God Of War Marks A Strange New Beginning For Kratos

Sony couldn’t have found a better way to kick off its E3 press conference than with the return of Kratos. For several years now, the team at Santa Monica Studios has been working to reimagine God of War for PlayStation 4 and last night we caught our very first glimpse of what this meant. In short, it looks absolutely incredibly, standing shoulder to shoulder with Uncharted 4, Horizon, and a growing stable of visually astounding games exclusive to the platform.

Beneath that veil lies a game remarkably different from its predecessors. Up until now, God of War has built itself on combo-busting brawls and boss fights on a titanic scale. From what we’ve seen of the sequel, however, it’s far more measured in its approach and, dare we say, a bit toned down.

Somehow, after the constant death and betrayal of the Greek pantheon, Kratos finds himself in a completely new paradigm. We’re not given any indication as to how many years have gone by or where this sequel actually takes place, though his surroundings echo the frozen reaches of the viking realm. Having felled every deity he ever crossed paths with, Kratos had seemingly destroyed the world around him. Perhaps this is Kratos hundreds of years later, with the world renewed and teeming with life once more?

Either way, the new God of War looks to take a similarly drastic change in direction with its characters and story-telling. At the very beginning of the stage demo we’re introduced to Kratos’s son, the two of them trekking through the snow-covered forests.

Whether by design or an unfinished script, interactions between the two seem awkward and stiff. It’s strangely redolent of relationship between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us, yet there’s a key difference. Kratos still carries the burden of godhood, not to mention the deaths of his wife and daughter among the thousands he’s slain. Since birth, he’s been forged into nothing more than a weapon, a vessel of the Gods he used to serve. Even now, amidst biting winds and snow-covered mountains, there’s a burning rage he fights to suppress.

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As Sony Santa Monica’s Cory Barlog explains, this inner struggle is key to the unfolding narrative. In the demo we see Kratos attempt to diffuse his anger on several occasions, something God of War fans simply aren’t used to. Looking back at previous games, almost every line of dialogue is yelled, barked, or somehow drenched in fury, but here he desperately tries to reign himself in, so he can tutor his son in the art of hunting.

In a way, this carries through into gameplay. Although not indicative of the full game, the demo shows Kratos going head-to-head against one or two opponents at a time, and the over the shoulder third person view accentuates the shift away from massive battles of earlier instalments. Additionally, he comes with a magical axe in hand, in lieu of blades on chains to swing around him in a whrilwind of death. His penchant for over-the-top violence has also been dialled down. Instead of tearing limbs and spraying viscera, kills are carried out in a very matter-of-fact way with nothing too excessive or gory.

Despite enjoying a welcome return to the PlayStation family, God of War is shrouded by an air of unfamiliarity. Seeing Kratos in such a different light is a little disjointed, though not enough to dispel my overall excitement for the sequel.

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

19 Comments

  1. Looks like the plot of this is already leading up to a sequel with a new protagonist… Son of War

    • Please no, Son of war sounds so awful to even say it out loud lol

  2. I felt the same way after watching the e3 trailer.

    God of War is one of my favourite game franchises and after six games with old Kratos, new Kratos feels too different from the character he was in the previous games.

    Maybe it works in the full game but I wasn’t convinced after watching the trailer. It looks incredible there’s no doubt about that but I would have been happier if they had left Kratos behind and gone with a new protagonist. Kratos story was done and this was a chance to start over. Having Kratos come back for a seventh game feels too contrived for my liking but I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

    • First of all, sorry for my bad english.
      They couldn’t just leave kratos and start with a new character, don’t forget that people came to love kratos, when you tink about god of war you tink about kratos, a god of war kratos wouldn’t be the same without him… I may be talking trash, but there might also be a lot more people that want kratos back than a new character, even even if it feels diferent… my point is: even with that f**ked up cliff hanger at gow 3 that should have ended kratos story for good, they had to bring him back,kratos is the game, kratos is what made the franchise what it is today , i believe they did the right choice.

  3. I feel like maybe this is a flashback what they should us, the boy is grown up now & something has happened to Kratos & he’s out to save him. Probably Kratos is not the main character but in the demo they give you that thought of thinking he’s the main character.

    • Showed us*

    • Some info posted in neogaf…
      Sony Santa Moncia confirmed the following on YouTube :

      – Kratos is the main character, play as him all game
      – Not open world game
      – Norse mythology timeline
      – coming out…”soon”, definitely not a 2016 game

  4. It is nice to see Kratos is actualy capable of erm… not being a massive angry ball of muscle that murders everything in sight then murders everything that gets in his way. I could see Kratos being a minor character in this with the Boy taking over. Or Kratos is literally the God of War(again) and decided to take back his job after the end of three. Which kinda makes the ending to GOW1 canon again.

    I like the slower pace and feels natural. Granted, GOW is over the top epic battles that throw numbers at you but i think everyone should give this GOW a chance. That and people were starting to get tired of Kratos: A true Murder Simulator.

    It seems to now be Kratos: The Last Spartan.

    Yes, you can boo me. But no Boourns. Because Simpsons did it.

  5. I like the new over-the-shoulder perspective, i’ve seen complaints about the last few games not being as good as the previous ones – although i’ve enjoyed all of them up to GoW3 but wasn’t as enthused about Ascension. So this could be the injection the franchise needs. I also think we have a lot more to discover about it yet, given that that looked to be an early/intro sequence from the game.

  6. The last of krat-os?

    • Go and face the wall. You know what you did.

      Shame on you.

      Shame.

      *judges very harshly whilst drinking a cuppa* :P

      • I regret nothing :D

      • Get back in the corner! You know what you did! Don’t make me expose you to the Beiber! And RIDE TO HELL:RETRIBUTION! Because i will do that.

  7. I think it looks good, people were perhaps a bit fatigued with how it was in Ascension and it was more of the same…im guessing hes supposed to be retired now? i liked the slower pace and new perspective. maybe they’ll still dial up certain portions but have overall different pace.

  8. I cannot believe the nay-saying I hear from commenters around the web. The old Kratos was ridiculously angry but the new one looks interesting. Why would people prefer ridiculousness over interestingness…

    • Pfft, he had nothing compared to Asura of Asura’s Wrath. Dude was literally powered by his own anger.

      I didn’t mind Kratos being a colossal murdering dick that shouteda lot as his tale was rather simple. Got betrayed. Revenge. Got betrayed again(Admittly, he brought it on himself with his warmongering), revenge. an entire game of revenge. And a lot of spin offs that i care too little to invest in.

      The new Kratos is going to be interesting. Hell, the trailer show more emotion from Kratos then the entire trilogy did! Probably 2-3 minutes of no stabby stab, roar roar in the entire trilogy.

    • Because interesting games with heavy narratives already exist. Not everything has to fit the trend of being an emotionally affecting journey. Sometimes you just want to pull apart a wave of nasties with style and fury, in increasingly more epic backdrops.

      As it is, it looks like they have created a new IP and stuck a familiar character in to drive sales.

    • For me, it isn’t that Kratos is so different to the Kratos we played in the original games, it’s that he’s SO different that they could have created a new character with a completely new story. I’d be more excited about that prospect. Something new instead of an old character who’s story already feels complete.

      That Kratos could completely change character after 6 games feels a little forced to me. Maybe they thought a God of War game with a new character wouldn’t sell as well, I don’t know. Hell, maybe it works just fine in the final game. It just felt a bit odd to me. Like if the next Bond movie was about how Bond decided he wanted to be a pre-school teaching assistant and part time nail technician instead of a Secret Service agent.

      I thought the trailer looked incredible, I just wasn’t expecting Kratos again.

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