God of War (2018 video game)

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God of War
Cover art featuring Kratos and his son Atreus
Developer(s) SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher(s) Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director(s) Cory Barlog
Producer(s)
  • Elizabeth Dahm Wang
  • Sean Llewellyn
  • Chad Cox
  • Eric Fong
Designer(s) Derek Daniels
Programmer(s) Florian Strauss
Writer(s)
  • Matt Sophos
  • Richard Zangrande Gaubert
  • Cory Barlog
Composer(s) Bear McCreary
Series God of War
Platform(s) PlayStation 4
Release April 20, 2018
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

God of War[a] 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. Unlike previous games, which were loosely based on Greek mythology, this game is loosely based on Norse mythology. The main protagonists are Kratos, the former Greek God of War, and his young son Atreus. Following the death of Kratos' second wife and Atreus' mother, they journey to fulfill her promise and spread her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms. Kratos keeps his troubled past a secret from Atreus, who is unaware of his divine nature. Along their journey, they encounter monsters and gods of the Norse world.

Described by creative director Cory Barlog as a reimagining of the franchise, a major gameplay change is that Kratos prominently uses a magical battle axe instead of his signature double-chained blades. God of War also uses an over-the-shoulder free camera, with the game in one shot, as opposed to the fixed cinematic camera of the previous entries. The game includes role-playing video game elements, and Kratos' son Atreus provides assistance in combat. The majority of the original game's development team worked on God of War and designed the game to be accessible and grounded. A separate short text-based game, God of War: A Call from the Wilds released in February 2018, follows Atreus on his first adventure.

God of War received universal acclaim from critics, being praised for its narrative, world design, art direction, graphics, characters, and combat system. It received perfect scores from multiple reviewers, making it the highest-rated game in the God of War series, as well the third highest-rated PS4 game on Metacritic. The game performed well commercially, selling five million copies within a month of release.

Gameplay[edit]

The gameplay is vastly different from the previous installments, as it was rebuilt from the ground up.[6] Although the previous main installment, Ascension (2013), introduced multiplayer to the series, this installment is single-player-only.[4] The game features a third-person, over-the-shoulder free camera, a departure from the previous installments, which featured a third-person, fixed cinematic camera (with the exception of 2007's 2D side-scroller Betrayal).[7] Cinematographically, the game is presented in a continuous shot, with no camera cuts.[8] The game is open, but it is not open-world.[6] Due to it being open, players can fast travel to different locations through Mystic Gateways.[9] As the ability to swim was cut from the game,[10] players instead use a boat to traverse bodies of water.[9] Just like previous entries, there are puzzles for players to solve to progress through parts of the game. Enemies in the game stem from Norse mythology, such as variants of trolls, ogres, dark elves and their king, wolves, wulvers, nightmares, draugrs,[11] tatzelwurms, as well as Gullveig and the revenants, beings warped by seiðr magic, among other original creatures.[12] Valkyries appear as optional boss battles, and players can free the dragons Fáfnir, Otr, and Reginndwarfs that were turned into dragons—in addition to battling a dragon called Hræzlyr.[9]

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,[13] which is infused with ice elemental magic. The axe can be thrown at enemies and magically summoned back to his hand (similar to Thor's hammer Mjölnir). Larger enemies have precision targets and throwing the axe at those targets stuns the enemy. The weapon can also be thrown at environmental objects to trigger a damaging explosion and it can freeze objects and some enemies in place for puzzle solving until the axe is summoned back to Kratos' hand. The axe has standard light and heavy attacks, and over time, it can be upgraded with runes to allow for special 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. For example, one of the light runic attacks allows Kratos to charge the axe and let out a burst of energy and one of the heavy runic attacks allows Kratos to summon a swirling ice storm.[14] Another new weapon that Kratos utilizes is the Guardian Shield. When not in use, it folds up and appears like a vambrace on Kratos' left forearm. When summoned, the shield can be used offensively and defensively, similar to the Golden Fleece in previous games.[15] Kratos also utilizes hand-to-hand combat, a feature originally introduced in Ascension.[7] The Blades of Chaos are acquired late into the game via a plot device and perform similarly as they did in previous installments, but can also be upgraded with light and heavy runic attacks.

Pre-release gameplay screenshot of God of War, taken from the trailer shown at E3 2016: Kratos (center) and his son Atreus (right) are battling a troll. Atreus can assist in combat, such as firing lightning arrows on the player's command.

Similar to previous 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 elements similar to role-playing video games (RPGs).[7][16] There are crafting resources for the player to find that allow them to create new or upgrade existing armor with better perks.[17] 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.[16] Throughout the game world, players find chests containing random items, such as Hacksilver and enchantments for improving armor and weapons, as well as two special items, Iðunn's Apples and Horns of Blood Mead, which increase the maximum length of the health and rage meters, respectively. Quick time events have changed from previous games.[6] Enemies display two meters above their heads, one for health and the other for stun. Filling up 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.[18]

Although the game is played entirely as Kratos,[19] there are times when the player may choose to passively control Kratos' 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.[20] The arrows have little effect on an enemy's health, but do increase the stun meter.[18] 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.[17] 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, as well as runic attacks for his Talon Bow, but it only has 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 to replenish Kratos' health or rage meters.[21]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

While the first seven games were loosely based on Greek mythology, this installment takes the series to Norse mythology,[22] but predates the Vikings.[20][23] Six of the nine realms of Norse mythology can be explored. The majority of the game takes place in the realm of Midgard, inhabited by humans and other creatures and is the same realm that the Greek world had existed in. 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. Other 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—have been blocked by the ruler of Asgard and the Æsir gods, Odin.[24] At the center of the realms is the mythical tree Yggdrasil, which connects each realm together. Although each realm is a different world, they simultaneously exist in the same space. Travel to and from realms can be done by the use of the Bifröst from a root of Yggdrasil contained within a temple located 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.[22]

Characters[edit]

The protagonists of the game are Kratos (voiced by Christopher Judge) and his young son Atreus (Sunny Suljic). Kratos is a warrior originally from Sparta who became the Greek God of War and is the son of Zeus. After ending up in Midgard, he met his second and now deceased wife, Laufey (addressed as Faye), and they bore their son, Atreus, who does not know about Kratos' past or his divine nature, but can hear other beings' thoughts. 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 Baldur. His parents are Odin and the Vanir god Freya (Danielle Bisutti). Freya tried leaving Odin, as she did not truly love him, and Odin had her banished to Midgard, after which she became known as the Witch of the Woods. To protect her son from a prophecy that foretold his death, Freya cast a spell of immortality on Baldur, which also caused him to not feel pain or any feeling of pleasure, which he resented her for. The only thing that she could not prevent from breaking the spell was mistletoe, which she kept secret. Other characters include Mímir (Alastair Duncan), who claims to be the smartest man alive, and the Huldra Brothers Brok (Roger Craighead) and Sindri (Adam J. Harrington), a pair of dwarves who appear at various points in the world and assist Kratos and Atreus with forging new gear. Their weapons, including Thor's hammer Mjölnir, were used by the Æsir gods and they also had forged Kratos' Leviathan Axe, which originally belonged to Faye, who also gifted Kratos his Guardian Shield.[13] 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.

Plot[edit]

Many years have passed since Kratos took his vengeance against the Olympian gods,[b] and he now lives with his young son Atreus in Midgard. The game opens following the death of Kratos' second wife and Atreus' mother, Faye, whose last wish was for her ashes to be spread at the highest peak of the nine realms. Before beginning their journey, Kratos is confronted by a mysterious man with godlike powers. After seemingly killing him, Kratos and Atreus set out on their journey.

Reaching the Lake of the Nine, Kratos and Atreus encounter the friendly World Serpent, Jörmungandr. After running into impenetrable black mist which can only be extinguished with the Light of Alfheim, they receive aid from the Witch of the Woods to use the Bifröst in order to travel to Alfheim and secure the Light. Upon vanquishing the mist and reaching Midgard's peak, they overhear a conversation between the mysterious man, revealed to be Baldur, his nephews Modi and Magni, and the imprisoned Mímir. After they leave, Kratos and Atreus confront Mímir, who reveals that their goal is actually in Jötunheim, but travel there has been blocked to keep out Odin and Thor. Mímir, however, knows another passage. He instructs Kratos to cut off his head and have it revived by the Witch of the Woods, revealed to be Freya. Kratos immediately distrusts her, but both Freya and Mímir warn him that he must tell Atreus about his true nature.

Kratos, Atreus, and Mímir's head journey to collect needed components to open Jötunheim's portal when they are attacked by Modi and Magni. After Kratos kills Magni, Modi flees, but later returns and ambushes them. Atreus collapses ill, which Mímir and Freya explain is a mental contradiction of a god believing himself to be mortal. She tells Kratos that he must retrieve the heart of the Keeper of the Bridge of the Damned in Helheim, but his Leviathan Axe is useless there. Kratos then returns home to unearth his old weapons, the Blades of Chaos, and is haunted by Athena's spirit, who goads him about his past. After retrieving the heart, he has a haunting vision of Zeus. Atreus is cured and Kratos tells him that he is a god. Atreus then becomes increasingly arrogant on their journey, and he murders a weakened Modi, despite Kratos ordering not to. At Midgard's peak, they are ambushed by Baldur, resulting in Jötunheim's portal being destroyed and the group falling into Helheim.

Atreus makes amends with Kratos and they find out about Freya and Baldur's familial relationship. Returning to Midgard, Mímir realizes there is another way to reach Jötunheim, but it requires recovering his missing eye. After obtaining it from Jörmungandr's belly, who had inadvertently swallowed it when he ate a statue of Thor, they are attacked by Baldur again, but Freya intervenes in an attempt to protect her son. During the fight, Baldur is pierced by Atreus' mistletoe arrow, breaking Freya's spell on him. Baldur is defeated, and although Kratos gives him an opportunity to retreat, he instead attempts to strangle Freya, forcing Kratos to kill him. A grieving Freya swears revenge on Kratos and taunts him about hiding his true nature from Atreus. Kratos finally tells Atreus about his past and how he had killed his fellow Greek gods, including his father, Zeus. Atreus laments if patricide is all that gods are good for. Kratos tells Atreus that they should both learn from their experiences and not repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. A silent Freya leaves with Baldur's corpse and Mímir hopefully suggests that she will eventually move on from the tragedy and that Kratos did the right thing.

In Jötunheim, they find a temple with a mural depicting their adventures, showing that the giants had foreseen everything that would happen and vaguely foretold what was to come. In addition, they discover that Faye was a giant who decided to stay behind in Midgard, making Atreus a hybrid of giant, god, and mortal. Their fight with Baldur was shown, revealing he was actually after Faye the whole time. It is also revealed that Atreus was named Loki by his mother. Wondering if Faye planned this in advance, Kratos and Atreus fulfill their promise and spread her ashes at the peak. Afterwards, Kratos reveals to Atreus that his given name was also the name of a compassionate Spartan comrade. When they return to Midgard, Mímir warns them that the three-year long Fimbulwinter has started, meaning Ragnarök is soon to follow, which was not supposed to occur for another hundred years.

In the game's secret ending, Kratos and Atreus return home and slumber. Atreus has a vision that at the end of Fimbulwinter, Thor will arrive at their home to confront them.

Development[edit]

At the first annual PlayStation Experience on December 6, 2014, Santa Monica Studios's creative director Cory Barlog confirmed that a new God of War was in very early development. He said that the game would not be a prequel, but it might be a reboot.[25] In April 2016, Polygon reported that concept art of the next installment had been leaked. The images showed Kratos in the world of Norse mythology; a concept originally considered by series creator David Jaffe after Kratos eliminated the Greek gods.[26] At the 2016 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the next installment was officially announced with a gameplay demo and confirmed the concept art to be true. The demo showed a fully bearded Kratos with a son, and Kratos was teaching the boy how to hunt. The pair also battled a troll. The end of the demo showed the title God of War and confirmed it was in development for the PlayStation 4.[7][1] E3 also confirmed that Barlog had returned to the series as game director for the new installment. Barlog has been a major contributor in the development of the God of War series since the original installment in 2005, with his prior most notable role being game director of God of War II (2007). This new installment was his fifth God of War game.[20]

In naming the game, Barlog stated that it was deliberately titled God of War with no numeral or subtitle because although it is a continuation of the series, "we are reimagining everything."[22][19] Head of Santa Monica Studio Shannon Studstill and Barlog said that Sony Interactive Entertainment had to be convinced to do another God of War game as a lot of people at Sony wanted the series to "sleep and rest" due to the lackluster response of the previous game, Ascension.[27] In explaining why Barlog was brought back, Studstill said that he knew the series very well, "and bringing in someone that understands that history is the respect the franchise deserves."[10] Barlog followed up and said that "You gotta know the rules to break the rules."[10] Series creator David Jaffe was also considered, but was unavailable.[28]

In explaining the transition from Greek mythology to Norse mythology, Barlog said: "it's kind of this BC–AD change over kind of thing. We're moving and starting from zero and kind of moving forward on that."[22][19] Before settling on Norse mythology, Egyptian mythology was also considered. Barlog said that half of the team was for it, but since "there's a lot more about civilization - it's less isolated, less barren", he had to make the decision and decided on the Norse setting because they wanted the focus to stay on Kratos: "Having too much around distracts from that central theme of a stranger in a strange land."[23] In explaining why Kratos was now in the Norse world, Barlog said that different cultures' belief systems coexisted, but they were "separated by geography", suggesting that Kratos traveled from Greece to Norway (Scandinavia) after the conclusion of God of War III;[29] in clarifying the conclusion of that game, Barlog said that Kratos did not destroy what was believed to be the entire world, but only the portion that was ruled over by the Greeks.[9] Barlog said that the new game predates the Vikings; it is the time in which their gods walked the Earth.[20][23] It was also confirmed that this would not be Kratos' last game.[4] Barlog said that future games could see the series tackling Egyptian or Mayan mythology,[27] and that although this game focuses on Norse mythology, it alludes to the fact that there are other mythologies co-existing in the world.[30] Barlog also said that he liked the idea of having different directors for each game, seen throughout the first seven games, and although he may not direct another God of War, he would still be at Santa Monica to work on future games.[9]

Most of the development team that worked on the original God of War worked on the new installment.[22] They claimed that they matched the new gameplay with the same level of accessibility as the previous installments.[6] It was confirmed that the game would not feature any morality system or branching story; all players have the same story experience. The developers also confirmed that some of the more controversial mini-games found in previous entries (such as the sex mini-game) would not return.[22] Some gameplay characteristics found in the previous installments were cut, such as jumping, swimming, and instant-death platforming challenges; these were cut due to the camera being closer to Kratos.[10] Although the previous installment, Ascension, introduced multiplayer to the series, the team decided to drop the mode to focus on the single-player experience.[5] In changing the gameplay, Studstill said "I felt like, in order to reinvent, we really needed to turn a lot of things around."[31] In regards to the camera change, Barlog said "We wanted a much more intimate experience, a much more up close, and a much more player-controlled experience, so the camera really is a mechanic that [we leaned] into heavily for everything in the game."[6] Explaining Kratos' axe, lead gameplay designer Jason McDonald, who has worked on the series since the original game, said the axe was chosen because they wanted a more grounded direction for the game. Initially, they were unsure how to make it unique, like how the double-chained blades were. After they came up with the concept of throwing the axe and having it return to Kratos, "things started to fall into place."[32] McDonald said that combat with the axe is a little slower than what it was with the blades, "but it's just as fluid and just as brutal as it's ever been."[32] Barlog took inspiration from Dark Souls (2011), which influenced the game's combat system, particularly its gameplay loop and strategic decision-making,[33] as well as the game's approach to storytelling.[34] In addition, designers Anthony Dimento and Luis Sanchez revealed how God of War's level design and exploration was influenced by Bloodborne (2015), as they wanted to "just have the world breathe a little bit" and expand upon player discovery by including "micro-loops where you're unlocking paths, unlocking shortcuts..." that gave purpose.[35]

The entire game was done in a single shot, as in no camera cuts, meaning there are no loading screens or fade-to-black between gameplay and cutscenes.[17] The frame rate was confirmed as 30 frames per second,[4] and the enemy count was increased to up to 100 enemies on-screen; God of War III and Ascension could do up to 50.[22] Unlike the previous games, Santa Monica did not make a demo specifically for public release. Barlog explained that doing so would have delayed the game by a couple of months.[36] He also confirmed that the game was built for the standard PlayStation 4,[36] but the game would "benefit from the power" of the PlayStation 4 Pro; an updated version of the PlayStation 4 that can render games in 4K and was released a few months after God of War was announced.[37] In late December 2016, Barlog confirmed that the game was playable from start to finish.[38] At the 2017 PlayStation Experience, Barlog said that the game's story would take 25–35 hours to complete, which is significantly more than the previous four main installments, which each took an average of 10 hours to complete.[39]

At E3 2017, a new trailer was shown featuring new gameplay, cinematics, and characters. In the trailer, Kratos was shown using a shield that he could use offensively and defensively. At one point in the trailer, Kratos finds a Greek vase with himself on it, wielding his infamous double-chained blades. During the trailer, an unnamed woman warns Kratos about the Norse gods, as they know what he did to the Greek gods, while a pair of wolves were also shown. The trailer ends with Kratos and Atreus encountering the World Serpent. Atreus was able to translate what it said, which was that it wanted to help the pair. It was confirmed that the game would release in early 2018.[15] Since E3 2017 until the game's launch, Santa Monica included a section on the God of War website titled "The Lost Pages", detailing some of the lore of God of War's Nordic world.[13] In January 2018, the game's release date was confirmed for April 20, 2018. A trailer was also released that showed that the character Mímir from the mythology would have a role in the game.[40] On March 22, God of War went gold.[41]

Characterization[edit]

Christopher Judge does the voice and cinematic motion capture for Kratos in the game, replacing longstanding voice actor Terrence C. Carson, who had voiced Kratos since the original 2005 game, and also did the motion capture for him in 2013's Ascension

During early development, there was talk about having a different protagonist for the game, but it was decided to keep Kratos. Referencing the Nintendo character Mario and the Mario games, Barlog said that just like Mario, "Kratos is intrinsically tied" to the God of War series.[20] In regards to the new changes, Barlog said that:

I knew I didn’t want to simply reboot the franchise, starting over with a retelling of the origin story. I wanted to reimagine the gameplay, give players a fresh perspective and a new tactile experience while delving deeper into the emotional journey of Kratos to explore the compelling drama that unfolds when an immortal demigod makes a decision to change.[42]

Barlog explained that Kratos had to change his cycle of violence and learn how to control his rage. He said that Kratos had made many bad decisions, which led to the destruction of Olympus, and wanted to know what would happen if Kratos made a good decision. The birth of Barlog's own son influenced the idea of Kratos' character change.[42] The canceled live-action Star Wars television series was also an influence.[43] The bond between Kratos and his son is at the heart of the game and Barlog said "This game is about Kratos teaching his son how to be a god, and his son teaching Kratos how to be human again."[17] Referencing the Marvel Comics character Hulk, Barlog said that in regards to Kratos, "We've already told the story of The Hulk. We want to tell the story of [Bruce] Banner now."[17] One of their goals was to make Kratos "a more nuanced and interesting character."[44] In changing the narrative focus, Studstill said "I think we inherently knew the franchise needed to evolve in that emotional beat and be something meatier for the older generation of gamers."[44]

Christopher Judge, best known as Teal'c from Stargate SG-1, replaced T.C. Carson as the voice of Kratos; Carson had voiced Kratos since the original God of War. Commenting in response to the change, Carson said, "Sony went in a new direction."[45] Barlog explained that the way the previous games were made, they were able to have someone else do the motion capture instead of the voice actor. Although Carson had done the motion capture for Kratos in Ascension, Barlog said the actor change was made because of the type of camera work they wanted to do. For the new camera work, they needed someone who was closer to Kratos' size to do the motion capture along with a child. Carson was unsuitable for this because he was much shorter than Kratos, who is over 6-feet tall: "Offsetting [Carson's height] for the size of a child, it turned out it was going to be almost impossible to try and actually shoot them and go in and redo the animations."[46] Judge was chosen because he was 6-foot-3 and had the body of a professional football player. He was also chosen because of the chemistry with his then-10-year-old co-star, Sunny Suljic, who plays Kratos' son Atreus; Suljic's opinion was also sought in making the decision, and out of all the auditions, he liked Judge the most. The two bonded well, and Judge described his time with Suljic as time he had missed with his own children. In stepping into the role of Kratos, Judge took it as an opportunity to add something new to the character. He researched the character and Carson's performance, but decided not to imitate it. Since Santa Monica were going in a new direction, he decided to start fresh and go from there. Judge was thrown off when he first read the script, stating it "was a real script", and not just "a way to get into battles."[46] He said "it was really this great story of this relationship and this crazy mythology."[46] While Judge did all of Kratos' motion capture for the cinematic scenes, stuntman Eric Jacobus did all of Kratos' combat motion capture; Jacobus was found by God of War's animators on YouTube. Instead of going directly to Santa Monica to audition, Jacobus recorded an audition tape and they immediately hired him.[47]

During E3 2016, GameSpot mistakenly reported that Kratos' son's name was Charlie, which Barlog laughingly denied.[48] In January 2017, after a fan downloaded the God of War overture and saw the track's details that said "An introduction to Kratos and Atreus", Barlog confirmed on Twitter that Atreus was in fact the son's name.[49] Barlog said that Atreus was unaware that Kratos was a demigod, and did not know about his past.[4] They did not reveal details of Atreus' mother prior to release due to her being a critical part of the story.[22] Barlog stated that during gameplay, Atreus would be "like magic, an additional combat resource, and [the player is] training him and teaching him."[20] The developers stated that Atreus would not be a burden during gameplay.[13] The team experimented with several different approaches for Atreus to ensure that he was an empowering presence. Barlog said he did not want the game to be an escort-mission where the A.I. caused a problem for the player. Their goal was for Atreus to enhance Kratos' capabilities without Atreus becoming a liability. This resulted in the developers designating a command button for Atreus as well as for him to act freely.[18] During combat, Atreus was also designed to call out enemy locations, as due to the camera being closer to Kratos, some enemies may be difficult for the player to see. Jason McDonald said it took a lot of iterations with the enemies and Atreus to make it all work together.[32]

Early in development, it was suggested for Atreus to be cut or to significantly minimize his role due to the many developmental challenges and financial expense. Barlog stated that the game could have worked without Atreus, but it would have been completely different, likening it to that of the 2013 film All Is Lost. Barlog said that with just Kratos, it would have been "one character who talks to himself occasionally, but generally, it will be very silent and everyone will talk in old Norse, so that you won't understand anything anybody's saying."[50] After hearing Barlog's case, Sony gave him the freedom to incorporate Atreus. Lead level designer Rob Davis also noted that with Atreus, it allowed for "significant gameplay and storytelling opportunities that might not otherwise [been] possible."[50]

Soundtrack[edit]

Bear McCreary, best known for his work on television shows such as Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead, scored God of War and composed themes for the game.[51] McCreary said that he was called into Santa Monica Studio in November 2014 to meet with music producers Peter Scaturro and Keith Leary to discuss "a secret project"; McCreary had previously collaborated with Scaturro and Leary on 2011's SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs. Ideas of folk music, mythology, Nordic ethnic instruments, vocal writing, and classical thematic development were discussed, to which McCreary correctly guessed that the discussions were about a new God of War. He met with Barlog early on, and they discussed Barlog's narrative vision for the game. After meeting with Barlog, he felt that the franchise was in good hands because God of War II, which Barlog also directed, was his favorite installment.[52]

McCreary's initial efforts focused on writing the new main theme, or what he called the Kratos Theme. He spent several months working with Barlog, Scaturro, Leary, Sony music director Chuck Doud, and the rest of the development team in making this new theme. McCreary described the Kratos Theme as "arguably one of my most structurally satisfying and catchy melodies." The main theme features low orchestral instruments, Icelandic choir, deep male vocals, powerful female vocals (in particular Faroese singer Eivør Pálsdóttir), folk percussion, and Nordic stringed instruments, such as the nyckelharpa and hurdy gurdy. When it was decided that God of War would be revealed at E3 2016, Sony wanted McCreary to perform his original score with a live orchestra at the press conference. McCreary opened the show with the new main theme before the unveiling of God of War, and performed the gameplay demo's music live during the presentation.[52] On January 13, 2017, a live recording from E3 2016 of God of War's overture was released for free for a limited time. Barlog released the overture as a thank you to fans for God of War's E3 2016 trailer reaching fifteen million views on YouTube.[53]

Release[edit]

The game was released worldwide on April 20, 2018, for the PlayStation 4.[40] In addition to the standard base game, there were three special editions: the Stone Mason Edition, the Collector's Edition, and the Digital Deluxe Edition. Only available in the United States and Canada, the Stone Mason Edition came with several physical items, including the base game in a SteelBook case, a 9-inch (230 mm) statue of Kratos and Atreus that was created by Gentle Giant, 2-inch (51 mm) carvings of the Huldra Brothers, a horse, and a troll, an exclusive lithograph, a cloth map, a stone mason's ring, and a keychain of Mímir's head that talks. There was also various downloadable content (DLC), including an exclusive shield skin, in addition to an armor set and another shield skin for Kratos, a PlayStation 4 dynamic theme, a digital artbook, and God of War #0 by Dark Horse Comics.[54] The Collector's Edition came with many of the same items, minus the ring, the keychain, the 2-inch (51 mm) carvings of the horse and troll, and the exclusive shield skin. The Digital Deluxe Edition comes with all of the digital content, minus the exclusive shield skin. U.S. and Canadian customers also received a Kratos and Atreus pin for pre-ordering the Digital Deluxe Edition. Pre-orders at select retailers received three skins for Kratos' shield, while pre-orders from GameStop or EB Games also received a "Luck of Ages XP Talisman", granting increased XP gain, increased Hacksilver gain, and increased ability to trigger perks.[55]

In addition to the special editions of the game, a Limited Edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle was also available the same day as the game's release. The bundle included the standard base game, a PlayStation 4 Pro console decorated with the runes as on Kratos' axe, and a similarly themed DualShock 4 controller with the God of War logo.[56] Game Director Cory Barlog confirmed that God of War would not have microtransactions post-launch, a feature that has become prominent with other recent games and negatively criticized.[57] Since launch, Santa Monica has supported the game via patch updates to address software bugs. Additionally, the developers added a Photo Mode in update patch 1.20, released on May 9, 2018. Photo Mode allows players to take customized in-game screenshots. Players can adjust the field of view, depth of view, filters, borders, the visibility of characters, and the ability to change the facial expressions of Kratos and Atreus.[58] At E3 2018, it was confirmed that a New Game Plus mode would be added in a future update. In addition to players having access to their fully upgraded gear upon the start of a new game, the difficulty will be increased.[59]

God of War: A Call from the Wilds[edit]

God of War: A Call from the Wilds is a text-based game playable through Facebook Messenger. To help further promote God of War, Sony partnered with Facebook to develop the play-by-web game, which released on February 1, 2018. Completing the game unlocks downloadable concept art. The short story follows Atreus on his first adventure in the Norse wilds. After archery training and learning runes with his mother, Atreus adventures into the wilderness after telepathically hearing the voice of a dying deer; he finds it covered in blood and stays with it during its final moments. A couple of draugrs appear and Atreus attempts to fight them, but is injured. He is saved by his father, Kratos, who was out hunting. The two then battle a revenant before returning home.[60][61][62]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 94/100[63]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 10/10[64]
EGM 9.5/10[65]
Game Informer 9.75/10[66]
Game Revolution 5/5 stars[67]
GameSpot 9/10[68]
GamesRadar+ 5/5 stars[69]
Giant Bomb 5/5 stars[70]
IGN 10/10[71]
Polygon 10/10[72]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[73]
USgamer 5/5 stars[74]

God of War received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator Metacritic,[63] tying it with the original God of War for the highest score in the franchise. It has the third highest score of all-time for a PlayStation 4 game, and the highest score for an original, non-remastered PlayStation 4 game.[75] It is the highest rated PlayStation 4 game of 2018,[76] and is tied with the Xbox One version of Celeste for the highest score of 2018, regardless of platform.[77] God of War received particular praise for its art direction, graphics, combat system, music, story, use of Norse mythology, characters, and cinematic feeling. Critics called the game a "technical achievement" and one of the most impressive-looking games developed for consoles. Many also felt that it had successfully revitalized the series without losing the core identity of its predecessors.[78]

Sales[edit]

During its release week in the UK, God of War became the fastest-selling entry in the franchise, selling 35% more physical copies than God of War III.[79] The game remained at the top of the all format sales chart throughout April and May for six consecutive weeks, setting a record for a PlayStation 4 exclusive having the most consecutive weeks at number one.[80] It sold 46,091 copies within its first week on sale in Japan, which placed it at number two on the sales chart.[81]

The game sold over 3 million copies in three days after its release, making it the fastest-selling PlayStation 4 exclusive.[82] The game was the fastest selling game of the month of its release and contributed to the PS4 being the best selling console of that month.[83] In total, the game sold over five million copies in its first month, with 2.1 million in digital sales.[84][85]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Game Critics Awards 2016 Special Commendation for Graphics Won [86]
IGN's Best of E3 2016 Awards Game of the Show Nominated [87]
Best PlayStation 4 Game Nominated
Best Action Game Nominated
The Game Awards 2016 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [88]
2017 The Game Awards 2017 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [89]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Colloquially referred to as God of War 4[1][2][3] and God of War PS4[4][5]
  2. ^ As depicted in God of War III (2010)

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External links[edit]