God of War: Ascension multiplayer? God no!

6 mins read

Edit: Changed the headline to prevent confusion between God of War 4 and… God of War 4. I mean, really, does anyone think that Ascension is anything but God of War 4? But yes, we must be accurate in this business.

So, the newest casualty of the games industry obsession with cramming multiplayer into everything is God of War 4. Once again I’m left shaking my head, disappointed that the developers are being forced to crap square blocks into circular holes.

Whilst I like a good multiplayer game as much as the next person – Birds of Steel being my current addiction – it needs to have a point otherwise, funnily enough, it feels like a pointless attempt to force players to play ball with online passes and the like.

Often, it’s an utterly pointless inclusion in games. There’s a long list of recent games that have historically got by just fine without multiplayer, only to have the mode shoved in with the most recent release. Ninja Gaiden 3 featured multiplayer for the first time. Max Payne 3 has a multiplayer mode thrown in, Assassin’s Creed felt the need to include multiplayer, and now God of War 4. The problem is it’s rare for these multiplayer games to add anything to the experience – what happened with Uncharted simply has not happened with many of those other games that have had multiplayer shoehorned in.

By tying achievements (usually) to the multiplayer game the developers do try and force players to get involved in the multiplayer, but the fact of the matter is that some games are better experiences solo. With a solo game the developer has control over the atmosphere, the pacing and the experience of a game. It’s more linear, of course, but it’s more reliable and the quality control is higher. The amount of control developers have over irritating teenagers who still think it’s cool to swear and deliberately try and exploit a game is minimal, after all.

Stick to what you’re good at with GoW, guys. Single player.

Single player games also don’t require an audience to keep the game alive. There is a finite number of gamers out there, and a finite number of those take their games online. The result is some communities that are dead on arrival – I can count the number of times I’ve even managed to find a match in Goldeneye 007 Reloaded on one hand. That was at release time in Australia. Birds Of Steel has already shrunk down to a tiny community of the hardcore. If you’re not an AAA-list game from Activision, Sony, EA or Nintendo, you’re not going to get a large enough community to make a great multiplayer experience.

Not that the size of the community is likely to be a problem with God of War 4 (though there are most certainly going to be irritating people in abundance on the servers). The problem with God of War is that it’s such a perfectly crafted single player experience, with a strong definable lead character and an epic world. Kratos isn’t even in the multiplayer game, and rather than epic, multiplayer battle arenas are just that, arenas. It runs completely against the very point of the series! The resource drain implementing a multiplayer mode is going to inevitably going to impact on the single player game. Multiplayer doesn’t just happen, it always comes at the expense (to a lesser or greater degree) of the single player game, and I’m personally sick of single player games being used as glorified tutorials for the multiplayer that the developers desperately want people involved in.

The reason Dark/ Demon’s Souls and Journey have minimal multiplayer is as much a consequence of the developers working around an inherent problem with multiplayer – that is, the obnoxious people that play them, and the lack of integration with the single player experience – and have come up with a creative solution to them. That doesn’t work for every game, though, and for many games I would suggest rather than shoehorn in a multiplayer mode, how’s about doing something radical and putting the resources into fine tuning the single player game more?

Are you looking forward to God of War multiplayer action, or would you have preferred this franchise remain single player? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • I'm just as worried as you about this whole multi-player fiasco. I thought the primary purpose of God of War: Ascension was to expand on Kratos' backstory while still delivering a suitably epic adventure. Judging by how much they spent on GoW3, it's already clear Ascension won't hold up, as the multi-player is bound to steal resources from the single-player.

  • Well said, Michael!

    I just believe there are some games that are so well suited to a single player experience that multiplayer is a wholly unnecessary addition and it just serves to take development time and money away from the main event. Exactly what happened in Ninja Gaiden 3, for instance, and it's a concern I have with Max Payne 3 as well.

    After all, would you want a online multiplayer for a Mario game? Probably not!

  • I'm sure it will play fine, but at what cost? I would much rather the energy and resources go into making the single player even better. I've never once sat back after playing a GoW game and thought "you know, I wish this had a multiplayer."

  • Completely agreed! It's unnecessary. At the same time, I'd also raise the question that it's too soon for another God of War title. 

    I've still yet to finish Uncharted: Golden Abyss. It's a fantastic title that plays wonderfully on Vita, but I've just finished Uncharted 3, and put 20+ hours into it's multiplayer. It was too soon for another Uncharted game. Their going to keep on, and Sony is going to saturate their franchises with yearly/bi-yearly release — tacked-on multiplayer gimmicks and all. 

  • You're an Aussie Birds of Steel player?  Can't say anything but nice things about you then :).  Couple of points though – one is that Santa Monica put on resources for the MP, so they haven't diverted attention away from the SP for it.  Another is that the used games business is a huge drain on the industry, and adding MP cuts back on it by a large margin, so given that devs and pubs need to make money (games not growing on trees), I can understand where they're coming from.

    That said, I personally would be quite happy without an MP mode in GoW (although Assassin's Creed's MP was good – like you say, though, there just isn't time to play every MP offering).  In the long run, as sales of games move to primarily digital-only, we'll see a movement back towards SP-only games, as the used game trade won't be smashing sales of SP-only games.  It's just at the moment you can see why it's happening left, right and centre.

  • As long as it doesn't take away from the single player experience, I'm fine with the game having multiplayer. Though, I have to agree with you in saying that games don't necessarily need a pointless multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, there will be some gamers that cry foul play if there is none included at all.

  • Hi Axe,
    Thanks for dropping by – is that the same name you use on Birds of Steel? If so, we've crossed swords a couple of times, and been allies a couple of times more – I remember playing with/ against a person with "Axe" in their name a few times. 

    I really don't doubt that God of War Ascension will have a good multiplayer mode – completely agree with you on that. The point of my piece was to argue that it would have been better for this game, which comes from a heritage of single player games, to invest the resources dedicated to the online game back into the single player game. 150% game, rather than 100% and 50%, if you will. 

    I doubt, even if this multiplayer game is mind blowing, that I'll bother with it. I have more than enough games with solid multiplayer modes already, and multiplayer tends to be more of a time sink than single player. So from where I'm sitting, the multiplayer of God of War will be wasted development time. 

    I hope this clarifies my position better! 🙂

  • I really wonder what would happen if a Zelda or Mario game was announced with a multiplayer mode. I know I wouldn't be happy with it, but I wonder if the broader audience could wrap their minds around that idea.

  • Aye, same name as on BoS – what do you fly under?  I'm a fairly easy mark, hopefully I've given you a few easy kills ;).

    Also, I do agree that, for the an individual gamer's experience alone, that God of War is better off staying single-player, but with second-hand games burning a hole in sales, particularly for relatively short single-player games, the addition of the multiplayer mode may well mean more resources for the single-player game in the future, so it may not all be bad.

    Still, hopefully we'll be all digital soon, so that used games are no longer part of the equation.

    Happy flying, and good writing 🙂

  • I'm monkeybear2001 – and I can guarantee you I'm an easier mark. As much as I love the game, I'm just terrible at it 😉
    I do understand why the developers and publishers are focusing in on the multiplayer opportunities – I've written various pieces supporting the rumour that the PS4 won't allow second hand games to play and how I'm in support of DLC. I don't necessarily agree with the multiplayer route though, especially with single-player games, because implementing multiplayer does remove resources that could have been funnelled into the single player game. In contrast, DLC adds functionality to people who want to pay for it.

    It's interesting, isn't it? Gamers (in a very broad sense), are opposed to DLC because they believe they should have the functionality built into the initial release. On the other hand, they are quite happy to see development resources move from single-player games into multiplayer.

    Thanks for your input and insights though! Always good to have a meaty conversation on an interesting topic. 

    In the meantime, you'll find me in the skies, hiding behind your plane 😉

  • Nice one :).  I'm normally in Sim (fave mode, although they're all good, but the planes feel so much more real in Sim and/or realistic), but will keep an eye out for you in all modes.  And don't feel bad – I played a fair bit of IL-2:BoP, and have played some IL-2:1946 and WoP on PC, and I'm pretty average ;).

    I totally agree that gamers' desires aren't necessarily consistent.  It'll be very interesting to see how they (we!) react to all the changes that are bound to hit us next gen. Interesting times, and deffo an interesting convo :).

    Got tangled up in a BF3 tourney which is keeping me away from BoS a bit during the week, but look forward to seeing you in the sky sometime soon :).

  •  I feel the same way here, PN.  As long as the single-player is not hurt in the process, I'm fine with it.  Thing is, this reminds me of when Mass Effect 3 announced that it would add multiplayer.  In fact, this is almost the exact same set of arguments, and it turns out that the Mass Effect multiplayer is a lot of fun and one of the reasons I keep playing the gave a few times every weekend or so

    So, that said?  I'm willing to give this a chance and see what they do with it.  While I love the God of War series, I have to admit that once I beat it, I very seldom re-play the games because the gameplay and story is linear enough that there is not much else to do.

    I imagine part of the reason they are looking into this is games like God of War Collection and God of War III were being traded in, and really purchased new at discounted prices, very early on. 

  • Yup, been raging about this for a while, and I don't even care about GoW. Just, why do all these games have to have multiplayer, even if multiplayer doesn't really suit the game?

  • To be honest, I say it should stay single player. But what they should do is have him go through the other mythologies like the nordic gods. Basically the other paigon or even do what they where hinting in with GOW 1&2 and do christianity.

  • I just want to point out that Sony Santa Monica doubled the size of their team so that SP AND MP get the same 100% dedication. God of War: Ascension will have the best campaign in the series to date as well as a unique and genre defining multiplayer component. Have some faith in Sony Santa Monica, they know what they're doing and have never let their millions of fans down before.

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