After a number of leaks, Sony finally revealed what they have in mind for the new God of War at their 2016 E3 press conference. While I like to refer to the press conference as Sony’s “someday” presentation, we actually did get a pretty good look at the upcoming video game. With close to ten minutes of gameplay, Santa Monica Studios’ iconic action game formula was on full display. Despite some obvious evolutions, chief of which is a significant change in location, for better or worse, Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta is back.
If you remember, God of War III had a somewhat ambiguous ending, with Kratos trying to kill himself after finally satisfying his quest for vengeance. However, a post-credits scene shows a trail of blood leading away from the Blade of Olympus, implying his survival. It turns out that after all of that Greek mythology stuff, Kratos got a Ragnar Lothbrok makeover and decided to go Norse. The question is, that if Santa Monica Studios wanted to switch up the location, accompanying mythology, and narrative devices, why did they stick with their bloodthirsty Spartan?
According to the game’s director, Cory Barlog, in an interview with Gamespot, “…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.” Obviously, Sony looks at the character of Kratos as a brand, and that is supported by the cameo appearances he’s made in other games, and his ever-presence in various PlayStation marketing.
As an older gamer, Kratos just doesn’t hold that same relevance to me that other characters, like Mario, or even Sonic the Hedgehog do. As a matter of fact, I think it’s really only those that were introduced to gaming on the PlayStation 2 that have that soft spot for a fairly unlikable protagonist. From a more pragmatic standpoint, characters like Mario and Sonic are significantly more marketable than Kratos, just for the simple fact that they don’t rip their enemies’ heads off, or include sexual mini-games in their games.
Now, before you start accusing me of being prudish, and not appreciating more “mature” narratives, I will say I am a vocal advocate for more adult storytelling in video games. I would however argue, that gratuitous gore, and rhythm games to simulate sex are not really for adults. They’re there for teenage boys, adults have already seen plenty of that. There are some games that do present more mature issues, games like Bioshock, or The Last of Us.
Speaking of the Bioshock games, the three games in the series did a great job of changing protagonists while still maintaining a consistent theme. With a new system, and a change of scenery, God of War had the perfect opportunity to let Kratos go. Now, they have to shoehorn a Spartan, and the son of Zeus into a narrative based on Norse mythology. Along with trying to make the established character fight against his own nature, it just seems to me that a fresh start, with a new character would just make more sense.
Kratos isn’t Mario, and really, the God of War games don’t need him. I’d argue that Halo’s Master Chief is actually a more iconic gaming character, and my two favorite games in that series don’t even have him in them. At this point, I can’t help but feel that keeping him around is more of a hindrance, than help.
The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.
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