God of War Sound Design Review
SLASH! An icy crack rips through flesh under the weight of high-velocity, cold, metal steel. A sizzling inferno is coming towards me, angry. My body smacks the floor with the heaviness of my gear producing collateral noise. I’ve just managed to dodge. 3 arrows are fired in quick succession, whipping through the air and pinning the enemy in place. The enemy is shocked to the core with electricity suppressing his nerves. A blood-red rage fills me and power is evoked through my voice. Charging at the enemy like a wild boar, heavy grunting, footsteps pounding, mass amounting with every advance. My rugged, experienced hands grip the enemy without mercy, two halves are ripped from the anthropomorphic figure, naturally followed by the sound of crunching bones and sloppy flesh. The scene concludes, and the most identifiable single-word dialogue in gaming history is spoken…
Power! God of War resonates full-blown power throughout its Sound Design. I feel like a God, which is pretty fitting because I am playing as one. For anyone who’s been living in ‘Neverwhere’ (Neil Gaiman’s fictional and chaotic version of an underground London), ‘God of War’, is the 4th in a franchise following the Greek God ‘Kratos’, the God of War. This 4th installment follows Kratos in a much more open-world setting (compared to the other games)
Sound Design – As a God, you have an immense dealing with the elements on Midgard. No human can get as close to these raw elements and live to tell the tale. With this brings a large array of sonic opportunity (and responsibility). You have to hear the elements in their primary form: the scorch of the flame, the sting of the ice, the force of the wind. ‘God of War’ does this with spectacular fashion. Walking through Muspelheim you sense the heat of the world through it’s bubbling, thick lava sound. An encounter with the Valkyries lets you hear the shear power of uncontrolled wind rip at you like razor daggers (they do also throw daggers at you). A frosty trip to Niflheim will leave your bones cold and soulless, through the sonic void in this endless world. In ‘God of War’ you can hear what you see, what you feel and what you experience. You can hear victory, defeat, you can hear battle and death and fear evoked throughout it’s soundscape. A huge amount of personification is used in ‘God of War’ which is how sound really makes you ‘feel’ immersed, like you are part of this world. Driving the narrative and the player experience. ‘God of War’ makes you open up your senses.
Dialogue – God of War has a distinct aesthetic in Kratos. You can determine so much about his character from his voice alone. His choice of words (or lack there of) show he’s a reserved individual, but speaks when it’s relevant. His heavy, coarsy timbre shows he is an experienced and damaged person. His delivery connotes seriousness, almost everything he says is action/ instruction based. So much can be expressed in a voice. Santa Monica Studio has realised this in creating a deep, fleshed out and relatable character in Kratos, which ends up feeding the immersive and memorable narrative which we now all know and love. Kratos can be literally recognised in one word, the entirety of the franchise: the narrative, the action, the missions, the memories, the relationships, the experiences, the role-playing can be expressed with one singular powerful word that has embedded itself in gaming culture and further into modern culture itself. Boy. Now, that’s powerful dialogue.
I loved playing ‘God of War’, the rich story pushed along by its memorable sound design. It places you directly in the shoes of ‘Kratos’, an experienced warrior finding his place as a Father and teacher. You hear through the ears of a God, things a mortal cannot ever hope to hear.
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