2018’s God of War has received widespread critical acclaim. Among its many achievements is the way it brought nuance to Kratos, a character that many would argue had simply served as an avatar for rage and bloodthirsty fury up until that point. In the PS4 pseudo-reboot, Kratos takes on the responsibility of fatherhood and, in doing so, is forced to make decisions that put his son, Atreus, before himself. Spoilers for God of War follow.
One such moment sees him return to using the Blades of Chaos, the iconic weapons from previous games that he used to carve a bloody path through the pantheon of Greek gods as part of a crusade for vengeance. The extended scene during which he travels home to dredge up a past he hoped would remain buried is powerful for what it represents, but it almost was left out of the game due to technical and design challenges. In the first episode of GameSpot’s new show Audio Logs, God of War director Cory Barlog discusses the issues that developer Sony Santa Monica faced when bringing the Blades of Chaos to the new God of War, which swapped the isometric and side-on view of the classic series for a more cinematic, behind-the-shoulder viewpoint.
«The payoff that we actually got the Blades of Chaos right, that was always in question. We didn’t do the blades until probably the last year of development,» he explained. «We worked on the Leviathan axe for so long that there was a possibility that the blades were going to have to get cut because they were just taking so long to get online that everybody said, ‘Look, it took three and a half to four years to do the axe, you’re never going to be able to do the blades in time.’
«So we had a good year of animated chain moves that were just like, ‘That doesn’t feel right, that doesn’t work.’ And with this new camera angle where you have the camera behind Kratos it’s very different … You don’t get the same visual as when you have a side view of Kratos shooting the chain blades out. Seeing it from an isometric view, seeing it from a side view, you get a better view of the line of action. We really had to figure out how to take the old moves and make them work much better in this camera angle.»
Barlog goes on to explain that, while the Blades of Chaos are a nice nod to longtime fans of the God of War series, they also serve a crucial narrative purpose. After all, Sony Santa Monica’s original vision for the game wasn’t one that cast aside Kratos’s brutal history and the questionable morals of his previous actions, but one that embraced them to show his evolution as a person.
«So much of the game was built on this revelation, this realization from Kratos that the blades were something he was going to have to return to. They were something he wanted to get rid of, but would have to go back to them, he’d have to put them on, and he’d do that for his son. That was part of his growth.»
That growth, and the part that the Blades of Chaos played in presenting it, made God of War one of the standout games of the year. GameSpot’s God of War review awarded it a 9/10, with critic Peter Brown saying its biggest surprise was «how mature its storytelling has become.»
He continued: «Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come.»
God of War was also one of GameSpot’s 10 Best Games of 2018: «Regardless of what we all expected from Sony’s muscle-bound badass, God of War is simply a great video game driven by a bold directorial vision and top-tier execution from a team that clearly knows how to knock it out of the park,» we said.
Episode one of Audio Logs is available now on YouTube and in it Barlog walks through the sequence in its entirety, breaking down the different cinematic flourishes and design techniques Sony Santa Monica used to bring the moment to life and make sure it lands with players in a way that is memorable.
He also delves into the characterization of Kratos and the inner turmoil he faced when coming to the decision that he’d need to return to the Blades of Chaos to help his son, Atreus. There are a variety of small touches that even those that have played through the game numerous times will no doubt have missed, and-perhaps more interestingly-insight into the previous versions of the scene that had to be tweaked and altered to because of the realities of game development. Make sure to watch the episode.
Audio Logs is a weekly show where the people behind the games we love tell the stories of how they’re made, exploring the trials, tribulations, successes, and failures that come with development. Subscribe to GameSpot on YouTube to see more.