With 2013's God of War: Ascension for PlayStation 3, it looked like Sony might be done telling the story of Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta. Over the course of six entries, Kratos killed nearly every Greek god and mythological character known to man. His story was done. Then at its 2016 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press conference, Sony revealed the new God of War for PlayStation
Two years later, Kratos' new adventure is finally nearing its release. God of War will launch on PlayStation 4 on April 20, 2018. In the two years since the first announcement, we've found out all sorts of tidbits about what's coming soon, but we wouldn't be surprised if you missed something here or there. So here's seven things that you should know about Sony Santa Monica's upcoming God of War game.
Norse is The New Mythology
While Kratos tore a path of unholy hell through Greek mythology in the previous games, the new God of War is finally offering a change of pace. In this "reimagining" of the franchise, we're now in a world based loosely around Norse mythology. In previous trailers for the game, we've see characters and creatures like Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, or the dwarves Sindri and Brok. The Lost Pages of Norse Myth podcast based on the game has also teased the seer Groa and her husband Aurvandil, alongside well-known Norse figures like Thor and Odin.
For Kratos, the change in scenery is about getting away from a dark period in his life.
"Greece represents an emotional pain for Kratos. He needed to get as far away as possible. At the end of [God of War III], there was this the idea that everything he's done hasn't really worked out to well for him," God of War director Cory Barlog told us during E3 2017.
Kratos hasn't jumped realities though. According to Barlog, all of the pantheons co-existed. Kratos just took a vacation in a different part of the world.
All myths are creation stories from different cultures. Most cultures were separated by geography so in our world they all exist together from the beginning of time, just in different locations.— Cory Barlog (@corybarlog) November 10, 2017
Kratos is Back, But Family Has Mellowed Him Out
The previous God of War games featured Kratos as the angriest character ever. He had a good reason in the first game—the gods tricked him into killing his family—but things went from revenge to some sort of psychosis by time God of War III rolled around.
In the new God of War, Kratos still has that rage simmering underneath the surface, but he's a father now. God of War details the journey of Kratos and his son Atreus as they journey across ancient Scandinavia. Kratos is doing his best to control the rage inside and teach his son how to survive in this harsh land. The game is about family and the bond between Kratos and his son.
"This whole game, it's all about family, all about relationships. You can't always do it alone. That's the lesson Kratos has to learn," Barlog told us. "I think through and through, the relationship between these two characters, it's the way you get to see it change from the beginning to the end. By the end, the kid's not a burden; when he gets better, you feel responsible for that. In other games, you feel like all you're doing is upgrading. In this one, I feel like you're proud of the kid."
Kratos is still Kratos though. He's calmer and less likely to rip hearts off, but he's not the talkative type by any stretch. Kratos still has to master his rage, while attempting to be a good father.
"Kratos is not a guy who’s going to talk to you a lot. I think a lot of us have fathers who are from a generation that is not very loquacious. They were men of few words. It doesn’t mean you had a bad relationship, it just meant you weren’t very chatty a lot of the time," Barlog told the PlayStation Blog.
"I think one person said a very early version was actually depressing to play; that Kratos was just too hard on Atreus and we had gone too far," he added. "But that feedback eventually led us to the magical moment in the original E3 reveal, where Kratos is starting to yell at Atreus and then catches his breath. He has to calm down, speak through gritted teeth and explain to Atreus what he did wrong. And that’s real; that’s a moment of truth. It didn’t come immediately; it came from that initial struggle with the rest of the team."
A New Setting Means New Weapons
Gone are the Kratos' signature Blades of Chaos. These chained daggers were a part of Kratos in the previous games, chained to his body to mark him as a soldier of Ares, the God of War. Even once he lost them, they were replaced with the similar Blades of Athena.
In the new God of War, Kratos has an all-new primary weapon: the Leviathan Axe. The axe was forged by the Dwarf brothers Sindri and Brok in order to restore order and balance to the realm. In The Lost Pages of Norse Myth podcast, it was revealed that the brothers don't look to kindly upon the Aesir gods.
The move from the quick chained blades to the hefty axe changed the combat drastically. The axe can be thrown and recalled like Thor's hammer Mjolnir, but it's a more deliberate weapon.
"Every playtest and every time we put this into somebody’s hands, the first thing we see everyone doing is throwing the axe constantly and after hours and hours of doing that, no one seems to be tired of it so I definitely feel it has reached that polish level of ‘This is Kratos’ new axe, this is his new weapon’ and it has a different feel than the blades used to have but it has a feel of its own," God of War Lead Gameplay Designer Jason McDonald told GameInformer.
The axe itself was originally very "grounded" without any powers, but once the recall ability was added, it was easier for the team to expand what it could do.
"The core direction of this game was a very grounded approach, that’s why the axe was very basic and everything Kratos was doing was very basic so right when we started introducing the mythology of the axe having this magical element of recalling and throwing it out, it started to cascade into other decisions," said McDonald. "Basically, the game started to get its mythical elements back into the core gameplay design which was great."
Kratos' Son is a Fighter Too
The relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus is key to the new God of War, but that doesn't mean the game is one giant escort mission. Atreus is always fighting by your side with his trusty bow. And unlike his father, he's not afraid to use the magic that is his birthright.
"He takes a more magical approach to getting things done. He is more involved with that sort of world," Sony Santa Monica noted in an episode of The Lost Pages of Norse Myth.
Atreus is generally making moves and decisions on his own in the middle of combat. Sony Santa Monica worked hard on building out his AI and allowing it to make smarter decisions. He is also vaguely-controllable via a face button on the DualShock 4. As the story progresses, you'll make choices in the game that will affect Atreus and his capabilities.
"As you move through the game you make choices about what you, or Kratos, wants for Atreus, about how you’re going to develop each of these characters," Barlog explained to GamesRadar. "It’s kind of like, you know, it’s sort of, again, like parenting. This idea of making choices for yourself and making choices for your kid, how you’re going to sort of load balance."
The Camera is Getting Closer to the Action
God of War has always been an action series, but generally, your viewpoint has remained mostly divorced from Kratos' so you could see the action. In the new title, the camera is moving to a closer over-the-shoulder viewpoint, not unlike Resident Evil 4. That brings the player into Kratos' actions and changes the overall feel of the combat.
"It's always a dice roll. I had always said I don't want the [Batman: Arkham series] camera. I wanted it really close and my lead combat guy was really against it. He said "Leave me alone for a couple of days and I'm going to do some experiments with the camera," Barlog explained to us. "Then when he came back, he chose a camera that was closer than I was expecting. We started throwing a few things around and talking to other people. I think with all the different tricks in our arsenal, we're going to be able to make it feel amazing."
In addition, there are no sections of the game where the camera cuts to a different viewpoint or scene. You'll always be partially-sharing Kratos' point-of-view in the game, regardless of what's happening.
"The aspiration when I got back was to tell a much more personal story. God of War is traditionally known for these cinematic, pull back cameras, which I think are fantastic. But trying to get in there and really get to know the character a little more, I realised it'd be interesting if we got closer," barlog told Eurogamer.
It's Big, But It's Not Open-World
The new God of War features a wide-ranging, grounded reality for Kratos and Atreus to journey across, but it won't be an open-world like some AAA titles. Instead, the game will feature linear sections that are big enough to accommodate some exploration.
"“Exploration was a part of the original series, but it wasn’t really blown up. [We decided] to make that a massive part. Let’s celebrate the curiosity and discovery — what playing video games is all about," Barlog told GameInformer.
"[During early development] I was paying a lot of open-world games, [and] feeling a lot of fatigue, in the sense that open-world games feel like homework to me. There’s phenomenal games out there, but getting home from work, and seeing this gigantic list of things to do, started to feel…that’s not what we do best. So, going full open world wasn’t what we wanted to do."
The linear adventure should take players around 25 to 35 hours. It's narrative-driven, but Barlog compared the game to a tour bus onstage at the PlayStation Experience 2017.
"One of the original things I was talking to people about was treating the game like a tour bus. You're in this massive world and we're rewarding the player for being curious. You can pull the string to get off the tour bus and you can kind look around, but the bus is always a few steps away, no matter what you do," he said at the time.
The Series Could Move to Other Mythology in the Future
While this game is focused on the Norse pantheon, Sony Santa Monica isn't tying itself to a single mythology. God of War could move from here to another mythology quite easily, and the developer already has a few concepts in mind.
"The Greek games were the Greek era of God of War," Barlog told GameInformer. "Moving on, the next mythological belief system he interacts with became the Norse era of God of War. But we may end up going on to the Egyptian era and the Mayan era and so on and so forth."
The change of pace is all about providing something new to players, given that the franchise has definitely played out the Greek myths.
"What became apparent to me was that we were watching this franchise wane a bit," Sony Santa Monica boss Shannon Studstill added. "It was getting old. The storyline with Kratos being the hardcore badass - I think people were starting to say, 'What's next?' I felt like, in order to reinvent, we really needed to turn a lot of things around."