The first God of War game was an instant classic – I still remember when I first played it way back in 2005. The games centred around the continuing misadventures of Kratos – Spartan General and total psychopath – as he brutally murdered his way through Greek mythology. Despite its bat-shit insane plot and an odd attitude towards women (which would, unfortunately, become a feature of the series as a whole), the God of War games became extremely successful. For me, though, the franchise definitely outstayed its welcome by the end. The first game’s emphasis on epic spectacle lost its charm with each installment, the game-play rapidly became repetitive, and the main character became less likeable as the story went on. It was high time for a shake-up of the series – and, thankfully, that seems to be what we’re getting.
As revealed in game-play footage released at E3 last week, SIE Santa Monica Studio – the developers of this new installment – have wisely chosen to take the franchise in an entirely different direction to the previous games. It looks like nearly everything has been changed, right down to the controls. Gone is the Mediterranean setting of Ancient Greece, replaced with the frozen vistas of mythical Scandinavia in a time when the Norse gods still walked the Earth. Gone too are Kratos’ signature weapons – the ridiculously named ‘Blades of Chaos’, which were attached to his forearms via chains – he now wields a magical axe that returns to the users hands once thrown (wonder where they got that idea from…). The game we are presented with here feels more… grown-up, if that makes sense. The tone is different, more thoughtful and introspective. That’s not to say that the new game lacks the elements that made the series so successful – Kratos’ battle with the troll near the middle of the footage shows that the franchise still has a penchant for epic spectacle – it’s just that the emphasis has shifted. It looks like the new installment will focus far more on Kratos himself than ever before, and I for one think this is a good thing.The Kratos of previous games was – to put it lightly – fairly one-dimensional, and that was very much the intention of the developers. He was a one-man army, focused entirely on his rage and winning his revenge (for whichever horrific event he most likely caused himself). Here, Kratos is far older and more conscious of his breath-taking anger management issues – there’s a bit that serves as an introduction to the ‘Spartan rage’ mechanic where he stops himself from losing his temper when his son messes up, which I thought was a nice touch. It’s clear that the relationship between Kratos and his son is fundamental to the game, and a large element of this will be centred around the ‘Ghost of Sparta’ teaching his son how to survive in the hostile world they find themselves in. It’s an interesting angle and it reminds me of the dynamic between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us – which I don’t think is an accident – and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how it works. All in all, I am extremely excited about the new God of War title. It will be very different to the games of old, but I definitely think that’s a good thing. While the footage seemed a bit too perfect (it was either scripted or very tightly choreographed), if it’s anything like the finished product, I’d say we have another instant classic on our hands. Fingers crossed.