So there’s speculation as to whether or not Sony is going to release another God of War game. I hope not.
Let me explain where I’m coming from for a second. Now I liked the original God of War. It was a modern interpretation of the formula of the Greek tragedy, spliced up with tons of unnecessary violence for today’s jaded video game playing man-children. It told the story of a kill crazy avatar of Ares named Kratos, who vowed to give his life to the god of war if he would save him from defeat. Kratos is eventually tricked by Ares into killing his family (tricked here means that Ares tells Kratos to kill a whole temple and Kratos blindly obeys). Already we have an established Greek tragedy trope, the hero is always punished for their actions, even if they were deceived or didn’t know better at the time. Then Kratos swears vengeance on Ares but only gets a chance to act on that vow when Ares decides to stop following the rules of the other gods, and so Athena gives Kratos the blessing to gather enough power to kill Ares. In the end Kratos is given the vacant seat for the god of war and we are shown he thus watched over mankind killing itself forever more.
It was a really good if rather silly story that hit all the right marks and had a very decent character arc. Kratos learned something about who he was, fought his own inner demons and reached a moment of apotheosis where he became an immortal god. So you can probably expect I was none to happy when sequels were made that they scrapped whatever character growth Kratos got, retconned the epilogue so it never happened, and turned Kratos back into an abusive asshole. An asshole who was so abusive that Zeus had to personally step in and strip Kratos of his godhood because he was doing such a horrible job of it.
Then everything goes down hill from there.
For the next two games Kratos is shown to have lost all semblance of depth and nuance and shows he posses the emotional maturity of a two year old throwing a perpetual tantrum. His entire motivation for the next to games is to get revenge on the entire Greek pantheon, even though all Zeus did was give him a just punishment for abusing his powers of being the god of war to just let the Spartans win every battle they fight. I mean I guess Zeus did trick him, but here tricking just means that Zeus tells Kratos to use a sword that will drain him of all his god powers, and then Kratos does it. So not only is Kratos’ motivation completely piss poor, but he literally has no one to blame for this situation but himself. The worst part is that God of War III shows us that killing the Greek gods ultimately destroys the world, and Kratos doesn’t even care. He literally does not have the intellectual or emotional capacity to think about anyone elses’ needs for a split second. All he cares about is getting revenge for a punishment he deserved.
In the first God of War Kratos was shown to be generally remorseful for his actions, and occasionally showed a glimmer of regret when people would run away screaming from him, calling him a monster. There were even a few scenes in that game were Kratos managed to go an entire conversation without decapitating anyone. Then in the second game after getting Prometheus to help him Kratos just kills the guy instead of releasing him. You’d think Kratos would show some sympathy or relate to another person who was on the receiving end of one of Zeus’ punishments, but nope. Kratos just kills the guy for no reason, and the game makes you do that.
Actually my favorite God of War game is the PSP spinoff Chains of Olympus. Mostly because Chains of Olympus is a prequel and therefore doesn’t have to retcon a perfectly good ending in order to exist. But also because it has one of the most heartbreaking moments in any video game ever. Near the end of Chains of Olympus Kratos comes to Elysium, the good part of the Greek underworld. There he is able to give up his vengeance, give up his curse, and live forever in Paradise with his daughter. Except that’s what the goddess Persephone wants. You see she got tired of being married to Hades and having to spend half of her life in the underworld, so she’s going to take vengeance of Zeus who put her in this position by releasing a Titan to destroy the world. Kratos is the only one who can stop her, but to do so he would have to give up everything he’s ever wanted, and become the monster known as the Ghost of Sparta all over again.
So he does.
And the game makes you do it. “Mash X to Push Your Daughter Away Forever”. They could have just shown that in a cut scene. But no, the most important character defining moment of the game happens in the gameplay, and I loved every second of it. For the first time in a long time, Kratos become a real character. Not some one dimensional mass murder, but an actual person capable of putting the needs of others ahead of his own wants.
Of course the Kratos in the God of War sequels, as I’ve demonstrated above, would never do that. He’s incapable of doing that. God of War II and III destroyed the character of Krators for me, they retconed all the growth and depth in favor of cashing in on a popular title. And people loved it. I’ve had so many people react with shock when I tell them that I hate God of War II. I bought the PS3 high definition pack and I returned it half way through the second game because I was so furious with it.
But at least God of War III brought real closure at last right? Kratos kills all the gods and destroys the world. You can’t continue a story set in a universe that’s destroyed. I mean you completely ruined the game already Sony, are you really going to do it again? Who am I kidding, of course you will, but that doesn’t mean we should like it.
Look obviously we can’t stop Sony from doing this, but we don’t have to support it. There’s this attitude amongst gamers that if you are a fan of something we have to support everything in it no matter what. That’s crap. We should celebrate the fact that BioWare has actually decided to end the Mass Effect franchise after three games, we don’t need a plethora of spin off crap exploring every minutia of background details from the games’ codex, doing so means you wind up with something like the Star Wars expanded universe and no one wants that. I know I said in my last post that I’ve bought every single major Assassin’s Creed release but that’s only because so far every game was good, every game contributed to the story and every game expanded the characters in some way. They didn’t have to retcon a perfectly good ending and destroy a compelling character to make a quick buck.
Hopefully this also just a bunch of meaningless speculation and nothing will come of it. Kratos is dead, greed and blindness to decent storytelling has reduced him to a joke, a cruel example of what happens when a fanboy’s relentless desire for more experiences overwhelms the desire for that experience to be good, or even meaingful. The Kratos in the first God of War and Chains of Olympus is a compelling character with a strong arc. Kratos in II and III is a monster who ruins every accomplishment in the titles preceding him, not just in the ruination of his character, but in his crowning achievements. The whole of the first game is built around getting enough power to kill one god, in III Kratos rips off Helio’s head because he needs a lantern. He may as well have jumped a jet ski over a shark.
I don’t want anything more to do with this series, and if you have any respect for artist integrity, neither should you.