One faithful night, while killing lots of people for no good reason, Kratos’ troops stumble upon a small village, and under the God of War’s orders, they burn it to the ground. Unknownst to Kratos though, is the fact that within that village are his wife and daughter. As his family perish in the flames that he created, their ashes float through the air and graft themselves onto his body, never to be removed. They are to be there for all eternity as a constant reminder of the atrocities that he’s commited. This, of course, sends the man spiralling into self-hatred and uncontrollable fits of rage. As a slave to the gods, he’s destroyed everthing he’s ever known and left himself with less than nothing. And so, we the players, meet Kratos for the first time here, as he attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself from a cliff. What follows is one of the darkest collections of games, I’ve ever had the fotune of playing.
Throughout the first game, simply God of War, Kratos’ mission is to find Pandora’s Box and use it’s powers to kill Aries. At this stage Aries has gone on the rampage through Athens to prove to his brother, Zeus, that even though he’s ginger, he can still be a badass. This is pretty much the players’ first glimpse at just how big this game truly is. You walk through an archway that leads out of the city and oversees a great valley to witness thousands of warriors attacking the War God, as he towers hundreds of feet above them, killing them in their dozens with every footstep. The first time I played through this game, my jaw hit the floor at this scene. My character, Kratos, was miniscule in comparasion to Aries, yet I knew that my goal was to fight this monster. It’s hard to explain the feeling, as it was a bizzarre mix of awe, fear, straight up shock! Little did I know that this was just the tip of the shitheap.
As the series’ story pushes on, Kratos wages a one man war on all of the Greek gods. At one stage Zeus, king of the beards, himself comes down from his throne and personally kills our not-a-hero... and that really pisses him off as he claws his grey ass back out of Hades. So he decides that everything and everyone is to blame, and sets out to take down the gods of Olympus one by one. To say the least, baldy boy is an arrogant man. He knows full well that the odds of him killing all of the gods are heavily stacked against him and how there’s a damn fine chance of him dying (again) in his attempt, but he still marches forward, shiney scalp first. However, thinking isn’t one of Kratos’ strong points. He’s a doer, not a thinker; a fighter, not a lover, so he’s never even considered the cataclysmic consequences of deicide in a world where the gods have complete control over the elements. Either that, or in his blind rage, he simply doesn’t care.
These gods act like exactly that, both in terms of power and the fact that they’re a little bit snobby. They spend their time looking down their noses at Kratos and calling him a failure. Kratos replies with the only thing he knows, violence. In the opening scene of the God of War III Kratos beats the water god, Poseidon to death with his bear hands, in one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a videogame. As he lands each devestating blow, you see it all through the eyes of his victim. Skull rattling punches and kicks are thrown out mercilessly, and you can feel each and every one of them as they connect. During the beatdown, Kratos throws Posiedon away, and slowly walks after him to finish the job. If ever there was a shot that showed just how terrifying Kratos really is, this would be it! As you see him closing in on you, his eyes filled with hate, you realise just how helpless Posiedon has become before the ash covered warrior closes the god’s eyes forever by pushing his thumbs deep into his eye sockets. I’d like to mention again that this is only the opening scene of the game. It really sets the tone for what’s to come.
I’ve always felt a connection to Kratos. Having something of a dark history myself, I could always relate to him. No, I didn’t slaughter thousands of innocents under the name of a pissed off ginger god, but I did get up to some shit, and I have wrestled with my own inner demons for many years. In Kratos, I saw a simularity. A man consumed by rage who couldn’t find a way to escape his own anger. Any time he tried, he’s fall deeper into the rabbit hole, and then murder the rabbit. It was a vicious circle, and I could see a little of myself inside him. I probably care for his character a lot more than I have any right to, considering he’s nothing short of being pure evil. Yet, at times there’s a glint of hope in his eyes. Somewhere deep underneath the ashes of his family, there is a human side to Kratos, and he’s desperately trying to connect with it. You can catch a glimpse of it from time to time, like when he sacrifices his own health bar to refresh that of his family’s ghosts in the final scenes of the original game, as they’re under attack from hundreds of versions of himself. You can see it as he pushes his daughter away from him when they meet on the Elysian Fields in one of the outstanding PSP titles. She doesn’t understand why. She doesn’t even realise that she’s no longer living. The young girl just wants to be with her father that she misses so much. Yet, Kratos must push her away, as he knows he can’t stay there. He doesn’t deserve to stay. Unfortunately though, his human side is constantly under threat from his perptetual fury. When he meets Pandora before his final showdown with Zeus, he tries his best to protect her. She is being dragged into a fire, and he’s holding her hand, trying to save her. In the background, Zeus begs him not to fail her like he did his family, yet assures him that he will. Unfortunately, this pushes Kratos over the edge. You can see all rationale drain from his pale face as rage takes over him once again. With his eyes wide, he starts screaming like a man possessed, lets go of Pandora’s hand, and begins brutalizing Zeus. All control, and humanity has once again left his body. In a split second he turns from sensible to chaotic, and in some bizzarre way, I could almost understand him. I could relate to how quickly he can snap, and become this monster. If nothing else, I could pity him. They say that power is the measure of a man. If that is true, then Kratos is no man. Power lies in control, and that’s the one thing that the ash covered warrior has none of.