During Sony’s E3 2017 press conference, we were treated to a brand new trailer for God of War. In this new look at the game, we caught glimpses of the Kratos’ adventure through the lands and myths of Norse mythology. In his travels, he’ll come across a variety of allies and monsters in this new region of the world, and along the way, he’ll bond with his son, who seems to possess some strange powers of his own to keep up with the older and more grizzled God of War.
At its heart, God of War’s story is about a father learning to bond with his son, who is still very much naive in the ways of the world. And with his past coming to catch up with him, he’ll have to learn to balance his anger and rage, with fulfilling the duties of a father. During a private chat with creative director Cory Barlog–and creative director for God of War II– he spoke a lot about the changes this game has compared to the others, and how his own personal experiences with becoming a father have changed his outlook on what God of War is, and what it can be.
GameSpot: One of the most interesting things about this game, compared to this others, is that it feels far more mature and somewhat subdued in its presentation. Not as a criticism, but rather the overall vibe and tone of the story and violence feels a lot more controlled. The other games were pretty cartoonish in their violence, while this game is not as bloody or gory, but is still brutal with its action and overall action. What the thought process behind changing up the approach to action?
It’s interesting that this game is very personal for me. Very, deeply personal.
Cory Barlog: That’s spot on, actually. Me and the team, when we were younger–when we made them–and now all of us are older, we’ve got families, we’ve seen life, and it’s now through a different lens. ‘Mature’ works on two fronts, right? The maturity of its handling of mature subjects like violence, death, and loss–but we’re handling it in a different way. I don’t think I would go back and change any of the things that I have done, like adding flashlights to the soldiers hands, everything really has been measured by my present view on life. And wanting to make something that really means more to me.
It’s interesting that this game is very personal for me. Very, deeply personal. And it’s weird to say that a God of War game is personal for me, but honestly personal stories can come in so many different forms. It’s a very fascinating thing.
GS: What’s interesting about this game is that for the first time, you have a side-character with you for much of the game. Because of this, you can’t necessarily do all the familiar God of War antics like from the last game. With that in mind, did that set up make you all re-examine the more traditional God of War set pieces?
It’s not so much just the set-pieces–I think it was just that we looked at each aspect of the game. For one, to determine what we were really interested in doing, ‘and that was really cool, but not really what we want to do’. But as Kratos evolves and grows and matures, we want a lot of the aspects to grow with him, we don’t want to change the DNA too much of what this game is really about, and what makes it special. But I think there’s this fantastic element of the kid almost representing a bit of the player.
But when I look at my own life, like I use these moments in my life as reference events, such as going on an amazing rollercoaster for the first time with your dad. That is amazing, it is absolutely ridiculous, and it’s scary–your heart beating a mile a minute–but after it’s over, that sort of elation of having this shared experience[…]And obviously it’s all transposed, like the first time we fought a giant creature together, like each time it’s a first milestone in their life.
GS: An interesting thing we saw from the world itself, particularly from both the E3 2016 and 2017 trailers, was that the world feels much more open and interconnected. Can you describe what the general layout of the space of the world is like? Compared to the older games, which were far more linear, there seems to be elements of freedom in movement and exploration–and going back to this being a shared adventure with a father and his son–with curiosity and discovery being a big part of the game–is this title more about exploring at your leisure compared to other games?
It is a very wide, super wide, linear game in the sense that it follows a specific and straight story. But we are really letting the player do their own thing and explore the space. If they see something in the distance, we’ll let them go to it. To have that feeling of discovery is important in this game. I don’t want to make an open world game, not because I don’t like them–they’re fantastic–but all the other things that accompany the expectations of an open world game was not something I wanted here. I want players to feel rewarded for being curious and seeing an entire level that wasn’t shown or made clear to players, yet they found it on their own.
That sort of loop is something I wanted for players to have is the feeling of “I found this, I’m gonna cherish it”, compared to standard generic quests like fetching mail or something. So much about this game is about the sense of wonder, that every time I went to the movies as a kid to see these amazing movies as a kid. The feeling of being transported to another world were you’re suddenly handling a bullwhip just like Indiana Jones or fly a starship in Star Wars–to me, this game is the fulfillment of every fantasy I’ve had as a kid. And being able to fully immerse myself in it and explore it.