So the new God Of War reboot, cleverly titled God Of War meaning I’ll have to append (2018) to it every time, is just around the corner. I was a big fan of God Of War 1-3, and sadly I’m just not interested in this one. Worse than not being interested, I’m worried about its implication for future Sony titles and the industry in general.
The games industry has long had a problem with homogenisation. All AAA games start including bows and hunting around the same time, map towers around the same time, crafting systems around the same time, large mostly empty open worlds to brag about the size of their play space around the same time, almost everything around the same time. Diverse and different games are slowing being changed into slightly different versions of the same core game. Ubisoft caught some flak for this a few years back, though that’s died down in recent years. It’s an industry of trend chasing, and the issue with that is games take time to develop. If you’re chasing a trend while developing a game it’ll be years till it comes out. By then chances are the trend is over or the consumer itch it scratched has already been satisfied.
To this end, it doesn’t take a genius to draw some connections between Sonys upcoming first party games and the insane success of The Last Of Us. We have The Last Of Us 2 coming, fair enough, they’d be mad not to make a sequel to one of the best-received games of all time. We also have Days Gone, which seems to be a pretty standard zombie game that looks to be taking some visual style from TLOU while also being yet another third person shooter with stealth elements.
Then we come to God Of War, a series which was long seen as a great entry to the Hack’n’Slash genre. Simplistic and easy to master combat handled by the face buttons. A fixed camera angle to frame shots in just the right way and free up your right hand for said combat. Personally, I found it a great lead into later more difficult Hack’n’Slash games such as Devil May Cry and the ever excellent Bayonetta.
So in comes God Of War (2018) with what seems like a total genre shift, and a narrative one. Kratos is now grumpily dealing with/mentoring a small child. What a new and unique twist that hasn’t been seen anywhere in recent memory right? I wonder if he’ll grow to outwardly like the child by the end of the game?
Alright, that’s the pot stirred but to get back to being serious. I’m not fussed on the new narrative stuff, tell whatever story you want. It’s a new game after all. What I do care about is the gameplay, the mechanics, the gameplay part of this game.
Gone is the fixed camera as now we’re stuck uncomfortably close behind the shoulder of Kratos. Meaning that combat with the face buttons is out the window, now using the shoulder buttons. Gone are the fast and fluid dual swords of games past. Replaced with a single slow lumbering axe. So right now we’re rolling with a third person shooter camera, in a game centred around melee combat, where any feeling of fluidity and combo momentum has been lost.
Despite how it may appear, I don’t believe God Of War (2018) was totally changed or started after The Last Of Us. I don’t think the kid is in there and the game took this direction because of that. There’s a chance that could be the case, but it’s pretty unlikely. I feel it’s down to the general homogeny in the industry. Hack’n’Slash games aren’t big sellers that are constantly coming out and lauded with awards, so why make one? Let’s make a third person, story vehicle set in an open world because that’s what gets coverage and sells, that’s what wins awards and gets attention.
Earlier I mentioned Days Gone as being one of these really bog-standard games before getting into God Of War (2018). Now let’s go back and look at another Sony first party. Horizon Zero Dawn has been showered with praise since its release and honestly, I don’t really get it. It’s a fine game, well made and without many problems. However, everything it does, while it does it well, are things that other games have already done.
To me, it’s the best 7/10 game ever made. It was a solidly enjoyable ride but felt like Guerrilla Games just chased nearly every trend going. Open world, third-person shooter, heavy focus on bows, audio logs, crafting system, and while clever in their implementation the map tower dinosaurs are still just that. It was a game that did everything it tried well, but everything it tried was pretty standard stuff and that equates to a game that is alright. At this point I have played too many alright games like that to lavish such praise on one.
The world was cool and I’d like to see more of it, but I don’t play games just to look at the world. I play them to have fun with the gameplay, to enjoy the minutia of the mechanics. An over the shoulder gather, craft, shoot, repeat loop didn’t really do it for me. This is part of why Hack’n’Slash games hold such appeal. All the combos available, mastering dodge timing for different enemies, experimenting with different weapons that use entirely different move sets. Outside of the stories they tell I love those games for the very act of playing them.
If those kind of games are your thing, more power to you. I hope you have nothing but enjoyment with them and God Of War (2018). However, I will remain a bit sad about the loss of God Of War as a Hack’n’Slash franchise. An under-represented genre with only a small trickle of games. All so that one of the most represented genres in the industry has another recognisable franchise name in it.
Though as a quick note, I’m not of the belief that every Sony first party game is doing this, maybe it’s just a coincidence of factors that the timing has worked out this way. Insomniac Games Spiderman, while not being a first party is a third party exclusive, doesn’t look like it falls under this. However that is Spiderman, not only could I see them not having a lot of freedom for how to make the game lest fans get angry but it’s freaking Spiderman. It could be the niche-est most excluding genre around and it’d still sell well.
The game that does give me hope, rather, is Sucker Punches Ghost Of Tsushima. It seems like the Sony game that is furthest away from these trends right now. Will that be the case once we learn more about it? Only time will tell. For now, I’ll just wait for the release of God of War (2018) and hope I’ve been wrong about it, but with every bit of coverage I see that hope shrinks further still.