I’ll say this up front: I’m not very good at God of War: Ascension’s multiplayer beta. And by “not very good”, I actually mean “horrendously terrible” — I’m just estimating here, but I’d say that for every kill I’ve made, I’ve been killed about a dozen times. And that’s probably being generous.
I suspect, though, that my experience with the multiplayer mode won’t be all that unique. After all, the first five games in the series have done an outstanding job of making you/Kratos feel like a near-invincible god, completely obliterating anything that gets in your/his way. Admittedly, this varies depending on how you play — someone who plays like I do, at the lowest difficulty settings, probably feels a lot more all-powerful in the game than someone who plays the game at a more challenging levels. Still, my point is this: apart from a few difficulty spikes here and there, in single-player God of War, you’re not usually confronted by enemies that can really fight back, and you’re never facing opponents who have access to all the same powers as you. That’s not the case in the multiplayer version of the game.
In fact, in multiplayer it’s pretty much the exact opposite. You start out as a warrior with only the bare minimum of weapons and armour, and chances are good that you’ll have to face enemies who will kick your butt over, and over, and over again, with weapons and armour far better than your own. This is the case regardless of whether you’re pledging allegiance to Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, or Hades, and it happens whether you’re playing 4 vs. 4 team matches, capture the flag or solo arena battles. Obviously, this is common to most online multiplayer matches, but the difference seems much more pronounced here, since the focus of God of War has traditionally been on the the solo, single-player experience — and, of course, when you’re so used to being on one end of gory, brutal kills, finding yourself on the receiving end takes some getting used to.
Difficulty aside, however, I give lots of points to Sony Santa Monica for trying something new with the series. Again, I might just be projecting my own experiences in the games onto others where I shouldn’t be, but God of War games usually aren’t something you need to go back to. You play through the story, you kill everything in your path, and you might try out the challenges — that’s basically been it. With multiplayer, God of War: Ascension looks like it could break that path, and give the series life beyond the campaign. I don’t know how often I’ll go back to it (since, as I said, I’m awful at it), but it’s nice to see that such a venerable series is willing to take some risks at this point in its lifespan.
God of War: Ascension for the PS3 is currently scheduled for a March 12th, 2013 release.