How God of War Ragnarök’s facet quests humanize Kratos and the solid Gaming Novelties

2022’s God of War Ragnarök hosted among the 12 months’s most thrilling fights and emotional peaks in gaming. Whereas the primary story had its personal highs, its Favors (a.ok.a. facet quests) contained a few of its most memorable character moments. Implementing these non-obligatory adventures, nevertheless, invited challenges to the sport’s growth.

Developer Santa Monica Studio got down to create distinctive facet missions internet hosting small but impactful narrative beats that intensify the tales of its characters. These quests humanized not solely protagonist Kratos but in addition the buddies, allies, and household that the as soon as ruthless God of War has discovered for the reason that finish of his journey in Olympus.

We spoke with Lead Participant Funding Designer Anthony DiMento and Lead Author Wealthy Gaubert to discover the implementation of some of the sport’s most memorable facet quests.

Serving the larger image

God of War Ragnarök’s facet quests are designed to broaden not solely on the world, however most significantly its characters and the bigger themes arising from their journeys.

“We had a better sense of what we wanted from side quests this time. And I think that the impulse for many developers is to use them to flesh out the world and its lore.” Gaubert explains. “While that’s certainly part of it, we didn’t want that to be the main focus. The focus is on these characters and themes and ensuring that the critical path, storyline, and side quest storylines are pieces in a larger puzzle. That lore and world-building should be byproducts of exploring the characters rather than the other way around. It’s too easy to get lost in the minutia if it’s not anchored by characters, as they’re easier to relate to.”

The sport’s first Favor, In Service of Asgard, is an ideal instance of this method. This quest sees Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir confront Mimir’s previous of misguided makes an attempt to win Odin’s approval, specifically, persuading the dwarves of Svartalfheim to construct mining rigs to generate assets for Odin. The mining got here at an excellent price, polluting the encircling space and stripping Svartalfheim of assets, and now Mimir needs to reverse the harm to heal the realm and clear his conscience.

The Favor not solely explores one among Mimir’s deepest regrets, including extra context to his deep hatred of Odin, it additionally displays on the broader theme of not working from the previous – one thing Kratos has struggled with himself. Whereas Kratos is just not the main target of the Favor, in doing this facet quest, the crew at Santa Monica Studio was capable of shine a brand new mild on the as soon as God of War as he helps Mimir proper the wrongs of his previous serving beneath a merciless grasp – concerning many broader themes for each characters together with private accountability and repentance. 

“It’s all about staying on target with your themes and having your supporting characters serve as mirrors of your hero, showing what may be a path not taken, or serve a warning of what might happen if the character stays on the course they’re on,” Gaubert continues. “They’re reflections of your hero, and we certainly apply that philosophy to our story in general, but also to the side quests and how they should serve the big picture.”

When designing the facet quests for God of War Ragnarök, the Participant Funding crew needed to determine on a number of important parts earlier than they might start crafting the tales. Questions resembling “When and where should these quests open up?” and “Are the characters who drive the narrative going to have similar motivations before and after Ragnarök?” had been important to reply throughout growth.

The important thing was to make the world really feel like a dynamic, dwelling place by providing gamers freedom within the timing and tempo of tackling the quests:

“We wanted the world to feel connected and alive,” DiMento states. “We never want the player to regret their decision not to do a side quest as soon as it becomes available or if they decide to go back to it after the main story is completed. We just want you to play the content and to be able to enjoy it regardless of when you engage with it.”

However with this design philosophy, the crew needed to account for some tough variables, resembling characters leaving the social gathering:

“In God of War Ragnarök, we have a bigger cast than in the previous game, but many of them are limited to specific parts of the story. So, we started looking for constants. Characters we would be able to lean on to help drive some of these quests. It was one of the big challenges of the side quests, but it was exciting to solve. In Service of Asgard was our first test to see if this would work. I went to the writers looking for a constant and they agreed to my suggestion of Mimir. There were moments in the beginning where we would leave him behind, but then we rewrote things to ensure he was always there while exploration was available.”

As these of you who’ve completed the primary story know, there may be an extra layer of complexity the crew needed to account for in creating Favors that may be performed both throughout or after the primary story. Aspect quests not solely have to contemplate the fixed, however additionally they needed to permit a number of characters to accompany Kratos with an fascinating perspective to supply on the state of affairs. 

A terrific instance of that is the tear-jerking Favor, The Weight of Chains. This facet quest highlights one other of Mimir’s previous errors when he was making an attempt to impress the All-Father on the expense of innocents – on this case his entrapment of a whale-like creature referred to as a Lyngbakr. After extracting its blubber to create oil for Odin, as an alternative of constructing the arduous option to kill the creature himself or let it go and danger All-Father’s ire, Mimir left the Lyngbakr chained for hundreds of years hoping the state of affairs would resolve itself with its eventual demise. To Mimir’s shock, the group discovers that the Lyngbakr remains to be alive, trapped in perpetual torment. They resolve to assist the creature, hoping that it would spend the remainder of its days in freedom.

At first look, some would possibly miss the centrality of this Favor not solely to Kratos and Mimir but in addition to different characters like Freya and Atreus.

“That one was very fertile for us because it’s a reflection of the whole cast,” Gaubert states. “It’s obvious for Mimir and Kratos because they literally have been captive. But it’s also a reflection of Freya, who’s been trapped in Midgard for so long, and, before that, a toxic marriage. And it even applies to Atreus, a son metaphorically trapped in the role his family has cast him in that he so desperately wants to escape.”

Irrespective of when or who you undertake this quest with, it was designed purposefully by the crew to supply you deeper understanding of those characters utilizing a theme that has that means to all of them.

Showcasing character development

Aspect quests are by definition non-obligatory, so Santa Monica Studio additionally needed to take into account learn how to make enterprise them really feel in step with Kratos’ character. A part of his arc for the reason that final sport has been a gradual evolution from stoic pragmatist to a extra nurturing and compassionate father. Although Kratos underwent an excessive amount of private development in God of War (2018), the crew knew it will really feel inauthentic to have him tackle any previous request only for the sake of being good:

“It was that softening of Kratos that made it possible for us to have side quests,” DiMento mentioned. “I don’t think they would have worked with the laser-focused killing machine he once was in the previous games. But we kept his stoicism intact by giving him personal reasons to partake in these side quests.”

“There generally tended to be an ulterior motive for him doing good. Otherwise, it would have felt false.” Gaubert continued. “Especially in the early parts of the game where he’s less altruistic and more protective of what he has. But in the post-game, the implication is that he is doing these side quests for unselfish reasons. So, building in those motivations from the get-go helped reduce the number of alternate lines we would have to write to account for his shifting motivations throughout the main story.”

The Secret of Sands is a kind of Favors that sees Kratos doing a very good deed for each private and altruistic causes. Starting with Atreus listening to a cry of ache, the hunt sends the group out on an journey to free a creature referred to as a Hafgufa from a tendril jail. The Secret of Sands is the primary half of a two-parter that concludes with The Track of Sands; each reveal the extent of Kratos’ development as a father and the way he has grown extra thoughtful of Atreus’ private values:

“Kratos’ character growth continues as you choose to go off the beaten path and do the side quests. I think that’s something both the player and Kratos can realize along the way.” DiMento mentioned. “In The Secret of Sands and The Song of Sands, if you do that story with Atreus, has him constantly asking Kratos, ‘Why are we doing this? Why do you want to help this animal?’ And then you get this really beautiful punchline-like moment of Mimir being like, ‘He’s doing this just because he wants to spend time with you.’”

All through this Favor, you’re given extra nuance that explores simply how a lot Kratos and Atreus’ relationship has developed through the years. As a result of Kratos has been capable of study and develop as a personality, he demonstrates not solely a deeper understanding of what’s vital to his son, but in addition the proactive need to behave upon it with out Atreus asking. Kratos finally helps the Hafgufa as a result of he desires to spend time with Atreus doing one thing he is aware of is vital to his son.

A crew effort

Santa Monica Studio’s work implementing these facet quests can’t be overstated. Gaubert highlighted how superb it’s to convey extra life to the sport and emphasize its themes by spending further narrative time with its characters. And as DiMento states, it’s all because of the collaborative work of the complete crew.

“The people at the studio across the board just have such a high bar for what we’re doing,” DiMento mentioned. “We’re all just motivated by this desire to do great work. Being able to bring so many departments together to create this content and to do it in a way that was a little different than the critical path. To make the most of what we had was incredibly satisfying.”

God of War Ragnarök is offered now on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

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