E3 2016: Sony’s E3 press conference opened up with an orchestral performance that was heavy on both the strings and male choir. It sounded portentous, the bass drum booming along to what was no doubt a battle hymn. It kept the audience hypnotized as the screen went live, a young boy fading into view, but the Shrine Auditorium soon erupted into cheers as an older, bearded Kratos walks out of the shadows. The God of War is back, he’s a father, and he’s taking the series in a whole new direction.
Simply titled God of War, fans, and the press alike were treated to a 10-minute gameplay demo that had us asking all manner of questions. Who is the boy’s mother? Where is Kratos’ iconic Blades of Exile? Just where are they?
Sony’s Santa Monica Studios revealed nothing concrete that night although we’re sure that plenty of footage analysis has already begun. What the developer did show, however, were some very interesting changes to the game’s formula.
What was immediately obvious was the game’s style itself. Kratos is no longer a walking, seething embodiment of rage, neither is the game a hack-and-slash action adventure. Instead, this iteration has a fairly composed Spartan whose attacks are more grounded than its flashy predecessors; and the camera has pulled in closer for a modern third-person view befitting of open world RPGs.
Is the game now an open world RPG adventure? It’s hard to tell from the tight, linear presentation but there were certainly a couple of tell-tale hints. Locations could be newly found, experience could be gained for exploration and skills such as archery, and the vista at the end showcased landmarks that just begged to be discovered. Enemies, on the other hand, come to you in in a fashion very much similar to Dark Souls.
Don’t fear for the series’ identity as God of War keeps to certain traditions. Battles are still punctuated by cinematic – and very violent – moments. Bosses are still these massive beasts that take a long and steady beating. And Kratos’ Spartan Rage is still a thing, albeit less “Super Saiyan” in execution.
Most intriguing of all is the boy who expressly calls Kratos “father”. His presence is very likely the reason for the shift from Greek to Norse mythology – the runes, the clothing, the axe, the wintery forests, the Ogre name dropping “Valhalla”, and the dragon are all evident enough.
There’s no question that Sony and Santa Monica Studios will keep a tight lid on the boy’s significance and role, so we’ll just have to keep our excitement in check and wait. This has been a huge step forward for the first-party series and we’re eager to find out more.
No release date was provided. If we were to make an educated guess, it’ll probably tie-in with the launch of Sony’s upgraded console, codenamed Neo.
Update: During an E3 presentation, the developers stated that they wanted this God of War to be a “new beginning” for the series and that they pushed really hard for there to be absolutely no camera cuts. We also noticed that Kratos had a rage meter even out-of-combat and that the experience gains were all linked to the boy’s activities.