There were many ground-breaking moments in the revelation of god of war At E3 2016. Bear McCreary lead the live orchestra as they played the game’s now-iconic theme. Kratos is emerging from the shadows and reasserting himself as a dominant figure in the pantheon of gaming characters. But one moment that’s rarely mentioned is when Corey Barlog first gets control of Kratos. Before doing anything else, he places his thumb on the right analog stick and moves the camera.

For a God of War game, this was earth-shattering. Because the first six matches of this series since 2005 god of war to do God of War: Ascension, the player had no control over the camera. Instead, God of War’s original fixed camera was locked to where the developers wanted it. Many have since criticized this design choice as cumbersome and outdated. But it’s highly unlikely that the God of War series will ever return to a restricted camera; A closer look reveals that taking control away from the player really does wonders for a tight and creative gameplay experience.

Image: Sony / Santa Monica Studios

Clarity in chaos

One of the biggest challenges in camera design in 3D action games is ensuring that all important on-screen details are easily readable by the player without the camera obstructing them. During the most basic action scenes, the player is asked to keep track of their character and their own attacks and the enemy and their attacks. This is before the environment, any external obstacles, and the HUD take up valuable real estate on the screen.

The difficulty arises when the player must move their character, camera and inputs to attack, defend, jump, dodge, etc. A bit of a chore when you only have two thumbs to work with and need to handle all three inputs during a heated, fast-paced battle. One solution to this multi-input issue is to move attack commands to the shoulder buttons, as in 2018. god of war. Another solution, which is from 2005 god of war Adoption, is simply giving up control of the camera entirely.

Genuine god of warDirector David Jaffe was concerned about the game’s action not being interpretable by players. He felt that controlling the camera would add an extra layer of unnecessary complexity to a game that was determined to be as “pick-up-and-play” as possible. Taking inspiration from similar games IcoJaffe and the Santa Monica studio team opted for a fixed cinematic camera that would show exactly what the player needed to see at any given moment.

This worked especially well for action scenes. Players now only had to worry about the combat, and no longer had the responsibility of making sure they understood the combat properly. When Kratos enters a large room, the camera usually zooms out to see where the enemies are always located. If Kratos is running down a corridor, the camera travels with him, staying equidistant behind the Ghost of Sparta to show any enemies that might pose an immediate threat. The camera of the Greek God of War games captures the clarity of chaos in a way that can easily travel into the third dimension.

God of War 3 Kratos in the Arena
Image: Sony / Santa Monica Studios

The secret of his success

Action is the first thing people think of when they think of God of War games, yet the series has always placed a high value on exploration. Sure, the original games were fairly linear, but their level design featured hidden chests and secret collectibles that rewarded a curious play style. And thanks to the static camera, these hidden objects were not only kept out of sight of players, but further encouraged curious players.

Let’s take the temple of the original deity god of war For example. Kratos first enters the temple with the camera locked behind him, showing only the ground floor of the main hall. The camera stays at this angle throughout the battle with some Harpies, after which the player can access the stairs to the left of the main hall. The camera pans up the player’s stairs and zooms out to a series of wooden beams on the roof of the temple that they must cross to get to the other side.

Normally, the player follows the left beam. However, if the player goes to the right, they will find a red orb chest sitting on a high platform to the left of the temple entrance. The platform is technically low enough that it can be jumped over when the player first enters the temple. Only, the player doesn’t know the chest exists because the camera hasn’t revealed it yet. Now that the player has this information, they can go back to the ground floor to see if there is another higher platform to the right of the entrance. And you know what? Their curiosity and deduction skills reward them with another red orb chest.

If the player has full control of the camera in this scenario, they can rotate your perspective as soon as they enter the temple and immediately see the two platforms holding the chest. It may still seem like a cool discovery, but it’s not as satisfying as gradually increasing your knowledge of the layout and rewarding an inquisitive approach. There are many examples of this in the level design of the Greek God of War games, and this is a great demonstration of forcing players to think outside the box by taking some of the action away from them.

God of War Kratos attacks with the Blade of Chaos.
Image: Sony / Santa Monica Studios

A spectacle to behold

Granted, this is probably the most superficial reason to appreciate God of War’s static camera, but Santa Monica Studios made sure that what they showed the player lived up to the game’s cinematic qualities. God of War’s take on Greek mythology leans heavily toward its epic form, with larger-than-life gods and monsters that demand wide shots to fully capture their scale.

The same goes for set pieces. At the beginning of Mount Olympus will appear God of War III Would it be amazing if the camera always kept Kratos in the center of the frame? Why Steeds of Time In Another god of war Wonder if they weren’t introduced with an extremely wide shot of a tiny Kratos walking alongside their chains?

The developers of the pre-2018 God of War games weren’t afraid to put on their cinematographer hats and flex their shot-composition muscles. And given how many of these in-gameplay shots stick in our minds over the years, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t know what they were doing.

Of course, none of this is to say that the God of War series should return to fixed cameras moving forward. So of 2018 god of war Finally letting players control the camera, praised for never straying from a shot throughout the 25+ hour journey. This approach made the story and gameplay experience feel more intimate and grounded than previous games, and certainly helped the series create a new identity for itself.

But even writing off the original still camera as cumbersome and outdated seems like a narrow assessment. Because by forcing camera control compromises, the developers encouraged creative thinking – for themselves and for the player. And the results are just a little genius.