God of War doesn’t come out until the end of this week, but already initial reviews from major outlets with advance copies are filled with praise. Such praises tend to center on Kratos’ relationship with his son, Atreus, whose very presence forces him to confront his violent legacy and challenge his decision making.
But it turns out that there was once a point in the game’s development that Atreus could have been cut or at the very least, his role would have been scaled back significantly. In a report from GameSpot, game director Cory Barlog said that the game would still have been possible, but it would have been completely different.
Barlog told GameSpot that the studio already faced many challenges in writing and developing the game to be where they wanted it to be, but writing in Atreus and designing for him might have been too much to do. Barlog said that at the point that they considered cutting Atreus, the game would be akin to the movie All is Lost, in which Robert Redford plays a veteran mariner lost at sea, and has few spoken lines.
"Alright, fine, if it was not with Atreus, what would it be?" And, it would have been a very, very different game? The comparison I made was, "Alright, it's gonna be All Is Lost with Robert Redford'; it's gonna be one character who talks to himself occasionally, but generally, it will be very silent and everyone will talk in old Norse, so that you won't understand anything anybody's saying."
As interesting as this scenario could have been, the notion of a mostly mute Kratos with no one to interpret the language of the people around him was rather unpalatable for Sony. “I think that threat was enough for them to go, 'Okay, we'll take on Atreus,'” said Barlog. “So, it was kind of the creative director, passive aggressive, 'Oh, yeah? Well, we'll take all the toys away.'”
In the final game, Atreus makes significant gameplay and storytelling opportunities available. For as much as Kratos is the biggest badass in his world, having someone like Atreus to collaborate with or defer to when faced with unusual challenges makes God of War a lot more interesting than it might’ve been without him.