5 Reasons It's Time for Kratos to Hang It Up
I gave a somewhat lackluster review to God of War: Ascension when I first played it, and frankly, beating the title only reinforced my poor opinion of the game. Fond as I am of Kratos and his endless, brooding quest to murder every single character in Edith Hamilton's Mythologies in the most gruesome way possible, it's time to send the Ghost of Sparta on his way. His story is played out, and I don't care if they ever resolve his mysterious disappearance at the end of God of War III. The series needs to move on without him. Here's why...
His Story Is No Longer Interesting: The thing that sells Kratos is that he was a terrible man who had a single light in his life, his wife and daughter. They alone saw the tender side of an otherwise unrepentant murderer. When Ares manipulated events so they would die at Kratos's hands, it left him on a quest for vengeance so righteous the player is willing to forget just how awful the things he does are.
And in the first three games, those acts are truly awful. He burns pleading captives alive to solve puzzles, he robs graves and he kills men simply because they're in his way. Yet we still feel for this destructive force in human form because that horrible image of his family is always in the front of our minds.
By the time Ascension rolls around, that sorrow has become a bunch of non-Spartan emo bullshit. Even the most tender-hearted of players is probably waiting for Kratos to get the hell over this now because we've heard it all before. It doesn't help that the latest game forgoes any human foes in favor of one-dimensional monsters you don't feel anything for killing. His emotional arc has hit bottom.
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He's Killed All of Greek Mythology: We're all very familiar with the Greco-Roman myths. Hercules, Zeus, Medusa and the lot are very common figures. Almost as common as childhood fairy tales. It seemed like Kratos would never run out of figures to kill. But he did.
All of the major gods in the Olympian pantheon were murdered. After that, Kratos moved on to the titans and human figures of legend. By Ascension, he literally had no more bosses to face save the Furies and the Hecatonchires. That's not necessarily a bad thing from a storyline perspective, but at this point you're getting dangerously close to needing Wikipedia open in a browser as you play just to have any connection with the world.
There Are Plenty of Other Mythologies to Explore: Since Greece is a god graveyard now, why don't we move on to another mythology? Sure, Americans aren't as familiar with them as with the Greek myths, but they damn sure know more about Odin than the freakin' Hecatonchires.
The Norse would be a great place to start. It's full of giants, serpents, treacherous beings of enormous power, sea battles, enormous wolves and everything else you could want in an epic barbarian adventure. The whole of Norse mythology is more than enough to fuel a new trilogy with a Viking protagonist. Once that's played out, move on to the Aztecs, the Egyptians, hell, why not a gunslinging version centered around the Lovecraft Mythos? Ares wasn't the only God of War in the world, and there's no reason to think similar acts of betrayal weren't occurring all across the globe.
Learn From BioShock Infinite: I bring up other pantheons to make a point on why BioShock Infinite is the perfect mixture of how a game can perfectly change yet remain the same. Rather than drag the story of Rapture along any further than its natural end, the third game moved to a new and similarly unbelievable location.
Yet it kept everything that made BioShock, well, BioShock. It had a civilization based on an extreme ideology, a powerful yet strangely vulnerable female to protect, a protagonist that must discover the truth about himself, alternative history and the ability to alter your own genetic makeup to become almost a monster yourself. It was completely new, but refreshingly familiar.
Moving the God of War series to a new setting can allow these changes. Give us a new tragedy to mourn as our hero strikes back at the unfeeling heavens. Give us new sneering immortals to gleefully torture. Give us hypersexualized beauties and impressive landscapes of other lands to ogle. Gives us something other than this endless parade of idealized white people, damnit. Those things are what made God of War great, not necessarily Kratos.
It's Time to Build Your Own Mythology: Though I didn't think much of the game as a whole, God of War III had a wonderful ending. Kratos had broken the power of the gods not only over himself, but over all of Greece. He was left as the last beat of the heart of power set above humanity.
What if we think about God of War not as his story but as a sweeping tale across the known world of gods? In different times and in different places, the pawns of these powers eventually rise up to slay them, each becoming himself the last surviving member of the pantheon in the end. It wouldn't take too many games before the world was nothing but Gods of War, each protagonist representing a different people and region.
Then you would truly see a game to remember, as a man, perhaps aided by the surviving immortals of all mythologies, was forced to go to battle against the likes of Kratos and his brethren himself. The endless cycle of war would begin anew in a truly cosmic series. That's the main reason it's time to retire Kratos as a hero...because at this point, he can only be a villain.
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