The God of War semi-reboot featured at Sony’s E3 conference featured noticeably more emotional notes than what the critically acclaimed mythology-influenced beat ’em up series has in the past, and according to a VentureBeat interview with God of War 4 director Cory Barlog, that is a very intentional and deliberate change.
Though, according to Barlog, there was pushback against the idea of making Kratos, the series’ lead, anything other than a “force of nature”, he was adamant that the series make progress into a more thoughtful game.
The change was inspired, apparently, by Barlog getting his hands on the scripts for Star Wars: Underworld, an hour-long “gritty and ambitious” Star Wars television series written in 2005 that never made it past development, while working for Lucasarts. “It was the most mind-blowing thing I’d ever experienced,” Barlog said I cared about the Emperor. They made the Emperor a sympathetic figure who was wronged by this fucking heartless woman. She’s this hardcore gangster, and she just totally destroyed him as a person. I almost cried while reading this.”
Barlog believes that audiences will buy into the shift in tone because the video game industry’s general audience has changed their expectations of what they want from the experience of playing a video game. “I saw that people were accepting bigger games that didn’t have to shout all the time. I thought this was an opportunity for us.”
The origins of the change are pretty surprising (and the show sounds like something that would be intriguing in 2017 as a potential Netflix property), but I’m in full agreement with Barlog that fans of the series will embrace this change if they haven’t already. Barlog makes an excellent point in the interview comparing video games to television. “Television is this great format where people can have a relationship with characters for an extended period of time,” he said. “During that time, a character can go from one extreme to another. They can go from a character you loathe to a character you love and root for.”
Not only is it nice for writers that characters can undergo drastic changes in television or video games, but in some ways, it’s necessary for the piece to be consistently entertaining. The best story driven games understand this, and it’s encouraging for the future of the God of War franchise that its director does as well.