The God of War games are a tale as old as the time period they take place in – it’s a story about blood and revenge. An antihero as flawed as Kratos, the series’ protagonist is, there is very little redemption that occurs throughout the entire saga. Kratos is a captain of the Spartan army, tricked by Ares, the God of War, Kratos kills his own family and wears their ashes on his body, giving rise to his moniker of the Ghost of Sparta. It is a classic tale of Greek tragedy and echoes another hero from the Greek sagas – Heracles.
But Kratos is fictional. He is a modern day invention of Greek myth, but one done so well that he could slot in comfortably with the Greek sagas he lives in. He is an answer to a question asked – where did all the gods go? The answer of course is: Kratos killed them.
Kratos is a classic of a character. He enables us as the player to feel empowered. With us driving him, seeing his world through his eyes, we are able to battle Fate itself and prove that a god can bleed. There are very few experiences as empowering as playing a God of War game. So popular is Sony Santa Monica’s character, that he has appeared on every Sony console except the first PlayStation, his latest outing was a remaster of PlayStation 3’s God of War III on the PlayStation 4.
Kratos surely has had his fair share of adventures, and at the end of the third instalment in the main trilogy his tale is done when he throws himself on the Blade of Olympus and gives Hope back to the world. It is a fitting end for such an angry and volatile character – he has found peace.
So why the need to resurrect him?
The argument could be put forward that it is mainly due to the popularity of the character and the franchise – a fourth instalment, this time a soft reboot entitled God of War, but now taking place in the Norse era of myth, will hit our PlayStation 4s sometime in 2018, but is it really necessary?
I would personally say no. Not with Kratos as the new series’ protagonist. I feel it would do a disservice to the character, as epic and immortal as he is, to throw him into a new series of adventures that will ultimately spawn a new franchise on the PS4. I am all for a new God of War game, and whilst it can be argued it would not be God of War without Kratos, I respectfully disagree. Many series have handed a legacy from one character to another. There is no stopping a new protagonist rising for the series, one that is handed a mantle from Kratos to continue on in his shoes or sandals. Perhaps he even learns of the legend of Kratos the godkiller and takes up the charge, but to put Kratos as the series lead in this new game makes little narrative sense. Every character must eventually die, it is a frailty of civilisation that all things must end. Including great game sagas. To inject new life into Kratos is diluting his myth, I’m not talking about the myth in the actual games, I’m referring to in years to come when people say ‘Do you remember the God of War series?’ by leaving Kratos’ fate ambiguous at the end of GoW III he would have remained a legend.
Let us consider another flawed character – Darth Vader. Vader was a character with one purpose throughout the entire Star Wars saga and that was to overthrow an evil emperor and bring balance to the Force. It was his core narrative. If we exclude his fall to the dark side, his transformation from Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader we are left with a single question when it comes to this character: Did he fulfill his purpose?
Yes. And I believe this is an approach the creators should be taking with the God of War games. It would feel wrong if Vader were to be posthumously resurrected for the new cycle of Star Wars films, but with Kylo Ren addressing Vader’s burnt mask we are left with the presence of Vader without the actual need to see him living and breathing on screen.
Let’s not stop with Vader though. Let’s look at another protagonist – Arthur from Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory. The book is the standard for the Arthurian legend we know and love today. In it Arthur is born, marries Guenievere, unites his kingdom, forms the Round Table, and is eventually betrayed by his queen and most revered knight – Sir Lancelot. Arthur eventually leads a last charge against the usurper Mordred, before being fatally wounded and taken to the Isle of Avalon. So powerful a character is Arthur, that we can hear his tale being told and retold without the need for new material to be added – the beauty of being a legend. But were Arthur to return from the Isle of Avalon it would take away from his legacy and his name. And we do not need him to come back. He has made his space in the story, and his presence is felt even after his death.
Although modern video games are very different from a 14th century French text, and a Hollywood blockbuster saga, I do not find any reason why they should be treated any differently when it comes to storytelling. As an audience we are constantly wanting more – and when we do not always receive more then we often dwell and contemplate what we had. As such, I do not believe there is more to offer that could be considered a succulent addition to Kratos’ story.
At best we will get a new story that Kratos has been altered and changed to fit into. In essence the protagonist will have been shaped to fit the story, not the story fitting around the character. Are we to believe that even if Kratos managed to survive the self-inflicted wound then he would find happiness again and raise a son? Where is the quelling anger in the man? Will he have grown and now be more assured of himself? Perhaps a man of peace. It is unlikely. A series called God of War will not have a pacifist as its protagonist. So this is the second objection I have to Kratos being put into another cycle – he found his peace. In those last dying moments of GoW III Kratos did a selfless act and released the Hope trapped in his body and gave it back to the world. This is a character that was so selfish he would toss people clinging for their lives on the edge of a building aside. He would think nothing of slaughtering innocents to achieve his goal.
Kratos’ fate should have been left a mystery.
I believe a better option would have been to remaster the original trilogy and bring them to the modern audience along with a new protagonist in a new God of War series. Kratos does not need to live again to be alive, his aura would have resonated in any new GoW game because he was the first. It would have been no different to when people compare every other Bond to Sean Connery. I understand there is a profit factor to think of for Sony and they are making the most of their assets, but I feel from a creative point of view this could have been handled better.
Perhaps I am wrong. After all as featured in the new game footage we have seen Kratos has a son, so perhaps we will see the true demise of the Ghost of Sparta and for his successor to step forward, but I am even more reluctant if this is the case. Kratos should be left a myth. His time should have ended with the gods he sought to destroy.