Sony Santa Monica almost cut both Kratos and Atreus from God of War before its 2018 release.
During a public interview at Gamelab in Barcelona, game director Cory Borlag explained the studio’s thinking. As reported by Eurogamer, some team members feared that players would no longer engage with the character.
Instead, some developers wanted to include a totally new protagonist. While Kratos had been part of the series since the first release, the franchise was seen as bigger than him. Barlog detailed how these members of the team saw the Greek mythology as more important than the character.
“Early in discussion, people were saying we had to get rid of Kratos. It was like, ‘he’s annoying, he’s done.’ They really did not like the character. They wanted a new character. It took a lot of convincing to make them think it was a good idea.”
Barlog further explained his reasoning behind wanting to keep Kratos around rather than focus on a new character. His argument was that a redemption arc that saw Kratos cast off his former self would make for a satisfying story. This was the reason that the studio created Atreus, to act as the protagonist’s conscience.
Even Atreus faced some backlash. Senior directors at Sony Santa Monica did not want players to feel as if they had to escort a helpless NPC for the entire campaign. Budget constraints also meant that the team was struggling to implement Atreus into God of War.
“[Including Atreus as Kratos’s son] was not a popular decision in the beginning. It really needed to boil down to a few simple rules to prevent the player’s experience from sucking.”
“There was a point where we were going to cut Atreus completely. It was mostly due to the budget.”
The decision to stick with Kratos seems to have paid off. God of War released in 2018 to critical acclaim, with praise focusing on the new role of Kratos as a father.