The God Of War director Ragnarök has fought to keep his most unexpected and cartoonish character

God of War Ragnarök is a world full of frowning gods and monsters who butt heads as they each do their best. The nine realms are dark and dangerous, but through them all shines a ray of unexpected light, and I’m not talking about Brok, the dwarf who seems unable to finish a sentence without adding some kind of vulgarity before hitting the point reached at the end. I’m talking about Ratatoskr, the squirrel with an eye patch who watches over Yggdrasil, the world tree that keeps the rich in their place.

Ratatoskr technically appeared in God of War (2018), but he was less of a character and more of an ability. Atreus could summon the translucent blue squirrel to bring health items and sometimes hacksilver. In God of War Ragnarök, Ratatoskr is a physical, opaque character with dialogue, requests, and an introductory cutscene. He is perhaps the most unexpected character in the game.

Ratatoskr introduces himself to Kratos and Atreus as a cute, animated Disney sidekick. He climbs on Kratos, who might as well be a tree, searches his belongings like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, and jumps to Atreus where he stands on his arm to explain who he is. He’s weird as hell and aesthetically out of place. There are plenty of animals in God of War Ragnarök, good and bad, but Ratatoskr is the only one who wears clothes and speaks perfect English (or whatever language you play). He has a lot of jokes, but is not really funny. Ratatoskr is strange and unexpected, which is exactly how Ragnarök director Eric Williams wanted it to be.

“I wanted this character in the game,” Williams told us during a recent interview. “I wanted him to do these things and everyone was like, ‘We’ve got to stop this. We’ve got too many characters.’ And I was like, ‘No! He’s staying in the game.'” Ratatoskr is one of the many reasons why Ragnarök is considered the funniest entry in the God of War franchise. Williams wanted the game to have moments of levity to help offset the otherwise dark tone and so he stood his ground to make sure Ratatoskr stayed.

“That scene where he pops up? That was the one where everyone was like, ‘Okay, are we going too far?’” says Williams. “Even the conductor was like, ‘I don’t even know what to do with the music here. This is so far from God of War. We haven’t even written music that takes this any further!’ They had to go back and put some things together because it was so foreign to what God of War is.Williams wanted to make sure the person portraying Ratatoskr could put on a comedic performance, and he knew early on exactly who he wanted .

SungWon Cho is a talented voice actor who has appeared in dozens of games and animated TV shows, but he is perhaps best known on the internet for his short skits that poke fun at very specific elements of geek culture. “I wanted SungWon to voice him,” says Williams. “One of our writers, Anthony Burch, said, ‘I know SungWon,’ and I was like, ‘Dude — call him.'” Cho came in and heard about the character, and Williams asked him if he’d be interested in writing for Ratatoskr. to write. too, to which Cho agreed.

When speaking to Cho via email about the role, he said he was brought in before the game was announced and wasn’t even sure what he might be signing up for. “I walked into the conference room not knowing what to expect, and Eric said, ‘So I think you can guess what game we want you for,'” Cho writes. “I replied, ‘I have no idea,’ and he kind of nodded his head at the projector in the room with a big God of War backdrop, and I just said, ‘……Oh.’ “

Unlike most players, he wasn’t too surprised by the appearance and plan for Ratatoskr. “Conceptually, I wasn’t too thrilled at first, but maybe that’s because I’ve featured a lot of talking animals in my career,” Cho writes.

In terms of writing the character, Cho worked on Ratatoskr from the very beginning. “I was given complete control to come up with the personality and voice of the real Ratatoskr,” writes Cho. “Before joining the writing team, Ratatoskr’s personality was actually much more like Bitter’s in the first game, rude and sassy, ​​but I thought it would be more fun if the real Ratatoskr is more eager to please, not completely trustworthy type who literally throws out aspects of his personality that he finds bothersome. I remember pitching him as almost a car salesman who wants you to like him so he can sell you more cars.

Cho suggested Ratatoskr’s additional personalities and was given a framework for what information to provide to the player, but from there he had free rein to develop and write the character as he saw fit. “The intro scene of Ratatoskr was completely unchanged from how I wrote it, and I think it was quite important in establishing the character’s personality/tone,” writes Cho. “After I left the writing team and started recording lines months later, I noticed that some of my dialogue was still in, some had been changed and there were also new lines, but I was impressed with how it all came together really well. fit each other. well into the personality I had established for the character.

Cho also provided motion capture for Ratatoskr, which was functionally very different from the rest of the cast playing characters that vary radically in height but are otherwise all human. “It was a fascinating experience. Many people think I literally climbed onto Christopher Judge’s shoulders or something, which would be absurd in itself, but I feel like the actual process was even more mind-boggling,” Cho writes. “Basically, I got a set of bars in front of me and a big platform that I could sit on behind me. I then watched the actors in real time as a puppeteer moved a plush Ratatoskr around Chris’s body, performing the lines live and doing the climbing moves while standing. If I sat on a character’s shoulder, I would sit on the platform behind me. If I had to climb onto something, I could use the bars in front of me to ‘pull’ myself up.” Cho actually watched the puppet version of his character and acted out the scenes from the puppet’s perspective. “Definitely one of the strangest yet most entertaining acting experiences I’ve had,” writes Cho.

“[SungWon is] super smooth. The whole time I didn’t know if he was happy or angry or sad or whatever,” says Williams. “He finally tells us, ‘I’m always like this. I do backflips in my head.'”

Ratatoskr did have dialogue and a voice in the first game, provided by Troy Baker (Joel from The Last of Us and dozens of other games), but they wanted to change the character for the sequel. In the context of the game, Ratatoskr separated and fractured his personalities from his body, which explains why in the first game he was able to exist as a spectral entity with a different voice.

“I already had the idea that we would make it fun Inside out where he has all the personalities – but we keep Troy [Baker] so that he has this one that he thinks, ‘He’s not even a part of me,'” says Williams. Troy found out and he said, ‘Oh, this is great. I can’t wait to do this again.’ So those two became the five squirrels.

Originally, Williams and the team played with different voice actors for each squirrel, but they ended up leaning on Cho to mix up the performances. “From what I was told, I was chosen because they thought I could portray vastly different personalities, and because they wanted someone with a comedic background, not just for the performance, but for the dialogue writing,” writes Cho.

As can be expected with just about any creative endeavor, not everything planned for Ratatoskr made it to the final game. “They asked me to write a ‘rap battle’ in the style of the Norwegian activity of flying, which is essentially a contest to insult each other,” writes Cho, in reference to Ratatoskr content that the finale doesn’t have achieved. . “It was between Ratatoskr and Brok, and I was quite happy with how it turned out, but a lot of things have to be scrapped due to time (or maybe craziness).”

The final verdict is still on Ratatoskr. Time will tell if he’s a much-loved addition to God of War’s large cast, but initial feedback has been welcoming and positive. It helps that players have learned that if you press his bell enough, the typically stoic squirrel will lash out and be the only character to show more anger than the old Kratos. “If you bring in a giant talking squirrel and make it talk to Kratos, I think it’s going to feel cartoonish no matter what you do,” writes Cho. “While I wanted him to be a really fun, almost life-sized character, I still wanted to make sure his personality and motivations were really serious. As for writing him, I wanted him to feel real and not just a silly little throwaway character.

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