God of War (2018) and Ragnarok Are Amazing, but the Series Should Go Back to its Older Scale
Sony Santa Monica deserves incredibly props for what it’s done with the God of War franchise of late, having delivered two back-to-back masterpieces in the space of four and a half years. Reinventing the franchise and building it back up from the ground-up with a completely new identity with God of War (2018) was a herculean task, and though the steady foundations were obviously in place by the time its sequel rolled around, significantly improving upon those foundations to deliver another outstanding experience as Ragnarok does wasn’t exactly easy either.
And Ragnarok is, of course, the end of the series’ Norse saga. As we’ve known for quite some time now, whenever it is the next mainline God of War game comes around, it’s going to take us to a new setting. Whether or not it’s going to be as dramatic a switch as it was when the series went from Greece to Scandinavia remains to be seen (and we might not find out for several years), but whenever that does happen, there is one change in particular we’d like to see- one that it’s safe to say a lot of longtime series fans will be hoping for.
As excellent as God of War (2018) and Ragnarok are (and make no mistake, they are excellent), the one area where they’re unquestionably lagging behind the series’ Greek mythology-era games is their sense of scale. “Epic” is a word that’s often been used to describe God of War, and it goes without saying that the series’ Norse duology is still epic in every sense of the word- but there’s also no doubting that the two games just don’t have the ridiculous sense of scale that, say, the likes of God of War 2 and 3 did back in the day. Definitely not the latter.
Of course, that’s a conscious creative choice made by Santa Monica Studio. The Greek games were the Incredible Hulk, and the Norse games are Bruce Banner. Things are calmer, more deliberate, more nuanced, so the series had to make the conscious decision to drop a lot of its trademark adrenaline-fueled bombast and go for a much more measured approach. The one-shot no-cuts camera has a massive role to play on that. The older God of War games achieved a lot of their massive sense of scale through incredibly zoomed out shots and clever camera cuts and angles that went out of their way to showcase the granduer of the environments and the size of everything from structures to, well, Cronos.
Think of the Colossus of Rhodes going ham on Kratos’ army in the background. Think of the furious battle between Olympus and the Titans while you’re fighting Poseidon on Gaia’s back as she climbs up Mount Olympus. Think of the Steeds of Time and the Island of Creation. Think of the aforementioned Cronos. Hell, think of the Hecatonchires. The way the camera was used was a crucial part of the sense of scale that each of those moments achieved, and the new one-shot camera simply doesn’t allow for a lot of that stuff.
That’s by no means a criticism of the one-shot camera. God of War Ragnarok in particular has proven beyond doubt that Santa Monica Studio has done an unbelievable job of taking an ambitious idea to lift its storytelling and give it a very unique sense of identity, and has actually managed to pull it off with great aplomb. But now that they’ve done all they can with the one-shot, I’m personally hoping that they’ll drop it and go to another different style.
If the next God of War game is indeed going to take us to a new mythological setting – say, Egypt – will that also go hand-in-hand with a reset in other aspects as well? The Norse saga brought with it a new story arc, new characters, a new over-the-shoulder camera, and completely new gameplay mechanics (among other things). Should we assume that that’s going to be a pattern? One of the reasons Santa Monica Studio has given for why it chose to wrap up God of War’s Norse saga in two games rather than with a trilogy is that it didn’t want to spend too much time on the same arc. Could that also be imply that they didn’t want to spend too much time on the same gameplay style?
If the next mainline God of War game does bring a new gameplay style, there’s no shortage of longtime series fans out there who’ll be hoping for it to also bring with it a much greater sense of scale. Give us more of those boss fights against enemies that are so big that Kratos looks like an actual pixel in front of them. Show us more of those vistas that capture a massive swathe of land’s striking beauty with a single wide shot. Adopt the kind of approach to storytelling that will allow the narrative to jump from place to place, character to character with much greater freedom.
After all, one of the best things about this duology of Norse God of War titles was that it was completely unafraid to just rip up the rulebook. Though both games go to great lengths to ensure that they still keep the series’ soul intact (something that fans will always appreciate), there’s nothing that they hold sacred. Hell, Kratos can’t even jump in these new games, and the gameplay loop is so well-built that you hardly ever notice that omission. With that in mind, it would be surprising to see the next era of God of War sticking too closely to the script established with the Norse era games. The best course of action would definitely be for the series to associate a completely different style and identity with each era- and our hope is that an even grander sense of scale will be a big part of the next era’s identity.
Of course, it’s fair to say that, at this point in time, there’s really no telling what that next era of the God of War franchise could even look like- or when it will even arrive. God of War Ragnarok launched like a few milliseconds ago. Santa Monia Studio’s next big project in the pipeline is still unlikely to be past the very early stages of development- and there’s not even any guarantees that that next project is going to be the next big God of War game. It could be a standalone sequel to Ragnarok like Miles Morales was to Spider-Man. It could be a new IP. It could be multiple projects moving along at a good pace.
So yeah, it may very well be quite a while before we see Kratos in a new mainline God of War game again. But when we do, we hope to see the series’ falling back into at least a few of its old habits. If that means being able to witness something that can even come close to matching the scale of the Cronos boss fight, we’re all for it.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
* This article was originally published here