Warning: There are some very minor spoilers for God of War ahead.
One of my favorite parts in God of War has nothing to do with the storytelling, combat, or endless secrets. It’s how the characters talk to one another, or more specifically, how the game handles moments when they don’t talk to one another. So many games make the wrong assumptions about how players are going to act, while God of War feels built by people who’ve played video games for a long time, and know what parts annoy them.
Though limited fast travel is available in God of War, you spend most of the game walking, climbing, and boating through the game’s violent, wintry landscapes. During those quiet moments, the game often fills the time with Kratos, Atreus, and others telling stories to one another, or asking questions about the journey ahead.
This isn’t unique to God of War, but I’m usually frustrated with the way most games handle these moments. When characters start talking, if you run into combat, or advance the story in any meaningful way, the cutscene (or fighting) will take over, and you’ll lose the thread. The discussion is lost to time—the game never picks it up again.
I’ve spent hours standing in a hallway, waiting to a conversation to end, knowing the game will cut it off. And how many times have you sat in front of an audio log, because the game doesn’t keep the recording going when you walk away? I don’t care about realism. Players are going to keep moving, and games should accommodate.
God of War does many things very well, but on this point, it’s exceptional.
Watch how this conversation plays out below:
An exchange begins, but as I leave the boat, Kratos interjects: “Enough. No stories—not while on foot.” Chatter happens on the boat is because it’s a safe, neutral place. You can’t even toss your axe at those annoying ravens scattered throughout the game! Walking around on land means anything could happen, whether a cutscene or combat.
“Completely understand,” remarks Mimir. “I’ll finish later, lad.”
It’s a natural way to pause the conversation, and more importantly, serves as recognition the story stopping halfway through, with a promise you’ll hear the end.
A few minutes later, I’m back on the boat, and this happens:
“Mimir, you were in the middle of a story before,” says Atreus. “Why would Freya agree to marry Odin? What was in it for her?”
This line is clever for two reasons. One, it seamlessly reintroduces the story, and acknowledges it was interrupted. This is how normal people talk to one another. Two, if you forgot what happened, Atreus’ dialogue places the conversation back in context. You now know Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir were talking about Odin and Freya.
It was a few hours into the game I realized this was happening, which is how it should work! The frustration in other games is realizing when it doesn’t. There are a lot of things I’m hoping other games will copy from God of War, but this is near top of the list.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvx7qv/god-of-war-smartly-fixes-the-very-bad-way-most-games-handle-dialogue