God of War Director Calls Open Worlds “Homework,” Justifies Series Getting Serious

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Jan 8
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The upcoming God of War is rather atypical for a modern triple-A game. Unlike most of today’s big titles, God of War won’t feature an open world, opting instead for a “wide linear” approach, in which exploration is encouraged, within limits. In a newly-published interview with Game Informer, God of War director Cory Barlog explained his game’s approach to exploration, dropping some surprisingly-harsh comments about open-world games in the process.

“Exploration was a part of the original series, but it wasn’t really blown up. [We decided] to make that a massive part. Let’s celebrate the curiosity and discovery — what playing video games is all about.

[During early development] I was paying a lot of open-world games, [and] feeling a lot of fatigue, in the sense that open-world games feel like homework to me. [They’re] not bad. There’s phenomenal games out there, but getting home from work, and seeing this gigantic list of things to do, started to feel…that’s not what we do best. We really want to focus on this character and the development of it. So, going full open world wasn’t what we wanted to do. […] [We didn’t want players to] boot the game, and right away there’s 5 thousand icons.”

I don’t disagree, a lot of open worlds are a drag, but you don’t expect to hear such sentiments from a major name in the industry. It’s especially surprising considering Sony has several high-profile open-world games like Days Gone and Spider-Man coming next year. Barlog also touched on why this God of War is eschewing pure action for a more serious, character-driven approach:

“Comics and movies, they have this arc, and I think [games] are right at the beginning of that time where they’re realizing, ‘Oh, we can do serious stuff with this.’ We’re at this key tipping point, where people are actually eager for this kind of material. People want to play a game where they’re emotionally challenged. They want to see characters they believe in and related to, rather than just, ‘He can do this cool mechanic.’ They enjoy the ‘why,’ instead of just the ‘what’ and the ‘where.’ It’s not new, but it’s new in the sense that the broad audience, they actually want that.”

It will be interesting to see whether the wide-linear approach and more serious storytelling resonates with players. What do you think? Interested in the new direction?

God of War cuts a swath of destruction on PS4 sometime during the first half of 2018.

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