E3: God of War: Ascension reveals the magic of creative destruction.


Creative destruction has been an important idea in the U.S. presidential election, with Mitt Romney claiming the fecund growth that occurs after bankruptcy and mass layoffs is an essential part of the capitalism. The concept finds a surprising co-conspirator in God of War: Ascension, which will give Kratos a magical ability to control destroyed bits of the environment to create new ways forward. 

In the E3 demo, Kratos fights his way up a dock, cutting the legs off bi-pedal goatmen before reaching a large wooden tower meant to lift cargo up from boats to the city above. A giant tentacle beast appears in the distant ocean and hurls a boulder at the tower, causing it to crash into the sea. By standing on a couple glowing green spots on the ground Kratos can cast a billowing green time cloud that resurrects the tower. 

Bringing the tower all the way back to its original shape will still leave it unclimbable, but freezing the time wreckage mid-fall will allow Kratos to jump up to a floating block and leap to a nearby cliff ledge. From there he can reconstitute the whole tower and reach its upper ledge to climb into the city proper.

The mechanic will make regular appearances throughout the game, offering increasingly elaborate puzzles built around the incremental reconstitution of ruined edifices. It can also be used in combat, though here it only causes enemies to slow down and hover in the air for a moment. 

The idea of creative destruction captures something the spirit of the times in a strange way. With a year of violent revolt in Syria, perpetual talks of countries withdrawing from the European Union, and the inability of the American economy to move forward after the debt collapse in 2008, there are lots of collapsing towers all around us. God of War: Ascension doesn’t have much to say about the socio-economic future of the western world, but it does have a simple mechanic that captures the fantasy of rebirth out of ruination. And if total rebirth isn’t possible it offers a way for at least one magically gifted hero to get out before the roof caves in.