As Sony’s E3 2016 Press Conference kicked off, for those live in attendance, it was immediately apparent that a new God of War was being announced. For what other reason do you bring in an orchestra to perform if not to produce an epic score worthy of Kratos’ fury? Maybe not everyone picked up on this, but as a massive God of War fan, I could feel it.
Foreign Yet Familiar
But oddly, I wasn’t excited, having heard the rumors that God of War would be moving to Norse Mythology. Part of my love for the franchise comes from my childhood infatuation with Greek mythology. I couldn’t imagine feeling the same attachment to the series without my knowledge and wonder of Greek mythology intertwined with the narrative and action. But as soon as that orchestra started playing, and I heard the boom of Kratos’ voice – now played by a new voice actor – I felt that same familiar sense of adventure.
God of War isn’t a reboot, and follows the same storyline arch, but it’s a new phase in Kratos’ life. No more rage and vengeance – “putting away the monster” as Cory Barlog, Creative Director, so eloquently put it. You can see it in Kratos’ body language, as he hesitates to chastise his son, having just pierced Kratos shoulder blade with a poorly aimed arrow.
Kratos’ relationship and interactions with his son are just a few of many ways we’ll see a different side of the reigning God of War. Kratos may have been a fan-favorite character for over a decade, but he lacked the depth required for captivating storytelling and the bonding you find in a game like Uncharted. In the PS2-era, simply being pissed was more than enough. In today’s video games, gamers expect more character development so they are more ingrained in the experience.
Another way Santa Monica Studio is doing this is by putting the camera fixed behind Kratos instead of the panned-out cinematic camera angles found in previous titles. Nearly all of the storytelling will be through gameplay and seamlessly integrated interactive scenes – no more waiting while a cutscene plays out. And although the game isn’t an open world, Barlog says that it’ll be “a lot more open” with multiple pathways to reach an objective which will lend itself to more exploration.
Setting the Axe
To go along with the Norse mythology, the setting has moved to snow-covered, Iron Age Scandinavia and Kratos has ditched the Blades of Chaos in favor of a glowing axe. We don’t know entirely how the axe will be utilized just yet, but it’s clear there are a variety of ways it’ll benefit Kratos on his journey beyond combat. The axe was chosen because it’s part-weapon, part-tool, and it will be a factor in everything from traversal to puzzle-solving.
Combat with the axe has a more substantial feel, and surprisingly still offers the finesse and satisfying display of brutality the Blades of Chaos. It also is fitting for the new over-the-shoulder POV God of War has adapted. The axe can be used to melee up close, or thrown from a distance to pin foes to walls or do long-distance damage – and it can then be “called” back to Kratos at any time. Creative Director Cory Barlog mentioned that a player could throw the axe at the beginning of the game, and then call it back halfway through the game and it’d still return to Kratos. Without it, Kratos uses fisticuffs to decimate oncoming attackers.
God of War may not be a reboot, but it’s the refresh the franchise needed after a lackluster Ascension. It’s a new beginning for Kratos, and we’re eager to learn more not just about the game, but about this new tone for Kratos and if he’s able to keep his rage in check.