We’ve already seen the 4 vs 4 multiplayer mode in God of War: Ascension back at E3 and its mixture of team strategy, powerups and iconic finishing sequences fit well within the God of War framework. It seems that the glory of Olympians has begun to rub off on the folks who make these of God of War games because there’s a second multiplayer mode included in Ascension giving you all a double dose of head to God of Warring.
Favor of the Gods has most of the same structure and basic elements as the 4v4 game, except it’s all solo, baby. It’s four on four with no help coming from teammates and it’s set in a dynamic battle arena that will reward the brave and punish the timid. When I say Favor of the Gods has the same basic setup this means you’re still getting a persistent character that you can upgrade with new armor, new abilities and new weapons. The same hero Spartan you’re using to battle with teammates in 4v4 is the same guy you’ll be using –and upgrading– in favor of the Gods. Similarly, the battle environment will have health power ups, treasure chests, super weapons spawning randomly and built-in traps and events that can be triggered by the players. The 4v4 mode has all of that stuff too. The difference is all of those goodies are spread out over a much bigger, multi-tiered battle arena; you have to capture control points to tip the battle in your favor and environmental traps in Favor of the Gods mode are much more dangerous.
By dangerous I mean springing these environmental traps is treacherous for even the most aggressive player and the damage that ensues can end things for several opponents at once. In the Favor of the Gods battle we sampled recently, Hercules –complete with giant metal lion-shaped gauntlets where his fists should be– presided over the battle arena. If you could time your run correctly you could run up to the “altar” under his pedestal and trigger a storm of arrows to rain down on your opponents battling elsewhere in the arena. The arrows are brutal because ten times out of ten you’re concentrating on the enemy you’re battling and won’t see some sneaky sucker going over to trigger an arrow cascade. Since you’re engaged with an enemy that means you’re both going to be less than full health since you’re likely assaulting the crap out of each other. When the arrows come down, that’s usually it for one or both of you because it won’t take much at that point.
And that’s really the essence of Favor of the Gods: because it’s 1v1v1v1, there’s nobody watching your back with all of the weapons, traps and powerups like in the team multiplayer mode. We all know chumps who play this sneaky style of letting the other players tear each other apart so they can close in and clean up with ease. That style can be rewarded in Favor, but it’s not a guaranteed strategy for success. Like we see in games like Super Smash Bros, there’s a deep and rich combat system full of timed blocks, counters and special moves to thwart everything your opponent throws at you. Learning and mastering these will be the key to Favor of the Gods especially. A skilled player can overcome super weapons, arena traps and other attacks if they know they can rely on timed button presses and cunning to simply stay in the fight. Outlasting enemies is way more important than powering up with all of the magic, armor and weapon abilities.
You can tinker with your weapon’s strength, your armor and your special –usually energy based– magic attacks and give yourself, say +200, extra sword strength. You’ve now got to fight in a style that takes full advantage of that sword strength because that’s all you’ve got. Your armor and special magic abilities won’t be very strong. So, in this example, playing “vulture style” where you clean up with devastating weapon attacks on already weakened enemies battling each other makes sense. Running around the arena to pick up stuff may not make sense because you’ll be slow and vulnerable with your back to the action much of the time. Always running at the action with a vicious weapon attack ready to go should be your best bet. This paper-rock-scissors system is important to any fighter or brawler game (few moves, large battle space) and God of War seems to have a strong one in place.
Keep it here for more on God of War: Ascension –including everything we can get on the story campaign because it has to be shown eventually– because this thing looks polished and close to ready.