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Grappling with new God of War’s combat gameplay

God of War: Ascension is a prequel to the trilogy of games that told the story of how Kratos defeated Ares to become the god of war and took vengeance on the Greek pantheon.

Sony Computer Entertainment

Gamers are forgiven if they were getting a bit worried about the single player component of God of War: Ascension. Since the fourth game in the franchise for Sony's Playstation 3 home console was announced, all of the attention has been on the multiplayer mode of the game. That changed on Thursday in Los Angeles, when representatives of Santa Monica Studio gave media a chance to play the first 30 minutes of the game, which will be released on March 12.

A host of changes in the combat were made, all in service of making sure that players had the flexibility to make their own decisions about how to win battles, "I want to make sure that you have those options," director Todd Papy said.

Ascension is a prequel to the trilogy of games that told the story of how Kratos defeated Ares to become the god of war and took vengeance on the Greek pantheon. In this game, which takes place about six months after he's killed his wife and daughter, which was the catalyst to Kratos's descent into madness, is trying to escape Ares' control. This is the first God of War game to include multiplayer, which explains why it's received so much attention.

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Kratos's primary weapon remains his dual blades which are attached to his wrists with chains. That makes them useful both in close and at range, and in Ascension, he can use them to grapple enemies. It feels so natural to make that a part of your tactics you'll wonder why it hasn't been included in the games before now. The blades can also become charged with one of four elemental powers: electricity, fire, ice, and soul. Each bestows a particular bonus. Fire stuns enemies, for example, while ice freezes them so they can be shattered.

Players will have more decision points in combat, too. The rage meter fills up more quickly in Ascension, and when full it grants extra combo moves to Kratos. Use that meter on an elemental power gives him a temporary boost, but he also loses the extra moves until the meter fills up again. In combat situations, each player will have to determine for themselves the best time to deplete that meter A similar determination will have to be made with the world weapon system.

Kratos can also disarm enemies and use their weapons against them. Each of these weapons has a bonus. The sword grants more red orbs, the currency used in the game for improving Kratos's skills, the spear is a fast, ranged attack. (Other world weapons include a shield and a club.) Kratos can also discard a weapon to get a temporary perk. Tossing away the sword, for example, stuns enemies (except bosses) for a short time. It's a perfect opportunity to grapple your foes. But discarding the weapon means that you lose the bonus that it granted.

There is lots riding on the single-player campaign, upon which the action adventure franchise was built. Fans will be happy to learn that becoming Kratos in Ascension is every bit as satisfying as in previous titles.

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