Back in early April – two months before the official God of War reveal – screenshots and details for a new game in the franchise were leaked, revealing Kratos with a beard, the Norse mythology, and an axe as a weapon. Asked about the leak by GameSpot, Director Cory Barlog revealed that the art was all work-in-progress:
I would love to say I was confident, but I think there were many moments of doubt and fear. I don’t know if anybody noticed since but that Shinobi602 guy had actually said ‘to the halls of Valhalla, my boy,’ but nobody picked up on that thank god because I was really worried that would get out there early.
It’s never fun to have that stuff leak out. The biggest thing is that it’s work-in-progress stuff, which we would pass around and say, ‘That’s not approved, that’s not good.’ That character [that leaked] wasn’t representative of anything anywhere near what our artist did on [new] Kratos. Seeing that version out there was very tough. At the end we knew we’d be able to show him.
Later on in the interview, Barlog said there was talk about continuing the franchise without Kratos, but they ultimately realized Kratos is too closely linked to God of War:
Personally I find it an interesting challenge as a storyteller to take a character that you’ve taken very close to the darkest of dark sides, then see if you can pull that character back. Kratos is someone that has repeatedly made the wrong choices, but what happens if he makes other choices? In the beginning there was some talk about not bringing back Kratos, and maybe we should look at other protagonists. But then look at Mario, nobody on the internet is saying, ‘Another Mario game with Mario? C’mon guys.’ Kratos is intrinsically tied to the brand and the world. The idea of this immortal tragic figure being forced to walk the Earth forever as his punishment.
Barlog likens God of War to the end of The Shield [SPOILERS AHEAD]. Instead of dying, the lead character is punished by having to work behind a desk. “This is a similar thing, but instead of torturing Kratos we’re putting him in a situation where he has to constantly fight the nature that he let loose so freely in the greek era,” he said.
As for Kratos’ son, Barlog confirmed “you don’t ever have control over the movement of the kid.” Instead, he finds his own way in the game and, as you upgrade him, he gets better at combat and other things. Also, using the kid’s dedicated button and the game’s free-look camera, he can fire out some arrows (lightning ones were given as an example) wherever you’re looking. Unlike The Last of Us though, he will be targeted by enemies:
Sometimes he can get overwhelmed, as there’s other enemies that will specifically target him. He’s like magic, an additional combat resource, and you’re training him and teaching him.
Do you agree with bringing Kratos back?