Today Sony Interactive Entertainment released a new episode of the Lost Pages of Norse Myth, on the God of War official website, alongside some new assets focusing on weapons.
First of all, we get to look at models for Kratos’ axe, the Leviathan, forged by the dwarven brothers Brok and Sindri to restore balance to the realm. The second is Kratos’ shield, described as “quick as a flash, but withstanding blows that would tear ordinary defenses asunder. It’s an armament worthy of a true guardian.” The third is Atreus’ bow. You can see them in the gallery at the bottom of the post, included views from all angles.
On top of this, we hear from Lead Gameplay Designer Jason McDonald and Lead Gameplay Engineer Jeet Shroff.
We hear that the Spartan roots of brutality and efficiency in battle are still part of Kratos, but now that he has a son, he needs to find a way to convey those standards to him, but not as over the top as he used to be. He is not driven by vengeance anymore, and using violence is now more of a way to protect Atreus.
Kratos is still a very physical fighter, while Atreus has more connections with Norse magic and lore. The developers were a bit vague on Kratos’ son’sl magical abilities. They just said that “he takes a more magical approach to getting things done. He is more involved with that sort of world.” Kratos has a bad history with gods, so he hesitates to get involved with it, while Atreus is more open to it because he doesn’t have the same kind of experiences.
Since the camera is much closer to Kratos than in previous games, the player’s visibility in terms of crowd control is more limited, so Atreus takes up that role in terms of “handling the crowd” and various threats on Kratos.
The goal is to still have the brutality and fierceness of God of War combat but giving it more nuance. We hear an example in which in the past games Kratos would rip an enemy’s arm off and then repeatedly stab him. Now he still does some things like that, but he is not “super-angry” anymore, so in that case just ripping the arm off would be enough. He is trying to bottle up his rage as opposed to unleash it all the time.
He uses that rage only when needed for actual survival or protection, and in other cases he is trying to gain control over it, creating a dynamic between narrative and combat. Figuring out that balance was interesting for the development team.
Kratos has an actual rage mode, in which he does things pretty much like he did in the past, as opposed to pretty much being in that mode all the time. While developers wanted to retain a little bit of the button mashing from the past games, they also decided to take on more RPG-like mechanics in terms of what you can equip. The game is “a lot longer” than older entries in the series, so there are a lot more items to find. That’s a “very important part of the equation.”
Key to the combat experience is giving player choice in terms of where to look (due to the closer camera) and be tactical, being able to switch between axe and bare hands, or using Atreus’ abilities, also providing a more grounded experience.
Players will still expect fast-paced combat, and the folks at SCE Santa Monica are committed to delivering it, but with a layer of choice and additional control.
Director Cory Barlog wanted the axe to feel “right from the start” as it’s a primary change in the game. Kratos’ shield is a completely new element. Part of the idea behind it is providing a Viking feel with the iconic big shield and weapon. Yet they did not want Kratos to walk around with a giant shield all the time, so the had the idea of making it appear and disappear when needed. Many doubted the idea at the beginning, but ultimately the feedback has been very positive. Developers weren’t sure that it would actually make it into the game, but now it’s a staple of Kratos’ fighting style.
Atreus always had a bow in Barlog’s vision for the game. It’s also good for the systems design side of things because he doesn’t need to run up to every enemy and get into the player’s way. Kratos can still throw his axe, but he is still primarily a melee fighter. On the other hand, Atreus has more “crazy” abilities when it comes to range, and that’s a balance that works well for the game.
As we heard before, Atreus has his own button. He can initiate various actions on his own, but he normally saves his best abilities from when his father commands him to use them. That’s what the button is all about. Using it will let players unleash Atreus’ most powerful skills at the moment when they actually want it. It’s an important part of the player’s decision making in terms of extending combos or devastating enemies. He is basically an extension of Kratos’ arsenal in combat, and also outside of battle.
A very important element for the team was that the player would not forget about Atreus when in the heat of battle. They made sure he feels useful and a relevant part of the game. Kratos needs Atreus just as much as his son needs him.
Developers also pulled away from the traditional quicktime events from the old God of War games. Those cinematic actions are still present, but they’re not random buttons anymore. They correspond to the appropriate combat buttons that you would expect for each action.
Bringing the camera in very close has been a challenge throughout the whole game. From a combat perspective, the most challenging aspect was to let players be able to track enemies and properly assess the battlefield. It made developers rethink the way to present encounters with big enemies and the assistance they provide to the players in terms of tracking and information. On the flip side, it has made things “a lot more in-your-face” and menacing, allowing players to feel that they’re in the thick of combat.
While the combat experience is partly similar to previous games, now the player has to watch his back. Enemies behind Kratos are harder to notice, and players have to position him more deliberately and tactically. This adds a whole new level of depth to battle.
Now players can aim at different locations in their enemies. You can aim at the head, at the legs, or at certain parts when they light up as they attack.
The lack of camera cuts has also been a challenge. Previous God of War games have always been about alternating between battle and cinematic modes. Now all those “smoke and mirror tricks” are not possible anymore. Developers had to think about how to make the sequencing of those actions seamless and feel good. The team had meetings about the entries and exits of all the cinematics in the game to make sure that the blend with gameplay was absolutely perfect.
You can listen to the whole podcast here and see a trailer for it below. If you want to see more about God of War, you can enjoy the latest gameplay presented at Paris Games Week, a trailer showing the Dead Giant Stone Mason, another clip showcasing the enemies named Revenant, a similar video focusing on the Draugr, and one showing off the fire troll. At PlayStation Experience, we heard that the game will last between 25 and 35 hours.
God of War will be released exclusively for PS4 in 2018. A couple of weeks ago a possible March 22nd release date was leaked on the North American PlayStation Store, but Barlog did not confirm it at PlayStation Experience, so we’re still in the dark.