As Sony's God of War turns the long-running series into a father-son adventure, early drafts of the game are said to have been like a "child-abuse simulator."
For the latest game in the bloodthirsty saga, Sony's Santa Monica Studios decided for a change of direction by taking the Ghost of Sparta to a whole new location. While swapping three-headed hydras for hammer-throwing trolls might have been unique enough to lure players back to God of War, there was also the new addition of Kratos' son Atreus. 2018's title is very much about the duo's troubled relationship with each other, but reports suggest it could've been a whole lot worse for Atreus.
Speaking to Finder, God of War director Cory Barlog explains just how brutal the game was in its development stages. Back when God of War first showed footage at E3 2016, the game was still very much open to feedback - and it sounds like a little too much of the old Kratos made it into the new era:
"We bounced between being really mean, one person said this was so hard to play it’s like a child-abuse simulator because we were trying to be so true to Kratos that it was just mean. Just all-around mean."
It is quite a statement to make, but basing the game on child abuse was never going to be a good PR move on Sony's behalf. Barlog then goes on to say how developers took it too far the other way, leading to a Kratos that wasn't in line with the past 13 years of his gaming backstory:
"We reacted to that immediately, and made him too nice. People said he was like Qui-Gon Jinn. You know, just so calm and relaxed. So we over-corrected there."
Given God of War's glowing reviews and title as the highest-rated PS4 exclusive of all time, it all worked out in the end. Looking back, Barlog highlights the "'Only fire when I tell you to fire" moment as the realization that they had struck the right balance between father and mentor.
It was previously revealed how Atreus was nearly cut from the game entirely, which would've led to a much lonelier God of War for both Kratos and the players. Thankfully, Atreus grew to be a big part of the game, and without spoiling the plot too much, expect to see him grow even further as he fires his bow and arrow at the mythical monsters of Midgard. With the cold backdrop of Norse mythology, Kratos' cold approach to parenting and Atreus' bright-eyed willingness to learn seem to go hand in hand.
From a new location to a new weapon, a new actor as Kratos and the addition of Atreus, God of War has been all about reinvention. That being said, Barlog and co. managed to craft a game that feels familiar even as it pushes the franchise forward. Yes, Kratos is never going to win a Father of the Year award, but God of War manages to just about strike the balance between caring protector and stoic Spartan. Thankfully, no actual children were harmed in the making of this game.