Hyped or Afraid: God of War

It’s been a long time coming! PlayStation fans have waited 5 Years since the last God of War, and it’s been a bumpy ride for Sony on what direction they wanted to take the series. The original director, David Jaffe, stated that the series should go in a different direction after God of War III and that the developers and Sony should be very careful about how it’s done. It was clear that after God of War: Ascension fans and the developers wanted something new.

Now it’s time to see a brand new Kratos within a whole new world that centers on Celtic rather than Greek mythology. There’re plenty of reasons to get hyped for the refresh and, dare I say, a few to be afraid. Here’s why.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Return of  the original director

David Jaffe was the creator of the God of War series and the main force behind the first two games. His influence shaped God of War and the many clones that came after, with a blend of brutal combat and excellent action sequences interlinked with a compelling narrative. But director Cory Barlog helmed God of War II and made it a beautifully structured beast with more depth and lateral elements that led it to a Bafta award. He’s back to direct this new rebirth of God of War, and it seems like his love for structured gameplay, lateral elements,and slower but more immersive combat has come with him.

I really liked God of War II as it improved many of the main issues the original game had while making everything grander in scale for gameplay and story. Cory wants to go further with this reboot and add dynamics to craft an intelligent combat system with greater depth to the progression elements. This will be a massive turn from God of War III which was fine but did nothing new or exciting compared to the first two games. This is a fresh start, and I’m glad it’s fronted by an ambitious and talented director.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Enhanced character progression

The original games had some progression mechanics that allowed you to purchase new skills and upgrade weapons. While these could be considered RPG elements for character progression, it was bare bones in comparison to what we have now. God of War is expanding the scale and depth of upgrades and weapon enhancements, creating armor, and learning strategic abilities. Players can now purchase armor, upgrade the ax with a host of different attributes, and develop Kratos through an immense skill tree allowing him to be perfectly attuned to the player’s demand.

There’s not much else or anything that truly seems new and dynamic for the series, but it’s nice to see a great amount of depth to customization, which allows players to make Kratos more attuned to their perfect father figure who dishes out death quicker than McDonald’s grills burgers.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Brutal and tactful combat

Combat has taken more of a personal edge, with the developers taking inspiration from Dark Souls (not so much the difficulty, so don’t worry) and a few other choices, including Infinity Blade. Another game you might compare this new God of War to is Hellblade: players enter arena-like stages and battle various skillful warriors or one larger enemy, all with different weaknesses and strengths.

This is a new brand of combat for the series where players will need to actively judge each and every move they make, thinking through as they fight rather than mashing buttons constantly. Your ax (which literally has a mind of its own) will be able to adapt to the fights, and players can modify and change certain aspects and engage in chaining attacks together for more powerful fighting styles. There will also be a greater focus on tactics; for example, parrying will be more important than ever. Let’s not forget that your son lends a hand in combat and helps with a number of maneuvers and attacks of his own.

This new form of combat may be much slower for hardcore fans or for those who’ve grown more accustom to the earlier games. It’s more methodical and challenging, requiring some lateral thinking, as each fight is more like a well-structured dance, featuring blood and death. Those who don’t like the combat in Dark Souls or the idea that a large number of fights will be encounters similar to Hellblade might not enjoy the game.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

One shot throughout the campaign?

If you’ve read interviews with Cory about God of War you may have heard about the one shot throughout the game. This means that from start to end there’s not a single cut or edit in the game or its cutscenes. This sounds like an ambitious idea but one that could work. Although Cory had been interested in directing the Tomb Raider reboot like this, his idea for a single shot throughout the game was not met with open arms.

I like this idea, don’t get me wrong, as it can work to create that personal tone to the story, following a character through his journey, but there are some issues. No cuts mean we’re following characters constantly, and in gameplay this is fine, but cutscenes might prove to be tricky. Pretty much all directions in games and movies don’t use tracking/single shots for a majority of their projects, especially not for action scenes. Imagine Tomb Raider with no edits; it might emphasize the gritty nature, but the action would be slow, clunky, and just difficult to follow without any edits.

Just watch the Last Air Bender (2010) and see how M Night Shyamalan uses a single tracking shot for his action scenes and how awful that turns out. I’m sure the single shot for God of War will be better, but what made the other God of War games so brilliant was the clever cinematography, including quick cuts, close ups, and even seeing Kratos murder you through the victim’s own eyes.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

New world, new myths, and a new Kratos?

I gotta say, the new setting for God of War looks amazing! Centring the aesthetics around Celtic mythology is a nice change of pace and allows players to fall in love with God of War all over again. It’s a new world to explore, new characters to meet, and new enemies to kill. The world building is highly impressive with its breathtaking visuals and sound design that’ll surely immerse players right from the get-go.

One thing that’s puzzling is whether this is a reboot or a form of a sequel. From what the director and some parts of the trailer imply, this Kratos is indeed the same one from the other games. Why?! I don’t understand why not just start afresh, as this could lead to some puzzling storytelling, and worse still it could bring us to inter-dimensional plot elements that would be rubbish. Keep it sweet and simple and have this as a new character even if his name is Kratos . . . kind of like DMC . . . actually, forget I said that.

God of War, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Annoying child companion? Check!

Yeah, God of War being a fantastical parent simulator is an interesting idea, but really? I think The Last of Us will birth games that kind of feel like needless companion quests, and while the son can kick arse, he’s just a little tedious and annoying to have throughout the whole game! It’s clear the son is here to add some emotional depth and comedic value (Jesus, really?), but we don’t need this. The other game did this fine enough with Kratos being a tortured soul who did at some moments have a heart. Even though his endless killing could make Vlad the Impaler be like “dude, seriously, calm down”.

I hope there’s more to the son’s character rather than just wiping out exposition and bland jokes, stating something is dead then not dead when it comes alive.

Hyped or Afraid?

I’m so hyped for this game. It sounds perfect as a fitting return and refreshing new direction for the series. I do have some doubts, but overall, I’m happy with what I’ve seen. Maybe these concerns will be squashed when the game comes out next month and we see it as the ultimate cinematic experience of the year.

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