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The original God of War redefined an entire genre of gaming. From tormented beginnings to Olympus-destroying endings, players carved bloody paths with Kratos. With the annihilation of the Greek gods, Kratos’ journey seemed finally at an end. Or so we thought.
From God of War to Weary Father
When we last saw Kratos, he stood at the edge of a cliff. His duty completed, Kratos jumped into the raging waters below. After years of bloodshed, anger, manipulation, deceit, death, death, and more death, Kratos could finally end his life in peace.
It didn’t stick.
As can be seen from the trailers, Kratos survived his supposedly-final brush with death. Not only that, he now has a son, Atreus. What happened between the end of God of War 3 and the new trailers is up for much speculation, but one thing is clear: things have changed. Gone is the rage-fueled death machine gamers knew. In his place a stern, reserved, critical but well-intentioned father takes the stand. As his interactions with Atreus show, Kratos has matured from the vengeful being he once was. At the same time, he has lost his ability to connect to his humanity. The developers have stated that this new God of War means to explore the dichotomy of a person trying to reconnect with their humanity after a lifetime of bloodshed. The interactions between Kratos and Atreus will therefore take center stage.
A Shift to Storytelling
The God of War stories have always had a simple storyline. Kratos, trying to atone for his accidental murder of his family, serves the Greek Gods in hopes that they might cure him of his nightmares. They don’t. Instead, they each take their turn manipulating him, then try to kill him when they fear his growing power. End result: everyone dies. Now, while that may be an oversimplification, the fact of the matter remains that each game can be summed up as “’x’ god slighted Kratos, he tries to kill them”. The developers specifically wanted to shy away from that plotline. Even though the setting has been changed to the Nordic regions, Kratos’ mission will not just be to kill all the Nordic gods (though admittedly, Kratos versus Thor sounds too good to pass up).
As the developers stated in their Game Informer interview, fans have matured. With a focus on narrative-driven stories, games need to mature as well. God of War makes no exception. As Cory Barlog, creative director stated, “The idea of the vengeance tale is over…the more interesting direction is to take someone who is believed to not be redeemable and take them to a point where you root for them.”
Kratos, even after his fall into depravity, remained loyal to his love for his slain family. His interactions with his daughter in the underworld showed how much Kratos loved her. In contrast, the trailers show a much harsher father to his son. While he means well, the events of the prior God of War titles took a toll on the demi-god. The man who used to affectionately care for his daughter now harshly scolds his son for small mistakes. Yet at the same time, he tries his hardest to remain calm and guide his son instead of flying into a rage.
This idea of switching to a narrative focus shows up in gameplay as well. God of War fans may remember the series’ use of flashy combos to earn high ranks. The story lent validity to the rank system. Kratos, a brutal agent of vengeance, would thus tear his enemies to shreds. As shown in the new trailers, the combat does not seem to revolve around ranks. Kratos keeps his battle prowess but no longer revels in the carnage that previous titles allowed. The trailers focus instead on his bond with Atreus. Gamers can expect a much more meaningful and deeper story this time around.
The Family That Slays Together
From what the latest trailer has shown, Kratos and Atreus reveal part of their journey.
As per his mother’s wish, Kratos and Atreus journey to bury her ashes. Along the way, Kratos must deal with raising Atreus alone, a fact compounded by his secret divinity slowly revealing itself. In terms of gameplay, Atreus tags along as a companion AI that helps Kratos in battle. The developers have stressed, repeatedly, that Atreus will not play as some prolonged escort mission. His utility in combat acts as an extension of Kratos. While Kratos whales away at an enemy, the player can command Atreus to either help attack, or attack a different enemy. His attacks are weak, but they build up a stun meter. By the time the player finishes their first enemy, Atreus will have built up the other’s stun meter to allow for quick disposal.
This does not mean the player gets a free ride. Relying too much on Atreus may result in the boy getting overwhelmed and knocked out. Yet, groups of enemies will need distracting, so as to allow the player breathing room. This balancing act of stratagems comes as a new feature to the game. No more flurry combos and button-mashing enemies to victory. The player will need to rely on their wits and smart use of Atreus to make it out alive.
Along with his normal attacks, there may be the possibility of Atreus gaining divine powers as well. In the trailer, much trouble is made of the divine side of Atreus fighting within himself, though he remains unaware. This could open the option to a wide array of possibilities. Merely keeping Atreus with his bow and arrow would dampen the potential available. Even just adding more things he can do to enemies would add to his growth, both in-story and out.
A Fresh Start
The new God of War offers many things. Gamers will get to see a new side of Kratos in a new setting. His slow bond with his son and the ghosts of his pasts coming to haunt him will keep the player wondering how everything will play out. Come April 20th, we’ll once again step into the shoes of the infamous God Killer.
Be sure to check out the early release of God of War! Looking for more fun games to play? Take a look at our video game reviews on Word of the Nerd!