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The new 'God of War' redefines what epic means

The new 'God of War' redefines what epic means
From Mashable - March 19, 2018

In the years after its release in the mid 2000s, the original God of War trilogy became a symbol for everything wrong with video games: gruesome violence, nonsensical and overwrought storytelling, angry hypermasculinity, nauseating male power fantasies, the exploitation of women, or even the dreaded quick-time event.

But if the demo with the first couple hours of the new, reimagined Nordic-themed God of War is any indication, you must leave those assumptions behind. Because like Kratos, you are a stranger in a strange land.

And everything has changed.

The most striking transformation in the new God of Warwhich comes through in everything from story to combatis its decidedly human scale.

"[In the original games], we got into an arms race with ourselves," said Cory Barlog, who is reprising his role as the game's director. "Everything was bigger and bigger and bigger. If we were to follow that linear curve, you'd be fighting Galactus. You are fighting a planet, at that point. It's just ridiculous."

So instead, Barlog and the Sony Santa Monica team went in the opposite direction. Rather than rocketing Kratos' into space to exact vengeance on the sun (or whatever), they instead grounded him in the isolating intimacy of a Scandinavian forest. Rather than escalate his anger to larger, more epic and exterior foes than ever, his hatred turned inward.

And rather than climb Mount Olympus to kill every last god, Kratos and his son Atreus are climbing a mountain to complete a pilgrimage and scatter the ashes of their dead matriarch. And most importantly: the inciting incident for their journey is not vengeance, but grief.

In large part, this tonal shift comes from the source material. Unlike, say, an Assassin's Creed game, the new God of War does not just swap out Greek and Norse mythology to sell you the same game with a different cultural backdrop.

The spirit of Nordic lore runs through its core. The action of previous God of Wars mimicked the epic, never-ending battles of ancient Greece. Meanwhile the Nordes were forced to survive through months of sunless winter and quiet reflection.

And that change in atmosphere fundamentally changes both the action and Kratos as a character.

"The Greek myths are tragic: they are the stories of gods as political overlords, controlling people and manipulating their lives," said Barlog. But Norse gods do not live in the sky, plotting and deciding people's fates. "They live in the dirt, the earthvery connected to life and the world around them."

Perhaps most appealingly to Kratos (who lost his first family due to divine meddling), "In Norse myth, the gods already know exactly when they are going to die, and who's going to kill them." So that change informed the larger tonal shift of the series, leading to its arresting moments of stillness, because if "the ending is already known, forget thinking. You just need to take it in. Live in the moment."

But that mantra also goes beyond just story beats, influencing the pacing of the gameplay as well.

Gone are the days when killing a colossal beast takes a few well-timed button presses. In the first few hours, we did not find evidence of a single quick-time event, either (and you can thank the gods for that). Battling the gods or monsters of Norse myth feels messy, tactile, weighted. Kratos' victory does not feel predetermined by a cinematic set piece, either. You will die if you do not figure out the right strategy, or wield your battle axe well.

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