God of War: Ascension will be the first in the series to feature a multiplayer mode

Playstation's most famous hack-and-slash action game finally nets itself a multiplayer mode in soon-to-be-released God of War: Ascension, the latest game in the series which is all set for a March 2013 invasion of your PS3. At first, it might sound too good to be true, but after a bit of thought, you come to a certain realisation, and find yourself saying “well, it's about time”. I was lucky enough to experience the game’s online modes in a recent multiplayer beta. The experience was, if nothing else, quite interesting.

Uncompromisingly, developers SCE Santa Monica Studio don't seem to be holding back any punches with Ascension's multiplayer. This means that you get the same great graphics of the Sony first-party title's single player mode, as well as the button-mashing joy of its combat system. You begin your journey by picking an allegiance; a choice of god to worship, which determines your online avatar’s set of base attributes and weapons. Zeus and Ares were the only gods available in the beta; pick the latter and you will get a massive hammer plus a physical damage and defense bonus, while picking the god of sky and thunder grants you a different set of attribute bumps and a sword. The full game is set to sport two additional gods: Hades and Poseidon. The beta also featured two maps in the shape of Forum of Hercules (a 4 player free-for-all map) and Desert of Lost Souls (an 8 player team deathmatch map). Unfortunately, the 8 player map remained inaccessible despite my repeated attempts to connect — understandable given that this was a limited access and limited period multiplayer beta.

Once you’ve picked your god, a short tutorial introduces you to the game's basic controls (attacks, blocking), while an “advanced” tutorial teaches you rudimentary combos and a finishing move. Fans of the series will feel right at home here, but they will also notice a tad more fluidity in the general responsiveness of the controls. The intricacy of Street Fighter and SoulCalibur this is not — Ascension treads more familiar ground, staying faithful to God of War’s button mashing roots. Once your memory is refreshed, it’s time to outfit your character and enter a match lobby.

While in the lobby or outside of it, you can equip your character with weapons and armour (determined by your allegiance), and the game gives you an overview of your current attributes/stats. You can choose to switch your allegiance at any time before a game as well as change loadouts. You then connect to a lobby, wait for it to fill up with players, and then mayhem ensues. The fact this was a beta then became rather apparent; in its current state, Ascension’s MP beta was more of an opportunity to test the waters rather than a well-rounded experience. The lack of level balancing was a frustration — high and low level players were matched in the same lobby, and when it so happened that a lobby had level 1 players, the “sameness” of character skins resulted in a fair bit of confusion (I was unable to tell my character apart from other players). But on a positive note, the combat felt fluid and satisfying (despite lacking in depth and minor annoyances with the targeting system). The executions are sure to please fanboys; gory and over-the-top, staying true to the series’ philosophy. Overall, Ascension’s online mode shows promise, and is a unique yet logical evolution of the series.

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