No matter how old, scarred, angry, or bitter a father the latest take on Kratos turned out to be, the game itself was a hit, rejuvenating the entire God of War franchise with a new style, story, and structure. It's as successful as a reboot can get, and the director Cory Barlog credits some bold decisions and obvious risks for the victory. He fought for God of War to be one single shot, and won - but he didn't get everything he wanted.
When his first plan for the new God of War began, Kratos was a far cry from the ripped, musclebound warrior he'd been in his younger years.
That insight was offered during San Diego Comic-Con 2018, with Barlog part of a panel of creatives specifically tasked with reinventing or re-imagining established franchises (without forgetting why fans loved them in the first place). On the surface, jumping years into Kratos' future and having the aging, scruffy, former god raising a child in Scandinavia was a major risk. A risk that paid off in almost every way.
But as Barlog reveals, the Kratos fans got was closer to the past than he initially intended. Apparently, the rest of the developers had to draw a line at introducing an overweight Kratos to the series' story:
In the beginning we were talking about, you know, 'What is Kratos going to look like?' And I kind of wanted to go extreme, I was like, 'He should have really let himself go, right?'... Yeah, Dad bod, right? David Harbour as Kratos. And I thought it could be really cool.
Then we started describing it as an athlete in the off-season. Then we just very slowly moved away from that - without my knowledge. So they just kept changing it a little, like, 'It looks different today,' and they're like, 'Don't worry about it, it's cool. Same as yesterday. Same thing as yesterday.' Then eventually he just got really ripped again. And then it was really the beard and Chris's [Judge] voice that aged him.
As shocking as it will be for fans to imagine a Kratos who doesn't possess a flawless physique, bulging biceps, and washboard abs, we can only hope that some concept art depicting Kratos "with a belly" arrives eventually. In the end, most fans will agree that the point Barlog was trying to make still came across in the final product. Kratos hasn't grown weak or gluttonous in his missing years, but his weariness to return to the game of god-killing comes through from the beginning.
When the story returned the Blades of Chaos to Kratos, seeing that he was the same man he used to be - only... different - helped the games story nail the landing. Had Kratos looked like he had physically changed from the man he used to be, those moments may have taken on a different meaning.
Then again, if this Kratos of the snow had an extra layer of meat on his bones (or fat) fans would probably have understood the logic. And in the end, the game was so good, God of War fans would have to be looking for reasons not to love it.
What do you think of Barlog's intentions? Would you have been on board with a chubbier Kratos for story reasons, or would it have been a step too far into reimagining?
God of War is available now for the PlayStation 4.