There is no single formula for making a good boss fight in video games. Every fight serves a different purpose. The best fights are the ones that embrace that purpose, without getting bogged down by lofty ideas about what a good boss fight needs to look like. For example, let’s compare the Valkyrie boss fight to the Baldur boss fight.
God of War defies hyperbole. Almost every effusive thing you may have heard about Santa Monica Studio’s hit is borne out through gameplay. It’s a study in contrasts. It’s brutal, but sensitive; fast, but methodical; huge and sprawling, but intimate and focused; loud, but quiet.
We began by laying out a few high-level ideas to pitch to game director Cory Barlog. The first was to have Bear McCreary compose the score. Keith had worked with Bear on SOCOM 4 and was impressed with his ability to integrate ethnic instruments into a modern orchestral sound, and by his gift for composing memorable themes. We were certain that the new score would rely on an assortment of Scandinavian instruments to help place it in the Norse world, so Bear’s expertise in this area was crucial.
God of War was built around three core pillars that would influence all design decisions for the project: Combat, Father/Son, and Exploration.
I’ve always loved stories that take characters from one setting or era or genre and drop them into another—samurai warriors in the Old West, western gunslingers in the African jungle, and so on—and the story-telling possibilities of taking a character like Kratos and running him up against the kinds of obstacles he might encounter in a world filled with ice giants and trolls were too intriguing to pass up.
QA spans all game content and all of the departments who create it, so we needed a team capable of working hand-in-hand with the numerous creative disciplines to effectively support God of War. We would also be remiss if we did not mention and pay thanks to the entire First Party QA test team, without whom we could not have successfully shipped this title.
Each of these moments was a mental turning point, starting with “Can this be done with the tools we have?”, which moved onto “Can we pull this off without breaking our visual language?” and, mostly, ended with “I can’t believe we pulled this off.”
The boat was a fantastically interesting feature to work on. For a long time, going as far back as God of War II, Cory wanted a boat in the game. In the previous games there wasn’t a narrative conceit to justify the addition of a playable boat. But, for this reimagined God of War, we made exploration and storytelling big pillars of our focus… and with Caldera Lake as our hub environment, it finally made sense to bring a playable boat to God of War.
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