Sunday, April 25, 2010

God of War Critique (part 4 of 6)

This is the fourth part of the God of War critique. Enter the temple!


I know my contact lens is around here somewhere...
After breaking the Sirens in half, Kratos comes upon a horn that parts the sandstorm before him. He passes through the cleft like a maniacal Moses, and finds the Titan Horn. The horn vanishes for some reason, Kratos fights a bunch of Sirens, and it reappears for Kratos to use. The Titan Horn calls forth Kronos (the last remaining Titan), with the titanic Temple of Pandora chained to his back. On hand and knee, Kronos crawls throughout the desert, damned to wander there until the “sands tear the flesh from his bones”. Kratos leaps from the balcony onto a massive chain hanging from the Titan’s back and climbs Kronos’ side for three days. On the third day, he comes to the entrance of the mighty temple and sees the corpses of all those who had failed before him, rotting on the stone.

Next to the Aegean Sea, this is one of the coolest scenes in the game. We get some good narrative spiced with feats typical of a classic heroic tale. Kratos takes another step toward ascension above his dark past and stands before the brunt of his trials. The question is; will he make it through? Can this lone mortal overcome the deadly tests that have felled so many before him?! (Yes).  

Pathos Verdes III - #1 Babysitter
The Temple of Pandora is an absolute wonder, in the God of War universe. It was masterfully constructed by the Architect, Pathos Verdes III, whose story is a parallel to Kratos’. The player learns about the Architect from the writings he left throughout the temple. The Architect was tasked by the gods with building the temple, and lost his two sons to the job. As they died off, the Architect slowly descended into madness, having lost his faith in the gods. The traps he was required to construct became more twisted and vile, eventually including the corpses of his sons in their puzzles. He murdered his wife in a dispute about such grim ideas, and eventually killed himself in his despair. This is much like Kratos, who ended up killing his family in following Ares' will, eventually killing himself at the game's opening.

This kind of story is echoed throughout the games, and is another of the few ideas that hold the series together. The gods are cruel and unforgiving creatures that use mortals to achieve their own ends. At least, this message is what the sequels push for. This idea is bolstered in the second and third games, mostly to justify the gods’ punishment, but also as a base for humanity’s coming liberation.

We see this relationship with Kratos in the three primary games (the rest shouldn’t exist (actually, only the first one should)). We also see it with Pathos Verdes III, the Body Burner, and Daedalus (the architect in God of War III). Kratos was once a tool for Ares and he becomes a tool for Athena, seemingly punished afterwards on both occasions. For serving Ares, he loses his family, and for serving Athena, the sequel happens (also a punishment to the player). Kratos is then trapped within his rage and despair, a byproduct of the battles he brought on. Pathos Verdes III takes up the task of building Pandora’s Temple for the gods, loses his sons, loses his mind, kills his wife, and is trapped within his creation, the temple being an extension of himself. The Body Burner is tasked, by the gods, to enter Pandora’s Temple and is the first to fail. He is then punished for his failure, and is cursed with immortality and the task of burning the corpses of all who fail after him. Daedalus is tasked, by the gods, to construct a labyrinth in Olympus in exchange for the return of his son. Daedalus actually succeeds but is then trapped within and abandoned by the gods. Eventually madness takes him. Daedalus is a weaker example of this relationship, but only because Zeus becomes Stalin by that point and punishes him for no reason.

It's a bit more than a flesh wound.
There is a strange pattern in all of these people’s stories. A task is given unto the mortal by the gods. The mortal is destined to fail and, upon doing so, is gruesomely punished. The mortal is then trapped within his/her trade. Kratos is locked in constant conflict. Pathos Verdes III and Daedalus are trapped within their mazes. The Body Burner must remain at the entrance of Pandora’s Temple, forever welcoming adventurers and watching them fail as he did.

Such harsh retribution begs the question of why these mortals were punished. The game suggests that these characters went about achieving their goals for themselves rather than something larger than themselves, such as the gods or a city-state. This means that their intentions were not pure. Kratos suffered for serving his desire for war, instead of truthfully serving Sparta, as he once said he did. Pathos Verdes III, despite being a religious zealot, constructed Pandora’s Temple out of pride. When he was chosen by the gods, he took up the task to show that he was loved by them, rather than to show that he loved them. The Body Burner was also directed by the gods to attempt the temple, but also sought the power of Pandora’s Box. 

Daedalus is different in that he did his duty for the sake of reuniting with his son. I mention him mostly because he gets screwed over by the gods, just like everyone else. His story reinforces the idea, among other things, that humanity must be freed from the tyranny of the cruel gods.

However, it could be said that, in regards to the first God of War only, the tales of Kratos, Pathos Verdes III, and the Body Burner may only seek to depict a mortal's flaws and their ramifications in light of the gods' work. Considering how the gods in the first iteration of the series aren't as insane as their appear to be in the rest of the games, this might be true. I must admit that, sometimes, its hard to separate what's what in light of the sequels.     -- 

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