​God of War Ragnarök is a world filled with scowling gods and head-butting monsters, each working for their own best interests. The Nine Realms are dark and dangerous, but through it all an unexpected ray of light shines, and I’m not talking about Brok, the dwarf who seems unable to finish a sentence without including some vulgarity before finding the full stop. . I’m talking about Ratatoskr, the eyepatch-wearing squirrel who watches over Yggdrasil, the world tree that holds the kingdoms in place.

Ratatoskr technically appeared in God of War (2018), but it 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 non-translucent physical character with dialogue, requests, and an introductory cutscene. He is also possibly the most unexpected character in the game.

Ratatoskr introduces himself to Kratos and Atreus as a cute, animated Disney sidekick. He climbs on top of Kratos, which might as well be a tree, rummaging through his belongings like Yoda in return of the jedi, and jumps towards Atreus where he perches on his arm to explain who he is. It’s weird as hell and aesthetically out of place. There are many 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 he’s playing in). He has a lot of jokes, but he’s not quite comic relief. Ratatoskr is strange and unexpected, and that’s exactly how Ragnarök director Eric Williams wanted him 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 cut this. We have too many characters. And I was like, ‘No! It stays in the game.’” Ratatoskr is one of the many reasons why Ragnarök is considered the funniest installment in the God of War franchise. Williams wanted the game to have moments of lightness to help offset the dark tone, which is why he put his foot down to make sure Ratatoskr stuck around.

“That scene where he appears? That was the one where everyone said, ‘Okay, are we going too far?’” says Williams. “Even the music director said, ‘I don’t even know what to do with the music here. This is so far from God of War. We don’t even have music written to help with this!’ 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 that the person playing Ratatoskr could deliver a comedic performance, and he knew exactly who he wanted from the start.

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

Speaking to Cho via email about the role, he said he was hired before the game was announced and he wasn’t even sure what he was potentially signing up for. “I walked into the boardroom not knowing what to expect, and Eric said, ‘I think you can guess what game we want you for,’” Cho writes. “I was like, ‘I have no idea,’ and he nodded to the projector in the room with a big God of War background, and I just said, ‘…Oh.'”

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

As for the character writing, Cho worked on Ratatoskr from the beginning. “I was given free rein to create the personality and voice of the true Ratatoskr,” Cho writes. “Before I joined the writing team, Ratatoskr’s personality was much more like Bitter’s in the first game, rude and sassy, ​​but I thought it would be more fun if the real Ratatoskr was a more eager to please, not totally trustworthy guy. that he literally expels aspects of his personality that he finds annoying. I remember introducing him almost as a car salesman who wants you to like him so he can sell you more cars.”

Cho proposed Ratatoskr’s additional personalities and was given a framework for the information to be delivered to the player, but from there he was given free rein to develop and write for the character however he wanted. “Ratatoskr’s intro scene didn’t change at all from how I wrote it, and I think it was pretty key in establishing the personality/tone of the character,” Cho writes. “After I left the writing team and months later started recording lines, I noticed that some of my dialogue was still there, some had been changed, and there were new lines as well, but I was impressed with how it all fit together so well. well into the personality that he had established for the character.”

Cho also provided motion capture for Ratatoskr, who was functionally very different from the rest of the cast, who play characters that vary radically in height, but are otherwise all human beings. “It was a fascinating experience. A lot of people think that I literally stood on Christopher Judge’s shoulders or something, which would be absurd in and of itself, but I feel like the actual process was even more baffling,” Cho writes. “Basically They provided me with a set of bars in front of me and a large platform behind me that I could sit on, then watched the actors in real time as a puppeteer moved a stuffed Ratatoskr around Chris’s body, performing the lines live. and I had to do the climbing moves while standing up. If I sat on a character’s shoulder, I would sit on the platform behind me. If I had to climb something, I could use the bars in front of me to ‘pick myself up’.” Cho basically saw the puppet version of his character and acted out the scenes from the puppet’s perspective.”Definitely one of the weirdest but most entertaining acting experiences I’ve ever had,” Cho writes.

“[SungWon is] super deadpan. The whole time I didn’t know if he was happy or angry or sad or whatever,” says Williams. “Finally he tells us, ‘I’m like this all the time. Inside my head, I’m doing backflips.’”

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

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

Originally, Williams and the team toyed with having different voice actors for each squirrel, but ended up relying on Cho to mix up the performances. “From what they told me, they cast me because they thought I could pull off very different personalities and because they wanted someone with a background in comedy not only for acting but also for writing dialogue,” Cho writes.

As expected with almost any creative endeavor, not everything planned for Ratatoskr made it into the final game. “I was asked to write a ‘battle rap’ in the style of the Nordic activity of flying, which is essentially a contest of hurling insults at each other,” Cho writes, regarding the Ratatoskr content that didn’t make the final cut. . “It was between Ratatoskr and Brok, and I was very happy with the result, but a lot of things have to be cut for time (or maybe for nonsense).”

The final verdict is still out on Ratatoskr. Time will tell if he’s a beloved addition to God of War’s great cast, but early feedback has been welcoming and positive. It helps that players have learned that if you ring his bell long enough, the typically stoic squirrel will attack and he’ll be the only character to show more anger than old Kratos. “If you’re going to bring in a giant talking squirrel and have it talk to Kratos, I think it’s going to feel cartoonish no matter what you do,” Cho writes. “While I wanted him to be a very fun, almost larger-than-life character, I still wanted to make sure that his personality and motivations had a real seriousness. As far as writing it, I wanted it to feel real and not just some goofy, throwaway character.”


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