Friday will finally see the highly anticipated return of God of War to PlayStation. It has been 5 years since the release of the last major installment in the series, God of War: Ascension, and it’s fair to say that the franchise’s first appearance on PlayStation 4 is making a very big splash.
With just about a day left until official release, early reviews are through the roof and that shouldn’t be surprising. The God of War series has historically been one of the PlayStation’s defining franchises, and their arrival on PS4 brings with it a whole new mythological realm. Of course, there are also many other changes, and while I’ll cover some of the major ones quickly, the Internet is already saturated with discussions of combat mechanics, visuals, and other game play changes. Instead, I’m going to pull out some of my knowledge of Norse mythology and speculate on some of wonderful things that we’ll soon get to kill….um…I mean see.
If you’ve played any of the older games before, you’ll immediately notice some major changes in this newest installment. The most obvious is, of course, the over the shoulder camera. No longer are we looking at Kratos from above. Instead, players get the option to look around, explore their environment and truly get a sense of the world they’re exploring. Santa Monica Studios have always tried to push the console’s visual boundaries and combine that with the picturesque forestry and fjords that the new setting provides, and the choice becomes obvious. Who wouldn’t want to look at every little nook and cranny of this beautiful new world (before you cover everything in blood, of course).
Another major change is removal of a linear path. Instead, God of War presents us with a hub-world, with Midgard as its central location. That means you can always go back and explore all those little secrets you’ve missed. Not to mention you can go back and do side missions. That’s right, I said side missions, and from what I’ve seen they’re good ones too.
The last point I’ll touch on before moving on is Atreus, Kratos’ son. Now, if you know anything about Kratos’ family history, you’ll know he’s no stranger to having children….or killing them. This time seems to be different, however. Kratos has changed. That’s obvious from the get-go. The vengeful lust for anger seems to have left him. It only took murdering the entire Greek pantheon for him to work out his anger issues. Anyways, what this means is that Atreus is now with you, helping you kill all the monsters, just like every good divine son-dad combo. And before you start worrying, no, Atreus probably won’t be a burden.
Other changes include upgrade-able weapons and armor, a sweet ax, and a custom skill-tree. It really is exciting enough to have me literally jumping up and down (which I’ve done already, but makes it incredibly difficult to type articles), however, it’s time to move on to the aspect I’m most excited for: Norse Mythology!
The Norse Mythology
We don’t know too much about the story line of God of War, but what we do know is that Atreus’ mother seems to have a connection to the Norse mythos, and that’s also likely the reason that Kratos has ventured up North. Unlike Greek mythology, Norse mythology isn’t as well known, at least not in as much detail (no doubt due to the popularity of the Iliad and Odyssey).
Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds
So for those less familiar, here’s a quick rundown of the most important aspects. The Norse believed that there were nine worlds, all connected by Yggdrasil, the world tree, mighty ash tree that’s so large, even its roots extend across three of these worlds. It is the tree from which Odin hanged himself in sacrifice, and it can be climbed. It’s also by climbing that creatures such as frost giants and trolls move between realms, as they would burn their feet on the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, that the gods use to travel.
The nine worlds are as follows:
- Asgard – Home of the Aesir (One branch/race of the gods).
- Alfheim – Home of the light elves.
- Nidavellir (Svartalfheim) – Home of the dwarves (dark elves).
- Midgard – Our home, the world of men and women.
- Jotunheim – Home to the frost giants and mountain giants.
- Vanaheim – Home to the Vanir (The other branch/race of gods).
- Niflheim – The dark mist world
- Muspell – The world of flame. Home to Surtr (more about him later).
- Hel – Home to Hel, the ruler of Hel, after whom Hel is named. That sounds confusing, for clarification, the place is named after its ruler. Also home to those who did not die bravely in battle.
From what we know of God of War, Midgard is the central hub, and so it stands to reason that Kratos will be traveling to the different worlds using the Bifrost (he is a god, after all).
The Main Gods
Of course, we’re all expecting to see appearances from the big gods: Odin, the all-father; Thor, the thunderer; and Loki, the trickster. But it’s unclear what sort of role they will play. Odin is sly and devious and wise, having given an eye for wisdom. Thor is straightforward and good-natured. Loki is even more cunning than Odin, and has a bit of mean-streak. We all know that, but what about the other gods?
Well one of the most notable ones is Baldr, the beautiful. He is Odin’s second son and everyone generally likes him. All but Loki, that is. Then there is Frigg, Odin’s wife and queen of the gods. We’re also likely to see Frey and Freya, who are siblings, and are actually Vanir that live on Asgard. Let’s not forget Sif, wife of Thor.
They’re all quite likely to make an appearance, and no doubt Kratos will fight some of them, but if you were to ask me, I’d say that the most interesting battles will come from the following characters, and I have no doubt in my mind that the developers at Santa Monica Studios thought the same thing.
Surtr is a giant that wields a flaming sword. He was there before the gods and he will be there after. He stands guarding Muspell and it is said that he will only leave his post once, at Ragnarok. He will fell the gods with his flaming sword and he will burn the world. Now if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what does.
Fenrir is one of Loki’s three children by the giantess Angrboda. He is a wolf, larger than the sun and the moon, and the one who will eventually kill Odin at Ragnarok. He is the one who will eat the world. Fearing him, the gods will commission the dwarves to build Gleipnir, an unbreakable chain that will hold Fenrir in captivity until Ragnarok. At that time earthquakes will break his chains and he will walk the earth, eating everything in his path, flame spewing from his mouth and nostrils, leaving destruction in his wake. I mean, seriously, it’s like he was literally designed to fight Kratos. Look at him!
Another child of Loki and Angrboda, Jormungundr is the Midgard serpent. A massive serpent that can spit deadly venom, Jormungundr was released by the gods to swim in the circular ocean of Midgard where he grew to an immense size. During Ragnarok, he will writhe and flood the lands. His poison will infect the air and sea, killing all sea life and sea birds. He’s also considered to be one of Thor’s great nemeses. So, yup, expect to fight him.
Other Beasts to Look Out For
Naturally, there are many other beasts and characters to look out for. Garm, a massive monstrous hound, for example. Gullinbursti, a living golden boar. Hrym, a frost giant who will lead the frost giants at Ragnarok. Hymir, the king of the giants. Modgud, the guardian of the bridge, Gjallarbrú, leading to Hel. Oh, and we can’t forget Nidhogg, can we? The dragon that chews on the roots of Yggrasil.
There is also an unnamed giant eagle that sits on the top of Yggdrasil. Not to mention a squirrel called Ratatosk that scurries between Nidhogg and the eagle, passing messages between them, but taking pleasure in giving them false information. Just goes to show that squirrels are terrible creatures. Not to be trusted. I doubt we’ll see Kratos killing it due to its relative insignificance (but deep down I really hope we get the chance).
Nidhogg sure like nibbling on those roots
Ragnarok: The End of All Things
What’s most interesting about Norse Mythology with regards to God of War is that it has a definitive end, Ragnarok. And for those unfamiliar with the traditional story often assume that Ragnarok means the end. In fact, it’s actually a story of rebirth. The world will end, and everything will end, but there is also that which happens after the end.
Baldr will come back from the underworld with Hod, his blind brother. The earth will rise from the sea once more. The sun will be replaced by her daughter, and Idavoll will take the place of Asgard. The gods who survive will gather there and rebuild. Odin’s sons, Vidar and Vali. Thor’s sons, Magni and Modi, who now wield Mjollnir in Thor’s place. Two people, a man and a woman who hid inside Yggrdasil, will come out from hiding and repopulate.
It’s no surprise that all those who survive are the children of the old gods. They are the next generation. Is it a coincidence then that this God of War is focused around Kratos and his son, Atreus? I don’t think so. Much like Ragnarok, I believe this game will be a tale of rebirth. I’m trying not to speculate too much, but given these clues, I wouldn’t be surprised if this new story will see the death of Kratos.
Cover Photo Source: BagoGames, Flickr