what other creatures) and execute giant bosses with badass and epic moves! That's why you will buy this game!