Director Cory Barlog on why Kratos needs to control his anger in ‘God of War’

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If you’ve opened a Greek mythology-inspired monster from brain to belly from behind Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, you probably have Cory Barlog to thank.

As lead animator on God of War and creative director of its sequel, Barlog is largely responsible for shaping one of the interactive medium’s most iconic characters.

Barlog made quite a splash last month when he and his team at Sony Santa Monica unveiled the latest installment of PlayStation’s flagship franchise at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo. Accompanied by a 60-piece orchestra, Krato’s highly-anticipated return not only stole Sony’s press briefing, but went on to become E3 2016’s most buzzed-about game.

While the expo’s extended gameplay demo certainly got our hearts pounding and thumbs instinctively twitching, it only scratched the surface of what we can expect from this fresh, PS4-fueled take on the third-person action-adventure series.

We recently got some precious time with Barlog to dig a bit deeper into the forthcoming, Norse mythology-based sequel. While you’d have a better chance getting Kratos to crack a smile than convincing Barlog to spill the beans, the talented director did share some cool insights on his upcoming project.

I don’t want to make a game in which all you do is just play these linear things once.

Digital Trends: Over the course of the series, it became a running joke how mad Kratos was all the time. Based on the new God of War demo, its seems his anger is still central to the story, but a bit more under control.

Cory Barlog: One of the main themes of this story is Kratos wrestling with the monster in the box. He has let the monster out in all of the Greek-era games, and it was unbridled, it was unregulated. It was just rage all the time. Now, even in the moment when he’s talking to his kid, he’s getting pissed, but he also has to control it and stamp it down.

Speaking of that moment, it seemed there was an on-screen meter monitoring his anger toward his son. Is controlling his anger an actual gameplay mechanic?

That is a mechanic in the game, in which he fills up and then gets angry and fights, but it also portrays the fact that he is constantly fighting that battle. There’s a fantastic line in The Avengers when the hulk is asked his secret. “What is the secret? The secret is, I’m always angry.” So Kratos is always angry, and he spent a considerable amount of time after God of War trying to be away from people and trying to figure out how to get control of that. So it is this kind of internal struggle for him at all times.

Will the player face consequences if they’re not able to keep the meter in check?

No consequences to the player. It’s more of an illustration of the narrative, because you still have total control over it. What you are doing is filling that up and then actually being able to activate it whenever you want. We are still going to be playing with it a little bit … if you get too greedy and burn it down too much, you lose control. There are lots of possibilities where we will go with it.

We saw Kratos acquire some XP during the demo. Does this hint at a new progression system for the character?

We are definitely changing the progression completely. Your relationship with Kratos and the relationship with his son, and how you kind of outfit and sort of tailor them for your play style…you can really feel like, “Okay, this is my take on the game.”

So it’s possible for different players to upgrade and progress the characters differently based on their play style?

Yes, like, if we both play the game, the kid at the end for you is going to have a different sort of outfitting than me. We want to do this to allow for a bit more of that digging into the world. I don’t want to make a game in which all you do is just play these linear things once. We are trying to open things up, give people a real world that they can explore.

So a less linear world than previous games? Closer to an open-world?

We are trying to open things up, give people a real world that they can explore.”

Not so much that it becomes a gigantic open world…we are not there yet. But we are opening this up, giving you the sense of truly being in the world. My thing I always go back to is that sense of finishing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and that castle flipping over, and just going, “Oh my God, that was amazing! I have so much more to play!” It was astounding. I think I’ve always been chasing that. I think my entire career, I have been like, “I want that kind of epiphany.” That kind of, “This game is awesome.”

Would the larger, more open-world also allow for some survival elements?

I think a little bit, but it’s probably not really centrally focused on that. Their survival is far more about them living in a world with very real monsters and very real gods. They are going on a very personal journey, a journey in which, at the end of it, they are both kind of teaching each other. Kratos teaching his son about being a god, and his son teaching his dad how to be a human being again.