It's almost here. We're waiting for it with bated breath and shaking hands, like a junky that needs a fix bad. We've seen God of War 2 in action and hard as it may be to believe, this just might be far and away the best thing released on the PlayStation 2 in the last twelve months. SCEA is going the extra mile to ensure that Kratos simply blows your mind when he returns in February of 2007.
The developers aren't making any huge changes to the franchise overall, but have instead decided to make what was so great about the first game even better. It's something that SCEA's Santa Monica Studios has been sticking to since it began working on the sequel shortly after the original game was released to great acclaim by both critics and gamers. Fear not friends, everything you loved about God of War is still here, and it looks like what few complaints there were are going to be addressed.
Yes, the award-winning franchise looks to keep its place among the top tier on the PlayStation 2, but GN just had to go to the source for all the juicy details. We recently spoke to Derek Daniels, Santa Monica Studios Sr. Designer/Combat Designer about its highly anticipated sequel whose input gave us even greater reasons to be excited.
First off, the original God of War looked like it pushed the PS2 hard, with its seamless combat and strutting engine. How much does Sony's workhorse have left to offer for the sequel? Were you able to squeeze out anything new for this effort?
Derek: By the end of part 1 the artists were very competent with what they could and couldn't do. When part 2 started they vocalized to the programmers about what needed to be changed to make their life easier. The art team on a whole never ceases to amaze me – a week doesn't go by where I see something new and I think, 'wow! Where did that come from?' The PS2 still has a lot to offer, I'm sure everyone will agree after E3.
Kratos achieves godhood at the end of the first game. Did this pose any challenges for the writers to make him a believable hero again?
Derek: We joked at the beginning of the project about what how other games handle their characters going from one game to another. Even though Mario rescues the princess with the fireball doesn't mean he starts the next game with it. However Kratos did go through a major change and we didn't want to throw that away. The 1st game told a story and we wanted to keep that story intact as we zoomed out to complete the bigger picture that we are telling with part 2. The story continues and their will be new challenges for Kratos to deal with, even with his new found godhood.
I'm sure many PS2 owners are thrilled at the decision to release the sequel on the current hardware, but was this always the case? Was any work ever started on a PS3 version, or was the PS2 selected right from the start?
Derek: God of War 2 was always planned as a PS2 sequel. The installed userbase is around 100 million and we wanted the game to reach as many people as possible. The PS3, while being fabulous hardware would have taken us as a team longer to ramp up and potentially not allowed us to tell the story that we want to tell.
It was refreshing to see that God of War tried to hold its ground in regard to controversial content, such as nudity, and keep its story the way the developers originally intended. Was there any backlash because of this and will the developers take the same stance with the sequel?
Derek: We never went out of our way to be controversial but we did want to immerse the player in the Greek world and flesh out the story of Kratos. We knew from the get go that the game would be rated M so we had a better understanding of the game's audience. So while not wanting to be controversial we wanted to tell the story in a manner that people playing the game could relate to better.
We have taken the same stance with part 2 – if it fits the story or the character then we will include it. We won't include something just to include it.
The camera system in the first game was among the best we've seen in a 3D action game, a genre known for its problems in this area. Are there any plans to tweak it or perhaps incorporate a fully controllable one?
Derek: Absolutely not! We would rather have the player having fun killing enemies, solving puzzles, etc instead of being frustrated with the camera. I personally believe that a controllable camera is nothing but a bandaid to the 3d camera problem and hopefully in 10 years from now we can all look back and chuckle that the player actually had to move the camera around as they played videogames.
The button-guided finishing moves in the first game were remarkable, but left me wanting more. Is there any chance we'll see multiple kill animations this time?
Derek: This is definitely on the list and something we will be working hard on.
The boss battles were some of the most memorable parts of the game. Still, some people found them a tad on the easy side. Have any changes been made in this regard in part two?
Derek: Boss battles in general are a tricky thing – do you use them as a test to make sure the player learned everything on the level? Or do you use them as an experience for the players to remember and talk about? We prefer the latter and if you watch people play videogames you can see a lot of frustration when they reach boss battles. Instead of making them uber-hard we would rather have people remember them and see the rest of the game and if that makes them too easy for some then so be it.
Truth be told, the thought of getting the chance to take on Cerberus and the Cyclops is VERY exciting. What other new mythological beasts can we expect to encounter?
Derek: As we have shown already we are including Pegasus and some other surprises. There are so many great things with this that I wish I could talk about but I can't. Trust me when we finally get to divulge more people are going to go crazy with the things we are adding in this game when it comes to Greek mythology.
The magic system will now be based on the elements of nature, which sounds like it could really open up some nice, level-specific gameplay possibilities. Will this be the case?
Derek: We did some fun things with the last game – having to stone the Minotaurs to exit the level after beating the Medusa or stoning the Minotaurs on the pressure plate to exit the room. We like to sprinkle a few of these in the levels but not too many. Don't want the player staring at a menu just trying different things until they stumble upon the correct solution. So the ones we have added will make the player feel like, 'aha!' instead of frustration.
We can't stress enough how much we're looking forward to the next God of War release. Special thanks to Ryan Bowling and Derek Daniels of Sony Computer Entertainment America