Sony's Santa Monica studio divulged some details about the new God of War and its level design today in The Lost Pages of Norse Myth podcast (via ResetEra). Apparently, it's inspired by another Sony exclusive – From Software's action-RPG Bloodborne.
During the interview, senior systems designer Anthony Dimento and lead level designer Luis Sanchez describe how they wanted to open up God of War's typically linear game world. They wanted to "just have the world breathe a little bit." That apparently means plenty of player choice and discovery. The game's exploration became much bigger than they expected in the process.
"I just love building spaces and having them wrap around each other," Sanchez says. "One of my favorite games is Bloodborne. Their designs are just top-tier amazing. That has been an inspiration for me. So, a lot of the exploration spaces kinda call back to those games. We have those little micro-loops where you're unlocking paths, unlocking shortcuts, and it's not just for the sake of it. Giving purpose to those paths, giving purpose to those shortcuts. And kind of looping around the space and learning an area, mentally mapping it, is where I get my thrills (laughs)."
God of War is not an open-world game, the developers stress. Instead, there's a big hub where the player can pick up side quests that expand the world and create a more immersive experience outside of the main story. A lot of those quests are offered by a pair of dwarven blacksmiths who will craft gear for Kratos in return, and those items have their own backstories. All of this side content is not tacked on, Dimento and Sanchez say. It all ties into the main story "in certain ways."
"It's not an afterthought. There's a whole team dedicated to this and a lot of work went into weaving this whole thing together with the rest of the game and making it feel like one experience," they say.