Kratos and Atreus: It’s All in the Family

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Kratos and Atreus: It’s All in the Family

God of War creative director Cory Barlog reveals the unlikely evolution of Kratos and the importance of Atreus.

“Look, Kratos needed to change.”

Creative director Cory Barlog has a deep history with God of War. He served as art director on the original 2005 game, then as creative director for its acclaimed sequel. He even wrote Ghost of Sparta, the well-regarded PSP game developed by Ready At Dawn.

Living with Kratos for so many years gave Barlog a deep perspective on the character and his motivations. “We intentionally made him loathed, an antihero. Now we’re trying to make him a character you care about.”

But how? Barlog knew fans wouldn’t buy into a sudden tonal shift for the character. “It’s hard to believe somebody who’s a bad guy suddenly wants to change. You need a reason.”

That reason, Barlog reckoned, was family. By tasking Kratos with responsibility for another life, a more nuanced, sympathetic character could gradually emerge — thus multiplying the dramatic potential.

God of War

Enter Atreus, Kratos’s son and in-game companion. “Atreus is the mirror that shines on Kratos that makes him realize that he needs to change…. Atreus will pull the humanity out. Kratos will be shown his own humanity, and he’ll figure out how to embrace it.”

Barlog was adamant that Atreus always be a benefit to the player, never a detriment. “It is not an escort mission. You never have to take care of him.”

Crafting an effective companion took an enormous group effort, and plenty of research. “We looked at everything,” Gameplay Engineering Lead Jeet Shroff explained. “For me personally, Elizabeth [Bioshock Infinite] and Ellie [The Last of Us] stood out as areas of inspiration.”

“We were cautious about what it would mean to introduce a companion character to a game of this scale,” Shroff elaborated. “Atreus will never steal a kill from you… he will always complement what you are doing.”

God of War

Barlog is fully aware that some players may view Atreus with skepticism. “There are times when [kids] can be a little annoying. Then they start to endear themselves to you.”

“Players in the playtests… they come in saying they hate children, this kid is such an annoyance, I don’t want him.”

“Halfway through, they say ‘he’s alright.’ All the way at end, they say ‘I really wanted to hate this kid, but he’s my favorite character in the game.’”

Indeed, based on my recent hands-on time with the game, Kratos’s son Atreus stood out as one of the game’s best new elements. His quips and arrows land with equal impact, and he never comes off as a burden or a chore. He points out secrets, proactively disables enemies, and remarks on the changing battlefield conditions.

And, tellingly, he seems to have the same anger management issues as dear old dad.

“There’s this fantastic arc that they go on that’s paralleling so many of our own lives,” Barlog teased. “Our own relationships with our children, or our parents. It’s so universal.”

I expect the relationship between Kratos and Atreus to be a key highlight when the final game finally lands on PS4 April 20.

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  • I love this, and totally get it. When I had my daughter it changed my life. Changed the way I viewed the world, my job, and a whole new meaning to love. I am excited to see this type of change happen to one of my favorite characters. Console and Stone Mason both preordered.

    Also as VR owner I would love to experience the creatures in this game face to face. Maybe like walking through a museum type environment in VR where I can get the scale and ferociousness of these characters. Maybe a dlc down the road. Just a thought.

    Thanks Sony Santa Monica and PlayStation.

  • So happy we aren’t going to have to babysit Atreus. That was one of my biggest worries with this new GoW. I was getting the game regardless but I’m glad you guys thought of that. Noone likes escort quests.

  • Using BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us as references is a huge deal. It made me feel at ease knowing that Ellie and Elizabeth can handle themselves in combat.

  • I think this is the result of the evolution of the gamer. When the original PlayStation came out I was 10 years old. The first game that captivated my but surprisingly with initial doubt was final fantasy 7. And from there you hanging had you team of companions. But then you also had the parent to child relationship of Barrett and Marlene. Then PS2 is where I really hit my teenage years and played way more final fantasy XI than I expected. But also the God of Wars and Ratchet and Clanks. Then PS3 came buy, I’m out of highschool. The Last of Us is out and it’s probably the best game next to the Uncharted series. And now we get Horizon Zero Dawn Rost and Aloy mentorship and now Kratos and Atreus. I have kids of my own and trust me at times they can be annoying. But I also would do anything for them little kids and I know I’m just mature enough to accept the direction this game is in because I can relate. We can relate as adults now for those who are willing to accept change. My wife pre-ordered God of War for me and she’s just as much of a fan watching me play.

  • GoW3 digitally on PS3???

  • Kratos is going to find his inner Jack Pearson.

  • Have my GOD of War PS4 Pro Edition already pre-ordered and just waiting on that release date..

  • They sold it to me when they said that Atreus would show Kratos how to be human, while Kratos would show the kid how to become a god.

  • Can you guys at sony remaster gow ascension? Never got to play it cuz i thought i was going to be able to buy it on ps4’s ps store

  • The wait has been TOO long!!! Finally it is almost here

  • I absolutely cannot wait for this game.

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