GOD of War Ragnarok’s Odin takes you on a tour of Asgard as you follow him.
You see how he walks and speaks, how he speaks to his servants, and you get a sense of his influence and power.
The same actor Richard Schiff pulls off a similar trick in The West Wing when he chews up his subordinates who line the halls while playing Toby Ziegler.
We spoke to the game’s director, Eric Williams, to see if this was all intentional.
He says: “The Walk and Talk was a tribute to what we love and love [it was] why we wanted Richard Schiff to play this role.
“He didn’t even know we were doing it because he just did the voiceover and we put that together with the normal animation set.
“We showed it to him at the VO session and he was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool!'”
Ragnarok’s Odin is a con man, a crime boss, a magician. He doesn’t have an intimidating presence, but he’s still a major threat.
As Williams describes him, “He’s this humble old man. And then you sit down to play chess with him and suddenly he emptied your pockets.”
As an actor best known for playing a character who works in politics, Schiff knows all about emptying his pockets.
When Sony Santa Monica first called him about the role, he was in the car with his son.
Williams recalls, “He didn’t know what it was when we called him.
“And then his son says, ‘What do they want from you?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, they want me to be in God of War.’ He said, ‘Do it, Dad!’
“His son was a huge fan and broke God of War in 2018 [for him]. He wrote down all those highlight notes on two pages so his dad would know how to talk to us about anything.
“Who’s doing this? He’s Richard Schiff. He might just show up!”
In the game, Odin shows up at Kratos’ house unannounced and saunters through it as if he owns the house.
The rest of the new characters have a similar twist, helping them stand out from the many interpretations of the Norse gods in popular culture.
Williams explains, “It’s difficult because a lot of people either know the Prose Edda — they’re very academic about it — or they know Marvel.
“We wanted to create Norse characters in the God of War universe. We read all about the characters and tried to get as much background information as we could, but then we thought, ‘Well, this isn’t going to work with the story we’re trying to tell.’ So we started playing around with them.”
Thor is one such character who, while impressively built, is about as heroic as a snail. In Ragnarök, he is more of a henchman than a warrior.
Of the decision, Williams says, “I wanted Thor to be this manly kid — he’s strong, hedonistic, he drinks, he fucks.
“He does. It makes sense why he’s out there doing all that dirty work for Odin. As much as he wields that hammer, Thor is the hammer.”
Much like Richard Schiff was slated to work on The West Wing, Ryan Hurst, who plays Thor, was cast for his role as Harry “Opie” Winston on Sons of Anarchy.
Williams explains, “We’ve always thought of the Aesir as a biker gang and the Vanir as hippies.”
Art Director Raf Grassetti adds: “[Eric Williams] mentioned that the bikers, particularly Sons of Anarchy’s Ryan Hurst, were a huge influence on the role and how we’re going to translate that into the character.
“The Greek gods had a lot of gold. We wanted to play something [gods] as would look in Norse mythology.
“So they would have a lot less gold and they wouldn’t care as much about their looks. They live with humans and that really influenced the design and the way they behave.
“You can feel the tension in dealing with gangs and the mafia was also something very featured in the way these characters interact.”
At the height of the pandemic, work from home began, and Williams traveled to Hurst’s home to get the work done.
He says: “So me and Matt Sophos, the story director, went to his house. He has about ten dogs. It was wonderful.
“We sat down with him for three hours, brought pictures and walked him through the whole story. At the end he said, ‘Man, I really want to do this. I’ve never done anything like that.’
“We could see that he was really busy with it. Then finally, at the end, he says, “Just promise me one thing, man. Don’t make me big and stupid.’”
Despite being big and dumb, Thor’s character has many layers. Just because their needs are simple doesn’t mean they aren’t complex inside.
He gives us a glimpse of what would have become of Kratos if he hadn’t defied Zeus.
Williams explains, “We love mirrors and a cautionary tale.”
2018’s God of War follows a father who teaches his son how to survive while his son in turn teaches him how to live.
In Ragnarok, this two-sided lesson becomes even more apparent as the two must work out their relationship.
If you’ve only played the reboots, you might not realize how bad Kratos can be.
In God of War 3, he saves a princess from Poseidon and then uses her body to open a door by stuffing it into a crank.
Ragnarok causes Kratos to contemplate his past evils.
Williams explains, “It’s like a little therapy session for him to get the stuff out there and not be afraid to talk about it.
“Because if you can’t talk about it, it can make you who you were. If those are the things that made you do those things and you can’t let go of them, they can come back.”
Kratos is a character that really needs to be redeemed and it’s amazing that the writers were able to pull this off.
Go too far with it and it looks fake, go the other way and it’s too edgy.
Williams says: “It was super tough. I remember Cory Barlog coming up to me and being like, ‘Dude, he’s too passive.
He goes to sleep? He sits down at a table and eats? He’s in a cave?’ And I said, ‘Dude’s tired, man.'”
Barlog was concerned about the direction of the story early in development before Christopher Judge was brought in to help bring the character to life.
Williams recalls, “And then we sat back down. I said to him, ‘Here’s the one thing that I don’t think is going through yet.
“In those scenes he thinks about how Faye lied to him. The woman who brought him back from the abyss of destruction and made him human again.
“She lied to him. And he has to endure that.” And then he started watching Chris perform. He said, ‘Oh shit, that makes sense.’
“Kratos cannot answer the questions his child has about his nature. At the beginning of the game he is sitting there, he has the empty ash sack in his hand.
“It’s just brutal. Every time I see that, it just crushes me.”
One of the most memorable aspects of God of War 2018 was Christopher Judge’s word “boy”, which he used to address his son throughout the game.
In Ragnarok, however, Kratos has more respect for Atreus, and it shows in the way he addresses him.
Williams says, “The team said, ‘Really? Why? That’s our thing.” But then when I explained it, they were like, ‘Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense.’
“A lot of superficial things are always easy, but you have to dig a little deeper and that takes effort.
“You have to be like, ‘Oh man, this gets even better.’ And you called it out Because that’s the only time in the whole game that he says “boy”.
“The origin story of this whole play was, you know, when your parents get really mad at you and start using your middle name?”
Written by Kirk McKeand and Georgina Young on behalf of GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9809612/god-of-war-ragnarok-interview-eric-williams/ God of War Ragnarök Interview: Biker gangs inspired the gaming gods