God of War is an action-adventure video game developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE). Released on April 20, 2018, for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) console, it is the eighth installment in the God of War series, the eighth chronologically, and the sequel to 2010's God of War III.
God of War received universal acclaim for its narrative, world design, art direction, music, graphics, characters, and combat system. Many reviewers felt it had successfully revitalized the series without losing the core identity of its predecessors. It received a number of perfect review scores, tying it with the original God of War (2005) as the highest-rated game in the series, as well as one of the highest-rated PlayStation 4 games of all time on the review aggregator Metacritic. Among other awards and nominations, God of War was awarded Game of the Year by numerous media outlets and award shows. The game performed well commercially, selling over five million copies within a month of its release and over 10 million by May 2019, making it one of the best-selling PlayStation 4 games. A novelization was released in August 2018, followed by a four-issue prequel comic series published from November 2018 to February 2019.
While the first seven games were loosely based on Greek mythology, this installment transitions the series to Norse mythology, taking place several decades after God of War III (2010). Six of the nine realms of Norse mythology can be explored. Predating the Vikings, most of the game takes place in ancient Norway in the realm of Midgard, inhabited by humans and other creatures. It is the same realm in which the Greek world had existed. As more creatures began appearing, many humans fled. Other realms visited as part of the story include Alfheim, the mystical home of the light and dark elves, Helheim, the icy land of the dead, and Jötunheim, the mountainous land of the giants. Optional explorable realms include Niflheim, a realm of poisonous fog with a maze-like structure of rewards, and the fire realm Muspelheim, featuring the six Trials of Muspelheim; completing each trial grants rewards and advances Kratos and Atreus closer to the top of a large volcano.
Access to the other three realms - Asgard, home of the Æsir gods, Vanaheim, home of the Vanir gods, and Svartalfheim, home of the dwarves - has been blocked by Odin, the ruler of Asgard and the Æsir gods. At the center of the realms is the mythical tree Yggdrasil, which connects each realm together. Although each realm is a different world, they exist simultaneously in the same space. Travel to and from realms can be done by using the Bifröst from a root of Yggdrasil contained within a temple at the center of the Lake of the Nine. The temple was created by the now dead Týr, a peaceful God of War who had traveled to other lands and learned about their mythologies; Odin had him killed as he believed Týr was secretly aiding the giants and would try to overthrow him...
The game's protagonists are:
- Kratos (voiced by Christopher Judge) - a warrior originally from Sparta who became the Greek God of War and is a son of Zeus
- Atreus (Sunny Suljic) - son of Kratos and Laufey (Faye)
The main antagonist is the Æsir god Baldur (Jeremy Davies), the brother of Thor, whose sons Modi and Magni (Nolan North and Troy Baker, respectively) assist him. His parents are Odin and the Vanir goddess Freya (Danielle Bisutti). Freya tried leaving Odin, as she did not truly love him. Odin had her banished to Midgard, after which she became known as the Witch of the Woods.
Other characters include Mímir (Alastair Duncan), who claims to be the smartest man alive, and the Huldra Brothers - Brok (Robert Craighead) and Sindri (Adam J. Harrington) - dwarves who appear at various points in the world and assist Kratos and Atreus with forging for new gear. Their weapons, including Thor's hammer Mjölnir, were used by the Æsir gods. They had also forged Kratos' Leviathan Axe, which originally belonged to Faye, who also gifted Kratos her Guardian Shield. The spirit of the Greek goddess Athena (Carole Ruggier) makes a cameo appearance, and Zeus (Corey Burton) appears as an illusion to Kratos in Helheim.
God of War is a third-person action-adventure video game. It features an over-the-shoulder free camera, a departure from the previous installments, which featured a fixed cinematic camera (with the exception of 2007's two-dimensional side-scroller Betrayal). Cinematographically, the game is presented in a continuous shot, with no camera cuts or loading screens. Although the previous main installment, Ascension (2013), introduced multiplayer to the series, this installment is single-player-only. The game is open, but it is not open world. Due to its openness, a fast travel feature is unlocked later in the game. Swimming, an ability in previous games, was cut; players instead use a boat to traverse bodies of water. Unlike previous games, which allowed players to jump freely at anytime, jumping can now only be done at designated areas, such as at a rockface or ledge. Throughout the game, players battle Norse mythological foes, like dark elves, wulvers, draugrs, as well as Gullveig and the revenants, beings warped by seiðr magic, among many others. Valkyries appear as optional boss battles. Among the many side quests, players can free the imprisoned dragons Fáfnir, Otr, and Reginn - dwarfs who were turned into dragons - in addition to battling one called Hræzlyr, a story-based boss battle.
The player controls the character Kratos in combo-based combat and puzzle game elements. The gameplay is vastly different from previous games, as it was completely rebuilt. A major change is that Kratos no longer uses his signature double-chained blades, the Blades of Chaos, as his default weapon. Instead, he uses a magical battle axe, called the Leviathan Axe, which is infused with ice elemental magic. The axe can be thrown at enemies and magically summoned back to his hand (like Thor's hammer Mjölnir). Larger enemies have precision targets, and throwing the axe at those targets stuns the enemy. Over time, it can be upgraded with runes to allow for special magical runic attacks, with one slot being for a light runic attack and the other for heavy. This provides players with a variety of options to cater to their own play style.
Another new weapon that Kratos utilizes is the Guardian Shield. When not in use, it folds up and appears like a vambrace on his left forearm. When summoned, the shield can be used offensively or defensively, similar to the Golden Fleece in previous games. Kratos also utilizes hand-to-hand combat, a feature originally introduced in Ascension.
As in the earlier games, there is a "Rage" ability called Spartan Rage. Like the previous versions, the Rage ability has a meter that gradually fills during combat. With this ability, Kratos uses powerful bare-handed attacks, as opposed to weapons, to greatly damage enemies. The game also features role-playing video game (RPG) elements. There are crafting resources for the player to find that allows them to create new or upgrade existing armor with better perks. Players also accumulate a currency called Hacksilver, a key component in crafting and purchasing new items. Experience points (XP) are used for learning new combat skills. Throughout the game world, players find chests containing random items, like Hacksilver and enchantments for improving armor and weapons. There are also two special items, Iðunn's Apples and Horns of Blood Mead, which increase the maximum length of the health and rage meters, respectively. These are replenished by green and red orbs dropped by downed foes and found throughout the game world.
Quick time events have changed from previous games. Enemies display two meters above their heads, one for health (the color of which indicates the enemy's difficulty) and the other for stun. Filling the stun meter helps to defeat more difficult enemies. When the stun meter is full, a grab-prompt will appear. Depending on the enemy, Kratos may rip it in half or grab them and throw them into other enemies, among other possible outcomes.
Although the game is played entirely as Kratos, there are times when the player may choose to passively control his son, Atreus. One button is dedicated to Atreus, and its use depends on the context. For example, if the player needs assistance, they can look at an enemy, press the button, and Atreus will use his Talon Bow to shoot arrows at the enemy. The arrows have little effect on an enemy's health, but do increase the stun meter. Over the course of the game, Atreus helps in combat, traversal, exploration, and puzzle-solving. When facing a large number of enemies, he distracts the weaker ones as Kratos fights the stronger ones. If too many enemies gang up on Atreus, he is knocked out for the remainder of that combat. Just like Kratos, Atreus acquires new skills, armor, special arrows, such as lightning arrows, and runic attacks for his Talon Bow, which has only one slot instead of two. Atreus' runic attacks summon different spectral animals with different abilities. For example, one summons a wolf that attacks enemies, while another summons the squirrel Ratatoskr that will dig up orbs for the health and rage meters.