E3 2016: God of War Returns to Crush His Foes Like the Worms They Are

Sony began its ;E3 2016 briefing with an impressive orchestral song that immediately led into the demo for the new God of War, and it blew everyone in the crowd away. This game looks very different from previous games in the series, but it still features awesome combat in a time long passed. While the combat and play style are different, there’s nothing to fear because the mighty god-slayer, Kratos, is still the star of the show.

As the trailer began, a young boy is playing in the snow. He’s called by a deep, gruff voice and goes inside a hut to see what the person wants. Then he’s told that his late mother’s knife now belongs to him, and that he’s to embark on a test. The camera pans to a dark area in the hut, and the tattooed Kratos emerges, looking much older than he did in God of War 3, but no less powerful. He tosses the child a bow, and they both embark on a test to see if the child can track and slay a deer. Not surprisingly, they encounter a more serious threat than wildlife as they’re attacked by zombie-like creatures and a gigantic troll.

It was immediately noticeable that this more realistic continuation of the franchise is still an action-adventure game, but the viewpoint has changed to a close-up third-person view from behind the main character. This brings the both the main character and the environment closer to the camera and allows the developers to showcase much more detail than what’s found in past games. The environment is a lush forest in the winter with fallen logs, barren trees, and snow on the ground. It’s really cool to see subtle details such as snow tracks made by the child, icicles hanging from rocks, and snow falling from the trees when scared birds fly away. At first glance, the environments look more like an Elder Scrolls game than God of War.

What’s really impressive is the amount of detail shown in the faces of each character. For example, the child impetuously shoots a deer before taking time to aim, and he scares the deer away. Kratos shouts “What are you doing?” and the boy replies “I’m sorry.” The look of shame in the boy’s face is unmistakable, and the stern look Kratos gives when he says “Don’t be sorry, be better” is enough to make anyone cower in fear. Later in the demo, the boy shoots the deer and has to finish it off with his mother’s dagger. His look of trepidation combined with fear and compassion is one of the most impressive displays of emotion I’ve ever seen in a game.

When they’re surprised by zombie creatures in the forest, Kratos pulls out his deadly axe, and a symbol carved into the metal blade starts to glow blue. He then starts hacking away at one zombie and finishes him off by slicing through his shoulder. Two more zombies appear and Kratos takes one out immediately by throwing his axe into its chest. This pins the zombie against a rock and freezes it in place. Another zombie jumps at them and Kratos doesn’t waste time beating the crap out of him with his bare fists. He finishes it off by crushing his face in his hands and landing a final mighty blow that knocks it down for good.

Later in the demo, a huge troll knocks both Kratos and the child backwards as it breaks through a stone bridge. It grabs a large stone pillar that it uses as a weapon and swings it at Kratos. He evades the blow with a dodge roll and starts hacking away at its leg. The troll uses a flame stomp attack with his other leg, but Kratos evades that. Then the troll and Kratos continue an epic battle where they both take damage, but Kratos clearly has the advantage.

One really cool combo attack occurs when Kratos slams his ice axe into the ground, which freezes the troll in place. Then Kratos throws the axe into the troll, lunges at it, grabs the axe, and produces a shock wave by slamming it into the ground. Kratos finishes off the troll by jumping on its back and repeatedly punching it in the head before slamming it to the ground and shoving an axe in its head.

While the combat looks familiar, it has a much greater impact than what’s found in previous GoW games. I could feel the force of Kratos’ blows and see the damage done to enemies in real time. In addition, the troll’s attacks literally made the ground shake, and I shuddered every time Kratos was hit with the stone pillar. I really can’t wait to see what other kinds of attacks and enemies that Kratos is going to encounter.

I got the impression that this action game will have RPG elements as there were two occasions where a character gained Intelligence points. One was for tracking when the boy found deer tracks, and the other was later in the demo when the boy shot the deer with a bow. This leads me to believe that the boy may be playable at some point. Otherwise, why would Kratos gain Intelligence points for the boy’s actions? Wouldn't it be that the boy is learning things from the warmaster Kratos?

I certainly welcome all of these changes as it gives the series more impact, significantly increases the beauty, and adds a lot of depth. It would be cool to play both Kratos and the boy at different times, and it would be awesome to have the ability to play the game in online co-op. Only time will tell as very few details have been given, but I look forward to learning more about the new God of War. No release date has been revealed, though it remains a PS4 exclusive.