Category: God of War

God of War Ragnarök: Valhalla

Kratos emerged onscreen, rowing a boat through a mysterious fog in the livestream of The Game Awards in early December, 2023. I heard thousands of shocked fans in the theater erupt into applause and smiled, knowing that thousands more were doing the same around the world. I felt a sense of mischievous euphoria, witnessing the worldwide gaming community learn about a secret I had been working on. (The last time I felt anything approaching this euphoria was in 2016, at the E3 presentation when God of War was first announced, and I conducted a live orchestra and choir in a rousing rendition of my new theme.) Valhalla would prove to combine intensely satisfying, procedurally generated combat experience with a thoughtful narrative that provided an emotional epilogue to the character arc of series protagonist Kratos.

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God of War Ragnarök

On a spring afternoon in 2016, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during the E3 videogame event, I crossed the stage between a packed house and a symphonic orchestra, to conduct an original theme I had written that had never been heard publicly. Even before the game’s title was revealed, the audience experienced a sweeping, symphonic score featuring Nordic folk instruments, choir, and strong, melodic themes. After my overture, the curtains parted and a vision of an older Kratos stepped out of the shadows, announcing that a new entry in Sony Playstation’s blockbuster God of War series was on the horizon, one which aged the character and promised a more mature narrative. The game launched in 2018 to universal critical acclaim and fan enthusiasm, cementing the vengeful god Kratos and his son Atreus a place amongst the most beloved videogame characters of all time.

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God of War

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VERY LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: This blog will discuss only plot points made clear from early reviews and trailers.

CHAPTER 1 – INTO MIDGARD

One rainy November afternoon, over three years ago, I walked into Sony PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio to meet with acclaimed music producers Pete Scaturro and Keith Leary to discuss a new, secret project. Our conversation revolved around folk music, Northern European ethnic instruments, vocal writing, classical thematic development, bombastic percussion and, eventually, Greek and Norse mythology.  “Wait a minute.” I said. “Is this… a new God of War?” Their hesitant facial expressions told me everything I needed to know. I realized I was about to tumble headfirst into a daunting and challenging dream project.

For the uninitiated, God of War is massively popular video game series for Sony PlayStation, PSP and mobile platforms that ran for seven games from 2005 to 2013. The games were famous (and somewhat infamous) for their visceral depictions of sex and violence, epitomized by the central revenge-seeking character, Kratos. The franchise had been dormant for years, leaving fans to speculate if we would ever again see a continuation of the character.

In my first meeting at Santa Monica Studio, I realized I was witnessing Kratos’ saga unfold in a surprising new direction, moving away from Greek to Norse mythology. I was brought on board so early that the game had not yet been officially greenlit. There existed only an early build of a prototype level and concept paintings. Yet, these assets showed me that Kratos had matured, that the story would explore deeper themes, and that there was a new central character by his side – his son, Atreus. I was intrigued, and excited to dive in.

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God of War at E3

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God of War will return for Playstation 4, and I am honored to score it.

In addition to composing all new themes and score for this beloved franchise, I was thrilled to take part in the game’s unveiling, by performing my original theme and gameplay music with a full orchestra at Playstation’s E3 2016 press conference at the Shrine auditorium in front of five thousand people.

Unlike most press conferences, the first sound heard was an orchestra tuning up. Then, I emerged from behind the red curtain and walked to the front of the group. I took a bow, turned to my musicians, and raised my hands. The crowd hushed. Clearly this show would not start with speeches or visuals, but would begin with music. With my arms raised in anticipation, I took a deep, long breath. I reminded myself to enjoy every second of what was about to unfold: scoring a live playing of a video game in real time with a full orchestra. (more…)

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