Now that we're getting some quality time here at gamescom 2012 with Kratos' latest outing, God of War: Ascension, here are some key things you should know about the upcoming series prequel for PS3. Five things.
And we're talking about the good ol' single-player campaign here, and not the multiplayer side. More on that later.
The main takeaway here is that the classic God of War gameplay you'd expect is here, though it has been beefed up and cleaned up a bit. While Kratos is slightly smaller and less badass, the gameplay and story promise to be bigger and better than in any past series title.
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1. Animals gonna die
If you regularly read this website you know that I'm a big fan of animals. Insane, almost. But that didn't stop me from ripping the head of the the muscle-bound, elephant-headed boss Elephantaur open to expose his brain and then have it fall out, blood gushing. Don't tell the ASPCA, but I ripped this humanoid pachyderm to shreds and I liked it.
Goats, elephants, sea creatures and more are going to die by Kratos' hand in God of War: Ascension. Even standard enemies, like the goat-headed grunts, move around like humans, but are more angry, and they probably bleed a bit more. Some of these beasts lean more toward the animal side of things, making it a bit unsettling to rip their heads open or tear their arms off.
2. That's not the Kraken
If you've seen footage or have read previous preview coverage, the end of the playable demo for Ascension has Kratos running up a huge tentacle and then jumping off it into the water, blades out, headed directly into the mouth of a huge, tentacle-y sea creature. Despite what it looks like, it's not the mythical Kraken that others have said it might be. SCEA Santa Monica's Mark Simon tells us that he's actually called Charybdis. Kratos will go up against him repeatedly during the stage in spread out encounters, working up to what's sure to be a messy, bloody battle.
3. Kratos once had a softer side
Being a prequel, Kratos hasn't been through the wringer yet. He's not as hardened as we're used to seeing him, and while he's plenty mad, he's not nearly as pissed off as you might be used to. In fact, in this demo he shows that he cares for humans. In one scene he pushed a human out of harm's way, saving him from flying spears, though in typical Kratos fashion didn't seem to care much about the other two humans that died right before saving this guy. At least there was some compassion in that tortured soul at one time.
His body is also a bit softer. This younger Kratos is leaner, and closer to a human than a demigod. He's still tough, but he'd go down easier in a fight than he would in the future. And he doesn't have his trademark scar yet.
4. Not too long, not too short
God of War: Ascension has its work cut out for it as it has to set up Kratos' backstory -- that's a big story to tell. Mark Simon says that it is about as long as the first God of War game, if not a bit longer. From recent play testing he estimated that there's about 8 hours of gameplay in the single-player campaign.
5. Ascension feels good, man.
The game's engine was done and tightened up long ago, and there's plenty of God of War-making experience under the team's belt by now, so for this go around they were able to focus on refinements that improve the player experience. These range from streamlining button input to tweaking combat.
For example, Kratos' climbing controls and experience are much more robust than they've been in past games. With the changes and improvements to the control, and the new ability to climb irregular surfaces and around corners, Kratos' wall scaling might even make Uncharted's Nathan Drake proud.
There's big attacks, nasty combos, and massive mini-game style finishers that all feel great, as you'd expect. This is the most important thing to get right, and they nailed it. The feeling is familiar, but fine-tuned. Expect combat that has fast, tight response from face button inputs, and combo-ing that feels like it would in a fighting game.
Kratos has his chains, of course, but he has a huge bag of new tricks this time around. He pick up and use the weapons of his enemies, and each of these secondary weapons has its own special attack, usable after filling up a rage meter. In my play time I picked up swords and spears, and I quickly learned to work them into my regular move set and combos. I also was able to work in his new grabbing/grappling powers, which are tied into special moves of their own.
New powers, like being able to rewind time to "heal" a broken environment, and then being able to break it again, were shown in the demo, and have puzzle-like uses.
God of War: Ascension will be released for the PS3 in early 2013.