The God of War series is renowned for its brutality; its "hero" Kratos rage personified: a swirling maelstrom of chains and blades and bloody vengeance. Across five games and through much of ancient Greece he’s wreaked havoc, leaving a trail of dead gods in his wake, but with the recent announcement of God of War: Ascension it’s time we look to the future and make some suggestions about where the series should be heading.
First things first, Ascension isn’t a sequel to the multi-award winning God of War 3, so if you’re looking for closure on the slightly cliffhanger-y ending of the Kratos' last adventure, then you’ve still got some waiting to do. The teaser trailer makes it pretty clear that we’re heading back to the beginning, to when Kratos was just an angry Spartan warrior, instead of an angry demi-god.
We’ve already got a pretty good idea about what pushed Kratos over the edge (being tricked into murdering your own family will do that), but it’ll be interesting to play as a more vulnerable character, a Kratos that’s still no doubt full of hate, but without the godly powers to back it up. That’s not to say we’re expecting a let up in the combat, but a lither, more agile Kratos would certainly allow Sony Santa Monica room to explore different styles of fighting.
God of War 3 really upped the ante in terms of on-screen enemies, cramming every possible inch with creatures for you to kill. We’d like to see more of the same in Ascension, with a focus on combo chains and weapon swapping the order of the day. Ploughing through enemies should be fluid and intuitive, and carving minions into gooey chunks of flesh should still make you feel god-like. Obviously, epic boss battles are on the cards, but it’s going to be interesting to see where the game draws its inspiration from, Kratos having already butchered pretty much every god of the Greek pantheon – and plenty of bit-part players too.
Ascension might be a prequel, but treading old ground is always going to be dangerous, and while there are mythological creatures he hasn’t killed – I think the Charybdis, a monster that dwells in a cave and sucks ships to their death by creating whirlpools, might still be unaccounted for – but truthfully Santa Monica will be scraping the barrel if they choose to go down that same old route.
It’d certainly be intriguing to see Kratos interacting with other ancient deities, or fighting some historical figures given a grotesque make over. Imagine Kratos the Spartan with Leonidas’ 300 at his back facing off against the hordes of Xerxes, or attacking Troy at the height of its power. A more down to earth setting doesn’t need to mean more down to earth gameplay, and we could easily see Kratos taking on entire armies in his quest for revenge.
God of War: Ascension will certainly be a bloodbath, and it’s unlikely that it’s going to move too far away from the template laid down by its massively successful forebears. But brutality will only get you so far and Santa Monica Studios are going to have to pull out the big guns, both in terms of scale and gameplay, if they want another sure fire hit on their hands.