God of War's new FIFA-inspired combat, new gods and monsters, upgrades from the dwarves who made Thor's hammer and everything we know

God of War will be out on April 20 which means we might not learn too much more before its release. Between now and then don't expect much bar launch trailers and hype. Good thing we know loads already, though. From a very odd FIFA inspiration for the new combat, fresh weapons, a new upgrade system (the orbs are gone) and how Kratos' son Atreus fits in to both the gameplay and the story.

Read on to find out all about this and more, and how becoming a father has changed our favourite god botherer. 

Fast facts

  • God of War release date: April 20, 2018
  • Format: PS4
  • Developer: Sony Santa Monica
  • Price: $59.99 / £54.99

God of War release date is April 20

After all sorts of leaks and rumours of a March-ish release date, Sony has finally confirmed an April 20 release date with a new trailer filling in fresh story stuff, monsters, characters and more. Check it out and start getting excited.  

What's changed in the new God of War to make this reboot different? 

Kratos is no longer the permanently furious, yelling war machine he once was. He's a dad now. Okay, so he might still have a voice that makes it sound like he eats rocks for breakfast, and you certainly can't deny that the swing of his axe is as deadly as his dual blades, but Kratos has changed. Now he's in a mysterious Norse land, he's calmer and struggling with fatherhood. By his side is Atreus, his young son who's handy with a bow. Despite his age you can use this young and definitely very squishy son in double team attacks and use him to translate runes and magic inscriptions, as Kratos hasn't really mastered that. He is Greek, after all. But there's far, far more to God of War than a father/son relationship. We've got details on collector's editions, release dates, combat, and everything else you could possibly need. 

God of War trailer involves less rage than you'd expect (and now less Atreus chatter)

The beautiful Norse world was first shown off in all its glory in a 9-minute long trailer previewed at 2016's E3. The forest floor covered in snow, elks jumping out from behind towering trees, and glistening ice beneath Kratos' feet - it looked beautiful. 

It also introduced the fact that the Spartan is no longer alone, joined now by a son Atreus. He's the reason that this 'new' Kratos is less angry and trying harder to stay calm. "It does not attack", states Kratos, as the pair watch a Soul-Eater lumber past - a huge, lumbering, flame-mawed rock-golem. The old Kratos would have hacked first, asked question later. 

However, things have changed since the first reveal. Where Atreus was originally filled with jabbering, energised, childish chatter against, his father's steadfast, silence, that's been toned down. Director Cory Barlog recently mentioned that they've cut down on Atreus' talking, meaning he doesn't pipe up quite as much as he used to. So when you're journeying through the snowy wilds of trolls and dead gods, you won't have a constant monologue going on beside you. I think we can all be grateful for that. 

How long does God of War last? 

Ready to get comfy on your sofa? You had better be, because according to director Cory Barlog God of War will be 25 to 35 hours long the trip into Norse mythology will be about 25-35 hours long. Just FYI, that's double the time it would take you to complete the other entries in the franchise, which says a lot. From that we can guess that God of War is set to be a much bigger, richer world than ever before, as the 35 hour mark implies there's either a ton of sidequests to do, or just an incredibly rich story that'll take Kratos and Atreus all around whatever otherworldly country they're in. 

God of War gameplay brings you closer to Kratos and now he can't jump

The basic 'getting angry and killing things' idea is still in place but this time with a tight, more personal third person camera. The idea is to use the environment to do more of the story telling. The more intimate angles mean that jumping is far less practical and has been removed from the game. Shocker I know, but with that over the shoulder camera hugging Kratos so closely you can't have him bouncing about. 

How has God Of War's combat changed? 

Gone are those iconic chained Blades of Athena, and instead Kratos now has an axe. Combat’s moved to the trigger buttons and lets you juggle hacking blows and fists, while throwing and recalling the axe as a projectile. There's a dash of Dark Souls' hefty, evade-and-parry focused battling now. It all gives everything a swift rhythm and flow, and a whole lot of environmental kill opportunities. 

One interesting twist is the inspiration behind the new fighting system. Director Cory Barlog likens God of War's new combat to, of all things, FIFA. The theory is that like the sports sim, fighting is more or less the same each time, but “extremely sort of non-deterministic." Like FIFA, he explains, "every game is different, despite every game being the same; there’s this drama that exists in every single match." The idea being that Kratos' axe swinging abilities recreates those moments.

Kratos still does the heavy lifting (and hacking, and ripping), but now Atreus is on hand with his bow to shoot things on queue and call out opportunities. He adds a sparky new element and more options to what could have been a slightly slow and weighty combat model. He can also be upgraded separately to Kratos so there could be plenty of interesting ways to spec out the pair. 

There’s magic involved still, with some blue runes inflicting ice damage from Kratos' axe, while Atreus' have an electrical effect. It suggests we we might see some other elemental effects along the way. You can also still upgrade abilities, although via a XP-based system this time rather than hoovering up red orbs. There are also resources to collect although what you do with these has yet to be explained. 

And Kratos still has his Spartan Rage. That can be used to destroy opponents in a savage flurry of blows - so far we’ve seen him destroy a 20 foot troll with his bare hands using it. 

The old God of War method of feeding orbs into an upgrade tree has changed for this new game. Now you improve your abilities by upgrading your gear. That happens thanks to Brokk and Sindri, two dwarves from Norse mythology. In classic lore they're responsible for forging, most famously, Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, as well as a golden boar capable of outrunning any horse and a ring that magically multiplies itself. In the game they are responsible for the Leviathan axe and shield Kratos wields.

The new upgrade system comes in part from director Cory Barlog wanting to contextualise things more within the world. That means the dwarves are less of a vending machine and have more of a story arc of their own. Plus, as well as gear, they can also help you develop new moves and specials. 

When talking about the upgrades Barlog uses a Mad Max example to explain how it's about developing both Kratos and Atreus through making choices. "It’s very similar to that moment in Mad Max when he’s got the can of dog food," says Barlog, "and he’s determining whether he’s going to eat it and get the energy, or if he’s going to give some of it to the dog. And he’s going to do that because he wants to be able to sleep, and if he has the dog well fed he can sleep and the dog will warn him if danger approaches."

As odd as that sounds it's about trying to imply the idea of parenting through the decisions you make. "As you move through the game you make choices about what Kratos, wants for Atreus, about how you’re going to develop each of these characters,” says Barlog. 

God of War's quests, magic and more involve a new language made of runes

There's a 'new' language in the game called Elder Elder Futhark. It's actually one of the oldest forms of Nordic runes and is described as the 'base language' of the game. Apparently you'll be able to translate it and doing so will reveal new quest lines and open up different parts of the game. 

Magic will also involve runes, and seems to have a more nature focused identity this time with talk of Earth spells. You can also give Atreus powers with certain tattoos (he's also the only one who can read, so Kratos needs him to translate). 

Why has Kratos changed in God of War?

Quite how Kratos is now living in viking times isn't clear but it is the same guy. That's made clear by his ability to deploy his Spartan rage when he wants to pound monster heads (and Sony specifically confirming it's him). However, this is a vastly different man now. He's still a very angry human but he's trying to change his ways as he blames his rage for all his past misfortunes. And that's partly because he's a father now. 

As far as the demi-god's attempt to rethink his life, director Cory Barlog recently stated that "what's changed is that I think now Kratos has realised that everything he has done in the past hasn’t worked. His vengeance and blaming of others and saying 'other people did this to me'; now he's realised that’s not going to change him, so he needs to change himself."

In a recent interview Barlog talked more about Kratos' relationship with his son, saying, "I think Atreus is offering just this tiny bit of humanity that he lost long ago that allows him to not just kill somebody the first time he meets them and find out a little bit more."

Who is Kratos' son in God of War? 

Kratos son is called Atreus. Historically he was the son of Pelops and the grandson of Zeus, which would still work with Kratos as his dad. Historically though, Atreus was banished after murdering a brother and eventually became king of Mycenae in Greece. That ties in less well with being a child in viking times but then God Of War has alway played a little fast and loose with canon. 

We defintely know how he functions in the game at least. While accompanying Kratos he can fight alongside pops, with the player controlling Kratos and calling on his son for help, Marketing producer, Aaron Kaufman, has explained a little more in the latest Official PlayStation Magazine: 

“There’s a really cool move where he [Atreus] jumps on the back enemy’s back and you hit the Square button, which is for the son, and he’ll jump above the enemy’s back and start firing arrows, and then you can throw your axe. And that’s just one example of the dynamism between him [Kratos] and Atreus.”

Atreus has his own skill tree and can be used in non-combat ways. Engineering Lead Jeet Shroff, for example, explained that "In addition [to combat] the player can use a face button to have Atreus translate runes [and] solve puzzles."

Barlog describes the ability to direct Atreus in a very interesting way:  "What we’re trying to do is kind of tap into that ‘teaching your kid to ride a bike as you run alongside’ thing."

Where is God of War set now? 

Sony keep referring to the new setting as just 'Norse Mythology'. There’s not much clue yet as to the actual location or time period. Given that the original games played pretty loosely with Greek canon it’s no surprise that this is probably not going to be an exercise in scholarly history - more a mash up of just about every cool thing you can imagine from the lore. 

Does the new God of War still have you killing gods and monsters? 

E3 gave us a new monster in the shape of the World Serpent. According to Norse mythology, it's usually bad news if he shows up - if he releases his tail, Ragnarok (the Norse apocalypse) has officially begun. We'd already had a hint there was a giant snake from the original gameplay reveal but know we know he's called Jörmungandr, and apparently is on Kratos' side. Which is not what usually happens to big monsters in these games. 

Other new creatures include the Revenant, whcih you can see in the video below. While it's look and name clearly suggest it's undead in some way, it appears to be different to the more traditional Norse zombie - the draugr - which all gets explained on video intro below. From the design of the two it looks like revenants might be more magic focused, while the draugr are more direct combat. 

Elsewhere there are Trolls, ogres, dire wolves and apparently Jötunn, which are somewhere between giants and gods on the magical creature scale. Loki is looking likely as a confirmed god, but more on that later.

God of War's new Norse gods are different this time

Speaking in a podcast, director Cory Barlog says that the Norse god are much more "down to earth". That's in part because of the differences between the luxurious lifestyles of the Greek gods compared to the more earthy, naturist and just plan rough Nords. The gods mentioned so far are Æsir, Vanir and Giants with the Æsir are alway up for a drink, the Vanir live in harmony with nature, while the giants are apparently the "artists" of the group. 

As for the god fighting thing that's defined the games to date, Sony has only really said 'What do you think?' when asked about that. In terms of definite enemies, we know that Draugr are in, as a sort of grunt-level enemy. And there’s at least one troll behaving very much like the old game’s cyclops. Plus there's a dragon seen flying around (again, Sony won’t say if Kratos will fight one, so another yes there). 

God of War Collector's Edition is damn impressive

God bless online retailers and their tendency to tell us about God of War collector's editions we probably shouldn't now about yet. Especially considering that voice actor Christopher Judge now has a 2018 date on his twitter profile. 

Judge had listed it as 2017 at one point but then quietly changed it when no one was looking. No so much a delay as we had no date before but it defintely looks like it's not happening this year. Hopefully we'll get more at E3 at least. 

As for the 200 Euro collector's edition, it was spotted on a German retailer's page and allegedly includes all this: 

Game
9 inch statue of Kratos & Atreus battling 2 Helmsters
Two carved sons toys Figurines
Steelbook case
Exclusive lithograph print
Cloth gameworld map
Digital soundtrack
Exclusive dynamic theme
Shield pack containing 3 in-game shields

There's a few things to pick out there. Helmsters I'm assuming are the draugr we saw Kratos fighting in the original reveal. And, while we've not seen any shields yet, that shield pack suggests they're in the game and there's more then a few, albeit possibly just with cosmetic differences.  

Whatever we're getting, director Cory Barlog sounds positive on twitter though about the game. He's not giving much away talking to fans, but it all sounds encouraging. 

Who's making the new God of War? 

Well, Sony Santa Monica obviously. But! Cory Barlog is directing the new game. He worked on the first installment in the series and directed the second one (considered the best by many people). Despite all the changes to the camera, gameplay and setting, this is one of the men that made Kratos so no one gets that character more.