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The secrets behind God of War’s tonal shift, and Kratos’ new role as a father

Creative director Cory Barlog discusses the relationship between father and son in the upcoming PS4 epic

“Look, Kratos needed to change.”

Creative director Cory Barlog has a deep history with God of War. He served as art director on the original 2005 game, then as creative director for its acclaimed sequel. He even wrote Ghost of Sparta, the well-regarded PSP game developed by Ready At Dawn.

Living with Kratos for so many years gave Barlog a deep perspective on the character and his motivations. “We intentionally made him loathed, an antihero. Now we’re trying to make him a character you care about.”

But how? Barlog knew fans wouldn’t buy into a sudden tonal shift for the character. “It’s hard to believe somebody who’s a bad guy suddenly wants to change. You need a reason.”

The reason for change is family

That reason, Balrog reckoned, was family. By tasking Kratos with responsibility for another life, a more nuanced, sympathetic character could gradually emerge — thus multiplying the dramatic potential.

God of War

Enter Atreus, Kratos’s son and in-game companion. “Atreus is the mirror that shines on Kratos that makes him realize that he needs to change…. Atreus will pull the humanity out. Kratos will be shown his own humanity, and he’ll figure out how to embrace it.”

Barlog was adamant that Atreus always be a benefit to the player, never a detriment. “It is not an escort mission. You never have to take care of him.”

Crafting an effective companion in Atreus

Crafting an effective companion took an enormous group effort, and plenty of research. “We looked at everything,” Gameplay Engineering Lead Jeet Shroff explained. “For me personally, Elizabeth [Bioshock Infinite] and Ellie [The Last of Us] stood out as areas of inspiration.”

“We were cautious about what it would mean to introduce a companion character to a game of this scale,” Shroff elaborated. “Atreus will never steal a kill from you… he will always complement what you are doing.”

God of War

Barlog is fully aware that some players may view Atreus with skepticism. “There are times when [kids] can be a little annoying. Then they start to endear themselves to you.”

“Players in the playtests… they come in saying they hate children, this kid is such an annoyance, I don’t want him.”

“Halfway through, they say ‘he’s alright.’ All the way at end, they say ‘I really wanted to hate this kid but he’s my favorite character in the game.'”

Continuing the legacy

Indeed, based on my recent hands-on time with the game, Kratos’s son Atreus stood out as one of the game’s best new elements. His quips and arrows land with equal impact, and he never comes off as a burden or a chore. He points out secrets, proactively disables enemies, and remarks on the changing battlefield conditions.

And, tellingly, he seems to have the same anger management issues as dear old dad.

“There’s this fantastic arc that they go on that’s paralleling so many of our own lives,” Barlog teased. “Our own relationships with our children, or our parents. It’s so universal.”

I expect the relationship between Kratos and Atreus to be a key highlight when the final game finally lands on PS4 20th April .

23 Comments
0 Author replies

CTRL-F “Balrog” He’s not a Tolkien monster you know

Carnivius_Prime 23 March, 2018 @ 15:21
2

I am looking forward to the game. I need not know any more.

3

Kratos didn’t ‘need’ to change at all. He was a timeless, original character that you seem to have turned into the exact opposite in a feeble attempt to make the series relevant (it still was…). The same easy way of doing things like what they did to Tomb Raider and countless other series. Changing the whole basics of the series and even the epic, timeless characters just to make something new out of it. Why not just make a new series altogether then? Oh, right, it’s easier to sell a game with name- and brand awareness than an entirely new series… Too bad all these timeless characters have to suffer for it… I’m sure it’ll be a decent game by itself but I’m really [DELETED] for what they did to Kratos and the series. I loved the guy that was just pure anger and aggression, it fit the offensive type of brawler gameplay perfectly. I also loved the Blades of Chaos… This ‘retractable, magic’ ax kind of thing doesn’t hold a candle to it in any way… Oh well, things just always need to chan...

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Kratos didn’t ‘need’ to change at all. He was a timeless, original character that you seem to have turned into the exact opposite in a feeble attempt to make the series relevant (it still was…). The same easy way of doing things like what they did to Tomb Raider and countless other series. Changing the whole basics of the series and even the epic, timeless characters just to make something new out of it. Why not just make a new series altogether then? Oh, right, it’s easier to sell a game with name- and brand awareness than an entirely new series… Too bad all these timeless characters have to suffer for it… I’m sure it’ll be a decent game by itself but I’m really [DELETED] for what they did to Kratos and the series. I loved the guy that was just pure anger and aggression, it fit the offensive type of brawler gameplay perfectly. I also loved the Blades of Chaos… This ‘retractable, magic’ ax kind of thing doesn’t hold a candle to it in any way… Oh well, things just always need to change, I guess… Just for the sake of changing it? Don’t fix what’s not broken, I say…

3.1

ugh, glitchy edit function ><

RakibusMaximus 23 March, 2018 @ 18:16
3.2

Snowflake

3.3

It’s to keep the series relevant, God of War: Ascension did what you’re asking for and sold fewer copies than God of War III. Even though there were many more PS3 owners by the time Ascension was released, and it was a prequel so no need to know the story of previous games. The “angriest man on PlayStation” thing has been done to death at this point. I’m not sure about some of the changes either but I’m still going to give it a fair chance.

Tomb Raider’s 2013 reboot was the highest selling game in that series, and brought a lot of new fans into the series. So it must be doing something right. Tomb Raider: Underworld (the last game in the original Tomb Raider style) didn’t even sell half of what the 2013 game did.

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1

Jaw-dropping.

gtr455677ujbvxz4 23 March, 2018 @ 20:22
5

I would have liked Atreus’ accent to be more dare i say it…. realistic. Wouldn’t a Greek accent have been more immersive? Or is his mother American?

MiseryPrincess 24 March, 2018 @ 03:45
5.1

Yes. That accent never sounds right in a fantasy setting. It’s way waaay too modern.

5.2

I also think it’s rare to see great, compelling acting performances from kids. Game of Thrones is a rare exception.

So I’m guessing Atreus kills Kratos due to the legacy that terrified Zeus.

Hmm, interesting that Cory wrote Ghost of Sparta as it’s my favourite GoW game and the only one where I don’t actively dislike Kratos. As much as I love the series I really don’t like Kratos at all, the guy is a [DELETED].

He looks more like he’s David Jaffe’s kid haha, hmm…

Just curios, is this game going to be linear or open-world? Cause one of the devs said that this will be like a 30-hour game

9.1

It reminds me a lot of The Last of Us for some reason. So I think it’ll be lineair but giving the impression of a somewhat open playground. Personally I would’ve been ok with them just taking out the QTE’s as is isn’t so much of this time anymore for mostly anything but Quantic Dreams games :p I hope they can pull off that kind of thing in real time gameplay.

9.2

I’m pretty sure they said the game was not open world

10

God

11

cant wait

mrcobblecraft 27 March, 2018 @ 12:35
12

Nice

13

Corey Barlog (bless God of War 2) is completely wrong.

God of War didn’t need to change, it’s Sony Santa Monica which should have taken their responsibilities and dare to create a new franchise. But it was so much more convenient and opportunistic to piggyback on the success of a proven name.

Carnivius_Prime 21 April, 2018 @ 22:40
13.1

Turns out you were wrong. :D

Carnivius_Prime 12 April, 2018 @ 12:18
14

So…reviews have been rather positive. :)

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