Warning: Spoiler alert for the God of War and Uncharted series
Kratos and Nathan Drake are two behemoths in the video game world. Both iconic to the PlayStation brand, yet both known for very different reasons. Kratos has typically always come across as a one-dimensional being with Nate being debatably one of the most fleshed out characters in all of the media. Gameplay-wise, where one is an action-adventure hack-and-slash and the other is an action-adventure third-person shooter, indeed differences are abundant even if puzzling and platforming elements are shared. Scratch the surface and more similarities appear, which only leads to the thought that perchance, could these men be two sides of the same coin?
On the horizon, Kratos emerges after a five year absence supposedly overhauled from the previous brute we’ve come to know. To what extent has he changed though? Looks can be deceiving, and despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the new take coupled with Sony Santa Monica’s persistence that the character has become more grounded, have they really risen Kratos to the same level we know Nathan Drake to be? Can Kratos become more relatable as a protagonist? Or is he forever doomed to soak in his enemies’ blood without a care in the world?
Dialogue is profoundly important to defining a character, and whereas the God of War will yell furiously at his enemies with quotes like, “Foul beasts! I will send you back to the depths of Hades!” Nate takes the more playful approach, chuckling comments such as “En garde, dickhead” or “Kitty got wet.” While this is fine for combat scenarios, it’s in the lighter moments where the tone of Nate changes drastically – showing his compassion to friends and loved ones. Kratos on the other hand remains the shouting warrior and rarely strays from his revenge driven monologue (brief moments are shown with Pandora although never really explored) throughout his time in Greece.
As we enter Norse mythology – alongside what we can gather from early reviews – we can gauge that this is a different character entirely. One that reflects on his decisions, one that doesn’t charge into every situation like a bull in a china shop, one that notably goes as far as to care deeply for his son.
In the original trilogy, from the beginning Kratos’s family had already been murdered by his own hands (we warned you about spoilers). The development phase had been skipped, and he was already hell-bent on revenge. This time around we actually have the opportunity to spend a campaign with a loved one, allowing us to witness how their relationship will mature. Nathan Drake had four games to build up relationships with Sully, Elena and co., so naturally by the end we all cared about the consequences of any deaths; though this never came to fruition, the stakes were truly felt. As we entered God of War III there really was no motivation given to care for any character – not Gaia, not Zeus, and not Kratos with his one-note attitude. Nobody. Come April 20th, God of War must do what Uncharted has undeniably achieved. We must care for Atreus – like we care for Nathan, Elena, and Sully. Therefore as we move forward, these characters are more probable to stand the test of time. Chloe Frazier appeared as a side-character in only two Uncharted games, and still fans cherished her to such an extent that she earned her own outing.
One negative that is often given to Nathan Drake as a character is his ability to mow down hundreds of enemies lickety-split without any rumination about his actions. Psychologically, this is untouched, so it will be interesting to see if Kratos can one-up the treasure hunter. Will the once man sit down with his son and discuss why they must kill all that oppose them and why this is acceptable? Again, early showings are promising, but to get a fully rounded persona, this twenty-hour adventure must dive deep into the character and show us an angle never seen before.
From the finale of Uncharted 4, Rafe Adler speaks about the legacy that Nathan Drake has created for himself and how this has fueled his enemies’ resentment to see him falter:
“Nathan Drake raced a madman and his entire army to the steps of Shambhala.”
“Nathan Drake found a lost city in the middle of the Rub’ al Khali desert.”
“Nathan Drake discovered the fabled El Dorado.”
“Nathan Drake is a Legend.”
Nate, whilst never a god, still lived his life in the shadow of a legend – Sir Francis Drake – taking his adopted motto of SIC PARVIS MAGNA (greatness from small beginnings) constantly on his travels as both a reminder of not only his own heritage, but as an aspiration to live his life by. Nate was immediately lured to the scent of adventure and sometimes felt burdened by his (chosen) legacy.
In similar fashion, Odin and the Norse Gods have heard tales of the ghost of Sparta. Now they pursue Kratos due to his past confrontations and the legacy he cannot escape. Besides being the God of War, Kratos is also the son of Zeus. Anger, belligerence, and threats are the only feelings exuberated from this revelation, albeit now we know Zeus’s abhorrence for his son stemmed from the first opening of Pandora’s Box (during the original games climax). Will now be the time for Kratos to speak of his father; perhaps even with a tinge of regret for how their actions played out?
Numerous franchises this generation have attempted to keep the flame alive with many dolefully stumbling. Look at Mass Effect, Halo, inFamous, Star Fox, Gears of War – the list goes on and on. Just because a franchise has an established IP, there is never a guarantee for automatic success. Revamping, revitalizing, and reinvigorating an IP can do the world of good; let’s hope God of War benefits where others could not. Who knows, maybe in ten years’ time we could be questioning what Nathan Drake could learn from Kratos.