One of the first things you see at the beginning of God of War is Kratos chopping down a tree with a yellow handprint upon its trunk. It doesn’t take long to figure out that handprint belongs to Faye, the recently deceased companion of Kratos and mother to their son Atreus. It’s a powerful scene that kicks off the reborn God of War in a far more measured and poignant fashion than any previous game in the series. It’s also a hint to a subtle yet important piece of a secret that comes full circle once you complete the game. The following description contains spoilers, so consider finishing the game before reading on.
When speaking to God of War director Cory Barlog last week, he made mention off camera of a tidbit that left many of us surprised, both for how interesting it was and how the details therein had almost completely flown over our heads.
In the final moments of the game, as Kratos and Atreus ascend the highest peak in Jötunheim to spread Faye’s ashes, Atreus makes note of a yellow handprint on the face of a climbable ledge. Atreus points out that print belongs to Faye, but the implication of its proximity to an interactive piece of the environment totally passed us by until Barlog set the record straight: every handhold and ledge you grapple onto in the game is painted the same color as the handprint because they were also left by Faye.
Obviously, these seemingly convenient yellow markings also made it easier for us to navigate God of War’s environments, but Santa Monica Studio gets credit for adding narrative significance to an otherwise mundane and overlooked video game trope. It also reinforces the revelation minutes earlier, when Atreus and Kratos discover that there was more to Faye than they’d ever previously assumed.
When we first meet the two characters, Atreus is inexperienced and suffering from an unknown affliction. Kratos, despite his physical strength, was emotionally weak, still carrying the baggage of his former life. It’s only through the journey laid out for them that the two find the individual strength and knowledge to overcome their issues, and ultimately form a bond strong enough to stand up to the threats headed their way–threats Faye was all too aware of. Looking back, knowing that Faye was guiding their every move, puts everything in a fresh perspective.
For more on God of War, be sure to check out our dissection of Kratos, a former bloodthirsty character that Santa Monica Studio turned into a touching, introspective father. And whether you’ve played God of War yet or not, consider our plea to play the game in immersive mode, which we think enhances the overall experience in surprising ways.