The New God of War Showcases a More Sensitive, Caring Kratos

The New God of War Showcases a More Sensitive, Caring Kratos

But he can still kick some serious ass.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

It’s not a reboot! That’s the loud and clear message from Cory Barlog, the creative director of the new God of War. The latest game in the storied series instead focuses on a different time in the grumpy God’s life – a period in which he’s a father living in the icy northern wastelands of the pre-Viking era. It’s an intriguing premise that explores Kratos’ humanity.

Essentially, it’s a clean break for the series; one that delivers a whole new kind of God of War game. Sure, it’ll have the signature trappings of the series, such as epic monsters to battle, but this time out the game is far more open, giving you the ability to depart from the “golden path” and explore a little more. It’s not an open-world game, however. You’re still channeled along an ultimate route: It’s just wider and has little nooks and crannies that you can wander off and check out. Some areas might even contain useful items for you to find, or side activities to challenge you.

But the big news is that the game gives you a companion: Kratos’ young son. While you don’t ever directly control him, you teach him new skills and tricks and he becomes an ever-more-useful asset over time. It’s a neat idea, adding both emotional depth and additional combat mechanics to the game that I found really intriguing.

The demo I watched at E3 yesterday basically showed how the game opens. Kratos is teaching his young son to hunt. Both walked out into the exquisitely-rendered snowy landscape and began to track a deer. The dialog between father and son was excellent, establishing an emotional bond between the pair, and showing a side of Kratos that I haven’t seen before.

As the pair tracked the deer, they were confronted by what looked like undead soldiers. Kratos immediately reacted, swinging and hurling his axe Mjolnir-style at the wretched creatures. At one point, Kratos threw his axe, pinning an undead creature to a rock face while he went to town, melee-style on another. Once it was dispatched, he recalled his axe to his hand, and then went after remaining undead, cleaving it nearly in half. The combat was brutal and bloody: While the game has a new, sensitive side, it clearly hasn’t forgotten its roots as a visceral brawler.

What was also noticeable during combat was that there’s no combo meter. Apparently the game’s designers want to instead give players a wide range of moves that they can use in their own style, essentially letting users fight the way they feel most comfortable.

Undead destroyed, the intrepid pair continued onwards, tracking the deer again through the forest. However, they came across yet another monster – this time a giant troll who wanted them for lunch. Cue a mini boss-style battle that had all the hallmarks of a classic God of War encounter. The troll swung his huge battering ram of a weapon, trying to take down the son of Zeus, while Kratos nimbly out-maneuvered him, using combinations of melee moves and ranged attacks to slowly whittle down the creature’s health. It was a quite spectacular set piece, and I’m told that this doesn’t even count as a boss battle – it’s what’s going to be typical of the game’s regular combat.

Finally, the two adventurers tracked down the deer, and there was a touching scene as the son shot it with an arrow, but couldn’t find it in his heart to finish it off. Kratos helped his son do the deed, but clearly felt his child’s empathy for the creature.

I was really impressed at how the game conveys quite complex emotion – this is definitely a real departure for the series. But at the same time, if the small taste of combat I witnessed is anything to go by, this is still very much a God of War game. It just packs depth of character and a story that makes the game feel more mature and grown up.

Demo over, I left feeling very positive about this new God of War. It’s a fresh new start that the series sorely needed. If the finished game can keep up the pace and quality of gameplay shown in the demo, it’s going to be a real winner.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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