Atreus is a more than just a “son button” feature in God of War

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God-of-Oar

Huddle up kids, because I want to tell you gaming’s worst sin. It’s not microtransactions. It isn’t the fact that we still don’t have a sequel to Advent Rising. Nor is it a hot coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto. The worst thing that video games have ever done? The f***ing escort mission. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of one of these missions, stages where all your godly in-game strength had to be funneled towards protecting a fragile sack of meat and organs behind you.

It’s just…it’s the worst, okay? Think ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ in Red Dead Redemption or Ashley constantly shouting “LEON” in Resident Evil 4. Hang on a tick, I think my blood pressure is rising. Point of all this is, is that some fans reckon that God Of War might be one long escort mission as Kratos and his son Atreus find themselves exploring a pantheon on Norse mythology that wants them dead.

After all, how useful is a godling with a bow who isn’t aware of his true heritage? Surprisingly very, as the latest chapter in the Ghost of Sparta’s life will see his son develop into an asset for players. “From the beginning, I wanted to make sure we weren’t making an escort-mission game – one where you’re constantly feeling like the A.I. messed you up,” God Of War creative director Cory Barlog said to Game Informer.

“You have all the standard stuff you have to deal with – getting in the way, not stealing too much limelight from the hero, making sure they’re not doing things you don’t want them to do,” lead gameplay engineer Jeet Shroff added.

Any kind of typical A.I. development deals with that. There are secondary parts of that: feeling like you constantly have to take care of them, being able to escort them, and all that kind of stuff. We knew we had to deal with that right out of the gate. So focusing a lot on making sure Atreus had a significant supporting role was a big part of establishing that pillar, not so much as a secondary or tertiary thing, but as a key component throughout the entire development.

While the core action of God Of War lies in Kratos’ ability to axe a few questions of his foes, Atreus will provide some tactical support. Just not in a manner that overshadows the brutal arsenal that Kratos has at his disposal. “Atreus has grown and evolved so much throughout the development of this project,” Shroff explained.

It’s primarily because, to be honest, a lot of what we thought would work never ended up working. What we thought was how a companion character – in this type of environment, with this type of hero – could work made a lot of sense on paper. In development, as the hero evolved and the systems around Kratos started to get fleshed out, Atreus was always being adapted to adjust for that.

How do we find ways to make Atreus meaningful through autonomous behaviour, versus putting things that the player wants to do on a ‘son button’ command?

Things like keeping combos continuing is something that we felt made a lot of sense autonomously; as you’re playing, all he’s doing is enhancing what you are already doing. But something like stunning an enemy or bringing them down is something that we realized, over time, didn’t make sense to do autonomously. Because that may not be what the player wants, so putting that on to a command button made a lot of sense.

God Of War is out on April 20, with a swanky collector’s edition to boot. While it’s far removed from the more open-ended combat of the original trilogy that featured plenty of chain-swinging action, it still looks as wonderfully violent and brutal in action. Albeit this time, tempered with some actual heart and character-building as Kratos attempts to bury the sins of the past once and for all.

Last Updated: January 25, 2018

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