God Of War Ascension interview: meeting Kratos’ makers to talk PS3, PS4, violence & multiplayer

God Of War Ascension live action supe bowl trailer

We chat to God Of War Ascension‘s lead combat designer Jason McDonald and lead game designer Mark Simon about the latest chapter in Kratos’ story. Here they talk about the origins and development of the game, the violence, pushing the SP3 and the future on PS4.

OPM Why have you decided now to tell the origin story of Kratos?

God Of War Ascension single player screensMark Simon It’s the story we wanted to tell. I think we could have told a million different stories and the one we wanted to tell takes place right after Kratos has a tragedy with his wife and kid and we wanted to find out where he was in terms of being a man, a human, not this kind of rage-filled demigod. What is it that caused him to snap by the time we started God of War 1 and what is it about breaking an oath to a god like Ares that does this to you. What is it about that adventure that he went through that caused that to happen.

OPM There’s this winking and nodding with the ending of God of War III. For any future games, can you see it continuing from God of War III or could it even explore further on how he broke his agreement with Ares?

MS I think there’s a lot of life in Kratos’ story and who he is. I think the Greek mythos allows us to explore a wide variety of different areas and creatures to fight against. I definitely think there’s a lot to tell.

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OPM What changes have you made to the combat in Ascension over God of War 3?

Jason McDonald We changed quite a few things for this God of War. One of the things we were looking at was Kratos himself. This is an earlier part of his life and a place in his life where he might be interested in basic weapons like swords and shields and things like that. We added an ability for him to pick them up off the ground or to disarm enemies and use them against them. And that’s something you won’t see Kratos doing in other God of Wars. One thing we also did was we changed his blades around. We shortened his combo a little bit to show a slightly weaker version of him but every single fight, you can strengthen them up by filling up his rage. And if you do that, he’ll get more powerful attacks, become stronger and it kind of creates a minute-to-minute combat that’s different from previous God of Wars because God of War of old had a God Mode that would fill up slowly. This meter would fill up every single fight and very frequently so you can always take advantage of it and always use it and it changes the flow of the fight.

The violence is the way it is. We have a manly based game set in Greek mythology where you’re fighting horrific beasts with a couple of blades attached to the guy’s arms by chains…

OPM God of War is considered a very gory game by nature, and it seems to increase with each iteration. How are you dealing with it this time?

MS The violence is the way it is. We have a manly based game set in Greek mythology where you’re fighting these horrific beasts with a couple of blades attached to the guy’s arms by chains…

JS And on fire.

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MS …and on fire and maybe have ice or something. So by nature, we’re gonna be violent and that’s what feels right. If we wasn’t visceral, if there wasn’t any impact, it wouldn’t feel right. It would actually feel horrible. So we definitely continue that so it actually feels right for Kratos’ character, so it can feel brutal. But in the same breath, it’s not violence just for the sake of being violent. We’re looking at Kratos in a way that he fights creatures and stuff like that. Now the way he interacts with his adventure this time round is he’s not some rage-filled crazy that’s going out and killing everything that moves. There’ll be the instance where somebody steps in the way and he pushes them out of the way. He’s not gonna kill them, hopefully he’ll save them from an attack. So he’s a different character in this adventure than he was in previous adventures.

OPM At E3 there was a lot of violent games – Ascension, Assassin’s Creed 3, Dishonored and The Last of Us. And more recently, there was the discussion of violence in games that followed Newtown. Do we need to dilute violence in games or do we continue to be in particular discussions with everyone about it?

MS I think it’s good we talk about it. But I think if you’re going to make a melee game, you’re going to be making a game where people interact with one another, in close combat and you’re using a sword – that kind of combat is going to be pretty visceral. If it did it, it would be comical. It might be funny, it might be cartoony or it might be gamey. When we try to make things more and more realistic, I think that’s when you get into the nature of, ‘Oh my God, that feels so real’.

JM I think it’s similar to other forms of media where you will have your violent media and your non-violent media. It just depends on the type of the story you’re trying to tell.

OPM Is there line drawn where violence stops in Ascension?

God Of War Ascension E3 gameplay demo screensMS We draw the line if it’s just grotequous for no reason. I think the violent nature of the game as we said before is in its heart. We’re playing a character who’s a demi of aggression. He means strength. So if he’s dealing with these crazy mythological creatures that are basically terrorising the populous, coming after him to try to squish him like a bug or crush him or rip him in half, he himself is at this extreme disadvantage and he uses whatever at his disposal to take them out.