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Talking God of War: Ascension’s Direction With Todd Papy

by Ben Reeves on Jul 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

How does God of War: Ascension’s new combat system work? Why did Sony decide to make a God of War prequel? Will Kratos ever explore another mythology? We pose these questions, and more, to God of War: Ascension game director, Todd Papy.

Why did you guys decide to make the next God of War game a prequel?
With the way that God of War III ended, Kratos, was…um…an a**hole, to say the least. I think some people connected with him, but it was more of an, "I've been through this journey with him from the start." And he wasn't a very likable character, versus God of War 1 – he was still somewhat ruthless, but there was a side to him that you could somewhat relate to. And that was something that I wanted to get across. I felt the best way to do that was going more for a prequel.

Since we already know where the character ends up do you feel like we still get that narrative arc?
I think so. The whole idea behind the story is more, “How do you undo selling your soul to the devil?” In essence, that is the question that we are answering in this story. It's something that has never been explained in any of the games. Obviously, it's not something that you go in and you're like, “Oh hey, I quit. Aries, you're a mean guy for making me kill my wife and kid. I'm no longer gonna work for you.” That, to me, is something that we should kind of explain and elaborate on a little more.

We know that the Furies are the new antagonists. How do they tie into the game?
They are the bond-keepers of the oath, and we explain how they're there and why they're there, and build them up as antagonists as well. What happens right after you killed your wife and kid? What did you do? Is it that you went to a bar and you drank for a really long time? And then somebody came to you and said, “Hey, this is how you break your oath to a god?” That's what we're explaining. Where does Kratos pick up roughly six months to a year after he killed his wife and kid? What's his mental state? It's not a very pleasant one.

Gameplay wise, what are the big things that you wanted to focus on with Ascension?
We had our unique selling points – we wanted to try out the multiplayer. And that was a big one. And then from there, it was looking at our systems, in particular our combat system and navigation and puzzle systems – really the pillars that we build or design our game from. What works, what doesn't work with those? For example, our climb system. We called it the freeway on the wall, or on the ceiling. To me, it didn't really fit into the environment that well. So we went more towards a point-to-point navigation system – almost similar to Assassin's Creed or Uncharted.

And what’s different about combat?
So everybody loves the blades, but we tried what we called the combat grapple last game – where you could pull a guy towards you or pull yourself towards a guy – and we wanted to expand upon that. And that's really the genesis of the tether idea. Where we can throw our blade into that guy, we can drag him around, and then basically still attack other people – and then choose when you want to swing him into the combat like a wrecking ball.

You also have something called world weapons in the game, where people can pick up weapons from the environment and use those. How does that work?
Basically, our grunts – those are the satyrs that you saw in the demo, the smaller satyrs – they'll have different weapons. They'll actually have five different weapons that they can use. We've showed off the short sword, we showed off the javelin, and then there's the club that we actually showed off in multiplayer. And then there are two other ones that we're not talking about just yet. And then there's Kratos' bare hands. He'll be able to punch people and kick people, so we've actually changed the way that we do controls. You can go smoothly between the world weapons system as well as the blades. Before, circle was our grab and what we called our fun button. And now, R1 is our fun button. So, we moved world weapons to circle, so you can easily change versus having to fumble between the d-pad and your face buttons.

You’ve also showed off the Life Cycle power, which allows Kratos to rewind time and reset the state of certain objects. How does that work?
You get that from one of our bosses. You'll see basically what the boss does with it, which is very, very similar to the things you can do. You are able to adjust the world by taking an object from pristine to rubble or rubble to pristine. It also slows the AI down and it’s a good way to start combos. If somebody is coming at you and you're feeling surrounded then you can pop one of those off and it allows you to free yourself and get out of it and figure out how you want to get back into the fight. So for example, if you have the Elephantaur and you've got a bunch of grunts around you, you're going to maybe put the Elephantaur in stasis so he's moving around real slow and then that allows you to clear out some of the grunts or vice versa. You choose to put the grunts into the stasis moment and then you're really able to focus on that Elephantaur.

How will it work on environments?
As far as levels go, you saw a very light puzzle where you can take the dock that had been wrecked and take it to completion, and once it was taken to completion there was no way for you to get up. So you'd have to life cycle it back down to a stop point – we can have as many stop points as we want, but we want to make sure that the player has clear points that they can stop at. We wanted to be sure that the players don't get frustrated. It’s more about the steps versus knowing exactly where I needed to stop it. So that's kind of the process behind why we put the stop points there and then you can see where it can be used in a puzzle. If I have an object and I'm trying to get through a wall or something like that, I can life cycle a wall and then I can push an object through and then I can life cycle back. You can see how we can build puzzles off of this one mechanic and it would feel fresh and new compared to anything that we've done before.

It has been rumored for a long time that Kratos might venture off into other mythologies. Did you guys consider that this time around?
I wanted to answer the question that we started with, it was basically, let's stay in the Greek mythos. To me, if we're ever going to come out with something that goes to other mythologies or something like that, then it needs time to percolate. For example, you look at The Last of Us. The directors on that game, they didn't work on Uncharted 3. They worked on The Last of Us and probably started it pretty damn close to when they finished Uncharted 2. To create new IPs and do complete overhauls to franchises and stuff like that you need time. It’s not something like, “You have a full team, now go!” Because you are going to be burning cash and people are going to be looking at you and like "What the hell are you doing? Come on, figure stuff out!" You need that time to percolate on those ideas and really hammer it out with a skeleton crew.

Do you think the God of War franchise will ever head in that direction?
I don't know. I mean, frankly, ideally after this one, yeah, we get to put it down for a while and I get to take a nice vacation (laughs), so I won't have to think about it. I think that, if anything, that's something that we need to weigh, you know? Can God of War be without Kratos or can God of War be within a different mythology? That would be something that we'd really need to sit down and think about and boil down to the essence of God of War. If we take out one of those pillars, does it make the game better or should we be doing this?