Ask any God of War fan to describe Kratos, and you’ll get the same response: angry, vengeful, violent. Which is to say, he’s not a very good role model. He tears creatures limb from limb, likes shouting, and pretty much has two emotions: mad and livid.
But Santa Monica Studios is hoping to change that in God of War (a sequel to God of War 3), by breaking Kratos down and building him back up. Now, Kratos won’t just be angry, but vulnerable, too. Oh, and he’ll have to learn how to be a father (again) while living with the shame of his past misdeeds.
We still don’t know much about the new God of War, which we’ve seen very little of since its announcement last year. You probably already know that it looks nothing like the previous entries. And you probably already know that the tone is making a big shift, which not even God of War’s director Cory Barlog saw coming.
When Barlog and his team sat down to make the latest entry, things were different for them. For one, Barlog had a kid, opening up his perspective on things; two, the world of gaming world had changed, so it was important the game changed along with it.
It’s almost as if Barlog, his team, and the gaming world went through an existential crisis all at the same time. The game will still feature plenty of scale, big set pieces, and violent combat. But the newest entry will deliberately slow down and shift the tone to be much more dramatic and introspective.
“For characters to grow, they need to legitimately grow,” Barlog said. “You don’t want to keep hammering on the same notes.”
That doesn’t mean Kratos has gone soft, however, or that he’s any less angry than he was. He’s just in a time of transition. That’s also big reason why Barlog decided to shift from Greek mythology to Norse.
“This is a very big world, and it’s not just represented by giant boss fights,” Barlog explained. “There’s so much more to adventure than just that.”
By placing Krators in a brand new world, he’s suddenly a stranger in a strange land—Barlog described him as being the Terminator trying to understand how to high-five—which means he’ll need to rely on others in order to get by.
One such character will be his son Arteus, who Barlog says often acts as a liaison to those they come across, including that gigantic serpent seen at the end of the most recent gameplay trailer.
Arteus is also described by Barlog as being a positive influence on Kratos during their journey, showing him a new perspective on the world. All the while, Arteus will be seeking to earn the respect of Kratos, who, as you can imagine, finds it difficult to open up emotionally.
That’s a big part of the game’s focus. Kratos is trying to become a better person and father, but he’s haunted by his past. In other words, he’s the same character fans are familiar with, but he’s now much more complex—a far cry from the one dimensional rage machine in previous entries.
And if you’re worried Arteus will be a burden during the game, don’t be. He’s plenty capable of handling himself, as we saw in the most recent gameplay shown off at Sony’s E3 conference.
Barlog stressed that, despite the shift in tone, God of War will still feature violent combat and a grand scale. It’ll also be welcome to newcomers of the franchise, providing a backstory and context so people are caught up with Kratos’ complicated story.
In God of War, Kratos is a fallen, damaged figure. How we’ll see him grow remains to be seen, but it’s clear Barlog and his team are on the path to creating the series’ best and most layered entry yet.
God of War is scheduled for an early 2018 release.