e3 2016

God Of War

The Father-Son Relationship Is The Heart Of The Story
by Elise Favis on Jun 14, 2016 at 05:52 PM
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 4

At yesterday's Sony press conference, we saw a glimpse of how the new God of War is taking a more intimate, parental tone – a stark departure from the brutal anti-hero story we've come to know. The demo follows an older, bearded Kratos and his son as they embark on a hunting trip that isn't without obstacles and foes. At E3, we were given an extended look at the more methodic hack-and-slash gameplay, the role of his child companion, and just how open this nordic world is.

While past games explored Greek mythology, this God of War entry will be grounded in Norse mythology. God of War director Cory Barlog was quick to mention that this is a continuation of our famed anti-hero's story, rather than a traditional reboot.

As for Kratos, he comes across more subdued, quiet, and calculative. When guiding his son through the wintry woods, it becomes clear that the game is more open, ditching the fixed camera perspective of the previous entries. While tracking down a deer to kill, the two come across undead villains that block their path, and a fight initiates. Using his ice axe, Kratos can slice through these skeletal foes, nearly cutting them in half. The axe seems to flow well in melee, and it can also be thrown from a distance at enemies as well as pin them down. While your enemy is immovable, you can resort to fist fighting to take down the rest of your targets. Using the axe extends to situations outside of combat as well, to interact with the environment, solve puzzles, and to access items you normally can't reach.

His son, who he often brashly refers to only as "boy," receives guidance from Kratos, and you will help develop his skills as the story progresses. You'll have some agency over your companion at certain points, such as shooting and aiming his bow and arrow, but you won't directly control him. You'll also be able to direct him to specific areas. While Kratos is a mentor to his son, the boy also acts as an asset to his father. For example, during a battle against an enormous troll, the boy shouts out warnings such as "he's going to charge!" to give Kratos time to dodge.

The relationship feels similar to Ellie and Joel's interactions near the beginning of The Last of Us. At the end of the demo, Kratos nears his son to put his arm around him in comfort, but falters instead. It gives the impression that Kratos seeks that deeper connection, but he isn't sure how to approach it. 

The relationship between the two is the heart of God of War, bringing more humanity and depth to a series that previously focused on brutality. The aggressive action sequences remain, but the narrative tone is softer, at least from what we've seen so far. Kratos is given a chance at redemption; to make better choices and potentially be a better father, by teaching his son how to survive in an unforgiving world.