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God of War (provisionally titled God of War 4) is an action-adventure video game developed by SCE Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. The eighth game in the God of War series, God of War marks a distinct change in both setting and gameplay, described by creative director Cory Barlog as a "soft reboot" of the franchise. The game follows an older Kratos, who has settled in Norse land, and his son Atreus, whom he has sired with his second wife Faye.
The game was released to critical acclaim, with many critics praising its art design, narrative, and reinventing of the series. It won numerous awards, including The Game Awards 2018's Game of the Year. As of May 2019, it has sold over 10 million copies, the first in the series to do so.
Rather than the fixed third-person perspective used in previous titles, God of War uses an over-the-shoulder free camera, and is presented within a single shot, with no camera cuts or loading screens (with the exception of "Game Over" events or the player quitting). While not open-world, the game is open, and employs the usage of fast travel to reach different locations faster.
The game's sole playable character is Kratos. However, a button is dedicated to Kratos's son Atreus, allowing the player to passively control him. Aside from aiding in combat, Atreus helps in puzzle-solving and exploration by using abilities that Kratos lacks, such as deciphering Norse runes or accessing out-of-reach areas.
The combat system has been completely rebuilt, taking a slower, more methodical form. Kratos's basic attacks consist of a standard Light and Heavy attack, the nature of which depends on what weapon he is using. Kratos's new default weapon is the Leviathan Axe, a battle axe imbued with ice elemental power. Similar to Mjolnir, it can be thrown and summoned back at will. Late in the game, Kratos regains his signature Blades of Chaos, which use fire elemental power. Lastly, Kratos can use hand-to-hand combat, allowing the player to customize their fighting style. Kratos's move set can be expanded by purchasing moves with experience points. Both the Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos can be upgraded, as well as equipped with different "Runic Attacks" (one Light, one Heavy each).
Kratos also has the ability to use "Spartan Rage": while in this state, Kratos is immune to damage, and uses powerful bare-handed attacks against enemies. Spartan Rage, as well as Kratos's health, can be upgraded by finding and solving "Nornir Chests" scattered throughout the world. During combat, Atreus can be commanded to shoot arrows at enemies. While his arrows do little damage, they can distract or stun enemies, causing enemies to shift their attention away from Kratos. Atreus's AI changes in response to the game's progression, and his move set can also be expanded with experience points.
Enemies encountered will have a threat level between 1 and 8 (which rises as the game progresses). The color of an enemy's health bar will range from green to purple, depending on how their level compares to Kratos (light green indicates a lower level, while purple notes a significantly higher level).
In the years following God of War III, Kratos has left Greece, settling in the Norse realm of Midgard. He marries a woman named Faye, with whom he has a son Atreus. While Kratos has learned to control his anger and violence, he is distant from his son and keeps his identity as a god secret. The game begins soon after the death of Faye, whose last wish was to have her ashes spread from the highest peak in all of the nine realms.
After cremating Faye's body, Kratos takes Atreus deer hunting to see if he is ready to journey. Atreus manages to kill a deer, but when the two are attacked by a troll shortly after, Atreus loses control. When they return home, Kratos's scolding is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious stranger. The confrontation quickly escalates to a fight, and after a rough battle, Kratos snaps the man's neck and throws him into a ravine. Knowing that it is too dangerous to stay, Kratos reluctantly begins the journey with Atreus. As the two begin their approach to the mountain, Kratos begins teaching Atreus how to fight. Along the way, the two meet the dwarves Brok and Sindri, estranged blacksmith brothers who built the Leviathan Axe (which Kratos now uses) for Faye; the mysterious Witch of the Woods, who knows of Kratos's godhood and provides the two with equipment for their journey; and the world serpent Jörmungandr, who is benevolent but only speaks a dead language. When the two reach the foot of the mountain, they find the path blocked with dark magic. With the help of the Witch, Kratos and Atreus travel to the realm of Alfheim to receive some of the realm's light, the only thing powerful enough to clear their path. Getting involved with the Elven War during their venture, the two have a brief fight, but make up to each other, beginning to bond as they return to Midgard.
While climbing the mountain's summit, Kratos and Atreus witness the stranger from earlier (revealed to be Odin's son Baldur), accompanied by Thor's sons Magni and Modi, interrogating Odin's former advisor Mimir (who has been trapped in a tree by Odin), about Kratos's location. After Baldur and his nephews leave, Kratos and Atreus confront Mimir. Mimir informs them that the highest peak in the realms is not in Midgard, but in Jötunheim, the realm of the giants, which has been cut off from the other realms due to the Aesir's massacre of the giant race. Aware of another way to reach Jötunheim, Mimir offers to help the two. He instructs Kratos to decapitate him (as his body cannot be removed from the tree) and have the Witch of the Woods revive him. Once she does, Mimir reveals that the Witch is the Vanir goddess Freya. Kratos immediately becomes mistrustful upon learning of her godhood and storms out with Atreus and Mimir's reanimated head.
Now accompanying the two on their journey, Mimir directs Kratos to the corpse of Thamur, a frost giant killed by Thor, to retrieve a piece of the giant's magic chisel. Kratos and Atreus reach the chisel but are attacked by Magni and Modi, having been alerted to their location by their efforts. Eventually, Kratos manages to kill Magni, causing Modi to flee, but Atreus begins to show signs of illness. At Atreus's insistence, Kratos continues the journey, taking a piece of the chisel and making their way to Tyr's Temple to find the rune needed to reach Jötunheim. Before they can venture further, they are ambushed by Modi, who tries killing Kratos in retaliation. While Kratos manages to fight Modi off, Atreus collapses, forcing Kratos to bring him to Freya. Freya and Mimir explain that Atreus's illness is his divine nature reacting to him believing himself mortal. Freya tells Kratos that she needs the heart of the Keeper of the Bridge of the Damned in Helheim in order to save Atreus. She warns him that the Leviathan Axe will be useless in the frigid Hel. Knowing there is no alternative, Kratos returns home to retrieve the Blades of Chaos, weapons from the past he swore to leave behind, being tormented by visions of Athena's spirit along the way. He makes his way to Helheim and kills the bridge keeper, taking its heart back to Freya. After Atreus is cured, Kratos reveals their godhood to him, although he keeps quiet about his past.
The two return and find the rune within a secret chamber within the temple. However, as they venture back to the summit, Atreus becomes increasingly arrogant as the knowledge of being a god goes to his head, causing him to lash out at Sindri and act impulsively. This culminates when he and Kratos find a weakened Modi (who was beaten by Thor for Magni's death) at the base of the mountain: ignoring his father's orders, Atreus kills Modi in cold blood. When the two finally reach the peak, they are ambushed by Baldur. The Jötunheim portal is destroyed during the fight, and Baldur abducts Atreus. Kratos pursues Baldur to Tyr's Temple, who has already activated realm travel to Asgard. In an attempt to stop him, Kratos sabotages the travel gate, causing the three of them to be thrown into Helheim.
Finding Atreus, Kratos scolds him for his recent behavior and begins looking for the way out. As the two make their way to the docks nearby, they notice Baldur watching a phantom of himself and Freya, revealing that Freya is his mother and is responsible for Baldur's invulnerability. Upon reaching the docks, Kratos commandeers one of the ships, modifying the sails to allow it to fly. The chaotic voyage back ends with father and son crashing into a hidden chamber of Odin within Tyr's Temple. Inside, Mimir discovers plans to a secret chamber within the temple. Upon returning to Midgard, the two get the newly reconciled dwarven brothers to create the chamber's key. They enter the chamber and eventually discover the missing Jötunheim travel tower, hidden within the Realm Between Realms. While they manage to restore the travel tower to its original position, using it requires Mimir's missing left eye. They retrieve the eye from Jörmungandr's stomach (who accidentally swallowed it when he ate the state of Thor it was hidden inside), but before they can return, they are attacked by Baldur again, and the World Serpent drops them at Thamur's Corpse.
Freya, who came to the site in an attempt to reconcile with Baldur, intervenes but is unable to stop the fight. During the battle, Baldur accidentally impales his hand with the mistletoe arrowhead in Atreus's quiver, breaking the protection and rendering him killable. The battle continues and escalates, with Kratos and Atreus eventually defeating and subduing Baldur. Kratos initially spares him at Freya's request, but when Baldur tries to strangle the defenseless Freya, Kratos snaps his neck, unable to allow the cycle of patricide to continue. Devastated and enraged, Freya swears vengeance on Kratos, revealing she knows his past. In response, Kratos reveals that he his killed his own father to Atreus: when Atreus laments whether spreading death and suffering is what it means to be a god, Kratos assures him that the two of them are not defined by the gods who have come before them. As Freya silently leaves with Baldur's body, Kratos and Atreus return to Tyr's Temple to finish the journey.
Finally reaching Jötunheim, Kratos and Atreus find a long-abandoned temple with a mural depicting their adventures. The two realize that Faye was a giantess (making Atreus part giant as a result), and Baldur had been hunting her all along. Suspecting that her intention in sending them was to reveal their destiny, the two of them fulfill her last request and scatter her ashes from the peak of the tallest mountain. As they begin walking back, Atreus mentions that the mural referred to him as "Loki", the name Faye intended for Atreus at birth. Deciding to leave the question for another day, they begin heading back, with Kratos revealing Atreus's namesake along the way: a fellow Spartan whom he remembered fondly for his optimism and sacrifice. As they return to Midgard, the two are informed by Mimir that Fimbulwinter, the three-year-winter immediately preceding Ragnarök, has begun over a century earlier than prophesied.
Kratos and Atreus return home for well-needed sleep. Atreus has a dream of the future: at the end of Fimbulwinter, Kratos and Atreus will be confronted by Thor at their home. When they awaken, Atreus shares the dream with Kratos, who tells him that they will worry about it tomorrow, but today there are still things they can do.
After returning to Santa Monica Studio in June 2013, Cory Barlog pitched the idea for a new God of War game in August. God of War: Ascension had been released around this time, and the lukewarm reception to the title resulted in hesitance from Sony. Development for God of War began in 2014, with Barlog confirming production to the public in December of that year.
As veteran actor Terrence C. Carson did not have the physique required for motion capture, the role of Kratos needed to be recast. Eventually, the studio decided on Christopher Judge, who, aside from having the stature and physique needed for Kratos, had the best chemistry with Sunny Suljic, the actor for Atreus. Judge was surprised when he first read the script, as he was not expecting a video game to have a script beyond a means of entering battles. While Judge performed all of the motion capture for Kratos's cinematic scenes, Kratos's combat motion capture was done by stuntsman Eric Jacobus.
Aiming for a more grounded setting, the development team settled on an axe as Kratos's new primary weapon. The development was Atreus proved a challenge, as developing a companion AI of a similar nature had not yet been done.
God of War received universal acclaim for its story, visuals, combat system, music, world design, and characters. It currently holds a score of 94 on Metacritic, based on 118 reviews from critics.