Book Review: The Art of God of War III

TheArtOfGodOfWarIII.jpg

Ballistic Publishing and Sony Computer Entertainment America have joined forces once again for the second volume in Ballistic’s “Art of the Game” art book series. In the first installment, Naughty Dog showed us what went into the making of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (it’s awesome too, buy it!), and now for the second book we get to go behind the scenes with the team at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio for an inside look at the artistic vision behind God of War III.

At 9.7” x 11.7” and 272 glossy pages of full-color story boards, key art, character renders, and character, environment and weapon/prop concept art, with commentary from key members of the game’s art team, The Art of God of War III is not some cheapy art book like those that come as pre-order bonuses or stuffed inside many special edition game bundles. It is a true collector’s item you’ll be proud to display on your coffee table and an insightful visual history guide chronicling the artistic creation of one of the most stunning, epically-scaled video games ever produced.

TheArtOfGodOfWar3_011.jpg

There are plenty of pretty pictures to gaze at throughout the book – and yes, this is a God of War art book so you can expect some gruesome imagery and the occasional “nip slip.” My favorite image in the book has to be the “Helios Head Rip” (pictured above), because that is by far my favorite moment in the entire game – I’d kill for a poster or lithograph of that scene. And as for the sex stuff, let me just say that the male members of the art team clearly enjoyed themselves in conceptualizing Aphrodite and her sex chamber, and, well…I’ll just leave it at that. You’ll have to read the book for the sordid details on that one!

Beyond the typical array of concept art and renders, the really cool thing about this book is its inclusion of “lost artwork.” Over 100 images of design concepts for characters, environments and weapons that didn’t make it into the game can be found scattered about the pages, and for me these were the most interesting concepts to look at and read about.

TheArtOfGodOfWar3_015.jpg

A couple “lost” concepts really caught my eye too. For starters, there is the Berserker/Argus, a monstrous new enemy Kratos was to face off against (pictured above). The book shows a few design iterations, including one of a four-armed, tusked elephant beast known as the Berserker, and another in the form of a nasty, mutant-like critter with eyes all over its body called Argus. Either of those would’ve been fun to do battle with, as I can clearly visualize QTE kill sequences of Kratos breaking off the elephant beast’s tusks and jabbing them through its skull or stabbing, ripping and poking out the other version’s eyeballs. Oh, to be a developer on a game like God of War III must be so fun!

Another “lost” concept I was sad to learn got cut from the game involves Kratos’ blades. Originally, the dev team planned to give Kratos magical blade powers enabling him to conjure the elements of Fire and Ice with his attacks. There is a two-page spread in the book (pictured below) showing pre-production animation sketches of different attacks these magical blades would provide, and in the text Lead Visual Development Artist, Cecil Kim, also mentions that these elemental powers were going to be used for environmental interactions as well. These blade powers could have been really cool for puzzles, I think.

TheArtOfGodOfWar3_019.jpg

Now there’s an idea. Hey Sony, how about going back to the cutting room floor and finishing off these lost concepts to release as mini DLC packs? Like a survival challenge starring some of enemy types that didn’t make it into the game and/or some type of challenge room to play around with the Fire/Ice blades? Yeah, I know it’ll never happen. But I can dream, can’t I?

Anyway, back on point here. The Art of God of War III really is a spectacular compilation of artwork, as well as a brisk, intriguing read if you are at all interested in learning about the art design process behind your favorite mythological action-adventure epic. Perhaps the most flattering comment I can pay to this book is that, as soon as I flipped past the last page, I was immediately inspired to play the game again (and have since achieved Platinum trophy status too!). And as I’ve continued to replay it I’ve found myself appreciating it as a true work of art more than I ever did before. The massive environments and subtle character design elements tell an unspoken story that you just can’t grasp until you fully understand the thought and attention to detail the artists poured into the game. That alone makes The Art of God of War III a must read if you ask me.

The Art of God of War III is currently available for pre-order in three editions: a standard paperback edition for $65, a leather-bound special edition for $129, and a “Limited Folio Edition” with suede-leather binding, a suede-leather presentation case with lifting ribbon, an individually-numbered, and hand-signed certificate by the game’s creators, and a ‘Blade of Exile’ metal-carved cover ornament for the mighty sum of $300. The paperback and special editions are scheduled to begin shipping in mid-October, followed by a late-October release of the Folio Edition. All customers who purchase any version of the book through Ballistic will also receive access to two downloadable walkthrough videos featuring over 30 minutes of tutorials teaching how the Cerberus and Hephaestus character models were created.

A copy of the paperback edition was provided by Ballistic Publishing for review purposes.

[nggallery id=1410]

[nggallery id=1438]

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!