The Stranger, later revealed to be Baldur, is the primary character you meet after being launched to Kratos and Atreus. He comes calling with an agenda that instantly places him at odds with Kratos, the place his fight potential and persistence instantly mark him as essentially the most harmful risk dogging our heroes’ heels all through their journey.
Baldur confronts Kratos at his dwelling in Midgard.
Whereas Kratos and Atreus don’t need to interact with him, Baldur forces them to struggle for his or her lives on a number of events all through the realms. He’s the ultimate boss of the primary story, the fruits of the Aesir plot and final take a look at the gamers should overcome earlier than lastly scattering Faye’s ashes from the very best peak in all of the realms.
Idea artwork of Baldur – Artist: Jose Cabrera.
The battle involves a head when Baldur turns his rage in direction of his mom Freya, in addition to Kratos and Atreus, forcing them into the struggle of their lives in opposition to one of many All-Father’s strongest followers. Bruno Velazquez, Animation Director at Santa Monica Studio, emphasised the purpose of the sequence:
“We knew that the gamers would count on a giant epic finale, so our purpose was at all times to try to push what we had performed on the preliminary Baldur struggle and up the stakes in each means.”
Begin to end, this sequence is without doubt one of the most bold within the recreation and mixed the efforts of our whole group to tug it off. From in depth cinematics with dramatic confrontations between the characters to an enormous boss struggle that spanned a number of phases and areas – this climactic end to the plot’s important battle was probably the most essential moments within the recreation we needed to get proper to ensure our gamers reached Jötunheim with a way of well-earned satisfaction.
Placing pen to paper
The stress to make this sequence really feel epic and earned after teasing it from the beginning of the sport was excessive. When it got here to laying the groundwork, step one was writing the story.
Matt Sophos, Narrative Director at Santa Monica Studio, spoke on what the group wished to attain:
“The narrative goal was twofold. First, we wished to convey from each a narrative and gameplay perspective simply how far Kratos and Atreus had come of their relationship. We wished to indicate they have been working collectively seamlessly, defending one another, and combating as a unit.
The second purpose was to place Kratos and Atreus on a collision course with no cut-and-dried ‘good’ consequence. There was going to be a value to this struggle, and the one they selected was one which turned Freya from an ally to an enemy.”
Script web page from cinematic main into the ultimate confrontation with Baldur.
Regardless of Kratos demonstrating his progress by attempting to resolve the scenario with out combating, Baldur is unrelenting in his pursuit of Freya’s life. This places him and Kratos in direct battle as soon as once more, sparking the ultimate showdown between the 2.
Large sense of scale
The struggle between Baldur, Kratos, and Atreus exhibits no indicators of stopping regardless of Freya’s use of Vanir magic to separate them. She turns in direction of extra drastic measures by possessing the corpse of Thamur, the Stone Mason.
Visible exploration of Thamur – Artists: Dela Longfish & Yefim Kligerman.
Throughout sure elements of the sport, this determine has been seen to the participant in Midgard – extraordinarily massive and maybe intimidating in his measurement, however in the end innocent. The Stone Mason’s presence is supposed to evoke a way of marvel or curiosity within the participant, and possibly even a ‘what if’ second imagining the struggle between Thamur and Thor as Mimir describes the very encounter that killed the Large in one among his tales.
Idea artwork of Thamur scale reference – Artist: Jose Cabrera.
The mixing of the colossal frozen physique within the struggle as each a mechanic and a platform throughout three phases was precisely the kind of wild concept that made it worthy of being within the last struggle of the story.
Idea artwork exploring the look of Freya’s magic possessing Thamur.
Sophos emphasised that in relation to creating these large set-piece gameplay moments, they aren’t usually scripted by the Narrative Crew from the start. On this case, it was Design Crew that got here up with the thought of utilizing the Stone Mason as a part of the struggle:
“Any time we method boss fights from the narrative aspect, we’re reticent to jot down large checks that different departments should money. Everytime you put one thing down on the web page as a author, you realize a number of different group members should execute on it, so we attempt to preserve the core narrative small and private whereas letting Design inform us how huge they need to go.
Freya puppeteering the corpse of Thamur didn’t come from us, however when Design mentioned they wished to do it and have the struggle vary in all places (together with on prime of him), we giddily mentioned, ‘Hell yeah… we’ll make that work.”
Script web page from the cinematic the place Thamur is possessed by Freya’s magic.
Bigger-than-life boss fights are an indicator of the God of Battle sequence, so the group was no stranger to going huge and reaching for one thing they felt would blow gamers away. Nonetheless, one new factor launched in God of Battle (2018) had a profound impression on how these moments have been captured – the digicam.
The nearer placement to Kratos and no-cut approach used all through the sport have been important in reaching the sensation of present process an intimate journey with father and son. Whether or not in cutscenes or fight, you might be at all times near Kratos, seeing and experiencing what he does.
Erol Oksuz, Lead Digicam Designer at Santa Monica Studio, mentioned how this method impacted the reveal of the Large:
“The credit score to promoting the size of Thamur goes to Cinematics, Animation, Artwork, and Lighting —actually a group effort. Within the prior Greek-era video games, scale was proven by flying the digicam waaaaay out, dwarfing Kratos and the participant in opposition to creatures and the surroundings.
Nonetheless, God of Battle (2018)’s purpose of placing the participant and digicam on the bottom for Kratos and Atreus’ journey created many guidelines to supply the documentary-inspired expertise. Together with ‘no cuts’ was ‘no flying cameras’ — this meant the digicam couldn’t merely fly away by itself for excessive lengthy pictures. As a substitute, what changed it was fantastically crafted choreography that added scale to the expertise — the work of these groups nonetheless ‘wow’ me.”
“For instance, simply after Baldur loses his invulnerability, Freya binds him with vines and whips him by the digicam. That slight pan and tilt now units the participant up for a basic God of Battle second with a small, silhouetted Freya within the mid-ground and big Thamur rising within the background.
Freya and the Large are solely alone in-frame for a second earlier than Kratos and Atreus step again into the foreground to remind the participant that they’re proper in the course of it too — no must have reduce or flown the digicam to every other place.”
Velazquez added that the transition sequence the place Thamur grabs Kratos and Atreus in his large hand additionally required the group to take additional consideration with the digicam:
“One of many hardest challenges was retaining the continuity of the no-cut digicam through the half the place the Large grabs Kratos and Atreus and picks them up. We wanted to ensure we bought the concept that the hand blotted out all the sunshine and engulfed our heroes with out harming them, carrying them throughout the world and seamlessly dropped them off elsewhere. This was very difficult from a technical standpoint for certain.”
The inclusion of Thamur affected not solely the cinematic moments, but in addition the digicam in fight. The group wanted to account for learn how to finest telegraph the Large’s assaults throughout these sections with the digicam place. For instance, through the struggle, Thamur slams the bottom inflicting a wave AoE to disperse from the impression whereas the participant is engaged with Baldur. Given the shut place the digicam already has in fight and the hectic nature of the encounter, Oksuz elaborated on the need to adapt for the elevated scale:
“The Greek-era video games had a digicam locked to a common path, so when a boss would assault, it could pull again to completely body the transfer as a ‘inform,’ giving the participant a while to react. That type of ‘inform’ needed to be tailored as a result of gamers now had full digicam management, so we tried to supply as a lot data the participant as doable with out affecting their management or focus.”
“After a number of iterations with Animation to get Thamur’s hand as little as doable, we additionally adjusted the digicam to tug again additional than traditional and widened the lens to supply distinction with the conventional, close-fight digicam. This additionally opened display real-estate to indicate off the bottom under going into shadow whereas growing the possibility to see the Large’s hand. With the ultimate audio, a build-up of screen-shake, and controller rumble, there was sufficient there to speak that one thing huge was about to occur.”
The Stone Mason’s involvement within the scene ends when Atreus calls out to Jörmungandr to assist them. The World Serpent obliges, leading to an enormous conflict as he bites into the Large and pushes it again, breaking Freya’s spell.
Based on Velazquez, this was a late addition to the sport because the group explored other ways to resolve Thamur’s presence. Whereas Kratos and Atreus have been motion-captured, the remainder of the whole sequence was hand-animated by the gifted Dennis Pena (Sr. Employees Animator), who needed to stability retaining our heroes within the shot whereas capturing all of the chaos and motion round them.
Animation course of on the sequence with Jörmungandr attacking Thamur.
Conflict between Gods
The ultimate encounter with Baldur options probably the most advanced fight sequences within the recreation. With Kratos and Atreus’ full kits accessible, the group wished gamers to really feel highly effective whereas making use of all the abilities they realized all through the story.
Denny Yeh, Lead Fight Designer, elaborated on the SMS Fight Crew’s philosophy:
“We like to think about end-game fights as a last examination of kinds. In contrast to problem bosses just like the Valkyries, that are designed to check just about every little thing, a narrative boss like Baldur must really feel extra like the best hits of mechanics all through the sport. Consider it like a celebration of what you’ve realized, moderately than a strict take a look at.”
Baldur is each the primary and final encounter within the recreation, which posed a singular problem in that this struggle needed to really feel acquainted and but in addition contemporary. The Aesir god has a longtime, distinctive combating type that’s fairly completely different from his brethren who all use weapons. Velazquez famous:
“Early on we determined for Baldur to not have a weapon because of the thought that somebody that doesn’t really feel ache could be extra reckless and daring when in fight. He wouldn’t want a defend to dam or a sword to strike as a result of he would moderately use his personal physique as a weapon.”
This posed an fascinating query for the group, who needed to stability introducing new mechanics, whereas additionally sustaining consistency with the character that had been established by means of a number of fights already skilled by the participant. The reply was partly with the mixing of the Stone Mason and Freya as contributors. These aren’t at all times simply obstacles to be prevented, but in addition new instruments the participant can use to their benefit, Yeh defined:
“Freya herself wasn’t essentially attempting to kill you, extra simply cease the struggle, so a number of her intervention concerned immobilizing you. It simply so occurs that being immobilized means Baldur can simply punch you within the face!
The cool factor about Freya’s vines is that they will have an effect on each you and Baldur. So, if the participant is paying consideration, they will dodge it and lure Baldur into it, permitting them to show the tables.”
On prime of Freya’s magic and the screen-wide assaults from Thamur, the opposite important factor was, after all, Baldur himself:
“With end-game story bosses, we wish to provide you with mechanics to encourage utilization of all of your instruments. From a fight perspective, that is the place Baldur’s potential to soak up hearth/ice got here in. It allowed us to get the participant to change weapons and showcase a much bigger number of all of the cool skills they’ve unlocked as much as that time.”
Animation means of Baldur’s Elemental Burst.
Baldur’s potential to imbue his physique with hearth and ice together with a brand new suite of strikes have been all key elements in retaining gamers on their toes. Taking level on the struggle design was Sr. Employees Fight Designer Loren Bordas, who led the way in which constructing an encounter that gave gamers the chance to really feel just like the God of Battle whereas using the total breadth of the instruments and data accessible to them.
“Along with the overarching trait of absorbing components, the factor that he’s at present channeling adjustments the properties of all his assaults. This added a enjoyable new twist to strikes that the participant had already seen earlier than. He additionally had extra skills corresponding to throwing elemental projectiles. Within the last part of the struggle, Loren and the group blended and matched all of those assaults into combo sequences to essentially preserve the stress up.”
Baldur enters his hearth part through the struggle.
Whereas some bosses can have a extra centered gameplay theme, such because the puzzle-solving factor within the Hræzlyr struggle that requires the participant to make the most of lightning sap, for an end-game boss like Baldur, Bordas and the group had to make sure the encounter didn’t make the participant really feel like their energy development was being invalidated by leaning on non-combat gameplay components. This meant that the Baldur struggle wanted to have a very good number of phases and behaviors to make it really feel like an epic finale. Yeh elaborated:
“He begins off element-less, permitting you to freestyle with no matter skills you want. Then he begins absorbing components, encouraging you to indicate off your alternative of runic assaults for every weapon.”
“In later phases, Loren and the group added extra enemies into the combination, permitting gamers who deal with crowd clearing skills to shine. After which within the last part, Baldur swapped between the 2 components very incessantly, including the stress of on-demand weapon switching.”
This time it’s private
In most of the mid-fight sequences, the 2 gods conflict with their fists, regardless of Kratos having weapons at his disposal. This was a deliberate alternative the group made to emphasise the private, determined, and violent nature of the ultimate confrontation between Kratos and Baldur. Velazquez provided extra perception:
“Since Baldur didn’t wield his personal weapon, we determined that Kratos also needs to sheathe his to have extra impression. This was in-line with the general path to make the fight a more in-depth, extra private expertise because of the digicam, in addition to the particular path that these moments between Kratos and Baldur ought to really feel like a brutal wrestle. That is additionally why we selected to have Kratos use palms to finish Baldur, it’s a way more intimate and visceral second than if he have been utilizing weapons.”
Because the participant, you might be drawn near the motion by the digicam whereas Kratos and Baldur commerce blow after blow. There are many moments through the struggle which might be there to make you’re feeling triumphant as Kratos and Atreus work collectively in opposition to the person who got here to their dwelling and threatened them with out provocation. Nonetheless, there may be additionally an equally intentional and unavoidable brutality to the encounter that the group included to convey the toll it takes on the characters and the eventual value of their battle.
Combating as one
As Sophos defined, one of many groups’ key objectives was to indicate how shut Kratos and Atreus had come over the course of the sport, as each a household and combating unit. As a lot because the participant is meant to really feel completed and highly effective as Kratos throughout this struggle, additionally it is essential for that feeling to increase to Atreus as he demonstrates how far he has come alongside the way in which by supporting the participant in gameplay and fight moments.
This sequence was the possibility to indicate simply how a lot Atreus modified, from an uncertain boy who couldn’t shoot a deer to a assured fighter Kratos may depend upon in battle. Velazquez described these moments:
“There are a number of sequences that promote the group up between Kratos and Atreus effectively, like Kratos tossing Atreus within the air to fireside arrows, in addition to when Kratos jumps off the Stone Mason holding Baldur, with Atreus leaping off after them. “
Animation course of on chisel leap sequence.
“Nonetheless, nothing compares to the second by which the participant should press well-timed prompts as Kratos and Atreus take turns pummeling Baldur. It was such a spotlight for us to have the ability to embody a few of these moments that actually make you’re feeling like a cohesive combating unit as each father and son.”
Animation course of on Kratos and Atreus team-up sequence.
Atreus actively helps Kratos through the encounter by dealing out harm and stun to create alternatives to shut in on Baldur, however it’s throughout these cutscenes and QTEs the place the group actually wished our boy to shine and provides a second for the participant to cheer him on.
Performances to recollect
Because the climax of the sport, this sequence had the monumental process of not solely delivering an enormous fight set piece, but in addition providing a conclusion to 2 of essentially the most distinguished storylines exterior of Kratos and Atreus.
Although the scene begins with Kratos and Atreus uncertain the place Freya’s loyalties lie, as quickly as they see Baldur’s hostility in direction of her, the pair instantly transfer to defend her as tensions rise. At this level within the recreation, Freya has saved Atreus’ life and been an integral a part of our heroes’ journey.
Kratos steps ahead to intervene between Baldur and Freya.
Regardless of realizing all the nice she’s performed for the pair, Kratos and Atreus’ journey to Helheim shed new gentle on Baldur’s struggling for the participant. We’ve seen first-hand how psychologically scarred his incapability to really feel has left him. Whereas not excusing his actions, realizing the toll Freya’s spell took on Baldur provides a sorrowful layer of nuance to the encounter that actor Jeremy Davies’ portrayal expertly conveys. Sophos added:
“He introduced such ache to a personality who, mockingly, couldn’t really feel it. His efficiency made it exhausting to hate Baldur since even the worst issues he mentioned had an undercurrent of tragedy to them.”
One other second of Davies’ distinctive supply from this scene takes place proper after the Mistletoe Arrowhead releases the spell on Baldur, permitting him to really feel for the primary time in a century. Velazquez mentioned the actor’s potential to seize all of the feelings working by means of the character:
“Jeremey did such a implausible job with Baldur general however the second that actually stays with me is when the Mistletoe Arrow dispels the spell Freya placed on him and he regains the power to really feel as soon as once more. He did such an awesome job of promoting that second and helped the viewers have some sympathy for Baldur and his plight.”
One other of many standout performances from the closing cinematic of this sequence is Danielle Bisutti’s portrayal of Freya.
Because the Narrative Crew acknowledged of their objectives for the ultimate encounter of the sport, this was by no means going to be an ending the place everybody walked away completely satisfied. It’s in large-part attributable to Bisutti’s heart-wrenching efficiency as Freya that the repercussions of Kratos’ actions had significant weight. Curled over the lifeless physique of the son she sacrificed every little thing to maintain protected, Freya’s raging grief as she turned from ally to enemy was embodied completely by means of Bisutti’s portrayal. Sophos added this scene was probably the most impactful he witnessed on stage:
“When Danielle Bisutti (Freya) guarantees retribution for the killing of her son, and slowly builds in depth till she’s simply spitting bile, hate, and grief at Kratos… it’s probably the most highly effective moments I’ve ever been part of.”
“You can hear a pin drop on the efficiency seize stage. We have been all simply type of shocked into silence. I knew based mostly on how a lot of herself Danielle invests in her efficiency that she was going to go exhausting, however DAMN…”
And with that, we hope you’ve loved this look again on the ultimate boss struggle in God of Battle (2018)!
On behalf of everybody who performed an element within the creation of this recreation and all of the group right here at Santa Monica Studio, we can not specific our gratitude sufficient to our group for all of the help given to us over the past 5 years. We wouldn’t be right here with out you!