To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Santa Monica Studio, PlayStation.Blog has published a retrospective on the pre-production art that shaped each entry in the acclaimed God of War franchise.
Nestled amid art that charts the history of the franchise lurks the revelation that Kratos’ son Atreus nearly never came to be.
Santa Monica Studio floated the idea of a daughter during pre-production for God of War: Ascension, even drawing up concept art exploring various ideas for her design.
One instance saw her embody Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, to suggest the hereditary transmission of Kratos’s fiery tempter and hunger for revenge. Another conceptualized her as a Centaur endowed with magic abilities.
Former concept artist Erik San Juan explains;
With the mysterious fate of Kratos at the end of God of War 3, we knew we wanted to give him a successor — a new hero who would go looking for him. Not unlike the most recent entry in the series, we imagined that he had a hidden daughter and began sketching ideas of what she would look like.
Replacing Atreus with a daughter would not have altered the core themes of parenthood and grief. But, it does mean that we nearly missed out on Kratos voice actor Christopher Judge’s guttural monosyllabic ‘Boy’ when addressing Atreus in the latest God of War game.
‘Daughter’ by virtue of lacking the snappiness of ‘Boy’ wouldn’t necessarily have elicited the same emotional response from the player nor enshrined the expression and its rich memetic legacy in the annals of internet history.
The article also explains how a sketch on a restaurant napkin came to define Kratos’ visual identity for the series.
Former concept artist for the original 2005 God of War, Charlie Wen, recounts;
A vision of Kratos came to me that needed to get out of my head and onto paper (or napkin) — he had wide double blades attached to his forearms by chains that he would fling around. The napkins soon filled with Kratos flying through the air with double blades. I remember going through several napkins to the point that 90% of Kratos’s finished design came out in that lunch session.