More than seven years after felling Zeus and the Greek pantheon — or what was left of them — in God of War III, Kratos is set to return in God of War, the eighth game in the series. Taking place many years after the events of the original games, Kratos’ age is showing. He’s even more grizzled than before, raising his son in a world with a new pantheon: The Norse gods.
Though the development team and Sony haven’t revealed much about the game yet, we rounded up as much info as we can about the series’ next chapter.
Catching up with Kratos
At E3 2016, Sony and Santa Monica Studios announced God of War, showing off a small slice of the new game. In the demo, an older Kratos taught his young son how to survive in the wild, before saving him from a wild monster.
The demo included some spectacularly gory set pieces. What impressed us more, however, was the storytelling surrounding the unfamiliar role into which Kratos has been flung: That of a father. Though he still seems to be a terse, hard man, Kratos’ first words suggest that maybe his anger has begun to subside.
“Your mother’s knife,” Kratos says to his son. “It belongs to you now.”
He’ll learn more under Kratos’ tutelage though. In a more recent trailer at E3 2017, we saw the series’ protagonist teach his son of emotions and how to control them. Echoing the difficulties in slaying the deer in the earlier reveal, this time Kratos expounded why it’s so important not to feel for your enemy.
“Close your heart to their desperation […] their suffering,” he says. The road he and his son are on, is “no place for a boy,” we’re told, instead, the lad must become a warrior.
While this is to be expected from the protagonist from the previous God of War games, it seems in this one, he will be mollified by his son’s outlook as well. The child tells him of his mother’s teachings of being open to assistance. Indeed, the E3 2017 showcases him taking the helping hand of more than one character.
Although a man driven by his rage in previous games, Kratos does seem to have at least attempted to get it under control. According to Barlog, Kratos’ ability to manage his anger will be paramount to the new game’s plot.
At one point in the new trailer, we even see Kratos cast away his ax, though the gargantuan World Serpent seems keen to return it.
Sony released another, relatively brief trailer during its Paris Games Week 2017 presentation. The combat-centric trailer, which you can watch at the top of the story, features Kratos and his son in a crypt, fighting off several undead foes. Kratos primarily shows off his new runed ax, swinging it in wide arcs and slamming down for area-of-effect attacks that send hordes of zombies flying. He also utilizes the environment by throwing his ax to cut down a suspended urn, which explodes on hitting the ground.
Old god, new tricks
The God of War franchise is largely known for three things: Gory brutality, enormous bosses to slay and combo-based beat-em-up mechanics centered around the use of his signature chained blades. While reveals so far suggest the combo-count and even Kratos’ swords may have gone, his ability to slay everything that steps in front of him has not been diminished.
In a more gritty style than previous God of War games, this soft-reboot doesn’t have pop-up numbers or combo counts, but the combat is still as brutal and bloody as ever.
To exact his violent will upon the new Nordic enemies, Kratos has a rune-encrusted axe, as well as a retractable shield which offers more blunt-force attacks. Teaming up with his son, there are also combination attacks that see the lad stun enemies temporarily, or stab them with his mother’s knife at opportune moments.
His actions will be tied to a dedicated button, used to target foes for the boy to distract or defeat. This promises to be extremely helpful when — as Barlog has teased — up to 100 enemies appear on-screen simultaneously.
The camera angle has also changed from previous titles in the series. Where they relied heavily on a fixed perspective that shifted with every new room or scene, this time around, the player’s viewpoint is zoomed in closer behind Kratos, similar to games like Tomb Raider and Horizon: Zero Dawn.
We don’t yet know anything about the game’s upgrading or crafting systems, but Barlog hinted that both would play an important part in the game. In particular, he alluded to the inclusion of a hunting component, where players can utilize things like animal pelts to craft better gear.
A solitary journey
Although the new game will feature a secondary protagonist in the form of Atreus, don’t expect any real players to join you in the fight to protect him. In an interview with LevelUp, Barlog said the new game will be single-player and will not feature a multiplayer campaign. Though the last God of War game, 2013’s God of War: Ascension, featured a competitive multiplayer mode, Barlog said developer Sony Santa Monica chose to focus its efforts on producing a polished single-player experience.
Enter the God of War (9 Realms)
This soft reboot of the God of War series is expected to be the first part in a new trilogy of games which takes Kratos far beyond the frozen wastes he has spent his time over the preceding years. With a new focus on Norse mythology, it’s expected that Kratos will take his warring ways to the feet and hearts of its various gods and the realms they inhabit.
There are nine in total: Alfheim, Asgard, Jotunheim, Midgard, Muspelheim, Nidavellir, Niflheim, Svartalfheim, and Vanaheim. Sometimes referred to as the “nine worlds,” these planes of existence are cradled in the roots and branches of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, and each houses a different race of being; humans populate Midgard, for example, while Muspelheim is the home of fire giants and demons.
According to some not-so-subtle hints dropped by Barlog, Kratos’ quest will take him into each of these realms, where he’ll likely kill lots of different gods and creatures in creatively gruesome ways. Whether that journey will be driven by the World Serpent, Jörmungandr, seen at the E3 2017’s trailers end, remains to be seen.
Barlog has previously spoken at length about the themes present in the new game, and a sense of maturity seemed to stand out. The infamous sex sequences won’t be returning, so we probably won’t find any Nordic women hanging out in hot tubs.
There will also be a less-linear feel to the game, we’re told. It won’t be a sandbox, but exploration will be encouraged. With that said, God of War will be a meatier experience than previous entries in the series. At PlayStation Experience 2017, Sony revealed that the game should take 25-35 hours to complete, based on in-house play-testing.
When can we play it?
Although God of War it was originally rumored to have a 2017 release date due to a mention on Kratos voice actor, Christopher Judge’s Twitter bio, that now seems to have been an educated guess rather than a confirmed date. During the E3 2017 trailer for God of War, it closed with the words “Early 2018,” giving us a vague, but far more solid idea of when we can expect to play the PS4 exclusive.
Update: Added details from PSX.