How God of War’s Devs Rebuilt the Blades of Chaos – Art of the Level

Kratos’ journey into the mysteries of a new Norse world in 2018’s God of War takes both him and players to fantastical realms, pits us against mythical beasts, and introduces an epic cast. But at the heart of it all is Kratos’ relationship to his son Atreus. Learning what kind of father he should be in contrast to the person he was, and what kind of man he wants to raise Atreus to be, echoes in every step of his journey.

So it’s no surprise that one of Kratos’ most challenging moments comes when Atreus grows sick, and the only answer to his salvation lies in Helheim, where no known fire in the nine realms will burn. Kratos, of course, knows of a fire from another realm he can draw from, and in one incredible sequence we see him dig up the ghost of Sparta as he reclaims the Blades of Chaos to save his son. It is a difficult choice, to revisit the past he has clearly worked so hard to leave behind him. But at the same time, it demonstrates that Kratos will do anything to save Atreus.

That harrowing moment weighs on Kratos, and the team at Sony Santa Monica lets that weight rest on the player too before he ultimately retrieves the Blades and confronts everything they represent. To find out more, IGN spoke to members of the development team about how Santa Monica brought this moment to life, and how it revived the Blades for Kratos’ newest adventure. This is Art of the Level.

#GodOfWar #BladesOfChaos #ArtOfTheLevel

This video was originally published on IGN Games on Aug 15, 2022.

Foreign Kratos's journey into the mysteries of a New Norse World in 2018's God of War Takes both him and players to Fantastical Realms pits us against Mythical beasts and introduces an epic Cast I thought you'd be bigger but at The heart of it all is kratos's Relationship to his son atreus learning What kind of father he should be in Contrast to the person he was and what Kind of man he wants to raise atreus to Be echoes in every step of his journey Do not be sorry Better so it's no surprise that one of Kratos's most challenging moments comes When atreus grows sick and the only Answer to his salvation lies in helheim Where no known fire in the nine Realms Won't burn Kratos of course knows of a Fire from another realm he can draw from And in one incredible sequence we see Him dig up the ghost of Sparta as he Reclaims the blades of chaos to save his Son it is a difficult choice to revisit The past he has clearly worked so hard To leave behind him but at the same time It demonstrates that Kratos will do Anything to save atreus that harrowing Moment weighs on Kratos and the team at Sony Santa Monica lets that weight rest On the player too before he ultimately Retrieves the blades and confronts Everything they represent to find out

More IGN spoke to members of the Development team about how Santa Monica Brought this moment to life and how it Revived the blades for kratos's newest Adventure this is Art of the level Foreign Get to what that journey is like for Kratos it's important to set the stage For what it was like for the developers The blades are a surprise late into Kratos's journey and according to art Director Raf crossetti in the early days Of the project much of the team worked Without even focusing on the blades or Thinking they may even be part of the Project that allowed the devs at large To really focus on ensuring kratos's new Weapon the now iconic Leviathan ax got Its due but when work did begin on Concepting the blades the art team Wanted to ensure they were retaining What fans loved about them but also Bringing them up to Snuff with the rest Of the work already done sweetness Nethers what are those part of that work At its purest meant meeting the more Realistic look of this new adventure Cradle spent all that time trying to get Rid of it so we wanted to show that in The blades so by keeping it as iconic as We all know the blades you know to be so Initially that was an easier task right Like just to take what was there and Really just make it a little more

Realistic work with materials there was A transition you know for the franchise To be a little more realistic so we had To play a little bit with proportions But keeping it as close as as the old Ones and we took a step back and broke Down what was iconic about it as we were You know norsifying it as we as we would Say To really you know find what was iconic Not wanting to mess with what wasn't Broken the art team did their best to Enhance the look but retain the essence Of the blades some of the changes they Did make were aided by the work done on The Leviathan ax as well as knowing how Gameplay elements like upgrades and Runes would affect Weaponry it is very Recognizable it's probably the most Recognizable piece that we have the the Mythologies so we needed to keep that But then also finding thematically what Would make sense for the blades we Started exploring a lot of the Yeoman Gander the world snake to come into the Designs as we upgraded because we knew That was an iconic an iconic element That we could use as you upgrade the Head of the blade you see the snake come Through forming the Omega at the end and That was kind of you know the Final Touch where we we knew we had something And we knew it felt like you know it was A a proper way to take it into the Norse

Mythology and keeping you know keeping It iconic Maintaining the original appeal of the Blades didn't just apply to the look of Them it also mattered to the mechanical Feel of them as well so initially we did Try quite a bit to make it feel very Different and I think when we saw it Internally the reaction celebrate the Familiarity I think we were much more Accepting of you know what let's revisit This very important to make sure that we Got the the timing and the feeling and The similar frames you know we're down To the frames right because people will Recognize the like the square square Triangle combo the the now the using the Uh the shoulder buttons we will ensure That those things felt timing wise the Same so that was that was the first Thing that we set out to do we had more Confidence that when we when we realized We were going to retread familiarity With blades we we didn't see that as Like a failure we were like you know What it's good let's celebrate this kind Of side of Kratos in this different Style of game and it helps in variety Right like switching between the ax and The blade in 2018 there's very like There's not a lot of mechanics in that Game that really force you to switch Weapons one of the biggest changes the Team had to account for in bringing

Forward the blades was one of God of War 2018's major differences a lower behind The back camera angle Bringing a closer you know third person Perspective camera that's player Controlled really changed everything From the ground up and the ax is the Just like the blaze was for the old Camera the axes our take on a weapon Ideal for the new camera right and so All the decisions really are being made From the acts like early on in the game We knew that we wanted to make an ax Pretty early we knew that we wanted to Do throwing because we want to take Advantage and And my perspective but we also have the Blades in the background right and we're Like well you know let's the ax is the Main thing to design the game around but We're gonna have to figure out how to Get these blades in this game There was a whole period where we were Thinking that modernizing the blades Meant actually not having them get Thrown out with the chains but actually Having them only be in hand like knives Essentially uh we thought that would be A twist it would kind of work with the Camera it would be much more similar to The ax in terms of you know the range That you would be able to attack with a Little bit closer of course and we had Tried uh all of this work with it and

And it just didn't get the appeal it Just didn't didn't really land when the Team returned to the blades and their Attached chains the internal reaction Made it clear this was the way to go and The road toward making the blades feel Familiar mechanically went on Going back to the issues of the camera Shift that sense of familiarity had to Also apply to the way Kratos was Animated while swinging those blades Around now the perspective was going to Be from behind Kratos you were not gonna See them from every angle how you saw The blades before so it was very Important for us to ensure that from That new perspective they felt and read The same way with the same type of Silhouette and posing that we Established in the first few games to Make sure that on the 2018 version of The game they you know that playability Felt very similar if not the same also Another big challenge was We couldn't have the length of the Chains be the same as as the previous Original Greek games because if you if We were to extend the chains to the same Length that we had before they would go Well beyond the range of the of the new Camera perspective so we had to reel Them in a little bit but at the same Time ensure that they were they didn't Feel a little bit too nerved like they

Were you know almost like he he wasn't Releasing them as far as he used to Before The chains even need to be considered From early art concepting phases in a Way players might not automatically Assume so previously we had keyframe Um all the motion of the chains and any Every every move that Kratos with just The blades it would just be very Custom-made every single chain was like Hand animated but this time around we Wanted to introduce some of a little bit Of a blend so that while a lot of them Are very custom made as far as how the Chains move and bend we did have to Employ a lot of physics and reach a nice Sort of uh Middle Ground between using The physics engine and blending in and Out of keyframe Animation we do have uh Some moments in which you actually get To see the slack of the chains coming From kratos's wrists and and going back Into the blades and that is like this Extraving you know has to create as Kratos runs on the screen you see them Kind of you know moving around on their Own and reacting to what players inputs Are versus us trying to keyframe all That that would just not be possible the Physicality of the chains was explored On the gameplay and in engineering side And for a Time the team tried some Experimental ideas with how the blades

And their chains might work initially There was a lot of excitement Behind the chain some simulation in General is something that always gathers A lot of excitement because it looks Really cool and uh you know whether it Works for gameplay or not that's what we Have to decide At that time there was definitely some Ideas that we were looking at with Leaving the blade out there throwing it And leaving it out and actually walking Around and having the chain you know Like because you clothesline an enemy Could you you know just again ways of Leaning into the physical side of the Blades well there were cool ideas in Play the team ultimately decided to Focus on what the blades were known for Rather than trying to reinvent the knife There was a lot of experimentation with That kind of enemy manipulation gameplay Honestly there wasn't a lot of success That we found in doing that because so Much of the game as I mentioned before Is relying on camera and facing we kind Of decided that you know if we're going To put our effort into anything given The time and resources we have let's try To deliver the familiarity of the blades That people remember more than anything Else But playing to that familiarity wasn't a Burden it was core to unlocking the

Blade's potential and retaining the Balletic feel of them even with a Different camera angle amongst other Changes it's always very important for Us to in in every move make it feel like Kratos is guiding the blades and he's Like pulling and manipulating the blades And never allow the blades for them to Almost spin on their own like he's Always in control of them and he he can At any point uh kind of pull them back And or redirect them in any in a way That he that he wishes there's a lot That's actually different than the old Things but I think the perception a lot Of people have is it's exactly like the Old games the old combos still work Um and that's intentional right like we Want you to feel what Kratos is feeling Representing the past but bringing it Into the now the blades not only Reflected the series's history but Showcased all the incredible work that Had been done to modernize the franchise But still honor its history the blade Specific place in the journey allows the Story to do just the same [Music] Kratos's journey home begins with a Solemn River Ride set against a red Storm and while it takes control away From the player for several minutes in a Game that excels at combat and Exploration it's because you're forced

To sit in that boat with Kratos as he Reflects on his emotions for so long That what comes after resonates so Strongly that sequence uh underwent a Lot of careful planning but also but Also a lot of iteration you know to Learn to make sure we reach a good Balance of of the build up right we Wanted to make sure that there was the Anticipation and the build up to the big Reveal but at the same time uh make sure That it wasn't you know it wasn't too Much that planning went into the Practical filming of the scene as well Both from those performing the camera Work and from kratos's actor Christopher Judge and I do remember the day that we Shot that on stage Um with Chris he did an amazing job Because you know Corey just talk to him And and had a conversation about what it Means for Kratos To Essentially dig up his past and go Retrieve these blades that meet someone To him he really really did did a great Job of communicating it through without Any dialogue really like what critic was Going through I got to give a lot of credit to Corey On this one obviously to have the kind Of confidence to let it sit in that we Filmed the circles around it Deliberately slowly to you know just

Just let him stew until you know the Athena moment where it pops up I think The tough thing was not rushing it from Either the the person holding the camera And walking around him and not feeling The need to rush it and and just you Know getting getting the buy-in from From people who want to get back on the Buttons the length of that boat ride Also serves a somewhat meta function for The player as well those who know Kratos's history and backstory probably Have a pretty good idea of what iconic Weapon will do the trick but even if Players don't know the solemnity of this Long river ride solidifies the Importance of what's to come having that Boat ride was a way to show those Players who seeing the blades they may Recognize it because the kind of iconic To Kratos but they knew anything about Kratos or Playstation in general they Could recognize it but having to watch Kratos go through that boat ride and all That leading up to it shows that even if It doesn't have that same hook to them Because they didn't play the old games With the blades they could see that it Was really powerful to Kratos so that Was kind of our window and also help you Know players who haven't played the Original games everything from kratos's Contemplative state to the chaotic Nature around him beautifully

Illustrates and underscores how Important the moment that's coming is For him that attention to tell can be Seen even in small character decisions Like a choice Kratos makes at the onset Of the boat ride for that sequence on The boat we deliberately you know every Time Kratos gets into the boat he pulls My mirror off his hip and sets him on on The bench across you know usually Sitting next to atreus but you know we Did a very deliberately left him on Kratos's hip not only because you know We might have issues of Athena clipping Into him sitting there or whatever but Like this isn't a moment from Amir this Is a moment specifically for Kratos and Mimir knows that Kratos is really going Through stuff as soon as he leaves Freya's house he says something and Kratos says you know leave me be Amir leaves and B but Kratos isn't alone For the entire ride at one point the Visage of the Greek goddess Athena Appears And given kratos's fraught but important History with her the dev knew she had to Be the figure from his past to haunt him In this moment Of all the The one that Kratos trusted the most and Then he ultimately felt manipulated by Her uh by the end of God of War 3. look Around you Athena the world stands in

Ruin what good is your message so we Always knew it was going to be a female And the fact that we could get Carol who Played Athena in in God of War 2 to come Back and play the role and she was so Great and just hearing her voice brought It all you know to life there's no way You can hide Spartan and it wasn't just The voice the developers wanted to ring Forth from the past her look is Specifically meant to be as close as Possible to her previous appearance so We wanted to be Exactly what his last memory was of her So we actually took the character from The past games and we did a little bit To you know improve on the details and The scope and all that but the model is One to one to what it used to be really To sell that that it is it is Athena it Is what we all remember her to look like Pretend to be everything you are not Teacher Husband Father The Specter of Athena follows Kratos Back to his home where he eventually Retrieves the hidden blades of chaos From underneath the floorboards the Moment remains a weighty solitary Sequence for both Kratos and the player But Athena Looms in the background Taunting Kratos that he can never really Outrun the monster he once was but as

Kratos makes clear in one of God of War's most famous lines he's not running From who he is but he's choosing to be The monster he is for the right reasons You will always be A monster I know But I am your monster no longer Being able to drop that line of I'm your Monster no longer that moment that was When we really felt like we had the Scene was was that line Because Kratos has gone through a lot Right and what he's showing in this Moment is he's willing to go through it Again But he's going to try to do it for the Right reasons that was our moment for Kratos to both Embrace what he what his Past was and what he had to do But do it in a better way right he's not Doing it For Athena he's not doing it for Revenge He's doing it because he has to save his Son having that line land for us that Way and then walking through Athena to Show that he's not You know he's not swinging the blades at This Apparition thing that's in his face Or anything like that he's done with That you know he's just now he's the Freight train moving forward the one Thing that's very specific too that not A lot of people seem to you know talk

About is when you walk through Athena And you see her dissipate into like the The green particles same thing that we Saw in past games when she died like all Those little connections that you know Corey more than everyone else like he Has a very specific taste and know the Reasoning behind everything like it Comes together like it all feels like it It really pays homage and puts you into This new setting and it gives you all The tools for you to you know enjoy it And celebrate the past Kratos isn't Ignoring his past In This Moment he's Very much a Santa Monica masterfully Communicates via the scene accepting it In a way he clearly hadn't yet in his Norse life and in doing so he's choosing How he wields that past it may still be Through the blades but they are being Used now to save the life that matters To him most and that means for Kratos The player and the developers it's time To make the blades an essential part of The rest of his journey all of the work That went into making the blades fun to Wield comes to a head in these moments After Kratos steps out of his home Against a pack of relatively easy Enemies all right brother let's see Where those blades can do One thing we wanted to make sure that Landed was when you get the blades and You walk out it's about Kratos it's not

About the enemies at that point A lot of Times when we design encounters we focus On what we call the combat puzzle where Enemies are essentially posing questions That the player has to answer based on Their placement or the enemy composition Uh in your head you you kind of create a Little strategy for yourself how am I Going to get through this when you get The blades that's not really the point The point is this has to be a pacing hit With all of this buildup where it's the Feeling should be the blades are back And they're awesome Up to this point these enemies have been A little bit tougher even with the ax But once you get the blades you sort of Uh slice through them like butter and That was also very carefully planned That we make sure we put the right Enemies there for you to just Immediately feel feel powerful like like The old Kratos is back They're Frost enemies too and so what Better way to celebrate the blades than To let the player tear through them with Fire but there's actually a secret joy That many players have experienced after This initial fight and it's when the Developers anticipated and hoped for the Real moment of joy and kind of disbelief Happens at the end of that fight where There's a little pop-up that comes and It says you know upgrade your place in

The skill tree and you're like wait what Because you know people just think that Oh it's a set piece it's not real then You go and you open the menu and then You see a skill tree it may seem funny That a skill tree could cause so much Delight but it really does because it Makes clear the blades are going to be a Permanent part of the experience though It's late in 2018 story you're going to Have the chance to upgrade and unlock New skills for these beloved weapons I Know from quality Name Him special but because of that late Arrival the developers didn't want to Stop players from having fun with the Blades immediately because we could have Done something where like oh really at The end you unlock the the blades as you Know them right and could have taken More conservative approach but again the Moment The value of that moment of just the Blazer back is just so powerful that we We did decide Um for the blades to really put a lot of These big kind of fundamental blades Like moves front and center But as players come to understand that The blades are a fundamental part of the Journey the team wanted to ensure Players didn't feel like this special Moment would be spoiled he's not going

To put him back under the floorboards We're not going to give players the Blades and then take them away the Blades remain throughout kratos's Journey and stand at the Nexus of God of War's unique place in the overall Franchise Kratos has forged the head to A new life a new gameplay style and a New world but the past can never truly Be forgotten and Santa Monica quite Explicitly doesn't want to ignore or Forget the past it interrogates it Head-on as both part of kratos's story Reckoning his past with his present and As a mechanical representation of both Where the series has been and how far Along it's come [Music] Thank you so much for watching our Latest art of the level for more be sure To check out our art of the level Focused on goes to sushima's opening Title card as well as The Last of Us Part 2's rat king boss fight and be sure To let us know what game you'd like to See us dive deep into next [Music] [Music] Second five days

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