The Art of God of War – Evan Shamoon

4 out of 5

I thought Uncharted 4 was great.  I was so happy that The Last Guardian found its way to release.  I had a lot of fun with the PS4 Infamous.  But I loved God Of War, a franchise which has been a – for me – similarly loved instances of games across PS2 and PS3 and PSP, and as blown away as I was by some experiences in those games, this most recent iteration one-upped all of that with a story-telling scope and gameplay synchronicity that surpasses that of so many of its peers’.  The game was an experience, and one that I’m enjoying repeating, and digging into the lore.

While I am never in doubt of the immense amount of work that goes in to what may even seem like “simple” games, I admittedly don’t seek out a lot of supplemental material focusing on game construction.  The last one I did – for Crash Bandicoot – was ultimately disappointing, though it sort of matched my expectations for such books: scattered notes and images that are interesting enough artifacts, but don’t otherwise inspire much beyond a flip-through.

‘The Art of God of War’ does suffer from some of that, in that its loose “structure” from pre-production up through production jumps way around the game landscape, sequencing images of certain areas in a jumbled fashion, whether you’ve played the game or not.  A basic example, that’s repeated throughout its 200-ish pages, is when the book builds up the work that went into Alfheim, one of the sections of the game.  There’s text discussing the function of the realm; images in which concept artists pitched different studies.  Then, on the next page, we’re suddenly looking at Tyr’s bridge.  The problem is that the words suggest that we’re going to be following a scheme as we work through the artists’ ideas, but that’s not the case.  It’s just snapshots, not really organized in any particular fashion.

That being said…  wow.  GOW’s look has always been impressive, and the PS4 has allowed a lot of franchises to go detail crazy, but characters and scenes just breathed history and life in the new game, and being able to study the intricacies on these art pages underlines that all the more.  And though I’ve been critical of the order of things, Evan Shamoon’s text snippets and choice dialogue from the game director or various artists isn’t just self-promotion: what we read is precise, and relevant to the images, and helps to give appropriate insight into how big of a chore constructing this story was.  And this is in addition to Dark Horse’s oversized, stitched HC packaging, with deep, rich colors that good golly let you absorb the darks and lights and warmth and cold of all the environments and characters.  It’s a very handsome book.

And it’s an incredibly rewarding “Art of” review, that could easily sit side by side with any more “studied” coffee table art book.  This doesn’t look like a video game, from the concept images, and not that that would be a knock, but it certainly gives any gamer a kick to think they could hand the book to a parent or game-naysayer and have them be equally impressed by it.