So many gods
Those who know much about Greek mythology know that God of War is a relatively faithful representation of it, at least as far as video game adaptations go. Sure, it invents a guy named Kratos who murders his way through half the pantheon, which as far as the Ancient Greeks were concerned would have been heretical, if not outright tempting retribution from the gods. And yes, it's pretty fantastical, but more often than not it gets a lot of the core ideas and facts right.
Then again, there's the "not." Because it's a game series, there've been a lot of places where God of War has taken immense creative license with mythology. Sometimes events or personalities are changed to suit Kratos and his rampages, other times things are just invented out of whole cloth. Over the next few pages, we'll take a look at some of the more notable examples and identify exactly where the game diverges from the myth. [WARNING: The following entries contain minor spoilers for God of War: Ascension, as well as major spoilers for the earlier games. Proceed at your own risk.]
In Greek mythology, he's: The Greek god of war and unrestrained bloodshed, Ares was the big, violent dudebro of Olympus. This frequently brought him into conflict with other gods (especially Athena and the blacksmith god Hephaestus, whose wife, Aphrodite, Ares was constantly sleeping with), but generally he was just out to have some good, violent fun.
But in God of War, hes: Basically Satan, in that he strikes a deal with Kratos, saving the Spartans life in exchange for his soul. He then proceeds to use the deal to take away everything Kratos holds dear, and follows that up by challenging Zeus himself. So with the help of all the other gods, Kratos gets really huge and kills him.
In Greek mythology, theyre: A handful of originator gods that predated the Titans, the Olympians, and pretty much everything else. They dont factor into a whole lot of stories, so their biggest accomplishment seems to have been bumping uglies a whole lot, thereby shaping the world and paving the way for everything to come.
But in God of War, theyre: Depicted as having fought all the time, and shaping the universe with their fighting. Go figure, although were almost surprised God of War: Ascension didnt try to turn the Greek creation myth into a sex minigame. Too bad it didnt, because most of the Primordials apparently died in the conflict. Oh, and in this version, the Furies are born from their fighting, instead of from the severed genitals of the primordial named Ouranos. We guess thats better? Less weird? Sure.
In Greek mythology, hes: Better known as Horkos, the son of strife-goddess Eris (whod make a great GoW villain all on her own). Sometimes depicted as physically weak or disabled, hes an associate of the Furies, and the personification of oaths and (more specifically) of the punishment that befalls those who break them.
But in God of War, hes: The sickly, skinny son of the Fury Tisiphone and Ares, whos covered with huge lumps of amber into which sinners are inserted? Thats kind of weird. His weak appearance is consistent with mythology, but he seems to have a change of heart about Kratos oath-breaking, which is a little inconsistent with his role as the personification of punishment for oath-breakers.
The Oracle of Delphi
In Greek mythology, shes: A priestess, also called the Pythia, who allegedly inhaled toxic fumes to channel the sun-god Apollo and deliver prophecies to those who came looking for guidance. She factors pretty heavily into a lot of Greek myths, particularly stories about people who get negative prophecies and then try to prevent them, leading to disastrous consequences. (We kind of have to wonder how many of those myths were actually underwritten by the temple at Delphi.)
But in God of War, shes: In possession of an amulet that can alter the flow of time, and also held captive by her corrupt prophet, Castor. Otherwise, her depiction in God of War: Ascension seems relatively well-researched, right down to the toxic fumes, the bureaucratic process for asking questions of the Oracle, and the pythons that were the temples symbol (hence all those giant mechanical snakes in the game).
Castor and Pollux
In Greek mythology, theyre: Twin brothers, or possibly twin half-brothers, at least one of whom hatched from an egg after their human mother, Leda, was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan. Despite their weird parentage, they were generally regarded as great guys who liked to help people, and were granted immortality as the constellation Gemini.
But in God of War, theyre: A huge, conniving false prophet whos set himself up as lord and master of Delphi, enslaving its priests and keeping the Oracle herself hostage; and his stunted conjoined twin, whos apparently the real brains of the operation. Both are evil as all hell, and their only real relation to the mythological twins seems to be their names. Pity; they probably would have gotten along great with Kratos for five minutes until he got bored and smashed their skulls together like conjoined melons.
In Greek mythology, theyre: Mischievous, naked elf-like creatures with horse tails, goat ears, and sometimes huge goat dongs. The Roman versions are a little closer to the ones were more familiar with, which tend to have goat legs and little horns. Both varieties were known for sexual aggression, but in general they dont seem to have been regarded as bad guys.
But in God of War, theyre: Totally bad guys, and also way uglier. God of Wars satyrs are one of the series most numerous enemy types, and their goat faces and predilection for weapons and violence over rampant exhibitionism make it pretty difficult to confuse them with their mythological counterparts. Also, not one of them ever sits around blowing into pan pipes and making overtures at nymphs. (Although with those weird goat-lips, itd be funny to see them try.)
In Greek mythology, it's: The source of all evil in the world, which--depending on the version of the myth you listen to--also either gave mankind hope in the face of adversity, or still houses an entity so evil that it would extinguish all hope if it were ever freed.
But in God of War, its: A magic box that makes you huge. Also, opening it releases a fear that makes Zeus betray and repeatedly try to kill Kratos. Because as we all know, Kratos is just a swell guy and Zeus totally needed that extra push if him wanting to get rid of Kratos was going to make any sense.
In Greek mythology, she's: Ancient Greeces answer to Eve, made from clay by Hephaestus. Pandora seems to have actually been made to punish mankind for accepting stolen fire from Olympus; in some versions of the story, this punishment included Pandora being wicked and duplicitous and just way too pretty and hnnnnghh why wont she just take off that chiton already, because Ancient Greece had issues, man. In others, she was an innocent. In either case, the gods gave her a box full of evil and she opened it, dooming humanity to suffer forever.
But in God of War, she's: A sort of ageless automaton whos loved like a daughter by Hephaestus and bears an uncanny resemblance to Kratos deceased daughter, Calliope. Also in this version, shes the key to opening the Box--which is strange, because Kratos opened it just fine in the first game without any help from her.
In Greek mythology, shes: The literal personification of the Earth, usually depicted as a human-looking mother. Actually one of the primordial Greek gods, she gave birth to the Titans (and pretty much everything else) by mating with Ouranos, personification of the sky, and other Primordials.
But in God of War, shes: Busted down to the level of a Titan herself, but at least she gets to narrate things. God of Wars Gaia is appreciably vast, a massive chunky humanoid made from trees and rocks and stuff, and shes voiced by Linda Hunt, which is great. But considering that the mythological version was literally the planet itself, shes a little underwhelming--especially since she turns out just as petty and duplicitous as everyone else Kratos meets.
In Greek mythology, shes: A terrifying sea monster that sits on the other end of a narrow strait from Charybdis (a creature that does nothing but create massive whirlpools all day). While described as having six long necks and heads, shes often depicted as a huge woman with tentacles instead of legs and dogs heads that emerge from her waist.
But in God of War, shes: A massive, tentacled sea-beast that seems at least partially inspired by Cloverfield, so at least thats not too far off the mark. Here shes the guardian of Atlantis, which is interesting because Atlantis doesnt even really factor into Greek mythology at all. Also, this versions also a lot more sinister and terrifying than a giant woman ringed with dogs heads probably would have been, so good design choice, Ghost of Sparta team.
In Greek mythology, hes: The god of dreams and a child of the primordials, who doesnt seem to have taken much of an active role in Olympian politics. Instead, he was content to appear in the dreams of famous and important people, usually to deliver messages from the gods.
But in God of War, hes: The main antagonist of God of War: Chains of Olympus and a craven opportunist. The second sun-god Helios disappears, Morpheus lurches out of the shadows (literally) to try and take over the world with his creepy, monster-filled sleep-fog, only to disappear from the narrative before Kratos ever gets to smash him. Kind of an evil departure for a god whose main job is to insert your gym teacher (although hes sort of also your dad and possibly also your boss, and hes naked) into your dreams.
In Greek mythology, it's: A lizard-like beast with multiple heads. As each head is cut off, two new ones spring up in its place, forcing Hercules--the hero who finally brings it down--to cauterize the stumps as he cuts off each head. Thats pretty much it. If this thing wasn't such a potent metaphor for a difficult foe, wed probably have all forgotten about it by now.
But in God of War, its: A massive sea serpent that hangs out in the Aegean Sea waiting to ambush and wreck ships. It's got three heads, one bigger than the other two, and it can heal itself unless you nail the two smaller heads to the floor first. Thankfully, its weak against having splintered wooden ships masts rammed through its head; no burning required.
In Greek mythology, hes: The literal personification of death, and a fairly minor deity. Still, you dont get to be death without having everyone hate your guts, so when he does appear in myths, it tends to be so that he can either be outwitted (by Sisyphus, twice) or beaten up (by Hercules, once).
But in God of War, hes: Not about to be comically tricked or easily humbled, thats for sure. The monstrous version of Thanatos that appears in Ghost of Sparta is so powerful even the Olympians seem to fear him, and his appearance as the games final boss marks the only time Kratos has ever really needed help to defeat someone.
In Greek mythology, they're: The one-eyed children of Gaia, whose imprisonment in the dark pit of Tartarus was part of the reason Cronos went and rebelled against his father--although Cronos promptly locked the Cyclopes back up when he took power. That gave them a reason to create the weapons the gods used to defeat the Titans, before settling into cushy jobs as assistants to Hephaestus.
But in God of War, theyre: Fat, nonverbal idiots who like to just sort of lumber around in in tattered loincloths, bellowing nothing in particular and trying to swat things smaller than themselves with giant clubs. Then, because theyre so stupid, Kratos climbs them and makes them kill all their friends before ripping their eyes out. Stupid, stupid Cyclopes. (And yes, Cyclopes is the plural of Cyclops. Whatd you think it was, Cyclopses?)
In Greek mythology, he's: A colossal Titan who fought against the Olympian gods when pretty much all the other Titans were doing the same thing. For his insolence, he was condemned to forever stand at one edge of the world, holding the weight of the heavens on his back. (This may have also been because Zeus wanted to keep the heavens--AKA, Ouranos--from getting it on with the earth--AKA, Gaia--because ewwww who wants to think about their grandparents doing that?)
But in God of War, hes: A colossal Titan who destroys the massive pillar that keeps the human world from collapsing into Hades. As punishment, Kratos chains him in place and condemns him to hold the weight of the world itself on his shoulders. And there he stays, even after the Titans rebel and Kratos ruins everything for everybody.
In Greek mythology, he's: The leader of the Titans, who castrated his father, Ouranos, and went on to rule during a Golden Age before devouring his god-children and becoming a central villain of Greek mythology. He was later chopped into pieces by his sons Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, and then cast into the pit of Tartarus because thats somehow worse.
But in God of War, hes: A huge, beige baby who ate his kids, was overthrown by them and had to crawl around in the middle of a sandstorm with a massive temple chained to his back. While a hidden cutscene in the first God of War indicated he died after a couple more millennia spent in that desert, God of War III went and retconned that by having Kratos brutally murder him. Arguably thats more pleasant than being slowly sandblasted to death with a landmass strapped to your back, no?
In Greek mythology, he's: The father of the gods (and most mythological Greek heroes), ruler of Olympus and wielder of lightning, who has a habit of repeatedly seducing mortal and semi-mortal women in the guise of handsome men and assorted animals. Still, Zeus is the guy in charge, so even though he gets up to some pretty hinky stuff, his hearts sort of in the right place.
But in God of War, hes: A dick.
Whatd we miss?
As weve demonstrated here, there are a lot of points at which God of War departs pretty dramatically from Greek myth, and we probably didnt get them all. We know youre dying to tell us which ones we forgot--or worse, screwed up--so why not let us know in the comments below?