God Of War PS4 Almost Didn't Have One Of Its Best, Most Important Characters

The game could have worked without Atreus, but it would have been completely different.

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Sony's new God of War reboot for PlayStation 4 launches this week behind a glowing critical reception. Here at GameSpot, we thought one of the best parts of the game was the father-son dynamic between Kratos and Atreus. Reviewer Peter Brown said this dynamic "enhances combat and makes Kratos surprisingly relatable."

As it turns out, there was a point in the development where it was suggested that Atreus be cut from the game or have his role significantly scaled back. That's according to game director Cory Barlog, who told GameSpot that the game would have been possible without Atreus, but it would have been almost completely different. It would have felt like the Robert Redford movie All Is Lost about a man lost at sea.

"It would have been very different," Barlog said about if they went forward without Atreus. "The early phase when they told me, "Man, this might be too hard, too expensive, we're already looking at so many challenges, it's maybe too much." When I went back and said, "Alright, fine, if it was not with Atreus, what would it be?" And, it would have been a very, very different game? The comparison I made was, "Alright, it's gonna be All Is Lost with Robert Redford'; it's gonna be one character who talks to himself occasionally, but generally, it will be very silent and everyone will talk in old Norse, so that you won't understand anything anybody's saying."

Atreus in the new God of War
Atreus in the new God of War

Presented with this scenario, the higher-ups at Sony gave Barlog the freedom to move forward with Atreus, despite whatever extra cost it might incur.

"I think that threat was enough for them to go, 'Okay, we'll take on Atreus.' So, it was kind of the creative director, passive aggressive, 'Oh, yeah? Well, we'll take all the toys away.'"

Lead level designer Rob Davis added that having Atreus in the mix opens up significant gameplay and storytelling opportunities that might not otherwise be possible. You might think that Kratos being the biggest badass in the world would provide enough opportunities for cool gameplay and storytelling, and that may be true, but Atreus adds an interesting element of his own.

"Actually like having Atreus be an expert in Norse language and mythology is awesome because you can do a whole other set of design based on what Atreus is an expert in, that Kratos is sort of not," Davis said. "And then you get a bit of an odd couple relationship. You know, Buzz Lightyear's good at one thing, Woody's good at another thing. So, that's the foundation of a sort of odd couple."

Further still, Kratos and Atreus are in a foreign land--Scandinavia. This allowed the developers to establish a third pillar of intrigue.

"You can do a third setup where neither of them really understand what's going on and then you get cool story telling level design and puzzles and exploration intersecting because they're discussing the thing they have to work out together," Davis added. "They end up kind of with things Kratos is really an expert in, things the son is kind of an expert in, and things neither of them are an expert in. And then, when you can write to that, goal to that, design to that, that's where I think you have a new peanut butter and chocolate between Kratos and Atreus, but it didn't exist before."

And regarding the character development that Kratos has gone through, Barlog said people think they know who he is. But he wanted to circumvent expectations and show the audience that no one--a God of War or a person like you or me--can be boiled down to one thing.

"I had just had my son, at the start of this game, and I was kind of looking at it like 'Oh, wow, how much of myself do I wanna show here.'" -- Barlog

"And, I thought, alright, creatively, the best challenge I could ever take on is to actually make people reach the end of this game and go, 'I either feel bad, I feel connected, or I felt like that moment was specifically related to me, or I have gone through that same thing.'" Barlog said about making Kratos relatable. "If I could achieve that, with a character that everybody thought, 'Whatever, he's just a guy that, in a cinematic, goes to kill people,' now that's an amazing thing."

Another factor at play here is that Barlog had a son at the start of the new God of War's development--and this impacted how he thought of writing Kratos.

"I had just had my son, at the start of this game, and I was kind of looking at it like 'Oh, wow, how much of myself do I wanna show here.'" How much of my faults do I want the mask and cover up and how many of the dumb things that I've doe in my life do I wanna prevent him from doing? And, it's like, wow, that's Kratos, that's Kratos to a T--he has made the worst decision in his life, but be able to actually, earnestly, be a parent."

If Kratos was merely a soldier who went to war and came home to see his son, this wouldn't have the same emotional resonance than if he had to deal with his demons at home.

"It's kind of like, put him in a situation where he has no choice but to deal with it," Barlog said. "And, in this game, he'd been trying to avoid it, even though he wants to figure this out, he'd been avoiding it for so long, the beginning of this game is all about forcing him into that situation. Honestly, for me, that's the most perfect dramatic ground to play in."

We'll have our full interview with Barlog and Davis going up soon. Keep checking back for more. For now, you can check out GameSpot's recent God of War stories below.

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Avatar image for wendopolis_bruh
Wendopolis_Bruh

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The Last of Us: God of War with a hint of Thor

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videogameninja

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Edited By videogameninja

It's funny but before the lead up to the release of the game (or at least the reviews anyway.) many were hoping Santa Monica would have done just that.

I know this may be a somewhat controversial thing to say but I'm glad they didn't scrap the father-son dynamic. While previous God of War entries were great in their own right they painted Kratos as a rather "1 tune" type of character. I know for many out there(especially long-time fans.) that's all he needed to be but when you are trying to create change to a character and a franchise that some felt needed an overhaul you don't just change a tiny thing and call it quits.

A part of me can’t help but think that Santa Monica’s decision to go along a more “linear” and story driven path was also in part to explore areas of Kratos’ personality that before previously would not have been so easily accessible with a more traditional “hack n slash” approach. In that sense the placement of his Son is also another integral factor to help boost this effect and show different layers to an otherwise “closed-off” figure in the form of Kratos.

I know the comparisons will be made to Ellie and Joel from The Last of Us (and rightfully so.) but it's in a paradigm like that that the other character in question (Ellie/Kratos' son.) can help other aspects that may have been closed off in the other character (Joel/Kratos.) emerge.

Once again, I know for old-school hardcore fans of the series that opinion may border on blasphemous but from the reviews already littering the gaming community it would sound like that approach has paid off big time for a series some where afraid was going the way of the rest of the Greek gods.

-GOD OF CHANGE NINJA APPROVED-

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Staryoshi87

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Edited By Staryoshi87

I'll be waiting for a significant discount before I grab this. Really dislike the idea of playing God of Single Parenting. I'm sure it's executed well, but that's not the experience I want from God of War. (Love the switch to Norse mythology, though)

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RContini

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@Staryoshi87: i'm sad for you. this is one of the best decisions I've seen in gaming for a long long time and this is still more action packed and violent than virtually any game, but now it has great depth as well. .

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LiveDreamPlay

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Edited By LiveDreamPlay

@Staryoshi87: But you liked the previous installments, God of Pointless Struggle and God of Random Rage? xD

No but really, reducing such a game to just the fact that he's a single father is pretty dumb. Just like saying that you don't want to play Witcher 3 Nanny Hunt, just because during the game he struggles to keep a girl safe.

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Wendopolis_Bruh

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@Staryoshi87: This was the only way they could bite off the success of The Last of Us (or Bioshock: Infinite) and validate it for a winning strategy.

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dkidfrmdbx

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@Staryoshi87: You may have to wait 2 years before the game is discounted. Either way the game looks great, i'd encourage you to reconsider. The game, story, and scale are shaping up to be something the community will talk about for a long time. Based on the reviews and gameplay we've seen, the game is going to be epic.

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aross2004

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@dkidfrmdbx: No game takes 2 years to get discounted.

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dkidfrmdbx

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@aross2004: staryoshi said he would wait for a "significant discount." I assumed that would at least be half price. Within a year there should be sales for GOW at 40-50, but i don't see it going below that for at least two years.

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aross2004

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Edited By aross2004

@dkidfrmdbx: By the time 2018 Black Friday hits, should easily be able to find deals in the $30 range.

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jellyhillcrab

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For those that watched the clip, you don't "fire" a bow, you shoot a bow.

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LiveDreamPlay

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Queue the people that will say it would've been better without him even though they didn't play the game yet...

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GustavoVR11

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Edited By GustavoVR11

It'd have been better without him in my opinion, but since Sony did stick with him, they should've tried to adapt the game to a coop as well

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Genji_Shimada

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The story would have been better without him.

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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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@genji_shimada: Would it? You already beat it? That’s pretty impressive considering it’s not even out yet...

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Genji_Shimada

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Edited By Genji_Shimada

@frosty988: Ichi mou shuu-o hiku!

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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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@genji_shimada: You’re weird.

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Snight01

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cory barlog can do no wrong, sony fired him after god of war 2. the best one in the series. They brought him back and he made god of war awesome again.

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