Feature Article

God of War PS4 Director on the Challenge of Making People Take Kratos Seriously

Plus, how leaks impacted the development team.

After multiple leaks, Sony Santa Monica finally revealed a new God of War game for PS4, but what we saw was a far cry from what we expected. The newest entry in the series makes a number of departures from its tried and true formula, most notably by adding a companion character for Kratos.

The introduction of Kratos's son is indicative of a shift in tone, an attempt to reframe the character as a father trying to guide his son away from making the same mistakes he did. This, director Cory Barlog admits, is a challenge, particularly given the character's history as a brutish, bloodthirsty slayer of gods.

We discussed this, and more, with Barlog during a quick interview at E3 2016. For more on the game, check out GameSpot's feature about everything you missed from the God of War PS4 trailer.

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You must be really excited about finally showing the game.

Yes, I'm riding high on being able to talk about this, but also last night [Sony's press conference] was amazing.

We'd seen concept art for something rumoured to be a new God of War through leaks, and yet what was shown was still so far off what we expected. Did you feel confident that people wouldn't see your reimagined God of War coming?

I would love to say I was confident, but I think there were many moments of doubt and fear. I don't know if anybody noticed since but that Shinobi602 guy [that leaked the announcement] had actually said "to the halls of Valhalla, my boy," but nobody picked up on that thank god because I was really worried that would get out there early.

It's never fun to have that stuff leak out. The biggest thing is that it's work-in-progress stuff, which we would pass around and say, "That's not approved, that's not good." That character [that leaked] wasn't representative of anything anywhere near what our artist did on [new] Kratos. Seeing that version out there was very tough. At the end we knew we'd be able to show him.

People kind of felt that Ascension would be the last time we see Kratos, even more so when the Norse mythology theme was leaked. Why did you bring him back?

Personally I find it an interesting challenge as a storyteller to take a character that you've taken very close to the darkest of dark sides, then see if you can pull that character back. Kratos is someone that has repeatedly made the wrong choices, but what happens if he makes other choices? In the beginning there was some talk about not bringing back Kratos, and maybe we should look at other protagonists. But then look at Mario, nobody on the internet is saying, "Another Mario game with Mario? C'mon guys." Kratos is intrinsically tied to the brand and the world. The idea of this immortal tragic figure being forced to walk the Earth forever as his punishment.

It's like the punishment of Vic Maccy at the end The Shield. I'm going to spoil that. Killing Maccy would have been a mistake, but putting him behind a desk was amazing. That took the essence of the character and put him in the most torturous position, with his gun hanging over there and him behind a desk with a suit. This is a similar thing, but instead of torturing Kratos we're putting him in a situation where he has to constantly fight the nature that he let loose so freely in the greek era.

One of the challenges you now face, after multiple games of this guy brutally killing everything is getting players to take him seriously when he's being sincere. All they've seen is Hulk, so when you bring out Bruce Banner, it's a weird turn.

Yes, we want to show you don't have Banner without Hulk and you don't have Hulk without Banner. The god and the human side coexist within him and he let out that rage for a long period of time, but we're trying to find the motivation to change within him, and actually get people along for the ride for that change. It's like Arrow Season 1 and Season 2, from brutal killer to struggling in situations where he's being forced to kill.

Deliberately, I went for that Buffy Dawn reveal; one day everyone was calling Dawn "sister" and they didn't explain it was a spell for like three episodes. I like that--enter the scene late and get people in, pull the bandaid off quickly and put him into situation where you see him struggle. He gets upset, but pulls it back, he doesn't let the kid get in the fray, but then gives him an opportunity and the kid screws up. It's all anchored in real human experiences we've had. Probably not fighting trolls or shooting lightning but my dad was holding a piece of wood and a nail and I hit him on the hand with the hammer. It was the same thing where I was like, "Oh man, sorry," and he was all, "Don't say anything."

To what extent does Kratos's son factor into gameplay?

We aren't doing precise finite control. You don't ever have control over the movement of the kid. He finds his own way, he splits the battlefield and focuses on specific things, as you upgrade him he gets better and will do things automatically. But there's a specific button dedicated to the kid and in combination with the free-look camera, he will attack wherever you're looking. So that guy approaching you, he can fire a couple of lightning arrows on your command. Other times he'll fire them just to split the battlefield and keep the combat going. Sometimes he can get overwhelmed, as there's other enemies that will specifically target him. He's like magic, an additional combat resource, and you're training him and teaching him.

You're training him to be a warrior like you?

Not like you. Kratos is teaching him how to survive. This time period is very much away from the Viking stuff. There's migration before them, and pre-migration before that. We're at pre-migration, in Scandinavia it was a very barren time when it was said the Norse Gods wandered the earth. The Vikings always talked about, "The gods have abandoned us," and the gods not being around, even though they thought Thor, Odin, and Loki walked the Earth. They did walk the Earth, but they just pre-dated them.

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Avatar image for sa18

i dint like it! what a shame!

Avatar image for Etagloc

why can't he just be a "brutal killer" the GOD of war games had their own charm.

I fail to see the importance in makeing him a character that you can relate to. Kratos was an amazing character in his own way.

Kratos was an amazing antihero.

Avatar image for MrStarkiller

@akassassin11: >GOW

What's all this about Gears?

>rip on GoWIII

It had issues, but it wasn't worth trashing. CoO was the worst at the time, but was still good (just basic, boring, etc. for repeat playthroughs *too simple, bare bones, etc.*).


Ascension cannot get enough shit piled on it. This entry will be shit on for a different reason. Even getting what they're going for nailed won't help, as it isn't GoW gameplay (not its take on HnS *which is the core of a video game's identity*). Changing to Norse, this father-son humanizing business, etc. are small annoyances by comparison. Ascension screwed up with MP being forced (watering down the SP to keep one engine and taking resources from it *allowing a glitchy mess of bad balancing and design to get through*).

Was it a 'good' HnS? It was okay. Good GoW? No. It was so bad it split our community (even vets lost the will to play even the older games for a long while *and none of us want to return to work on GoW:A*). That's just how poorly received that title was. And this new one? The story can be great and its brand of TLoU/Tomb Raider gameplay can be well received while the entry is still a failure in turning away form its original identity on that front.

>people cry about Kratos

Vocal minority. And it doesn't matter. Story, character, etc. That crap isn't on the level of gameplay (which is king).

>if you didn't enjoy GoWIII

GoWIII wasn't the title just before GoW:A. GoS was. And GoW:A is what drove fans away. Not GoS. Executive meddling forced the series into decline. This bastardizes its identity entirely (something even the most negative among us didn't begin to imagine as a possibility).

Avatar image for MrStarkiller

@akassassin11: >casual in 30's

Wouldn't be alone in that regard. However, it isn't too late for you.

>paid $20

So long as none of that reaches SSM, that's fine.

>enjoyed the MP

You enjoyed not-GoW more than bastardized GoW? Noted.


Gears again? We've been over this.

>don't know what GoS is

Safe to assume it isn't part of your (limited) run history, then.


No GoW entries exist for it (something to be grateful about).

>not sure

Think it over.

>every little thing

Entirely changing the gameplay identity (HnS to TLoU trash) is in no way a 'small' matter, you see. That could account for quite a bit regarding this title. As for GoW:A, I can help bring you up to speed with all that you don't understand. The best way to do this is to teach you about GoW at large before making you suffer through GoW:A. How about it? Do you really want to understand the fanbase's disdain? If so, I can help. Through me, you'll gain a deeper appreciation of the series (getting more value out of a given entry as such). Granted, there will be almost no transferable knowledge in terms of play between GoW proper and this new entry.

>brings you down

So easily moved, are you?

>heavily-skill based

Yeah. We'll go with that.

>it would be

Except they cannot both hold the claim to correct grammar. Gears came second, so it gets the sloppy stuff (alternatively, "Gears" suffices).

Avatar image for hermitkiller

It's time to pop the big question; when is the pc version coming out?

Avatar image for wanderingknight

@hermitkiller: When Sony gets bought by Microsoft.

Avatar image for sonypony4eva

@wanderingknight: LOL

Avatar image for RogerioFM

The Buffy inspiration worries me. But so far, it seems like an interesting depart. Still, the 'one on one' kind of camera perspective seems like a huge gamble, I hope it pays off, but I'm not sure how people will accept it.

Avatar image for demonsemen

The story is dumb. All that matters is that we are slaying monsters.

Avatar image for Auth

So glad we are not playing the kid!

Avatar image for edwardnygma

This looks awesome. Can't wait.

Avatar image for VampireLord123

It makes me wonder if Kratos son is actually one of the norse gods, he could be Odin owed to the fact that to some extent is considered a god of war, and his son therefore being Thor. It would be kinda cool if his son at some point grabs a hammer and starts pounding enemies.

Avatar image for youre_a_sheep

I never asked for Kratos to be redeemed. I would have welcomed a game where you are a new protagonist who actually dispatches him. Remember the barbarian who sought revenge on Kratos in GoW II only to fail again? Say he was a Norse warrior whose great destiny was ruined by Ares' intervention. The Norse gods send in a new champion to defeat Kratos with the promise of being made their god of war for succeeding, there's your new series.

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@youre_a_sheep: I'm just curious to see HOW the world still exist. After the Gods died the world was in a shitty state, storms, floods, the world practically ended.

Avatar image for RSM-HQ

@RogerioFM: Actually in the ending Athena states humans survived. And as it went on a power dubbed 'Hope' that was stronger than all the Gods put together was given to the world and the survivors.

I know the GoWIII ending is old, but know your shit dood lol.

Avatar image for Isamu_36

But Kratos already killed Tyr and Odin in GOW I and II when he slayed Ares and Zeus.

Everyone knows that the Norse pantheon correlates to the Greek-Latin, so there are no more Western politheistic gods left to kill. Only the MONAD remains.

Avatar image for chad28_69

@Isamu_36: I heard Norse Gods could correspond to Hindu deities, never heard of the greek correspondence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesir-Asura_correspondence

Avatar image for Isamu_36

@chad28_69: Several of them correlate because most of the Indo-European religions have the same origin; whether they are monotheistic or politheistic.

Cronus: father of the royal gods.
Odin: father of the royal gods.
Thor: god of lightning; son of Odin.
Zeus/Jupiter: god of lightning; son of Cronus.
Loki: god of verse and tricks.
Hermes: god of messages and tricks.
Frej and Freija: sibling gods, children of Njörðr [Frej is solar and masculine: virility and passive intelligence, Freja is lunar and feminine: fertility and active intelligence].
Apollo and Arthemis: sibling gods, children of Zeus [Apollo is solar and masculine, Arthemis is lunar and feminine].

Sometimes the godly names change but their type, associations and role don't.

The names of the days show their correlation better:

Sunday: day of the Sun [the first astrological house or Origin (masculine)] = Domingo [the day of Domus (house in Latin).]
Monday: day of the Moon [the second astrological house or Origin (feminine) = Lunes: day of Luna [the moon titan].

Tuesday: day of Tyr [god of war] = Martes: day of Mars [god of war].

Wednesday: day of Wodan [the Jack of gods] = Miércoles: day of Mercury [the Jack of gods].

Thursday: day of Thor [god of lightning and the sky] = Jueves: day of Jupiter [god of lightning and the sky].

Friday: day of Freyja [goddess of fertility and love] = Viernes: day of Venus [goddess of love and fertility].

Saturday: day of Saturn [god of death] = Sábado: day of Saturn [god of death].

Avatar image for chad28_69

@Isamu_36: oh cool thank you for this.

Avatar image for desertox1985

I am a huge god of war fan but after this trailer, I was quiet disappointed. The combat and gameplay is what made GOW EPIC. The combat in this game is slow and most importantly, he was an anti-hero in the previous GOWs. Why are they trying to make him into a HERO? I like him being a complete ASSHOLE.

Avatar image for wanderingknight

@desertox1985: idk, I thought the combat in GoW was a little too button mashy, I'm hoping for a little more strategy. However the scaling camera is till there. Hopefully they take a page from Bloodborne and make the combat fast but requiring skill.

Avatar image for umehaha

@desertox1985: life is totally different when a man has kids~lol

Avatar image for wendopolis_bruh

@desertox1985: I can see your point. He was definitely at his best while he was an asshole, and I think at this point, it would be hard to justify him acting like that anymore. I kind of like the slower action because at this point, he's old. It pretty much looks like God of War: The Last of Us edition LOL

Avatar image for mjr5304

I really really enjoyed all the God of War games... this new direction could have been called something completely different... and take away the red and ash from Kratos face and no one would know. Still looks bad azz and given the studio will score well and sell well... and I know plenty have said this but Charlie?!?!? Seriously?...

Avatar image for santinegrete

Well, God Hand made made brawling in that perspective work, so I have faith that this game could have enjoyable working combat. It certainly looks interesting overall.

Avatar image for RussellMartin

Love this series and this looks great! Although, killing that Elk was, well, I wanted to save it... Kill trolls and demons all day, but the Elk? 🙁

I'll be playing this game though!

Avatar image for deactivated-5938196c2bbcb

Man, having Kratos face the Norse pantheon and mythology next certainly sounds like an interesting premise. Kratos against a Jotun anyone? C'mon, it could be seen from a mile away...

Avatar image for skr3wdriv3n

DERRRRRP black guys voice for a viking.

Avatar image for deactivated-57bcc1891a93a

@skr3wdriv3n: /slap

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@skr3wdriv3n: God of Homies.

Avatar image for RSM-HQ

@skr3wdriv3n: Has Spartan Rage, yet you think he's a legit born Viking. . .


Avatar image for skr3wdriv3n

@RSM-HQ: Black guys voice for a Spartan equally DEERRRRRPPPPP

Avatar image for RSM-HQ

@skr3wdriv3n: You don't read a lot of history do you, know anything about the Hebrew Israelites in Rome and throughout Greece? Nope, didn't think so. Stay in school.


Avatar image for jules__badguy

@skr3wdriv3n: LOL anyone giving a **** about that is an idiot.

Avatar image for Boddicker

I'll reserve judgement on the kid, but what really worries me is the over the shoulder camera angle. If I'm fighting a bunch of baddies I won't know what's behind me.

Avatar image for datriax

Long day at work? Time to relax after parenting for the evening after that long day at work? Then load up some God of War, and continue parenting for another few hours. Yes, the evolution of gaming as we know it. Where we try to escape real life, by jumping right back into things that we deal with on a constant basis.

In stores Spring 2017. Reserve your copy of God of War: Family Man today!

Avatar image for Isamu_36

@datriax: Then don't have kids.

I don't.

This is the best Kratos so far in the series; a human being instead of the caricature of a man self-indulged in constant rage realization for the lone purpose of phallic sublimation.

Avatar image for Isamu_36

@akassassin11: Sometimes, complications make things more interesting.