God of War finds itself in a challenging spot. The savage series remains one of Sony’s most popular first-party products, but it’s starting to suffer from franchise fatigue. The reception to the recently released God of War: Ascension evidences as much – it’s far from a bad game, but the review scores are considerably lower than previous entries in the brutal brand. With that in mind, what can the platform holder do to ensure that the next instalment in the set piece-driven series returns to its throne at the summit of Olympus?
Well, the obvious answer is to give it a break. It’s true that there’s been three years since the last mainline God of War game, but portable spin-offs and HD collections haven’t helped to shatter the perception that the franchise is being milked. Putting the brand on hold for a while would give developer Sony Santa Monica time to stretch its legs creatively, while also allowing the hunger for the series to rebuild. Furthermore, the transition to the PlayStation 4 in the interim would allow the studio to offer something on a completely different plane to its PS3 entries, ensuring that the franchise’s comeback is extremely fresh.
However, putting such a popular product on hold doesn’t make a lot of commercial sense. We already know that the developer has expanded into two teams (the other being led by God of War III director Stig Asmussen), so it’s clearly not being deterred from exploring new ideas. But much like Naughty Dog with the Uncharted games, we can’t imagine that either outfit will ditch its signature brand – even if it’s just a temporary hiatus.
The problem with God of War, then, is that it seems to have run out of stories to tell. The series was always intended as a trilogy, and while the plot has changed since creator David Jaffe originally conceived its world and characters, it felt like it wrapped up nicely at the end of the third game. God of War: Ascension, however, is the sixth entry in the franchise, and despite the promise of showing a softer side to protagonist Kratos, it doesn’t really add a whole lot to the overarching narrative.
There are ways to keep the franchise running, though. The first is to tell a completely different story still rooted in Greek mythology. The status of the lead character is left open to interpretation at the end of God of War III, and it’s easy to picture the revenge-mad star becoming the antagonist in a future game. A new character – sent to kill the immortal antihero – would perhaps allow Sony Santa Monica to explore brand new gameplay mechanics, without stepping too far away from the narrative that has made it such a commercial success over the past eight years.
The other option is to tell a brand new story, set in a fresh mythology. Assassin’s Creed has had tremendous success hopping between different time periods over the years, but it has never strayed from the core iconography of the first game. Altair, Ezio, Connor, and soon Edward Kenway may be unique protagonists, but they all feel part of the same universe. Why can’t God of War follow a similar path?
It’s not hard to imagine the series tackling Norse or Egyptian mythology, and incorporating a new protagonist that resembles Kratos in design. The character’s tattoo, for example, could become a recurring theme that would allow the developer to profit from the brand awareness surrounding the franchise, while simultaneously giving it the freedom to introduce a new narrative and gameplay ideas. The series is in need of a serious shake-up, and exploring a new roster of environments and enemies, while implementing unique mechanics that suit the context of the selected lore, would certainly help to make that a reality.
Whichever direction Sony Santa Monica adopts for the next God of War game, it’s clear that big changes are needed from the outset. God of War: Ascension certainly refines the franchise’s existing formula, and it’s a great game for that reason – but for the series to truly recapture its former glory, it needs to do something new.
Do you think that God of War should be given a rest? Would you like to see the franchise explore a new mythology? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Which direction would you like to see God of War take? (26 votes)
- Stick with Greece4%
- Show me what a new mythology looks like46%
- Give it a rest, please46%
- Couldn't care less4%
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