The director of the new God of War, Cory Barlog, has admitted some surprising inspirations for the next addition to the series.
The new God of War moves protagonist Kratos from Greek mythology to Norse and gives him a beard, both welcome changes for what appears to be a cooled and aged god-slayer. In a compelling twist, the upcoming game also gives him something with much greater import: A son (or surrogate son). And one that’s a long way from being a man, at that.
It is unsurprising that Barlog would look to recent and famous parent-child stories for inspiration, but the inspirations he recently listed over Twitter go to some unexpected places– and ones that raise questions about how this new game will play out.
Action games: The Last of Us + Resident Evil 4
The first gameplay video for the new God of War looked like a Naughty Dog game: The distance of the camera pull, the focus over the shoulder to pull off beautiful shots from almost a POV angle, and the action playing out cinematically but tightly controlled. (Not to mention the graphical fidelity, particularly on the people.) Resident Evil 4 was snappy, yet flowed like silk, and also featured over-the-shoulder camera; both of these games read on the characters movements and faces.
This inspiration runs deeper than rendered skin, though. The Last of Us featured an honest, surrogate father-daughter relationship, and framed the action between poignant and reserved interpersonal interactions. Kratos clearly cares for this mystery child, and at multiple points swallows his rage so as not to hurt or push the child too far. Remember, this is Kratos, who destroyed literally everything for personal revenge. And Joel of The Last of Us spent 30 years swallowing rage and becoming a force of nature. They’d probably have a lot to talk about. Meanwhile, RE4 protagonist Leon has to escort the president’s daughter Ashley, a system that was usually bypassed by players who made her wait in oil drums. Barlog may be looking to integrate Kratos’ child into gameplay as more than an extra set of hands, like Ellie from the Last of us, but hopefully less of a liability than Ashley.
Serious dramas: The Road + Road to Perdition
It’s almost a faux-pas these days to discuss a father-son story and not nod to The Road. Its father and son have an almost Nordic stoicism and silence about them, and this may translate into more reserved, bleak moments. It almost definitely means Barlog is considering how they dealt with almost nihilistic adversity together, and how the father went about teaching survival and passing the torch. Road to Perdition, a crime drama focused on father-son dynamics, took that torch passing to a darker place. That film’s son doesn’t know about the darkness in his father, or his father’s deeds.
That ignorance to a father’s past is a trait likely shared by Kratos’ son, who can barely fend for himself in the Nordic wilderness and may be completely ignorant of Kratos’ past as existence-killer. Kratos seems to be reining in his rage around the boy, which likely means he doesn’t want the boy to become like him. If the boy is his son, though, it’s in his blood. The conflict of rejection or embracing a violent bloodline would be very interesting to see play out.
Beautiful and fantastic: The NeverEnding Story + The Tree of Life
Here’s where things get interesting. The NeverEnding Story sees a dog/dragon guide the young protagonist Bastion through a fanastic world and help him grow as a person, and in the original book, Bastion’s father grows distant after his mother dies, and that’s what pushes Bastion to flee into the fantasy world. And speaking of distant fathers, The Tree of Life may not immediately spring to mind as a father-son adventure, but that thread is there. The visual masterpiece of a movie (which may influence some groundbreaking storytelling for the God of War series) follows Earth’s creation to one family’s drama, which one could argue is about a father’s inability to show love to his children. In addition, the movie eventually presents how the childhood pans out into adulthood.
The lighthearted tone of The NeverEnding Story may come through a sense of innocence about Kratos’ young ward, and the reference suggests that maybe the boy is fleeing from something too. The Tree of Life’s storytelling format may pan out with Kratos’ child, and coupled with inspirations like The Road and Road to Perdition, we could see this child become the new protagonist of God of War.
This is purely speculation, but Barlog has given us a lot to think about, and clearly draws from an excellent slew of inspirations. God of War will be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, no sooner than 2017.