> # Welcome to GameGrinOS v1.01 > # How can I help you? > # Press ` again to close
Hello… | Log in or sign up
Divinity and Design, comparing Santa Monica's God of War to Its Ancient Inspiration — The Heroic

Divinity and Design, comparing Santa Monica's God of War to Its Ancient Inspiration — The Heroic

As our journey continues, we finally move on from the realms of the divine and the immortal to the more common plains of the mortals, though extraordinary these mortals may be. A common theme in ancient Greek tales is the hero journeying to right a wrong, doing penance for a past misdeed, or going out on an epic quest to fight a war or retrieve an artefact. Kratos himself basically represents the archetypal Greek hero, though angrier and less dramatic. Regretfully, the heroes of the God of War mythos seldom come out well, as we will soon see. This is part three of a miniseries, so remember to check out the earlier parts for more ranting goodness!

To kick off this list, let us look at the sad case of Jason. Captain of the Argonauts, finder of the Golden Fleece, and descendant of Hermes, he is known in ancient Greek literature as a brave leader and a determined soul ready to take on any challenge! In God of War II, however, we never actually meet the man, as he has been eaten by a big mole-thing. Honestly, out of the many heroes of Greek myth, Jason is one I would have felt alright with getting a role as a villain since, in the original myth, he does indeed betray his then-wife Medea, but not like this. Never like this!

2411105 god of war iii screenshot

Though Jason is not seen, we do get the Golden Fleece in cool arm-armor form!

To fans of Hades, the Greek myth-inspired roguelike, Theseus is a relatively familiar name. Founder-king of Athens, son of Poseidon, and slayer of the fearsome Minotaur, Theseus has many accolades to his name and is considered one of the most popular heroes for a reason. Trying to find fair resolutions to conflicts, leading by example, and upholding the ancient Athenian standards — at least according to the Athenians — it is strange to see such a character basically bound to service. Depicted as an old but strong man, Theseus acts as the "Horse Keeper" for the Moirai, or Fates, basically acting as a glorified janitor. The fight against him wasn't bad, but the erstwhile hero is soon killed and forgotten. He doesn't show any of his diplomatic skills or wit, nor does he do much in addition to swinging a spear and summoning spirit minotaurs — it's lamer than it sounds. He was a bit of a jerk, though, so he had it coming.

The next entry is one that has me, possibly, the most baffled: Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri. These twins, one immortal and the other mortal, were born to King Tyndareus, his wife Leda, and the ever-promiscuous Zeus — yes, they had two fathers in a common trope of Greek Myth called heteropaternal superfecundation. Their claims to fame include protecting Helen — of Trojan War fame — being on the quest of the Argo, and being finally characterised into the constellation Gemini. Their tale is one of brotherly love and dedication, where the immortal Pollux asks his god-father Zeus to let him share his immortality with the recently killed Castor. Fans of the Persona series may even recall seeing a Castor and Polydeuces (another name for Pollux) in Persona 3. In God of War Ascension, this sharing has been taken to an extreme, with Castor being a gigantic warrior with a malformed and fused twin, Pollux, attached to his side. Though the fight against them is pretty interesting, featuring Kratos separating the brothers the only way he knows how — violently; the depiction of these two heroes as malicious and bitter old men is more than I can stomach.

8902634 god of war ii playstation 2 quick time event battle against icar

Mom says it's my turn to play with the wings!

Icarus and his foreboding flight near the sun are favourites of artists, philosophers, and game designers desperate for some symbolism. Icarus is most of us, after all, striving ever further and never realising how much we're burning up along the way. Though he is not a hero per se, I include him as God of War II made an interesting twist to the character. In the original myth, Icarus flies too close to the sun and falls into the ocean, dying. In the game, however, he does what Kratos has done multiple times and escapes the Underworld! However, unlike our hero, he is not unscathed by the experience, going mad under the constant torment, finally fusing the waxen wings to his very skin in a maddened attempt to reach the Fates and change his fortunes. It's a neat idea, though it's a shame the section is quite short-lived, as after one short segment, Kratos rips the wings off of his back — literally.

We're nearing the end of our list, but I saved the (arguably) best for (almost) last! Perseus may not be as popular a name as Theseus, Achilles, or Heracles, but he can be seen as one of the "founding" heroes of the age. It is of his line, after all, that many other heroes, Heracles included, are born. Though born to a king, Perseus grew up as the son of a humble fisherman due to Greek Myth shenanigans. Strong, fast, and proud, the young hero ended up promising to kill Medusa and bring her head back to a king very keen on wedding the young hero's mother. A kind, just, and caring lad, Perseus goes on to do just that, though Hermes and Athena give him a few tools to take care of the job. In God of War II, Perseus is found on the island of the Fates, trapped in one of its halls. The ancient hero has gone rightly mad in his imprisonment and attacks Kratos on sight. What's baffling to me is how young he seems to be! Depicted as a youth barely beyond his early 20s, this makes no sense as he should be much older than Theseus, for example. Additionally, his skill set — having the power to turn invisible — makes little sense. Yes, Perseus could turn invisible in the myths, but that's because he had the Helm of Hades! He also had the talaria of Hermes, the very sword used by Chronos to kill Uranos, and a reflective shield from Athena. Most importantly, these divine relics were returned after his adventures, so it makes little sense for him to have them now. But we will never know, as his existence in the plot is shorter than some nameless enemies.

11820066 god of war iii playstation 3 kratos versus hercules

Finally, the big one. Heracles. Oh, Heracles… The fight against the mightiest hero of them all was something I had been waiting for all this time! I was afraid that Kratos had basically taken on the "role" of Heracles, replacing him in the mythos, as they are both angry boys with a to-kill list longer than some marathons. Thankfully, this wasn't the case and the hero of literal myth and legend was a sight to behold… until the battle itself started. Heracles is tall, muscular, and covered in scars, with strength seemingly on par with the Spartan. The similarities end there, however, as Heracles is beaten and blown back on multiple occasions. I know our angry hero is strong, but Heracles is supposed to be the strongest. He is the model for every Strong Guy™ we see today, from The Hulk to the Barbarian class in many RPGs, both tabletop and video. Even his attitude feels weird: complaining about how Kratos was the favoured son and how the tasks set to him did not befit his station. The whole reason Heracles DID his legendary Labours was to cleanse his soul from the killing of his wife and children.

Though it is often forgotten, Heracles was not a raging brute with no heart; instead, he regretted his bouts of rage and worked hard to make things right. Regretfully, the fight is short, with some minions thrown in for flavour. The Mighty Heracles is almost a side note, being overpowered by Kratos a bit too easily on every turn. Well, the silver lining is that we at least gain his iconic weapon, the Nemean Cestus… wait, the what? As anyone familiar with his tale, Heracles always had his trusty CLUB with him instead of lion-shaped boxing gloves, so, uh… huh. Maybe this IS Hercules, the whiny half-cousin of the genuine article? The battle is over and forgotten within minutes. He deserved better. They even used his Romanised name; I am seething.

2413966 god of war iii screenshot

The design of Heracles' weapon is something I'm still unsure on

And there you have it! As I said, the heroes of Santa Monica's universe do not seem to stack up well to their mythic counterparts, though maybe that is to be expected when writing an action-heavy title. Still, there were so many opportunities to allow Kratos to grow and learn from the faults of his colleagues that I cannot help but be a bit bitter. Next time, we look at two sections: the myriad of monsters on offer and the many opportunities missed.

From The Top
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

Share this: