It’s been 13 years since we were first introduced to Kratos, killer of Gods. Splashing our screen with ferocious violence and action like we’d never seen before. The first God of War launched on March 22nd 2005 on the PlayStation 2 to rapturous applause. It’s unique blend of hack n’ slash combat, larger than life bosses and platform puzzle sections, cemented the series into the gaming hall of fame. It has since been followed by God of War 2 (PS2), God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP), God of War 3 (PS3), God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP), God of War: Ascension (PS3) and God of War 3: Remastered (PS4). Each sticking to the same gamplay formula but still reviewing well by both critics and consumers.
However this April, when Kratos returns in “God of War” (4?), the series is stretching it’s legs and trying something new. Santa Monica Studios creative director Cory Barlog explained in numerous interviews after the games jaw dropping debut at E3 2016, that this is a big shake up for the series and that’s not limited to the player now, being accompanied by Kratos’ son, Atreus.
Gone are the Greek Gods (which makes sense since he killed them all) and in their place are a new host of Nordic myths for the Spartan warrior to take on. But while the change in setting affects the narrative and environment, massive alterations to gameplay show that in some ways this latest adventure is leaning more towards the Xbox One launch game Ryse: Son of Rome than the previous games in its franchise.
Now hold up, don’t flood the comment section with hate fuelled rage quite yet. Make no mistake, God of War is still God of War; monsters, hyper violent combat and cinematic screen filling battles… but as I’ll explain, there’s definitely some comparisons to be made with Crytek’s Roman epic.
Firstly there’s the camera angle. The previous GoW titles have always gone for a high, pulled back view of the proceedings, allowing scope for the enemies charging at Kratos. With the series signature weapon being his Blades of Chaos, the larger viewing area also helped the player keep track of what was going on during the wide spread, lightening quick combos as they rip through the hordes of beasties. The latest God of War brings the player much closer to the action, with a tighter, over the shoulder view. This works great with the slightly slower, more controlled fighting system which seems to line up closer to the combat seen in Ryse.
This leads us to the next big change for the franchise, the Blades of Chaos/Athena are no longer the weapon of choice. The frantic, flailing chain blades have been demoted behind the new hotness, the Leviathan Axe. This leads to a more close combat style, again more similar to the sword play of Marcus Titus but with the added bonus of being able to throw and retrieve it at will like Thor and his hammer (which is pretty badass).
The Spartans movement has also been “restricted” in this new installment as he has lost his superhuman ability to jump 20ft in the air. How this will affect the level traversal and exploration that the series is known for remains to be seen, though does mean more grounded engagements and no longer gives the option to just cowardly keep jumping away if things start to get on top off you. The player will more likely need to rely on dodging, parrying and using a shield to keep control when dacing numerous enemies at once. This is a very smart move by the developers due to the new camera angle, as jumping all over the place would become very disorientating at close range.
It seems funny that when Ryse originally released people often compared it to the Sony blockbuster franchise,”A poor mans God of War”, yet the gameplay was so different in pacing and control that the comparison felt unfair and unwarranted. Yet here we are, four and a half years later and with this newest iteration of GoW being such a departure from the titles that came before it; the two have never been more similar.
I reiterate that I find none of the above points to be negative and are solely based on observations from trailers and comments raised in interviews. I personally really enjoyed Ryse: Son of Rome and am saddened that we’ll most likely never get a sequel. Secondly, nothing I have seen of this God of War has lead me to believe that it will be anything less than amazing and while I doubt the folks at Santa Monica Studios took direct influence from Crytek’s offering, I do find the new similarities interesting.
God of War will still have one huge differential benefit over the historical battler though; the use of mythology. The freedom to employ magical effects, huge monstrous bosses and all the cinematic wonder they bring, will continue to put Kratos (severed) head and shoulders above the rest. I mean seriously….look at it!