So the long gestating and rumoured return of God of War has finally been officially revealed at this years E3, although as was probably intended it’s left everyone with plenty of questions.
The lengthy game play demo reintroduces Kratos ,the Spartan turned demi-god, who has featured in seven games across various platforms, as older, sporting a beard (looking a bit like a ripped Mandy Patinkin), and most interestingly having a young son.
God of War is a critically acclaimed best selling franchise, although equally it definitely wasn’t without its problems which I can see more clearly looking back. The first game started off with Kratos determined to kill himself by leaping off a cliff, a broken man crippled with grief and guilt. As the narrative unfolded the reason why was revealed, Kratos had murdered his daughter and wife whilst under the influence of Ares, whom Kratos had pledged to serve in exchange for the power to defeat a barbarian horde earlier. Whilst there was definitely some pathos embedded in the story, it was never particularly nuanced and played out like id The Game, a violent, gory and misogynistic quest for vengeance. Women in God of War rarely served a function other than being lust objects or dying horribly, sometimes both.
With all that in mind it remains to be seen where this new God of War will go narratively, this seems like an older and wiser Kratos trying to put his tortured past of slaughtering gods and men behind him, with an obvious reference point being Clint Eastwood’s Bill Munny in Unforgiven.
This new God of War seems to have dialled down on the gorefest of its earlier entries, whilst seemingly being influenced by the critically acclaimed The Last of Us (which is not only developer Naughty Dog’s best game to date but arguably one of the best games period) with gameplay switching between Kratos himself and his son as the story unfolds. An important factor will be how the mother of Kratos’ son features in this game, previously women haven’t really been served that well narratively speaking and if the mother in question gets “fridged” it will really show up how little the game has matured narratively.
How will it tie into the apocalyptic ending of God of War III? Who is the mother of Kratos’ son? One theory suggests the son is Ullr, in Norse mythology Ullr is the son of Sif who is the wife of Thor, you know the son of Odin. The father of Ullr is unknown though due to little being known of Ullr besides being “an excellent archer, hunter, skater, and skier, handsome, warlike, and an especially apt deity to invoke before a duel”. This ofcourse would lead to Thor probably wanting a quiet word with Kratos and Sif.
Whilst those are important questions, one of the more pertinent ones is who is this game aimed at?
For good or ill God of War has always been a mixture of button mashing gory combat and puzzles, whilst it did both of these well and definitely featured some of the best visual moments of a generation, like Cronos crawling out of the desert with Pandora’s Temple on his back , this new God of War seems like a fundamentally different game and this is a big deal.
This is a big deal because it makes me wonder who this game is aimed at because as seen so far this game is pretty much completely different game play wise, whilst the gameplay seen featured some combat, it’s different to that seen previously. This Kratos isn’t wielding the Blades of Chaos, his signature weapon throughout the games, and combat seems very different, it’s only the encounter with a troll that is more reminiscent of games past, although this too omits the floods of gore that would accompany Kratos taking a large enemy down in previous games.
This new God of War in fact seems so different it’s almost as if it could easily be a different game entirely with all new characters, were it not for the fact that God of War is a well established brand IP which will almost guarantee a return. The tricky part is how many God of War fans are going to buy this new take on God of War? Therein lies the problem for any long running franchise, do the same thing repeatedly and it becomes boring and redundant, but change it up too much and it drives away your fan base.
The lack of a number for this entry was a deliberate move on Sony’s Santa Monica Studios part, which further complicates things implying this is a “reboot” for the franchise, in fact Creative Director Cory Barlog in a recent feature stated “Kratos is our through line, our constant through all of it, but otherwise, we’re starting from scratch”, this statement essentially proves my previous point, especially when you factor in that this game will feature Norse mythology rather than the Greek mythology of the earlier games.
The new God of War will appearing at some point in the future, check out the gameplay demo below.