PlayStation Gives Inside Look at God of War's Epic First Boss Fight

God of War is an epic adventure, a game continuously loaded with heightened moments and a story [...]

God of War is an epic adventure, a game continuously loaded with heightened moments and a story that continues to grow as you go along, particularly when you reach that point. (You know which one.) But if our review of the game wasn't enough to convince you, Sony's breaking down one of the biggest encounters within God of War. And you don't want to miss it.

In a new entry on the PlayStation Blog, senior staff combat designer Denny Yeh takes a close look at Kratos' skirmish with Baldur, an angry and powerful adversary who insists on answers to certain questions. It eventually gets to fisticuffs, but in the best way you can possibly imagine.

"We knew we needed to do something just as epic in the new God of War, so when it was decided that the opening boss fight of the game was going to be against a smaller humanoid that was only about as tall as Kratos' shoulder, we knew we were in for a big challenge," Yeh explains. "This is the (greatly condensed) story of how we created the boss fight with 'The Stranger,' aka Baldur."

First off, he highlighted the close combat view of the action. "The close camera would help to sell the impact of each punch. These were two gods trading blows, so each hit needed to resonate with incredible force. Much of our early development time was spent on the "feel" of the fight. We wanted the player to feel like a god fighting a god, with the environment around you paying the price," said Yeh.

"We began with our animator, Fabian Johnston, doing some exploratory animations. These helped set the tone of the entire fight. It was not long before we had them running in the game, with a whole bunch of breakable objects sprinkled about. This first prototype focused on answering a few questions:

  • How much can we push the godly reactions on both Kratos and Baldur before it starts feeling like too much?
  • How far can we go with environmental destruction? How dense can we make the breakable trees and rocks before they start interfering with gameplay? Do these add enough to the feel of the fight to be worth pursuing?
  • What size does the arena need to be to accommodate all of our other requirements?"

We're then shown a terrific prototype of Baldur in action, which you can see above.

"As you can see, things were pretty rough at this early stage. However, it was already fun to control Kratos versus Baldur and to experience all the over-the-top reactions while playing. It was especially fun trying to angle the camera to knock Baldur through trees and rocks. This early prototype helped set expectations on how the fight would feel in the end," said Yeh.

"We also discovered one big bonus to fighting a smaller character like Baldur: he was more fun to beat up. Hitting Baldur and sending him flying 50 feet was way more satisfying than hitting a giant monster's hand. We played to this strength by making Baldur support almost all of our reaction states, such as being launched into the air or knocked back."

"By now, we had a large bucket of cool things we wanted to try out for the fight. I created a design document next, planning out the key beats of the fight… not as exciting as Fabian's animations or Stephen's pretty sketches, so I won't post it. But, I did some work too! I promise.

"Once we had a rough plan in place for the entire fight, we began implementing a rough skeleton for each phase, starting with the introduction when Baldur first appears at your door." You can see that in the video below.

The blog breaks things down even further, including the stages that the boss fight goes through, eventually leading to one final moment between the two. But Yeh says a lot of work was put into the effort. "The development of just one boss fight involves pretty much every department. From environmental artists creating the arena, to audio designers making each punch sound chunky, to producers making sure we're not just browsing cat videos all day. I was only able to share a small snippet here, but the end product was a culmination of everyone's efforts."

You can read even more about it and get a look at other concept videos at this link. Or you can experience it for yourself, as God of War is available now for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro.