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God of War and Bloodborne Inspired the Horror of the Rat King in The Last of Us Part II

Naughty Dog's Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman tells us how they got the inspiration for The Last of Us Part 2's The Rat King.

By Rachael Fiddis

October 19, 2020

Warning: This article contains spoilers about the story details for The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us Part 2 allowed its players to feel almost every emotion possible through its immensely complex and diverse narrative. There probably isn’t a player who has completed the title that wasn’t left feeling, at some point throughout the gameplay, angry, confused, happy, or mournful (to name a few). To add to the ever-growing line-up of emotions, being scared was definitely high on the list also, especially when it came to a certain workbench in the game that took a few years of my life and has given many gamers a fear of ever wanting to stand near one without getting palpitations. The other heartstopping moment came from the dreaded scene with the formidable Rat King, but where did Naughty Dog get their ideas to create this monstrosity?

Kurt Margenau, co-game director for The Last of Us Part 2, recently spoke to GamesRadar to shed some light on the creation of this new breed of infected that caused many players to wash their eyes with holy water afterward. Kurt states that they took inspiration from Neil Blomkamp’s short film, Zygote, a 2017 Sci-Fi Horror short film where 2 survivors of a mining operation in the Arctic Circle fight for their lives against an alien creature. Margenau says that “If you look at that video, you can see that there’s a lot of inspiration there.” He continues to talk about Playdead’s 2016 title Inside and how that also inspired the Rat King’s grotesque appearance. “Inside is another one; the way the monster’s arms touch a lot of stuff is just this inherently creepy thing. So we’re aware of things like that, but we have to make it our own and do all the extra work that’s needed to make it feel real.”

For those who have played God of War, you may have already seen how the Rat King’s broken off Stalker got some inspiration from the Magni and Modi bossfight which is the final part of God of War story mission, The Magic Chisel. The Last of Us 2‘s other co-game director Anthony Newman states that the similarity between the huge Rat King and then this smaller Stalker that broke free from it was like Magni and Modi “where you had these two complimentary enemies – one with a fast weapon and one with a big slow weapon”.

If like me, you thought that once you killed The Rat King, it was all over and then you remembered that Stalker who broke free, you’re not alone. Thankfully, it was much easier to kill and not nearly as stubborn. Newman goes into some detail on how Eileen the crow from Bloodborne inspired that ending battle with that very Stalker. “I loved how in a game with bosses that were 20 stories high, the most challenging and brutal fight of them all was this person who is the exact same size as you” Newman continues “So that was something we were really interested in: how can we make an infected who isn’t massive feel just as deadly?”

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The word “Rat King” actually came about in Germany in the mid-16th century where a big ball of furry rats twisted themselves via their tails into a knot that became so wrapped up in themselves that it was almost impossible to untangle them, hence the name Rat King – there’s a nice picture I’ve now planted in your mind. This phenomenon isn’t solely subjected to rats, squirrels also have found themselves tangled up in a huge ball of mess, but that’s probably not as scary sounding as The Rat King. Squirrel King just sounds kinda cute, like a Disney film.

On a lighter note and to get the images of tangled rats out of our minds, check out a wholesome video of Cascina Caradonna, who is Dina’s face model from The Last of Us Part 2, reacting to seeing herself in the game, head on over to this article. For more post-apocalyptic news, check out this The Last of Us Part 2 fan art poster showcasing Ellie’s evolution, Ashley Johnson mimicking Joel, or this amazing mural of Abby from The Last of Us Part 2 appropriately painted beside a gym. If you happened to think you were imagining hearing director/writer Neil Druckmann and co-writer Halley Gross chatting over the radio as two WLF members towards the end of the game with Abby, you weren’t wrong as apparently Druckmann and Gross lent their voices for this particular scene. For something a little different, check out this really awesome mashup of scenes from The Last of Us Part 2 in Studio Ghibli’s iconic artstyle.

You may also enjoy this fierce cosplay of Abby by Nieke or this intense cosplay of Ellie facing off against some Clickers. This particular one of the mighty bearded Joel from The Last of Us makes our heartache that little bit more.

For those who haven’t dove head-on into the franchise yet and would like to know more about this iconic game, our Features Editor put together a guide of everything you need to know about The Last of UsThe Last of Us Part 2 is available now exclusively on PS4 (and soon to be PS5). The game was one of DualShockers’ favorites of 2020; make sure to check out the official DualShockers (generally spoiler-free) review. Also, feel free to grab the game physically on Amazon to help support the site.

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Rachael Fiddis

Rachael, who is Deputy Editor & Head of Stakeholder Relations, has been gaming for many years. Some of her favourite video games include The Witcher 3 and The Last of Us but also loves a good indie title. Gaming Culture is where her heart lies and spends many hours sieving through gaming fan art and cosplay displays. Other than gaming, Rachael is a book nerd and music lover.

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