With Sony’s unveiling of its new God of War trailer, the franchise that has been a favorite of fans for its brutal combat, epic backdrops and environmentally charged boss battles for over a decade seems set for another strong title, one that appears to take inspiration from both American literature and previous Sony releases.
The trailer opens with sounds of the sea, and we see an intricately detailed axe on the back of an aged Kratos, who now sports a full beard. As the camera rises over his shoulder, we see that in the boat with our hero is a young boy, round in face and slight in frame, looking nothing like the god later revealed to be his father, Kratos. With a question, the boy prompts his father to brandish the axe so it glows with light, showing the viewer its supernatural properties, and then hurl it into the sea.
From the start, the graphics impress, as do the atmosphere and environment. Passing up the familiar reddish-orange hellscapes of previous franchise titles, this installment opts instead for the backdrop of a perpetually snowy, forested landscape, austerely frozen in its temperament and enhanced with inhabitants and magic loosely based on Norse mythology.
The combat is brutal and gory, with Kratos tearing through enemies in the way that franchise fans will welcome and expect. The trailer doesn’t miss the opportunity to show off the powers of the axe, which is throwable and seems to return to Kratos’s hand at will, like the hammer of everyone’s favorite Norse god of thunder. We see Kratos make his way through swarms of enemies with fist and collapsible shield in order to do battle with the sort of titan the man-sized hero seems to always encounter. Kratos’s son is also featured in combat, firing some sort of shocking arrow that paralyzes an enemy, suspending them in midair. Another God of War franchise standard is also revealed when Kratos pulls down a massive beam the foe was just wielding and uses it to crush its skull: the battle-winning cinematic quicktime event.
In the trailer, Kratos’s son claims he is cursed because he is not like his father, but it seems he is not bereft of all power. During a final scene in which the massive World Serpent coughs back the axe Kratos threw into the sea (the scene also reveals that the axe is ice-enchanted), it speaks to the two seafarers, and Kratos must ask his son what it’s saying in order to understand. While his son may be no god-killer, he is not ordinary, either.
Building on the previously released 2016 God of War Trailer, we see more of the relationship between Kratos and his son. While in last year’s trailer, Kratos consciously forced himself to show extra patience while teaching his son to hunt, here we see a different side. A more tender side as he sits pensively next to the sleeping boy, a more anguished side as he tells his son he must close his heart to his enemies’ pain.
The trailer promises emotionally charged moments such as these.
The relationship brings to mind Cormac McCarthy’s modern classic The Road, in which we follow a dying man known only as “the man” in his travels as he struggles to teach his son, known only as “the boy”, what he needs to know to survive in the desolate, destroyed remnants of civilization. The story is underscored by the sorrow he feels that his son must live in such a world and the anguish he feels that he won’t be there to guide him.
It also feels strongly reminiscent of Sony’s The Last of Us, a game which explored similar themes between a guardian and a child, with the same hopeless undertones. I have a hunch we’ll see something similar in the gameplay as well, where much like the player played as Ellie, we’ll also play as Kratos’s son.
All in all, Sony’s new installment in the God of War franchise promises all the standard fare of brutal, fast-paced combat, supernatural powers, extraordinary enemies, and a cinematic feel, as well as including an emotional storyline to add more depth to its characters and the game experience as a whole. Unfortunately for Xbox and PC gamers, God of War is a Playstation exclusive, but it’s still definitely one to keep your eye on until its 2018 release.