Kratos (God of War)

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This article is about the video game character. For the mythical figure, see Kratos (mythology).
Kratos
God of War character
Kratos God of War III.png
Kratos' initial appearance in God of War III, wielding the Blades of Athena with the Golden Fleece on his right arm.
First game God of War (2005)
Created by David Jaffe
Voiced by Terrence C. Carson (adult)
Antony Del Rio (child)
Motion capture Joseph Gatt (God of War II and III)[1]
Terrence C. Carson (God of War: Ascension)[2]

Kratos is a fictional video game character from Sony Santa Monica's God of War series, which is loosely based on Greek mythology. Kratos first appeared in the 2005 video game God of War, which led to the development of six additional games featuring the character as the protagonist. Kratos also appears as the protagonist of the God of War comic series and novels. He has been consistently voiced by Terrence C. Carson, and Antony Del Rio voiced the character as a child in God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

In the series, Kratos embarks on a series of often forced adventures in attempts to avert disaster or to change his fate. He is usually portrayed as being oblivious to all else, often engaging in morally ambiguous activities and performing acts of extreme violence. He is a Spartan warrior eventually revealed to be a demigod and becomes the God of War. Each adventure forms part of a saga with vengeance as a central theme, providing additional information about Kratos' origins and his relationships with his family and the gods.

The God of War franchise has become a flagship title for the PlayStation brand and Kratos is one of its most popular characters. The character has been well received by critics and has become a video game icon, a relative newcomer among more established franchise characters, such as Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Lara Croft. The character is now associated with other products and has had various cameos in PlayStation games outside of the God of War series.

Concept and design[edit]

God of War creator and Game Director, David Jaffe, attempted to create a character that looked brutal, but did not resemble a typical traditional Greek hero.[3] The character would not wear traditional armor as Jaffe wanted him to be individualistic.[4] Although the idea of using a fully masked character was approved the concept was abandoned as the design seemed soulless and lacked a defined personality.[5] Some models included unconventional elements, such as portraying him carrying an infant on his back,[6] while others had excessive detail, such as hair and other "flowing things".[6]

Early concept art, depicting unused variations of Kratos (although the variations were later used in God of War III as bonus costumes).

Double-chained blades were selected as Kratos' signature weapon, because they emphasized the character's animal nature while also allowing combat to remain fluid.[7] Jaffe said of the final version of the character, "[Kratos] may not totally feel at home in Ancient Greece from a costume standpoint, I think he achieves the greater purpose which is to give players a character who they can play who really does just let them go nuts and unleash the nasty fantasies that they have in their head."[8]

Kratos’ most noticeable feature is his ash-white complexion, a story development which earns him the title "Ghost of Sparta."[9] Other distinctive features include a scar across his right eye, and a large, red tattoo that threads from his left eye, circles his left torso and ends at his left shoulder. The tattoo was originally blue, but was changed late in production.[10] The scar is eventually revealed to be the result of a childhood encounter with the Olympian God, Ares, while the tattoo is a tribute to his dead brother Deimos, who had similar birth markings.[11] Other changes that occur during the course of the series include the temporary addition of divine armor when Kratos is the God of War, an abdominal scar, ability-enhancing armor such as an epaulet called the Golden Fleece (all God of War II), and the Boots of Hermes (God of War III). According to an early God of War script, the character is 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) to 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m).[12]

Kratos' appearance can be altered in bonus play; completing the game at certain levels of difficulty and in challenge modes will unlock bonus costumes. Several costumes were available exclusively via pre-order and other promotions (e.g. God of War III, which features three costumes based on early sketches of the character) from the PlayStation Store.[13] Although many bonus costumes are consistent with story themes, others are humorous or farcical—such as the female costume "Athena" and the "Spud of War". 26 bonus costumes are available for use throughout the series and two are available in two games respectively ("God of War Armor" in God of War II and Ghost of Sparta, and "Deimos" in Ghost of Sparta and God of War III).[14]

Role in the God of War series[edit]

Kratos (left) and Deimos (right) as boys in a flashback scene from God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

Backstory and comics (past)[edit]

Main article: God of War (comics)

Throughout the series, Kratos is portrayed as an antihero,[15] often performing questionable actions. Although backstory is seen in the original God of War, Kratos' childhood is revealed in Ghost of Sparta and the birth of his daughter is explored in the God of War comic series. In Ghost of Sparta, it is revealed that an oracle had foretold that the demise of Olympus would not happen by the hands of the Titans—imprisoned after the Great War—but rather by a mortal, a marked warrior. The Olympians Zeus and Ares believed this warrior to be Deimos, Kratos' younger brother, who has strange birthmarks. Ares interrupted the childhood training of Kratos and Deimos in Sparta and kidnapped Deimos. Kratos attempted to stop Ares, but Ares swept him aside and scarred him across his right eye. Taken to Death's Domain, Deimos was imprisoned and tortured for many years by the god of death, Thanatos. Believing Deimos to be dead, Kratos marked himself with a red tattoo, identical to his brother's birthmark, to honor his sibling.[11]

Through flashbacks in the comic series written by Marv Wolfman, Kratos meets his wife Lysandra and they have a daughter named Calliope. Upon birth, Calliope was stricken with the plague. In order to save his daughter, Kratos was granted a quest to find the Ambrosia of Asclepius, an elixir with magical healing properties. Five of the gods entered into a wager with Ares: each chose a champion to search for the Ambrosia with Ares' champion being Kratos. Kratos overcame all obstacles, including the Barbarian Prince Alrik, who eventually became the Barbarian King, and saved his daughter.[16][17][18]

Via flashbacks in God of War, it is revealed that Kratos became the youngest captain of Sparta's army (also shown in the comics), but had a thirst for power. When Kratos was faced with total defeat at the hands of a barbarian horde lead by the Barbarian King, the Spartan called to the Olympian god Ares for aid. Kratos was given the Blades of Chaos, destroyed his enemies, and blindly followed Ares, killing hundreds in his name. After Ares tricked Kratos into murdering his wife Lysandra and daughter Calliope in a temple dedicated to Athena, the Spartan was shocked out of his bloodlust and renounced service to Ares. As the temple burned, a village oracle cursed Kratos and condemned him to wear the "mark of his terrible deed"; the ashes of his family, which turn his skin white, earning him the title "Ghost of Sparta".[19]

Ascension, Chains of Olympus, and God of War[edit]

In Ascension, it is revealed that because Kratos renounced Ares, it broke his blood oath to the god and as such, Kratos was imprisoned and tortured by the three Furies. He was helped by the oath keeper Orkos and eventually overcame and killed the Furies. In order to completely be free of Ares' oath, Kratos was forced to kill Orkos, who begged Kratos to do so. Although free of his oath to the god, he was flooded with memories of killing his family.[20] He then vowed to serve the other gods in order to receive forgiveness and relief from the nightmares of his past deeds, but he was openly defiant.[19]

In Chains of Olympus, Kratos is reluctant to help the gods when Helios was kidnapped, and openly abandoned them when Persephone offered him a chance to be reunited with his daughter. Kratos, however, was forced to reverse his decision when Persephone used the Titan Atlas in a bid to destroy the world and in turn, the spirit of Calliope. Knowing that while intervention would save Calliope, it would separate him from his family forever, a bitter Kratos killed Persephone, imprisoned Atlas, and freed Helios.[21]

Artwork for the Deimos bonus costume: obtained as a download for God of War III (an unlockable costume in Ghost of Sparta).

By the time of God of War, Kratos had been serving the gods for ten years until he finally became tired of his service and nightmares. When he confronted his patron Athena, she advised him that if he killed the rampaging Ares, the gods would forgive his sins. With this selfish motive, he again agreed, and after finding and using Pandora's Box, he was successful. Despite being freed of Ares' influence, including the Blades of Chaos, Kratos was forgiven, but was not relieved of his nightmares. A dissatisfied and despairing Kratos tried to commit suicide, but was saved by Athena, who guided him to Olympus. Awarded the Blades of Athena, Kratos became the new God of War.[19]

Comics (present), Ghost of Sparta, and Betrayal[edit]

The comic series also shows Kratos' present search for the Ambrosia of Asclepius. This time, he plans to destroy the Ambrosia to prevent the worshipers of Ares from resurrecting their former master. In this quest, Kratos overcame several enemies, including the Chaos Giant Gyges, before destroying the Ambrosia.[16] Still haunted by the visions of his mortal past in Ghost of Sparta, and against the advice of Athena, Kratos embarked on a quest to find his mother, Callisto, in the city of Atlantis. Callisto attempted to reveal the identity of Kratos' father before being transformed against her will into a beast that Kratos was forced to kill. Before dying, Callisto advised Kratos to search for his brother Deimos in Sparta. Kratos first freed the Titan Thera from imprisonment, which caused the destruction of Atlantis. In Sparta, Kratos learned of Deimos' location: the Domain of Death. He found and freed Deimos, who remained hostile toward his brother. After a skirmish between the siblings, Thanatos attacked Deimos, but after being rescued by Kratos, the pair joined forces to battle their foe. Although Thanatos killed Deimos, the god was in turn killed by Kratos. Kratos then returned to Olympus, enraged at the gods.[11] In Betrayal, Kratos had been shunned by the other gods and decided to lead his Spartan army to overrun Greece. He was falsely accused of murdering Argos, and he killed Ceryx, the son of Hermes, for interfering in his search for the true assassin, who escaped.[22]

God of War II[edit]

Main article: God of War II

Kratos then joined the Spartan army in Rhodes, intent on destruction. Zeus, however, weakened Kratos and tricked him into abandoning his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus, which Zeus used to kill Kratos. Although he overcame all obstacles, Kratos was stunned at Zeus' betrayal and swore revenge as he died. Kratos fell into the Underworld, but was rescued by the Titan Gaia. Banished to Tartarus with the other surviving Titans after the First Great War, Gaia and her brethren seek the death of Zeus. Kratos, fueled by anger at his betrayal, agreed to aid the Titans and was instructed to find the Sisters of Fate, who are capable of returning him to the moment of Zeus' treachery. Kratos became determined and utterly ruthless—in the pursuit of his goal he wounded a Titan, killed several Greek heroes without hesitation, and deliberately sacrificed two scholars. All three of the Sisters of Fate were killed when they opposed Kratos, who was prepared to kill Zeus in a final confrontation. Zeus was only saved when Athena intervened and sacrificed herself for him; only then does Kratos show remorse. He learned from a dying Athena that Zeus is in fact his father, a fact Zeus kept secret because he wished to avoid a repetition of what he did to his own father, Cronos. Kratos rejected any notion of a relationship and vowed to kill Zeus and destroy Olympus. Encouraged by Gaia, Kratos used the power of the Fates to retrieve the Titans before their defeat in the Great War, and with their assistance, stormed Mount Olympus.[23]

God of War III[edit]

Main article: God of War III

Although Kratos killed Poseidon, he was abandoned by Gaia when his first encounter with Zeus went poorly. Stranded in the Underworld and now betrayed by both the Olympians and Titans, Kratos learned from the spirit of Athena, who also provided the Blades of Exile, that he needed to find the Flame of Olympus, which is the key to defeating Zeus. Kratos murdered both Titans and gods, ignoring the warnings of his victims as he sought the Flame. Realizing the key to pacifying the Flame and reaching Pandora's Box (engulfed by the Flame) is Pandora herself, Kratos came to care for Pandora, who reminded him of his lost daughter Calliope. Kratos showed humanity when he attempted to stop Pandora from sacrificing herself to quench the Flame, but reluctantly allowed the act when she said there was no other option. Finding the box empty, and driven berserk by Zeus' mockery, Kratos attacked his father. Although Gaia interrupted and tried to kill Kratos and Zeus, she was destroyed by Kratos, who then apparently defeated Zeus. Zeus returned in spirit form and attacked Kratos, who retreated into his psyche. Kratos forgave himself for his past sins with the help of Lysandra. Pandora later appeared and told Kratos that hope would save him. Kratos was revived and easily destroyed Zeus. Athena confronted Kratos and demanded that he return the power of hope; the contents of Pandora's Box. In a selfless act, Kratos refused, stated his need for vengeance was gone, and impaled himself with the Blade of Olympus, which dispersed the power across the world for mankind's use. Athena, disappointed with Kratos, removed the Blade and departed as Kratos collapsed next to the Blade of Olympus. Kratos' ultimate fate remains unknown.[24]

Other appearances[edit]

Guest appearances[edit]

Kratos has been featured as a playable character in several PlayStation games outside the God of War series. On August 21, 2008, Kratos was released as a downloadable character in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds along with his Clubs of Chaos.[25] As a pre-order bonus for LittleBigPlanet from GameStop, customers received a Sackboy Kratos costume along with Medusa and Minotaur, as well as a God of War level sticker kit.[26] These were later released for purchase on January 26, 2009.[27] Kratos is a guest character in 2009's Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny, which includes his own story mode.[28][29] As a pre-order bonus for ModNation Racers from GameStop, customers received a Kratos Mod along with his Kart of Chaos.[30] These were later released for purchase on November 2, 2010.[31] Kratos' next guest appearance was in the PlayStation 3 version of 2011's Mortal Kombat (and the PlayStation Vita version released in 2012), which features his own fighting stage and arcade ladder mode.[32] The character's most recent guest appearance is in the 2012 crossover fighting game, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which also includes two God of War inspired stages and several God of War items.[33] TC Carson has provided Kratos' voice in all of his guest appearances,[25][29][34][35] except for LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers where the character is only a costume.

The character has been parodied twice in The Simpsons franchise. He appeared as the "God of Wharf" on a billboard advertising a chowder restaurant in The Simpsons Game.[36] He later appeared on the Guts of War II: Entrails of Intestinox kiosk at "E4"—a parody of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)—in The Simpsons television episode, "The Food Wife".[37] Kratos has also been parodied by Adult Swim's clay-mation television series, Robot Chicken. He was first parodied in season 5, episode 15, "The Core, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", where it is shown how far Kratos will go to collect blood orbs.[38] Sony later teamed up with Robot Chicken to produce a marketing campaign advertisement for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale that parodied Kratos and other characters from the game.[39]

Novels and film[edit]

Kratos is also the main character in novelizations of the game series by Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman. The novels are a retelling of the games and offer deeper insights into their stories. The first novel, titled God of War, was published in May 2010,[40] and the second novel, titled God of War II, was published in February 2013.[41] A film adaptation of the original God of War was announced in 2005,[42] but has remained in development hell.[43] In 2010, Jaffe stated that the "script went out a year and a half ago to Daniel Craig who plays [James] Bond, but he turned it down." He also said that another actor had since been signed to the role of Kratos, and that "this new person is pretty good, if that ends up true."[44] The film's new writers, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, were announced in July 2012, and in August 2012, the writers stated that they plan to humanize Kratos and explore his past.[43]

Cultural impact[edit]

Merchandise and promotion[edit]

Two series of action figures based on God of War II have been produced by the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA). The first set included two versions of Kratos; one wielding the Blades of Athena and the second wearing the Golden Fleece and holding a gorgon's head. The second set included a twelve-inch figure that plays six game quotes.[45] A second two-figure set was also released, with Kratos wearing the God of War armor.[46] In October 2009, United Cutlery created a scaled replica of Kratos' Blades of Chaos which includes a custom display stand with the God of War logo.[47] Kratos also featured in a line of action figures released by DC Unlimited based on God of War III, which included the characters Zeus, Hades, and Hercules.[48] Between February 1, 2010 and March 31, 2010, 7-Eleven sold a limited edition Slurpee drink called "Kratos Fury", available in four exclusive God of War III cups, which featured codes that could be used to access God of War III and Slurpee-themed downloadable content on the Slurpee website.[49]

Kratos' visage has appeared on the PlayStation Portable Chains of Olympus exclusive bundle pack,[50] and on the PlayStation 3 God of War III sweepstakes prize[51] video game consoles. A limited edition 10 inches (250 mm) figurine of Kratos was the grand prize of a sweepstakes during a promotion for God of War Collection in November 2009.[52] A 6 inches (150 mm) figure of Kratos was available in the God of War: Ascension – Collector's Edition.[53] In 2014, Sony partnered with Gaming Heads to produce a limited edition (500 units) life size bust of Kratos. It is cast from polystone resin and all the paint and detail were done by hand. The bust is 28 inches (710 mm) tall and sits upon a Greek inspired column. It includes a deluxe, full-color packaging, a hand numbered base, and a validation card which allows costumers to purchase the same model number in future releases in the God of War series. The bust became available for pre-order in January 2014 and will be available in the third quarter of the year.[54][55]

Reception[edit]

Kratos' character received positive response by video game publications. GameSpot regarded Kratos as a "sympathetic antihero" and a "badass", and described him as endearing due to his unforgiving demeanor, but added that the slowly-developing story offered players "no understanding [of him]" in the game's early stages.[56] IGN said he was ruthless, merciless and savage, noting the character's main motive is vengeance and "all he desires is murder."[57] IGN also stated that in time the player would begin to "love and loathe Kratos and hate Ares."[57] GamePro said it was "Kratos' tragic fall and brutal ascension to the peaks of Mount Olympus that made the original God of War so memorable."[58] PlayStation Universe said he was "certainly a unique character and a warrior to be reckoned with," and that "this iconic PlayStation anti-hero will surely not be forgotten."[59]

At the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards, Kratos was nominated for "Character of the Year" and awarded the "Biggest Badass" award.[60] He was included in GameSpot's "All Time Greatest Video Game Hero" contest and reached the "Elite Eight" round before losing to Mario.[61] The 2011 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition lists Kratos as the ninth most popular video game character.[62] In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 15th greatest video game character.[63] In 2012, GamesRadar ranked Kratos, "one of PlayStation’s most popular representatives," as 18th "most memorable, influential, and badass" protagonist in games. It said, "Being insanely violent isn’t exactly an uncommon trait amongst game characters, but driven by a rage wrought from his guilt (slaughtered thousands, including – oops – his wife and daughter) Kratos kills with such convincing visceral aggression it elevates him way beyond the status of brain-dead murder-bot."[64] In 2010, Game Guru said that "practically anyone, even if they hadn't played any of the God of War games, would know about Kratos."[65]

Kratos has been included on several top video game character lists: GamesRadar listed him as one of the 25 best new characters of the decade, stating that while he appears at first to be a generic character, the players eventually learn that he is both an "unstoppable force of nature" and a "broken, tragic man".[66] Knowing of the talks about a God of War movie, both IGN and UGO have listed Kratos as a character who deserves his own movie.[67][68] In 2008, IGN listed him as one of the characters wanted for an "ultimate fighting" game, featuring characters from all consoles and all eras of gaming.[69] He was included on the list of the best anti-heroes by IGN in 2012.[70] In 2011,Complex listed several of his finishing moves in the fifty craziest fatalities in video games list at 30th, 28th, 24th, 14th and number-one spots for his finishing moves on Hades, Hercules, Helios, the Hydra and Poseidon, respectively.[71] The "Dairy Bastard" alternate costume from the original God of War was included in UGO's list of the "most stylin' alternate costumes".[72] GameFront listed Kratos in 2011 as one of the top five video game characters with the "biggest daddy issues".[73] Complex ranked him as having the best fighting game cameos for his guest appearances in Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny and Mortal Kombat in 2012[74] and as the sixth "most badass" video game character of all time in 2013.[75]

On the other hand, Kratos' character has also been given criticism. Prince of Persia producer Ben Mattes said in an interview that he considers Kratos "a supercool character, but it's black and white; his personality is pure rage, his dialogue is pure rage, his character design is pure rage – it's kind of easy."[76] Jeremy "Norm" Scott, creator of the comic strip Hsu and Chan, stated in Electronic Gaming Monthly that Kratos was average and "did not exist, except as an avatar for the player."[77] In 2009, IGN listed Kratos as the sixth most overrated video game character.[78] Cheat Code Central also listed Kratos as the sixth most overrated video game character in a 2011 top ten list.[79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Notes[edit]