God of War: Ascension

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God of War: Ascension
God of War Ascension.jpg
North American cover art, featuring the protagonist Kratos chained in imprisonment.
Developer(s)SCE Santa Monica Studio[1]
Publisher(s)Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s)Todd Papy[1]
Producer(s)Whitney Wade
Designer(s)Mark Simon
Programmer(s)Vassily A. Filippov
Artist(s)Christopher Sutton
Writer(s)Marianne Krawczyk
Ariel Lawrence
Composer(s)Tyler Bates
SeriesGod of War
EngineModified God of War III engine
Platform(s)PlayStation 3
Release date(s)NA March 12, 2013[2]

EU March 13, 2013[3]
AUS March 14, 2013[3]
UK March 15, 2013[3]

Genre(s)Hack and slash, action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer[4]
DistributionBlu-ray Disc, download
 
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God of War: Ascension
God of War Ascension.jpg
North American cover art, featuring the protagonist Kratos chained in imprisonment.
Developer(s)SCE Santa Monica Studio[1]
Publisher(s)Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s)Todd Papy[1]
Producer(s)Whitney Wade
Designer(s)Mark Simon
Programmer(s)Vassily A. Filippov
Artist(s)Christopher Sutton
Writer(s)Marianne Krawczyk
Ariel Lawrence
Composer(s)Tyler Bates
SeriesGod of War
EngineModified God of War III engine
Platform(s)PlayStation 3
Release date(s)NA March 12, 2013[2]

EU March 13, 2013[3]
AUS March 14, 2013[3]
UK March 15, 2013[3]

Genre(s)Hack and slash, action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer[4]
DistributionBlu-ray Disc, download

God of War: Ascension is a third person action-adventure video game developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE). The game was first released on March 12, 2013, for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) console. It is the seventh installment in the God of War series and prequel to the entire series. Loosely based on Greek mythology, the game is set in ancient Greece with vengeance as its central motif. The player controls the protagonist Kratos, the former servant of the God of War, Ares, who tricked Kratos into killing his wife and child. Kratos renounced Ares, breaking his blood oath to the god, and was imprisoned by the three Furies, the guardians of honor and enforcers of punishment. Helped by the oath keeper Orkos, Kratos escapes his imprisonment and defeats the Furies. Although free of Ares' bond, Kratos begins to suffer the nightmares that plague him throughout his adventures.

The gameplay is similar to other games in the God of War series. It focuses on combo-based combat, achieved through the player's main weapon—the Blades of Chaos—and other weapons acquired by the new World Weapons mechanic. The player may also use up to four magical attacks and a power-enhancing ability as alternative combat options. Continuing the use of quick time events, the game adds a new promptless free-form system, in addition to the mechanics of the previous installments. It also features puzzles and platforming elements. In addition to its similar gameplay, it is the first installment to include online multiplayer for both competitive and cooperative play. It also features a revamped combat system, new gameplay mechanics, and downloadable content.

God of War: Ascension received generally favorable reception from critics, who praised its fundamental gameplay and spectacle true to the series. Some reviewers stated the story was not as compelling as previous installments, with IGN stating that in comparison to Zeus and Ares, "the Furies don’t quite cut it".[5] The multiplayer received a mixed response. Although reviewers claimed gameplay translated well into the multiplayer, they were critical towards the balance and depth of combat. Edge magazine, however, approved of the multiplayer, stating it is an "evolutionary step" with "some fine ideas ... that will form part of this genre's future template."[6]

Gameplay[edit]

The gameplay is similar to previous games in the series. In both the single-player and multiplayer, it is primarily a third-person video game viewed from a fixed camera perspective with some scenes in the single-player featuring a first-person camera view. In the single-player mode, the player controls the character Kratos in combo-based combat, platforming, and puzzle game elements, and battles foes who primarily stem from Greek mythology, including cyclopes, cerberuses, empusas, sirens, Gorgons, satyrs, harpies, and centaurs. Several monsters were created specifically for the game, including parasitic insects, juggernauts (elephantaur), wild hounds, stone talos, wraiths, and manticores (several monsters also appear in the multiplayer). Platforming elements require the player to climb walls and ladders, jump across chasms, and slide down walls to proceed through sections of the game. Some puzzles are simple, such as moving a box so that the player can use it as a jumping-off point to access a pathway unreachable with normal jumping, while others are more complex, such as moving several objects into their correct positions in order to proceed to the next section of the game.[7][8]

Throughout the game, the player finds chests colored green, blue, or red, and each chest contains orbs of the corresponding color. Green orbs replenish the player's health, blue orbs replenish magic allowing further usage, and red orbs provide experience for upgrading weapons, magic, and relics—making new, more-powerful attacks available. Red orbs are also collected by killing foes, destroying certain inanimate objects, and using the World sword (each attack yields orbs).[8] As in the previous games, the player can collect Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers in white colored chests. The Eyes and Feathers increase the length of the Health and Magic Meters, respectively; finding fifteen Phoenix Feathers and twenty Gorgon Eyes maximizes each respective meter and thus, the player's power.[9]

Combat[edit]

Kratos' main weapon is the Blades of Chaos, a pair of blades attached to chains that are wrapped around the character's wrists and forearms. In gameplay, the blades can be swung offensively in various maneuvers. A new weapons mechanic, called the World Weapon system, allows Kratos to pick up weapons scattered throughout game locations or take them from defeated foes, and use these for a limited time. There are five World Weapons that can be collected randomly, although only one may be in Kratos' possession at any one time. These include a sword, a club, a javelin, a sling, and a shield.[8][10] Kratos also has the ability to change from the Blades to the equipped World Weapon during an attack (a "mid-combo" move). When a World Weapon is not equipped, Kratos may punch or kick foes as part of the new combat system. Kratos can also learn to use up to four magical disciplines, including the Fire of Ares, the Ice of Poseidon, the Lightning of Zeus, and the Soul of Hades, which, depending on the magic equipped, also imbues the Blades of Chaos with that elemental property (e.g., the Soul of Hades imbues the Blades with purple flames and can unleash souls of the Underworld to briefly attack enemies). The Ice of Poseidon also enables Kratos to breathe underwater, a necessary ability as several components of the game are based in this environment.[11][12]

As in previous games, the Rage ability is included, called Rage of the Gods, which provides increased attack damage and different attack combinations. Unlike the previous games, the Rage meter is filled by attacking enemies and once full, the ability is automatically activated and remains activated until Kratos is attacked (or stops attacking for an extended period of time), then requiring the meter to be refilled. Collecting gold orbs from stone talos monsters and from enemies imbued by the Fire of Ares also increases the Rage meter. The Rage ability is affected by the magic equipped, allowing Kratos to utilize different Rage attacks (e.g., the lightning-based Rage of Zeus).[13]

Three new relics have been added: the Amulet of Uroborus (LifeCycle mechanic), the Oath Stone of Orkos, and the Eyes of Truth. The Amulet of Uroborus allows Kratos to manipulate time by decaying or healing an object. A broken bridge can be constructed or deconstructed depending on the goal, with pausing during construction possible, thereby freezing items in place and allowing puzzle solving when needed. The amulet can be used on enemies, levitating the foe and drastically slowing them for a brief period of time. The Oath Stone of Orkos gives Kratos the ability to be in two places at once, creating a "shadow" version of himself that can depress plates, hold levers, or attack enemies. The Eyes of Truth remove illusions created by the Furies and cast a blinding light against enemies.[14]

In combat, a quick time event (QTE) feature, also called context sensitive attacks, is initiated when the player has weakened a strong foe. The player performs a sequence of actions on the game controller shortly after a red halo appears above the enemy's head as an on-screen prompt. This allows for limited control of Kratos during a QTE cinematic sequence, which, if successful, ends the battle; failure usually results in damage to the protagonist. The game also utilizes a promptless free-form system, allowing players the choice of when to attack or dodge based on the enemy's actions. Additionally, when certain foes (such as a cyclops or a juggernaut) have been weakened enough, the player may jump on its back and briefly force the monster to attack other enemies.[15]

Other extra features include the addition of ten Artifacts, which are hidden throughout the game world and provide additional abilities during New Game Plus (e.g., unlimited magic). New Game Plus also allows players to choose a different costume for Kratos (which are armors that are unlockable in the multiplayer and one costume from completing the game), but trophies are disabled during this mode. A new feature (absent from previous installments) is "Chapter Select", which allows players to select and replay previously completed levels. Unlike previous installments where behind-the-scenes videos are unlocked after completing the game, these videos are already available from the main menu. The Challenge mode included in all previous installments is absent, being replaced by the new multiplayer feature.

Multiplayer[edit]

The Desert of Lost Souls multiplayer map: players battle each other with the Titan cyclops Polyphemus in the background.[16]

For the first time in the God of War series, the game offers an online multiplayer feature for up to eight players, with a small story element. The main objective is for players to attempt to take control of a map in order to earn rewards from the gods. Before entering multiplayer battles, players are introduced to their warrior, who, like Kratos, is an oath breaker and imprisoned in the Prison of the Damned. During the in-game component and shown at the beginning of the multiplayer component, Kratos briefly sees this warrior before being attacked by a hand of the Hecatonchires, at which time the warrior is transported to the Rotunda of Olympus. The player takes control of their warrior and aligns with one of the four deities: Ares,[17] Hades,[18] Zeus,[19] or Poseidon.[7][20][21] Each god offers a unique combat play-style and abilities in battle. Players can eventually create up to three more warriors and have a champion representing each god.[22]

Players unlock special magic abilities, new and upgraded armors and weapons, relics, and other treasures as players earn experience points (XP) to level up their warrior.[22] The attack-style of the god with whom players align is critical to their warrior's path.[23] Throughout the multiplayer matches, players receive buffs or debuffs. Buffs positively affect the player's ability, such as increased defense and more powerful attacks. Debuffs negatively affect the player's ability, such as blocks, magic, and items use being disabled.[24] Players also have assigned Labors to complete. Labors are challenges from the gods that can be completed to unlock armor and weapons.[25]

A new "prestige" feature was added on June 10, 2013, called "Ascension". Ascension allows players to reset their allegiance progression when they hit Level 40, and grant them special Ascension Tokens that may be redeemed for "Godly" armors and weapons. These unique, Godly armors and weapons are the "most valuable and powerful items in the game." When players reset their allegiance progress, they are classified as a "Hero" and granted four tokens. The second time they hit Level 40, they will gain four more tokens and be classified as a "Demi-God". Once players hit this level, they will continue to ascend, keep the title of Demi-God, and earn more tokens. The Godly armors and weapons have a boost in stats from their respective base level counterparts (e.g., if the Blade of Zeus has 10% magic damage, the Godly Blade of Zeus will have 11% or more). To unlock all Godly armors and weapons for one allegiance, players will need to ascend six times.[26]

There are five multiplayer modes: Team Favor of the Gods, Match of Champions, Trial of the Gods, Capture the Flag, and Bout of Honor. The "signature" multiplayer mode is Team Favor of the Gods. In this mode, two teams of two to four players—Spartans versus Trojans—attempt to accumulate a target amount of points in order to claim victory. Points, known as Favor, are earned by kills and other methods. When players are not on the offensive, they may help their team earn points by capturing altars, collecting red orbs from chests, and setting traps for opposing players. The non-team version, Match of Champions, is a four to eight player deathmatch with the same goal as Team Favor of the Gods, except no altars are to be captured.[27] Trial of the Gods is a two-player, cooperative, time trial mode. In this mode, players face five increasingly hard waves of mythological monsters, followed by a boss fight, whilst surviving against the clock. A single-player version is also available.[20] In Capture the Flag, the Spartans and Trojans battle to steal the opposing team's flag and return it to their base until a target amount of flags have been captured.[28] Bout of Honor is a new mode added with update patch 1.09 on July 11, 2013. In this one-on-one fight, players test their skills in a best of seven rounds. It is "a true contest of skill with no chests, [health and magic] fountains, or world weapons to aid [players]. This mode also disables relics and allows for a Champion’s magic to [slowly] regenerate over time."[29]

Each multiplayer map is based on a signature God of War location (e.g., Desert of Lost Souls from God of War, Bog of the Forgotten from God of War II, and Labyrinth of Daedalus from God of War III).[30] Every map features several special power-ups awarded by the gods for Favor earned, such as the Boots of Hermes for accelerated speed and running attacks, providing players with a brief advantage.[22][23]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

As with other games in the God of War franchise, God of War: Ascension is set in an alternate version of ancient Greece, populated by the Olympian Gods, Titans, and other beings from Greek mythology. Game events are set before Chains of Olympus (2008) and ten years before the original God of War (2005).[31] The narrative takes place over a period of four weeks and it shifts several times between the present and past, while the player controls Kratos in both. Several locations are explored, including the Prison of the Damned and several real-world locations, including the village of Kirra, the city of Delphi, and the island of Delos.

The Prison of the Damned is a massive prison built upon the imprisoned Hecatonchires, Aegaeon, by the Furies to house all oath breakers. Kirra is an abandoned village that lost its water supply after the destruction of its water wheel and the bridge that supplied water to it. Other than monsters, the only life is at its harbor, where the tamed Harbor Master guides vessels in and out of the port. The city of Delphi is located in the snowy mountains north of Kirra and features the Tower of Delphi. After activating the three massive, mechanical pythons, the Tower allows access to the Temple of Delphi, home of the Oracle. Located across the sea is the island of Delos, which features the Titan-sized statue of Apollo, constructed by the inventor, Archimedes, to honor the god.

Characters[edit]

The protagonist of the game is Kratos (voiced by Terrence C. Carson), a Spartan warrior who broke his blood oath to the Olympian god, Ares. Other characters include Orkos (Troy Baker), the oath keeper; Aletheia (Adrienne Barbeau), the Oracle of Delphi; the Prophet Castor (David W. Collins) and his conjoined twin Pollux (Brad Grusnick); the three Furies and main antagonists—Megaera (Nika Futterman), Tisiphone (Debi Mae West), and the Fury Queen, Alecto (Jennifer Hale); and the Scribe of Hecatonchires (Robin Atkin Downes). Kratos' wife, Lysandra (Jennifer Hale), and his daughter, Calliope, appear in an illusion created by Alecto. Zeus (Corey Burton), the King of the Olympian Gods, Ares (Steven Blum), the God of War, Poseidon (Gideon Emery), the God of the Sea, and Hades (Fred Tatasciore), the God of the Underworld, are represented in the multiplayer mode. The demigod Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and the Titan cyclops Polyphemus also appear in the multiplayer as bosses.

Plot[edit]

A prologue reveals that before the time of the Titans and the rule of the Olympian Gods, there was an eons-long war between the Primordials, the beings who forged the Earth. The war spawned the Furies, the guardians of honor and bane of traitors who punish those they deem guilty. When Aegaeon, the Hecatonchires, broke a blood oath to Zeus, he became the first traitor and a target for the Furies. As punishment, Aegaeon was captured and subsequently tortured and turned to stone. The many armed brute was made into the giant Prison of the Damned, becoming a symbol of the consequences of breaking a blood oath to a god.[32]

Gameplay begins with an imprisoned Kratos, chained and tormented by the Furies for breaking his blood oath to Ares, the God of War. The Fury Megaera tortures Kratos, but accidentally facilitates his freedom. Pursued by Kratos, a desperate Megaera uses her parasitic insects to awaken Aegaeon—revealed to be the prison housing the Spartan and other oath breakers.[32] Fending off the Hecatonchires, Kratos confronts the Fury Tisiphone who attempts to trick the Spartan with an illusion. Overcoming the illusion, Kratos locates Megaera, who despite using Aegaeon as a weapon, is killed by the Spartan. Kratos then retrieves the Amulet of Uroborus, an item that the Furies confiscated from him.

The narrative shifts to three weeks before Kratos' imprisonment. Confronted by Orkos in the village of Kirra, Kratos is advised that the visions he has been experiencing are mind tricks created by the Furies, and instructs him to find Aletheia, the Oracle of Delphi. Traveling to the Temple of Delphi, he overcomes the corrupted Prophet Castor and his conjoined twin Pollux, who attempted to kill the Oracle so that Kratos could not see her. A dying Oracle instructs Kratos to travel to Delos to retrieve the Eyes of Truth. Taking the Amulet of Uroborus from the now-dead Castor and Pollux, Kratos travels to the Harbor of Kirra and encounters Orkos again. The oath keeper reveals that he is the son of Ares and Alecto. Ares wanted a perfect warrior who could help him overthrow Zeus and claim the throne of the King of the Gods. Disappointed in Orkos, Ares disowned his son, and Orkos became the oath keeper of the Furies to please his mother. He explained that Kratos was the warrior the God of War sought, and to make Kratos into a powerful bloodthirsty Spartan, Ares helped Kratos kill the barbarians and their leader in battle. Orkos did his bidding as the oath keeper and did not question the Furies until Ares tricked Kratos into killing his family. Armed with this knowledge, Kratos takes a ship to Delos.

A week later, Kratos arrives at the island of Delos and explores the giant, ruined statue of Apollo. He is attacked by all three Furies, and although severing Megaera's arm, he is captured when the Fury Queen, Alecto, intervenes. Orkos, however, appears and frees Kratos, transporting him to another location. Orkos, who gives Kratos his Oath Stone, reveals that he and Aletheia attempted to warn Zeus of Ares' and the Furies' plan to overthrow the King of the Gods and claim Olympus for themselves. In retaliation, the Furies took the Oracle's eyes and are in fact the very objects Kratos now seeks. After a perilous journey, Kratos uses the Amulet of Uroborus to fully restore the statue and retrieves the Eyes located in the lantern it holds. After completing the Trials of Archimedes, however, Kratos is ambushed by the Furies, who take him captive and steal the Eyes, Amulet, and Oath Stone.

Back in the present time, Tisiphone casts another illusion and as the King of Sparta, she attempts to deceive Kratos, who overcomes it and retrieves the Oath Stone of Orkos. He encounters the Scribe of Hecatonchires, who reveals that he was the first mortal to be imprisoned by the Furies, and they were originally fair in their punishment, but devolved into ruthless beings on account of Ares. Kratos then continues his pursuit after the Furies, and upon reaching the door to Alecto's Chamber, he seemingly returns home to his wife and daughter, only to find it to be another illusion, this time cast by Alecto. She attempts to convince Kratos that he can live within this illusion if he rejoins Ares, but he denies her and states he requires reality. Enraged, Alecto and Tisiphone attack, Kratos manages to retrieve the Eyes, and Alecto transforms into a charybdis. After a brutal battle, Kratos uses the Eyes to break through the Furies' illusions before killing them both, which subsequently destroys the prison. Before dying, Alecto promises that her death will change nothing.

Kratos returns to his home in Sparta, where he is met by Orkos. Although praising Kratos' victory over the Furies, the oath keeper reveals that Kratos will not be free from Ares' bond unless he kills Orkos. He begs Kratos to give him an honorable death, as it will free them both from the god. Kratos refuses, proclaiming that no more innocent blood should be spilled. Orkos' continuing pleas, however, ultimately force Kratos' hand. After killing Orkos, Kratos experiences the first of many nightmares—previously masked by his bond—and discovers his path to redemption through continual service to Olympus. Kratos then burns down his house, the corpse of Orkos inside, before departing.

Development[edit]

In January 2010, John Hight, studio director at Santa Monica, advised Joystiq that "while God of War III will conclude the trilogy, it won't spell the end of the franchise", and claimed "We're going to be really careful about what we do next."[33] In April 2011, PSM3 magazine printed that a source that "works closely with the God of War universe" claimed a fourth entry in the series is set for release around September 2012.[34] A month later, Official PlayStation Magazine also mentioned God of War IV and claimed it will feature an online component.[35] New Zealand-based online retailer Mighty Ape then listed God of War IV for release in 2012.[36] In early 2012, composer Timothy Williams listed God of War IV on his resume,[37] followed by David Thornfield, an animator from the motion capture studio, House of Moves, who listed God of War IV on his LinkedIn.[38] During Sony's retailer-only event, Destination PlayStation, Canadian retailer Future Shop then indicated on Twitter that God of War IV is imminent.[39]

The official PlayStation Facebook page released a teaser image with the text, "Will Vengeance Bring Redemption? 04.19.12" on April 12, 2012.[40] The game was leaked by Amazon on April 18,[41] and it was officially announced on April 19 with a trailer and revealed Todd Papy as Game Director, who previously served as a designer on God of War and God of War II, and Design Director on God of War III.[1] David Jaffe confirmed that Stig Asmussen did not return to direct as he was "doing cool stuff" at Santa Monica.[42] The trailer, narrated by Linda Hunt, refers to a time before Kratos became the Ghost of Sparta and was not "bound in blood." The announcement officially confirmed the name of the game as God of War: Ascension. Papy said that the game was not titled God of War IV to avoid confusion as it is a prequel, rather than a sequel, to the trilogy. The name was chosen as it compliments the story and also the additional multiplayer component, as in this mode, players are "basically ascending from an unknown hero to a god."[43]

Sony stated the game would offer "fluid, life-like characters, dynamic lighting effects, and world-changing scenarios", although the story would be "a little bit shorter" than previous games.[7] Joystiq confirmed that "players [would] be introduced to a more human Kratos than ever before" and Papy said that it would be "giving people a look at Kratos' human side so fans can relate to him better and understand some of the stuff he went through when he was younger."[44] He also confirmed that Kratos would have the Blades of Chaos and that the story takes place after Kratos sold his soul to Ares.[43]

The game features a retooled God of War III engine, enabling online multiplayer battles for up to eight players. Papy said that in order to allow customization, Kratos and other known gods would not be included in the multiplayer modes as playable characters, as the developers did not want "red Kratos, blue Kratos, yellow Kratos" and selecting gods would lock-in players to established roles. This decision was made "to balance the game when players are pitted against each other."[44] Papy also said that there would not be female characters because each character in the multiplayer mode is based on Kratos' animation model.[44] The first demonstration of the multiplayer featured the Team Favor of the Gods mode on the Desert of Lost Souls map,[31] which features the Titan cyclops Polyphemus.[44]

David Jaffe, creator and Game Director of the original God of War, stated in an interview with NowGamer that if he had worked on the game, it would have incorporated three specific elements: different myths, a co-star, and "look to the Zelda structure as a jumping off point." He stated a cooperative mode "would be cool," where "player one be Kratos and player two be this stupid annoying sidekick that – for some to be determined story reason – Kratos is stuck with for the whole adventure and in the end, once the main quest is over, Kratos just snaps the poor kid's neck."[45] Jaffe also spoke with IGN about the multiplayer stating, "I think it looks cool. It looks like another great, impeccably executed Sony Santa Monica game" and claimed that "If [multiplayer] turns out to be the case that the single player is watered down because of it, then I think they have some justification. But I don’t see any evidence of that, and I don’t see evidence of that based on the team they are."[46]

At Sony's 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press conference on June 4, the North American release date was confirmed for March 12, 2013. A single-player demo was shown revealing new gameplay mechanics and combat systems.[47] That same day on the PlayStation.Blog, Papy confirmed a Collector's Edition. He also said that God of War: Ascension was being developed to feature stereoscopic 3D.[2] However, 3D was ultimately cut.[48] At gamescom 2012, a new multiplayer video was released featuring new gameplay from the desert map, along with the announcement of a multiplayer beta.[23]

On August 31 at the 2012 Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), Game Director Todd Papy, Lead Game Designer Mark Simon, Principal Character Artist Patrick Murphy, and writer behind the God of War series, Marianne Krawczyk, hosted the first ever God of War panel discussing the origins of God of War: Ascension and provided a "never-before-seen look" at the evolution of Kratos.[49] The creative team revealed a new boss—Megaera—one of the three Furies, who are the main antagonists in the game.[50] Mark Simon revealed that the circle button's purpose was changed: instead of using the circle button to open chests or activate the quick time event mini-game, the circle button is now used in conjunction with combos, allowing Kratos to steal enemy weapons, and punch or kick unarmed foes. Papy also said that he considered using the goddess Artemis as a playable female character, which would have offered the player alternative combat options. Artemis would have been depicted as half-human and half-feline, with the head and torso of a woman and the legs of a lioness. Artemis was ultimately cut from the game, but Papy said he would like to explore the possibility of using other gods in the future.[51]

On October 22, 2012, a new multiplayer trailer was released showing the abilities and powers that players receive when aligning with Zeus.[19] On Spike's GameTrailers TV (GT TV) on November 8, a similar trailer for Ares was revealed,[17] with one for Poseidon on March 6, 2013,[20] and Hades on March 12.[18] GT TV unveiled a new multiplayer map, the Forum of Hercules (from God of War III), which is a four player map featuring the character Hercules.[31] On December 12, along with the release of the "Evil Ways" multiplayer trailer, Santa Monica announced that PlayStation Plus subscribers could download the beta on January 8, 2013.[27] A new single-player teaser trailer was released on January 19, along with the announcement of a new single-player demo that was released in February.[52] A live action trailer, titled "From Ashes", which was played during Super Bowl XLVII, was released on February 1, 2013.[53] Along with the release of the new single-player demo on February 26, 2013, a new single-player trailer was revealed.[54]

Terrence C. Carson, Linda Hunt, Corey Burton, Gideon Emery, Steven Blum, and Kevin Sorbo reprised their roles as Kratos, the narrator, Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, and Hercules, respectively. Jennifer Hale, who voiced a couple of characters in the previous installment, voiced the Fury Alecto, and assumed the role of Kratos' wife, Lysandra, who was previously voiced by Gwendoline Yeo. Debi Mae West and Adrienne Barbeau, who have each done voice work on a previous installment, respectively, voiced the characters Tisiphone and Aletheia, respectively. Troy Baker voiced the oath keeper Orkos and is the multiplayer announcer. Series veteran Fred Tatasciore assumed the role of Hades, who was previously voiced by Clancy Brown. Unlike previous games where motion capture and voice recording were done separately, God of War: Ascension utilized "voice-over motion capture": voice recording and motion capture were done at the same time, which allowed the voice actors to act out their character's scenes together. The voice over motion capture was done at House of Moves in Culver City, California.[55]

Multiplayer beta[edit]

A global multiplayer beta was announced at gamescom 2012.[23] The beta included features that had previously not been publicly revealed. Players who participated in the Rise of the Warrior social challenge on GodofWar.com and were on the Spartan's team received a week of exclusive early access to the beta, which began on December 12 (the Trojan's team received access on December 17).[19][56] Attendees of the God of War panel at PAX 2012 received a voucher for a one month subscription to PlayStation Plus, which granted them access to the beta when it became available for Plus subscribers.[51] Additionally, from November 30 until December 7, Santa Monica allowed players from SCE Europe to sign up for a chance to be randomly picked to access the beta.[57] The beta became available for PlayStation Plus subscribers on January 8, 2013.[30]

The beta featured the choice for players to align with either Ares or Zeus, and it featured the Desert of Lost Souls (eight-player) and the Forum of Hercules (four-player) maps. The game modes featured included Team Favor of the Gods and Capture the Flag on the Desert of Lost Souls map, and Favor of the Gods (renamed Match of Champions in final release) on the Forum of Hercules map.[30] On January 19, 2013, Santa Monica allowed all PlayStation Network users of North and South America access the beta via redeemable voucher. The beta ended at midnight pacific time on January 21.[58] All participants of the beta received the Champion's Armor and Blade for their multiplayer character when the game launched.[59]

Release[edit]

At E3 2012, a single-player demo showcased new gameplay mechanics and combat systems. The demo revealed a revamped quick time event mini-game, which replaced some button prompts with a new prompt-less free-form system. The World Weapons mechanic was featured and Kratos was shown to be capable of swinging opponents through the air whilst simultaneously attacking. Other new features included the Fire of Ares magic and the "Life Cycle" mechanic: allowing Kratos to freeze enemies and manipulate time for puzzle solving. Several new enemies were also featured, such as the juggernaut (elephantaur) and the sea beast Charybdis.[47][60] The E3 2012 single-player demo was included with early copies of the "Director's Cut" (Blu-ray) and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack versions of the film, Total Recall, which were released on December 18, 2012.[61]

On February 26, 2013, a new single-player demo, the Prison of the Damned, was released on the PlayStation Store to download.[54] Participants of the Rise of the Warrior social challenge who were on the Spartan's team received access to the demo on February 20. The demo is the first 30-minutes of the single-player mode.[62] God of War: Ascension was released on March 12, 2013, in North America,[2][18][63] March 13 in mainland Europe and PAL regions,[3] March 14 in Australia and New Zealand,[3] and March 15 in the UK and Ireland.[3] In the US, it sold 570,000 units in its first month of release, making it the fourth best-selling game of March 2013,[64] which is significantly less than God of War III's first month sales, which were 1.1 million units.[65] On October 15, God of War: Ascension was released as a digital download on the PlayStation Store in North America.[66][67] The digital version was released in Europe and Australia on October 23 and Japan and Asia on October 31.[68]

Marketing[edit]

Contents of the God of War: Ascension – Collector's Edition: Kratos statue (left) and SteelBook game case (right).

On June 4, 2012, SCE Santa Monica Studio announced the God of War: Ascension – Collector's Edition available for a limited time in North America. The package included a 6 inches (150 mm) statue of Kratos, a premium SteelBook game case, and exclusive downloadable content (DLC) available via the PlayStation Network (PSN). The exclusive DLC included the official game soundtrack, a PS3 dynamic XrossMediaBar (XMB) theme, a PSN avatar pack, 48 hours of double XP for multiplayer, and a Season Pass to unlock all future DLC weapons and armor at no additional cost.[2][69] On August 30, 2012, Santa Monica announced the Collector's Edition for European territories. The God of War: Ascension – Special Edition was also announced for the European territories and was available for the same price as the standard edition. It included the premium SteelBook game case and the DLC available in the Collector's Edition, although not the Season Pass.[3] Available for a limited time was the God of War: Ascension Legacy Bundle, which included God of War: Ascension, God of War Saga, a one month subscription to PlayStation Plus, and a 500 GB garnet red PS3.[70] Similarly, the UK received an exclusive PS3 bundle, which included a white 500 GB PS3, the God of War: Ascension – Special Edition, and a special God of War: Ascension DualShock 3 controller,[71] which was released separately in Australia.[72]

Pre-orders for the Collector's Edition commenced on June 4, 2012, in North America. Participating retailers also offered the "Mythological Heroes Multiplayer DLC Pack" as a bonus for pre-ordering the standard or Collector's Edition of the game.[2] The DLC pack included the armors of Achilles, Odysseus, Orion, and Perseus, respectively.[73][74] Along with the DLC pack, GameStop offered an exclusive pre-order bonus—the armor and spear of King Leonidas, as depicted by Gerard Butler in the 2007 film 300, for use in multiplayer, and a double-sided God of War: Ascension 22 by 28 inches (56 cm × 71 cm) poster.[75] For a limited time, all copies of God of War: Ascension purchased from Best Buy included the multiplayer weapon, Mjölnir (the Hammer of Thor), inspired by the TV series, Vikings, as DLC.[76] Walmart offered the Blade of Judgment multiplayer weapon as an exclusive pre-order bonus.[77] All copies of God of War: Ascension included early access to the demo of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us[78] (early access commenced on May 31, 2013).[79] In North America, all copies included a voucher to download the characters Zeus and Isaac Clarke for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.[80]

Rise of the Warrior[edit]

"Rise of the Warrior" was a social experience on GodofWar.com that began on October 22, 2012, and ended on March 19, 2013. In this graphic-novel, players "[lived] out [their] warrior's journey" and "[embarked] on a quest for redemption that [lead players] toward becoming the next Champion of the Gods." Players were aligned with either the Spartans or the Trojans and competed via a number of social challenges. The first challenge had the teams compete to earn their army a week of exclusive early access to the multiplayer beta (which began on December 12), and 30 days of PlayStation Plus, which was won by the Spartans (the Trojans received access on December 17). The winners (Spartans) of the next team challenge received early access to the Prison of the Damned single-player demo on February 20, 2013.[62][81] Players were additionally able to earn early in-game unlocks for the final game's multiplayer, including exclusive weapons and armor for all players who attained the rank of Champion of the Gods (rank 8).[19] Rise of the Warrior is a prequel story that ties into the game's single-player mode. It featured 20 chapters with the last chapter released before the game's launch on March 12. Christopher Shy was the artist of the graphic novel.[82]

Downloadable content[edit]

In addition to the downloadable content (DLC) included in the Collector's Edition and the DLC from the pre-order bonuses and Rise of the Warrior, the game features multiplayer DLC post-launch. All multiplayer maps released post-launch are free,[83] and all DLC weapons and armors are free for players who obtained the Season Pass from the Collector's Edition.[2] DLC weapons and armors can be purchased separately or in bundles. Other DLC is available, such as XP boosters, but they are not free with the Season Pass.[84] On May 7, 2013, the first set of DLC armors and weapons were released for purchase, including the "Armors of Anarchy", the "Blades of Darkness", and the free Chimeran Armor.[85] Several other DLC packs have been released, such as the "Primordials Pack",[86] the "Champions Pack",[84] the "Marks of the Gods Pack",[87] and the "Legendary Spears Pack".[88][89] In June 2013, Santa Monica announced the "Community Cape Design Contest" where the God of War community could create and submit an original cape design. The winner's cape design was released as DLC.[90] From July 3 until July 7, Sony allowed players to access all available DLC weapons for free, after which, they were required to purchase the DLC if they wished to continue to use it (all experienced gained per weapon during this trial was retained if purchased).[91] Some of the last sets of DLC included co-op weapons,[92] the "Mantles of the Gods Pack",[93] several gauntlets,[94][95] and the "Fury Capes Pack".[96] On October 11, Santa Monica announced that no further DLC (maps, weapons, armors, or marks) would be produced, but multiplayer will still be supported with patch updates. For the release of the digital version of God of War: Ascension, all DLC items received special pricing options.[66]

The first maps were released via patch 1.06 on May 23, 2013, called the "Hunter" update (these updates also fix other issues with the game). The "Tower of Delphi" and a modified version of the "Coliseum of Persia" (added Trial of the Gods mode) were included in this update, however, due to some technical difficulties experienced by some players who downloaded the patch,[97] it was retracted and re-released via update 1.07 on June 3. Players who lost all online progress due to 1.06 received two 48-hour voucher codes granting 5-times the amount of XP earned, the Season Pass, 50 weapon and armor shards, and a special voucher code for the new "Ascension" feature (which ascended these players to "Hero", giving them immediate access to the Godly weapons and armors).[98] The second set of maps were released via update 1.09 on July 11. This update included four maps for the new Bout of Honor mode—"Canyons of Kirra", "Chamber of the Flame", "Landing at Delos", and "Streets of Sparta"—and a four-player map, "The Whirlpool of Alecto".[29] On August 1, update 1.10 was released and added Trial of the Gods to the "Labyrinth of Daedalus" map.[99] The last multiplayer map, the eight-player "Furnace of Archimedes", was released via update 1.11 on August 27.[100]

Soundtrack[edit]

God of War: Ascension (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Tyler Bates
ReleasedMarch 5, 2013 (2013-03-05)
GenreContemporary classical music
Length1:05:35
LabelSony Computer Entertainment

God of War: Ascension (Original Soundtrack) was composed by Tyler Bates and was released on iTunes on March 5, 2013.[101] It was included as DLC in the God of War: Ascension – Collector's Edition and Special Edition.[2][69] On October 15, the soundtrack was made available for free on PSN for a limited time.[66]


Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings79.70%[102]
Metacritic80/100[103]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid9/10[104]
Edge7/10[6]
GamesRadar3.5/5 stars[106]
GameSpot8.0/10[105]
GameTrailers8.3/10[107]
IGN7.8/10[5]
Joystiq3.5/5 stars[108]
Official PlayStation Magazine (UK)8/10[109]

God of War: Ascension received generally favorable reception with an average review score of 79.70% at GameRankings[102] and 80/100 at Metacritic,[103] with critics praising the fundamental gameplay and spectacle true to the series, yet were critical towards a lack of new ideas and a mixed response to the additional multiplayer mode. Alex Simmons of IGN said the revamped combat system adds a source of depth. He said "Learning how to use each power effectively ... provides a strategic lifeline when there’s no energy re-gen chest nearby." He said although he initially found the World Weapons useful, they became "superfluous" after upgrading the Blades. He also gave praise to the magic system, stating that since magic attacks are unlocked at a later time, "It's a positive step" as players cannot rely on them as much as they may have in previous installments, and it encourages players "to think wisely about where to allocate experience points rather than being the ultimate badass from the outset."[5]

Dale North of Destructoid gave praise to the new gameplay mechanics, stating "God of War has never looked or played better than this"[104] Xav de Matos of Joystiq said the combat is simpler than God of War III '​s, and it rarely requires much adjustment." On a positive note, Matos said the "Combat always looks impressive and chaotic".[108] Simmons said "for the most part", it is balanced, but said Ascension "is probably the easiest" in the series, with the exception of the large amount of enemies in some sections where dying "feels cheap and frustrating". On the contrary, he said the Trial of Archimedes will likely frustrate advanced players, and "is tougher than anything I've played in a God of War game before."[5] Hollander Cooper of GamesRadar was critical towards apparent shifts in difficulty at certain points, feeling that it "[tests] your patience, rather than your skills--including one that's easily the most difficult section in any God of War game to date, for all the wrong reasons".[106]

Simmons said the story is not as compelling as previous installments, stating that in comparison to Zeus and Ares, "the Furies don’t quite cut it". He said that although the narrative is "meticulously delivered", it "felt a bit incidental".[5] Matos stated that "the narrative fabric woven throughout the franchise has begun to split", and Ascension does little to enhance its characters "in any meaningful way." He said the plot framing "doesn't work" and the narrative structure "is just too chaotic" with little room to process it. However, he did state it provides the "distinct God of War flair" known to the series.[108]

North noted the enhanced graphics engine stating, "from the glossy textures, slick animations, and ultra-realistic lighting, there's a shine and polish that runs throughout the game that makes it a perfect send-off for the PS3".[104] Similarly, Cooper wrote that "Kratos battles some of the most impressive foes he's ever fought", going on to say that the visuals "are not only the best the franchise has seen, but some of the most impressive on the PlayStation 3".[106] Edge magazine said that "Aesthetically, it’s a great fit for PS3's twilight years" but they had frustrations with the visual approach, such as some camera angles.[6]

Matos was critical of the multiplayer. He stated that the connection to the single-player was "a weird narrative tie-in". He said that although the gameplay translates well into the multiplayer, "the entire experience may be too chaotic to enrapture a large audience." He also said that balance may be an issue over time. He did praise the maps for being "well designed" and approved of the elements that can give players the advantage. However, he said that although the multiplayer can be fun and satisfying, "it doesn't feel deep enough to command much more than a furiously dedicated fan following."[108] Simmons, however, stated that the multiplayer is "a genuinely fresh addition ... that successfully carries over many of the hallmarks of the much-loved single-player." He said that Team Favor of the Gods is the most enjoyable of the multiplayer modes. However, he said that the combat does not offer enough depth "to make it a truly engaging experience." He said that as a result of experience points being easily acquired, "multiplayer feels more like a curiosity that provides a few hours of enjoyment rather than being an essential addition."[5] Edge said the multiplayer is an "evolutionary step" with "some fine ideas ... that will form part of this genre’s future template." Although "chaotic at first" and options being "overwhelming", it "[starts] to make sense" as players learn the levels. They also said the fixed camera system is an "asset" as "you can always see exactly what’s going on and fight your opponents instead of the viewpoint." They said the biggest success is the color-coding system, which "effectively lets you know when you have an opening and when to run."[6]

Controversy[edit]

Some reviewers issued complaints regarding the title for one of the game's trophies, named "Bros before Hos", which is received after graphically face-stomping a female villain. In response to the criticisms of misogyny, Santa Monica released a patch changing the name of the trophy to "Bros before Foes".[110]

Accolades[edit]

God of War: Ascension received nominations in several Best of E3 2012 categories from various media outlets. These nominations included "Best Action/Adventure" and "Best Multiplayer" from Game Rant,[111] "Best PS3 Game" and "Best Action/Adventure Game" from G4,[112] "Best PlayStation 3 Game" from Destructoid,[113] "Best PS3 Game" and "Best Action Game" from IGN,[114] and "Best Sony Exclusive" and "Best Multiplayer" from Digital Trends.[115] At the 2013 Golden Joystick Awards, Ascension was a nominee for "Best Visual Design".[116] In 2014, Ascension received nominations from two prestigious annual awards. At the Writers Guild of America Videogame Awards, it was a nominee for "Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing", and during the D.I.C.E. Summit, it was a nominee for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences award for "Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design".[117]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Notes[edit]

External links[edit]