When a Video Game Character Comes Full Circle
Seeing a Character Evolve
There have been few and far between moments when a video game has absolutely moved me with its events. Moments that come to mind include: Joel's reaction to Sarah's death in The Last of Us, Uncharted 4's ending, and Altair's death in Assassin's Creed Revelations, to name a few. A game has to really deliver on the story end to really make me turn my head and recollect its past events in sadness.
Yet this is a special case.
I've held this game series close to my heart for years. Ironically, not because of its in-depth story and character development, but because of its gameplay and the sheer power you feel playing as its protagonist.
That protagonist goes by the name of Kratos.
The Ghost of Sparta
If you haven't heard of Kratos or at least seen his picture flying around somewhere on the internet over the past ten years, I'm going to assume you live under a rock. But I'll explain it anyway, because I'm nice.
Kratos is the protagonist of the popular video game franchise God of War, in which Kratos finds himself on a quest to avenge his family after the Greek gods have wronged him... yeah, the story doesn't sound as exciting as it looks. But it's pretty good, and the way Kratos is implemented into the mythos without it seeming forced is a plus.
Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked.
I used to love God of War for some of the most base-born reasons a video game could provide: it had flashy combat, bloody visuals, and a brutal character who was by no means afraid to get his hands dirty. This continued on for years down the franchise, with Kratos waging his war against the gods with two sequels in God of War II & III, as well as multiple spin-offs detailing Kratos's life in servitude to the gods before current events. After God of War III (spoilers for those who haven't played this great series), Kratos seemingly gets his revenge while committing suicide in the end, ending the story and leaving gamers with a satisfied feeling they'd craved since Zeus first betrayed us in the second game. Although Kratos's body seemingly disappeared in the end, my childhood was sealed and another chapter of my life was closed with the end of a great game and franchise looming.
But I was wrong.
It was probably about four years later after the release of the third game that the titled God of War was announced for the Playstation 4. It would be a continuation of the previous games, with an older Kratos in a Norse mythology setting, now watching over and protecting a son of his own.
The direction was strange to me at first. A man who had no qualms about smashing his brother's face in games before will now be a more stoic, mentor-like figure to his son. The same man who beat his father's face in until the screen turned red with blood (literally). The same man who had slaughtered the entire Greek pantheon and left the world in ruin. It was insane, unfathomable that the storyboard could be taken in this direction. It wasn't the God of War gamers were used to or loved. It was something new.
It was brilliant.
The story was always serious-toned. But now it took itself seriously, consistently. Kratos's son, Atreus, was endearing (annoying sometimes) and legitimately a boy growing up before our eyes. Kratos himself, once a man who couldn't hold back his temper for even the smallest of slights, had shown immense growth over the course of the game. There were a couple of times I thought he would put his hands on Atreus, yet he retained his verbal disciplinary stance, and it paid off throughout the story.
I watched Kratos go from being an irresponsible father to a daughter, to an inconsolable madman, then finally to a reserved and patient father to a son. The growth of his character is a testament to the growth of the franchise. With God of War PS4 only expected to churn out more sequels, Kratos's character can only get more interesting from here.