Tomorrow, God Of War: Ascension arrives… and hopefully it’s finally Kratos’ swan song. Here’s why.
God of War III Pretty Much Wrapped Up His Story
The whole long, messy tragedy of Kratos’ life ended with God Of War III, the most technically accomplished game in a technically accomplished series. Kratos resolved his issues and managed, after five games, to finally do something that wasn’t utterly selfish, near-sighted, and stupid. Even Ascension acknowledges this, filling in the years between Kratos killing his family and the first game in the series, like, oddly, Ready at Dawn’s PSP games. And that’s pretty much the best we’re going to get, because…
Kratos Is An Awful, Awful Person
By all accounts, Ascension’s story will try to make Kratos more human and relatable, according to the game’s director:
“He’s still an anti-hero in many ways, but it was one of those things where we give people a look at his human side so fans can relate to him better and understand some of the stuff he went through when he was younger.”
What human side? By the time this game picks up, Kratos has just killed his family after rampaging across the countryside as an avatar of Ares for years. From the previous games, we know how he killed the intervening decade between this game and God Of War: Killing everything in his path.
As we’ve pointed out previously, literally everything that happens in these games is caused by the fact that Kratos is both a dolt and a homicidal maniac. Which is fitting, in a way; to the ancient Greeks, he’d be a tragic hero. Then again, the ancient Greeks also saw nothing wrong with punishing adultery by feeding your daughter to a horse, either.
He Was Always A Weak Character
Part of the reason the game is a prequel is that, well, we know pretty much jack about Kratos as a person beyond the fact that he likes stabbing things with his Chaos Blades, collecting useless secondary weapons, and having sex with prostitutes. He’s not really developed as a character, even in the games that supposedly fill in his personal history, because his personal history can be boiled down to “stabbing things”. It’s not like the guy has hobbies, or political opinions, or is a great fan of plays.
There’s simply nothing to Kratos. To be fair, there doesn’t have to be: These aren’t story-driven games. But the fatigue is starting to show, as Sony realizes that new mechanics only go so far, and that’s being reflected in trying to “humanize” a threshing machine.
A New Character Can Allow For More Changes
Ascension introduces a multiplayer mode, which is a change of pace for the series, to put it mildly. But honestly, it’s a welcome one.
The God Of War franchise is superb in terms of gameplay and design, but it’s also essentially the same game with relatively minor tweaks, and no studio can spend nearly a decade developing the same game over and over again without wanting to branch out. A new character means they can reset expectations for the series a little bit, and experiment with new ideas. How about an open-world God Of War game? One told from multiple perspectives, where choices you make as one character affect playing as the other?
SCE Santa Monica is a good studio, and they deserve a chance to experiment with their franchise. If that involves ditching Kratos, then so be it: The franchise can support more than one protagonist.