Well that was a surprise! The trailer thats started out looking like another teaser for Horizon: Zero Dawn actually turned out to be a chunky teaser for a new, completely unhinted-at God of War game. Blimey!
It's easy to get confused - this game looks vastly different to everthing that's gone before it in the series - but having had a special, behind-closed-doors look at the game and a chat with the team that's making it, we're starting to piece together the facts at the heart of Kratos' return.
So, with no further ado, here's everything we know about God of War, along with some of the key questions to which we don't yet have answers.
It's all in the family
What we know: Kratos has a son
He calls him ‘boy’ throughout the trailer, but Jeet Shroff from developer Sony Santa Monica confirmed that the young lad definitely is Kratos’ son. What’s more, he went on to say that the two will work together right the way through the game.
Kratos training his son is a theme throughout, and in return Kratos is taught what it is to be human. In combat, you can command the boy to fire at specific enemies.
What we don't: where the mother is
Who is the boy’s mother? And where is she now? The general mood of the piece and the fact that Kratos tells the boy that his mother’s knife is now his suggests to me that she’s dead, but that hasn’t been explicitly stated. Is the whole game a tale of revenge? I wouldn't be surprised.
Just what the heck is going on?
What we know: We’re in the realm of Norse mythology
Kratos is a sandals and fire kind of guy, right? Maybe in the past, but in the new God of War he’s in a far more frigid landscape. Turns out, the whole theme has been transposed into a Norse mythology-inspired setting, which involves snow, trees and gravlax. Ok, maybe not the last one.
But the new setting has an effect on the general mood - it’s all just that little more dour and serious, but in a good way. And the enemies are inspired by Scandinavian lore, so the standard axe-fodder is the draugr, and it seems as though trolls are pretty common.
What we don't: Who the real bad guys are
But are these gnarly looking creatures the real bad guys? I’m not convinced. At the end of the boss fight in the demo the troll pleads to Kratos and his son. Is that simply the fear-ridden pleading of a being staring at the pointy arrow of its own demise? I have a feeling it might be more than that, and that the trolls aren’t actually the villains of the piece.
Immediately after that, Kratos walks passed (but doesn’t comment upon) the burnt body of a troll that’s been strung up by its feet. Who, or what, did that to it? Perhaps there’s something bigger and nastier than them pulling the strings…
What we know: Kratos’ axe has a lot in common with Thor’s hammer
One of the coolest combat moves shown off in the demo was the axe throw, which gives Kratos some much needed range. Best of all, it will return to Kratos’ hand with the push of a button and will damage foes as it flies back.
As you’d probably expect, Kratos is far from defenceless when he’s without his axe, and one of the key skills to master is throwing your axe and attacking enemies with those meaty fists, before calling the weapon back.
What we don't: Which other weapons he can use
But the developers let slip that the axe isn’t the only weapon Kratos will use. No specifics were mentioned, but could we possibly see the return of his famous Blades of Athena? Here's hoping!
Upgrade yo'self (and yo' son)
What we know: There’s an upgrade system
Shroff confirmed that the new God of War has resources that can be collected and used to upgrade not only Kratos, but also his son, and that these will directly impact combat. He wouldn’t go into detail, so it’s hard to tell what that’s going to look like - a levelling system for the characters? Or just upgrades to the weapons? How about armour? Will these things change the way the equipments looks?
What we don't: How much time will pass during the game
Talk of Kratos training his son and of an upgrade system makes you wonder what sort of timespan the game is going to involve. Sure, it could simply encompass a few days of action, with Kratos teaching the boy the basics of survival, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we were looking at an adventure spanning months or even years, as Kratos moulds his son into a grown warrior? Perhaps he could even pass the angriest warrior in the world title to him at the end. Maybe not, but we’ll see.
Taming the beast within
What we know: Kratos is attempting to master his rage
Shroff explains that Kratos blames his rage for a lot of past mistakes, and now he’s a father is trying to bottle down that rage and shield his son from what’s inside him. There are times that he'll need to unleash the rage (you’ll be able to do this in battles to unleash devastating attacks - as you can see in the screenshot above), but containing and controlling it will be a central theme of the story.
What we don't: Whether he’ll manage it
The question, of course, is whether he’ll actually manage to do that. In the demo we see him lose his temper with his son for firing an arrow before being told to, and one imagines he’s going to find himself in far more irritating situations over the course of the full game. If I was a betting man, I’d wager there will be a moment in the story in which Kratos absolutely loses control and unleashes the beast within, scaring the bejesus out of his son in the process.
A song of ice and fire
What we know: there be dragons
Right at the end of the demo, while Kratos and his son look over the carcass of the slain stag across the valley and to the mountains beyond, a dragon swoops into view. It flies closer to the camera, directly above Kratos Snr and Jnr, and only Jnr looks at all surprised to see what is an extremely large, flying lizard in very close proximity. This is a world of dragons, and Kratos is well aware of them.
Unknown: whether you get to fight one
So are dragons the bad guys in the new God of War? There’s no sense from the trailer that this is a sentient creature, or that Kratos has any particularly strong feelings about it, so perhaps this is a red herring. Certainly, the guys from Sony Santa Monica weren’t prepared to elaborate on the dragon in the trailer.
Pretty as a picture
What we know: The game is gorgeous
It may not be entirely clear from the YouTube video and it was hard to be sure during the Sony press conference - but having been up close and personal with it, I can confirm that God of War is absolutely beautiful. Theres an incredible amount of detail in the presentation, and bringing the camera close to and behind Kratos makes everything seem far more immediate, gritty and engaging. It’s impossible not to be drawn in by the characters and setting, and I’m particularly fond of the snowy footprints that sit convincingly deep in the thick snow.
What we don't: Whether it will look even better on PlayStation Neo
Beautiful though it is, this is probably not the ultimate version of God of War. We were seeing it played live on a standard PlayStation 4 - will it look even better on the upgraded PS4 Neo? Almost certainly. I can’t wait.