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December 06, 2012

‘God of War: Ascension’: Director touts game’s combat feel

Posted in: Games

gowascension screenshots openhouse mpbeta 01800 God of War: Ascension: Director touts games combat feel

By favoring Ares, "God of War: Ascension" players can deal a bevy of quick sword attacks and swift aerial moves. As a player progresses through multiplayer, armor can be unlocked to personalize the look and upgrade the abilities of a character. (Sony Santa Monica)

gowascension screenshots openhouse mpbeta 02800 God of War: Ascension: Director touts games combat feel

The "God of War: Ascension" multiplayer mode includes a free-for-all mode where up to four players can duke it out. Here, a player slams a sword down on an opponent in the "Forum of Hercules" arena. (Sony Santa Monica)

gowascension screenshots openhouse mpbeta 03800 God of War: Ascension: Director touts games combat feel

A Spartan warrior with Zeus' favor. Playing for Zeus gives the player a giant hammer that -- while slower than a sword -- deals more damage. (Sony Santa Monica)

Sony’s “God of War” franchise has been a fan favorite since lead character Kratos stormed living rooms in  2005. The series, in all its forms, has sold 21.65 million copies worldwide as of May 2012, with the third installment, “God of War III,” selling 5.2 million copies according to Sony.

Despite its success, the gameplay has been relatively unchanged since its initial release. However, Sony’s Santa Monica studio plans to change that with “God of War: Ascension,” coming to the PlayStation 3 on March 12, 2013, though the multiplayer beta goes live this winter on PlayStation Network for Plus subscribers.

Billed as a prequel, “Ascension” brings players into Kratos’ life just after he’s tricked into killing his family. And for the first time in the franchise’s history, players can battle it out in both combat and objective based game styles.

As Spartan warriors, players can choose to fight for Ares, Zeus, Hades or Poseidon, each with their own weapons and play styles. Multiplayer modes include a four player free for all and a four-on-four, objective-driven mode called Team Favor Rush. In the game, your weapon varies depending on whom you fight for (or whom you “favor”). Battle it out for Ares and use a sword. Zeus? A hammer.

The team has kept the hallmarks of the series intact in the multiplayer as well: large environments, a ton of light and dark textures and —  of course — bloody, bloody combat.

Hero Complex caught up with “Ascension” game director Todd Papy to talk about what it was like to add multiplayer to the epic game series.

HC: What kind of team was assembled to add multiplayer to the “God of War” series?

TP: For the most part, we’ve had our core team here since “God of War I.” Some people have been switched in, switched out, but for the most part, that core team is there. So we know how to make this game. There are a hundred things that go in to a make a shooter [game] great and for us, there are a hundred things we do to make ["God of War"] combat feel great. And that’s been passed on to generations and generations of combat designers.

HC: When did the team finally say, ‘We want multiplayer in this game’?

TP: At the end of ["God of War III"].  One of combat designers got Kratos vs. Kratos working and so that was really the genesis of the idea, “Oh wow, we can actually do this.” And from there, it’s been the trials and tribulations of getting it to work. And there are moments of “Oh, we’re doing this…” [laugh]. You pull your hair out trying to figure out how does this work.

HC: What were the challenges in adding multiplayer to the franchise?

TP: Besides rewriting the whole engine? [laughs] Our game was all single player code. And the mentality of how we build things had to be adjusted. It took us a while to figure out what the formula for our multiplayer game was. And especially with a single player game, there’s no [online] lag. Every hit feels good and that’s been one of the hardest things we’ve had to solve is how do we make sure, with lag and everything else, the hits feel right. If I slash through you and I don’t play a reaction, then it’s not gonna feel good.

HC: Cinematic gameplay takes on a huge role in the franchise. How did  you bring that to “Ascension?”

TP: We started with a level about three times the size as [demo level "Desert of Lost Souls"] and it was like, “No no we can’t do that” [laughs]. But from there it’s cameras and making sure … think of a movie or something like that. We design on three walls and the fourth wall is for the camera. With our camera system we can go through and actually pull out when the cyclops  is about to come down on you. It gives you that cinematic nature you’ve come to expect from the single player game but in the multiplayer.

Check out the official “God of War: Ascension” homepage and don’t forget to view more video games coverage on Hero Complex.

— Aaron Williams | @aboutaaron

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