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God of War documentary confronts Kratos’ perilous rebirth in Norse mythology

Sony Santa Monica’s big risk paid off in a big way

God of War was the game-of-the-year choice of many (like, us, and most recently the Game Developers Choice Awards). But it was hardly a critical fait accompli when its developers embarked on their journey with it almost five years ago. Santa Monica Studio was dealing with a canon that, restricted to Greek mythology, had grown stale over eight games in almost a decade. The decision to, effectively, reinvent Kratos and his story in Norse mythology was a huge risk.

To explain what the studio was up against, PlayStation has a documentary called Raising Kratos coming soon to its YouTube channel.

The trailer lingers on a headline from Kotaku UK, published in April 2016, after leaks first suggested the mythos swap was coming to the franchise. That speculative post acknowledged that going into the realm of Odin and Thor “could be the most inspired twist we’ve seen in a video game franchise for years,” but conditioned that on ditching Kratos, noting that 2013’s God of War: Ascension “was shrugged off by gamers and critics alike.”

The documentary follows director Cory Barlog and the Santa Monica development team through the decisions to take God of War in this direction, and the effort it took to get there successfully. The trailer closes out with the game’s reveal at E3 2016 — and then an all new piece of CGI footage, which summoned an explanation from Barlog on Twitter:

Naturally, people still view it as some kind of teaser for a sequel or other follow-up release — and earlier this week, PlayStation celebrated God of War’s one-year birthday with a PS4 theme that featured “Ragnarok is Coming” written in runes on the side of a canoe. Many also took that as a sign of something to come — the something being a game.

Maybe instead it’s just teasing this doc, which does look like a good tour of another studio under a ton of pressure. Earlier this month, a documentary about Ubisoft Montreal’s struggles to bring For Honor to life hit Netflix. Give that one a spin while you’re waiting on Raising Kratos.