God of War is an action-adventure, hack and slash, mythology-based video game series, originally created by David Jaffe at Sony's Santa Monica Studio. Debuting in 2005 on the PlayStation 2 (PS2) video game console, the series has become a flagship title for the PlayStation brand, consisting of eight games across multiple platforms. The series' story centers around its playable character, Kratos, a Spartanwarrior tricked into killing his wife and daughter by his former master, the Greek God of War Ares. Kratos kills Ares at the behest of the goddess Athena and takes his place as the new God of War, but is still haunted by the nightmares of his past. Revealed to be a demigod and the son of Zeus, the King of the Olympian Gods who betrays Kratos, the Spartan then seeks revenge against the gods for their machinations. What follows is a series of attempts to free himself from the influence of the Olympian gods, as well as the Titans, and exact revenge. Many years after taking his revenge against the Greek gods, Kratos ends up in the world of the Norse gods. He and his young son, Atreus, set out on a journey to fulfill his recently deceased second wife's last wish, which is to spread her ashes at the highest peak in the nine realms.
Santa Monica has developed all main entries, while Ready at Dawn and Javaground/Sony Online Entertainment-Los Angeles (SOE-LA) developed the three side games. Sony Interactive Entertainment(SIE; formerly Sony Computer Entertainment) has published all games except the mobile phone installment; it was published by Sony Pictures Digital. There are two eras in the God of War series. The first era are the first seven games, which are based on Greek mythology with vengeance as a central motif. God of War (2005), God of War II (2007), and God of War III (2010) comprise its main trilogy; the first two were released on the PS2 with the third on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). The fourth main installment, Ascension (2013), a prequel to the entire series, was also released for the PS3 and features multiplayer. The three side games include Chains of Olympus (2008) and Ghost of Sparta (2010) for the PlayStation Portable (PSP), and Betrayal (2007) for mobile phones that supported the Java Platform, Micro Edition(Java ME). The fifth main installment, also titled God of War (2018), was released for the PlayStation 4(PS4). It began the second era, which takes the franchise to the world of Norse mythology. To go along with the new installment, Sony released a short prequel story, A Call from the Wilds (2018), as a text-based game through Facebook Messenger.
In addition to the individual games, two collections featuring remastered versions of both PS2 installments, God of War Collection (2009), and both PSP installments, Origins Collection (2011), were released on the PS3 by Bluepoint Games and Ready at Dawn, respectively. Another collection, God of War Saga (2012), was released for the PS3 and features God of War Collection, Origins Collection, and God of War III. Sanzaru Games ported God of War Collection to the PlayStation Vita in 2014. In celebration of the franchise's tenth anniversary, God of War III Remastered was released on PS4 in 2015 and was ported by Wholesale Algorithms.
Games in the series have been praised for being the best action games for the PlayStation brand, and some of the best action games of all time. In June 2012, Sony reported that the series had sold more than 21 million copies worldwide. Strong sales and support of the series led to the franchise's expansion into other media, such as a comic book series—God of War (2010–11)—two novels—God of War (2010) and God of War II (2013)—a web-based graphic novel—Rise of the Warrior (2012–13)—and a digital comic—God of War #0 (2018). Two documentaries have been produced and a film adaptation of the original installment has been in development since 2005. Merchandise promoting the series has also been produced, including artwork, clothing, toys, and prop replicas, as well as the games' soundtracks, including a heavy metal album, Blood & Metal (2010), featuring original music by various bands who were inspired by the series.
Timeline of release years 2005 God of War 2006 2007 God of War II God of War: Betrayal 2008 God of War: Chains of Olympus 2009 God of War Collection (PS3) 2010 God of War III God of War: Ghost of Sparta 2011 God of War: Origins Collection 2012 God of War Saga 2013 God of War: Ascension 2014 God of War Collection (Vita) 2015 God of War III Remastered 2016 2017 2018 God of War: A Call from the Wilds God of War First era (Greek mythology)
God of War was first released in North America on March 22, 2005, for the PlayStation 2. After ten years in the service of the Olympian gods, Spartan soldier Kratos is tasked by Athena to find Pandora's Box; the key to defeating Ares, the God of War, who is running amok through Athens. A series of flashbacks reveals that Kratos was once the servant of Ares, who saved the Spartan and his army from annihilation in battle, but tricked him into killing his family which forced his metamorphosis into the "Ghost of Sparta". Kratos eventually finds Pandora's Box, and after finally killing Ares, he ascends to Mount Olympus to become the new God of War.
God of War II was first released in North America on March 13, 2007, for the PlayStation 2. Angered at his fellow gods, Kratos runs amok across the city of Rhodes. Zeus intervenes and betrays Kratos, who is saved by the TitanGaia. She tells him he must now find the Sisters of Fate, who can change his fate and prevent his death at the hands of Zeus. Kratos is ultimately successful and as he is about to kill the god, Athena sacrifices herself to save Zeus and preserve Olympus, and tells Kratos that he is the son of Zeus. Kratos then joins forces with Gaia and the Titans to attack Olympus.
God of War: Betrayal was released on June 20, 2007, for mobile phones supporting Java ME. It is the only game in the series to be released as a two-dimensional (2D) side-scroller and released on a non-PlayStation platform. The game's narrative takes place between the events of Ghost of Sparta and God of War II. Kratos is framed for murder, and rampages across Greece seeking the true assassin. Kratos succumbs to bloodlust and kills Ceryx, the son of the god Hermes—an act that alienates him from his fellow gods.
God of War: Chains of Olympus was first released in North America on March 4, 2008, for the PlayStation Portable. Its narrative takes place during Kratos' ten years of service to the gods. Kratos halts a Persian invasion of the Greek city of Attica, and learns that the world has been plunged into darkness by the god Morpheus. Kratos investigates the abduction of the sun god Helios, and prevents the Machiavellian plan of the goddess Persephone to use the Titan Atlas to destroy the world.
God of War III was first released in North America on March 16, 2010, for the PlayStation 3. Reigniting the Great War, Kratos is soon abandoned by the Titans, who were only using him to exact their own revenge. Helped by the spirit of Athena who was elevated to a new level of understanding, she instructs him to seek the Flame of Olympus in order to defeat Zeus. Kratos engages the gods and the Titans in an epic series of battles across the Underworld and Olympus and learns that Pandora's Box is within the Flame. He discovers that Pandora herself is the key to pacifying the Flame and allowing him to open the Box. After finally killing Zeus, he refuses to help Athena assume the role of new patron of mankind and disappears.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta was first released in North America on November 2, 2010, for the PlayStation Portable. Set between the events of God of War and Betrayal, Kratos, the God of War, is still haunted by visions of his mortal past and embarks on a quest to discover his origins by finding his mother, Callisto. He learns that his brother Deimos was taken by the gods and imprisoned by the God of Death, Thanatos, and decides to find and save his sibling. Although successful, Thanatos engages the brothers in combat, and kills Deimos. Kratos then kills Thanatos and returns to Olympus, further enraged at the gods.
God of War: Ascension was first released in North America on March 12, 2013, for the PlayStation 3. It is the only game in the series to feature multiplayer for both competitive and cooperative play. Set six months after Kratos killed his wife and child, he has been imprisoned by the three Furies for breaking his blood oath to Ares. With the help of the oath keeper Orkos, Kratos learns that Ares and the Furies plan to overthrow Mount Olympus. The Spartan escapes his imprisonment, subsequently killing the Furies, and Orkos, who begs for release. Although free of Ares' bond, Kratos begins to suffer the nightmares that plague him for years.
Second era (Norse mythology)
God of War was released worldwide on April 20, 2018, for the PlayStation 4 console. Many years after the events of God of War III, Kratos has ended up in the world of Norse mythology and now has a son named Atreus. The game is a new direction for the series, not only by its new mythological setting, but also by its gameplay. Kratos now prominently uses a magical battle axe called the Leviathan Axe. To go along with the new installment, Sony partnered with Facebook to develop a text-based game titled God of War: A Call from the Wilds through Facebook Messenger. Released on February 1, 2018, the short story follows Atreus on his first adventure in the Norse wilds. Although further games have not been officially announced, Cory Barlog confirmed that this new installment would not be Kratos' last game. It was also revealed that following games would also be set in the Norse environment, and include Atreus.
Collections and remasters
God of War Collection was first released in North America on November 17, 2009, for the PlayStation 3—the franchise's first appearance on the platform. It is a remastered port of God of War and God of War II. The games were ported by Bluepoint Games and feature high-definition 1080p anti-aliased graphics at 60 frames per second and trophies. Sanzaru Games later ported the collection to the PlayStation Vita and it was released in May 2014—the franchise's only appearance on this platform.
God of War: Origins Collection was first released in North America on September 13, 2011, for the PlayStation 3. It is a remastered port of the two PlayStation Portable installments in the series—Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. God of War Origins was ported by Ready at Dawn and features 1080p high-definition video, anti-aliased graphics at 60 frames per second, DualShock 3 rumble features, trophies, and it is the only God of Warrelease to feature Stereoscopic 3D.
God of War Saga was released in North America on August 28, 2012. It is a collection of five of the God of War games for the PlayStation 3, released as part of Sony's PlayStation Collections line. The collection includes God of War, God of War II, God of War III, Chains of Olympus, and Ghost of Sparta. It features two Blu-ray Discs—God of War I and II on the first and III on the second—and a voucher to download Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. The games retain the same features as their first PS3 releases.
God of War III Remastered was first released in North America on July 14, 2015, for the PlayStation 4—the franchise's first appearance on the platform. It is a remastered version of God of War III, and it features full 1080p support targeted at 60 frames per second and a photo mode. The game's announcement and release was in celebration of the franchise's tenth anniversary. It was ported by Wholesale Algorithms.
The series consists of seven single-player-only games, and one that includes multiplayer. Each game typically features a third-person, fixed cinematic camera. The player controls the character Kratos in a combination of hack and slash combat, platforming, and puzzle game elements to achieve goals and complete the story. A first-person camera is featured in God of War III and Ascension. Betrayal is the only installment to feature a 2D side-scrolling view.
Throughout the Greek era, Kratos' main weapon is a pair of double-chained blades that appears in three iterations: the Blades of Chaos, the Blades of Athena (or Athena's Blades), and the Blades of Exile. They each perform similarly, but differ in the types of combos and amount of damage each yields, as well as cosmetic differences. Other weapons (such as the Blade of Artemis in God of War) are also obtained during the games. Magic is also used, and four abilities (such as Poseidon's Rage, Medusa's Gaze, Zeus' Fury, and Army of Hades in God of War) are typically acquired. God of War IIIdiffers in that instead of separate abilities, there are four primary weapons that possess their own respective magic offensive. The game also features "Items"—additional secondary weapons with limited usage, such as the Bow of Apollo. With each new game, most weapons and magic are lost via a plot device, and a new arsenal of weapons and abilities are acquired during gameplay. Ascension differs from the previous games in that instead of acquiring new weapons that are kept throughout the entire game, the player collects up to five World Weapons (such as a sword or a javelin) that have limited usage. When there is not a World Weapon equipped, the player can punch or kick foes as part of a new mechanic added to the game.
The series offers combo-based combat, and includes a quick time event (QTE) feature, also called context sensitive attacks, which is initiated when the player has weakened a foe. It allows limited control of Kratos during the QTE cinematic sequence; success ends the battle, while failure usually results in damage to the player. As well as the QTE system, Ascension features a prompt-less free-form system, allowing players the choice of when to attack or dodge based on the enemy's actions. A grab maneuver can be used on minor foes.
A cropped gameplay from God of War: weakening foes allows the use of controller buttons for greater damage or finishing moves.
Relics, which the player can use in successive games (such as Poseidon's Trident obtained in God of War allowing Kratos to swim underwater for extended periods) are also found and necessary for game progression. Kratos often has a special ability, which provides temporary invulnerability and increased attack damage. This ability has become an ongoing feature of gameplay throughout the series—Rage of the Gods in God of War and Ascension, Rage of the Titans in God of War II, Rage of Sparta in God of War III, and Thera's Bane in Ghost of Sparta. This ability can be recharged by building hits on foes in combat, and gaining game-specific orbs. Thera's Bane, however, is recharged automatically.
Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers, found throughout the game in unmarked chests (white chests in Ascension), increase the maximum amount of health and magic, respectively. Minotaur Horns, which increase the Items and Fire meter's maximum length, are available in God of War III and Ghost of Sparta, respectively. The Items meter allows the use of secondary weapons, called Items, and the Fire meter allows the use of Thera's Bane. The meters are increased in increments and reach their maximum once a certain number of Eyes, Feathers, and Horns are found. Other chests contain green, blue, or red orbs. Green orbs replenish the player's health, blue orbs replenish magic allowing further usage, and red orbs provide experience for upgrading weapons and magic for new, more powerful attacks, and replenish the Rage meter in God of War. Gold orbs found in God of War II and Ascension, and white orbs in God of War III, replenish the Rage meter instead of red orbs; the Rage meter in Ascension is also refilled by landing attacks on foes. Chests with changing colors, which allow players to choose which meter to replenish, have also been available. Red orbs can also be collected by killing foes and destroying certain inanimate objects. Bosses and more powerful opponents release a combination of colored orbs when killed via the quick-time feature.
With the exception of Ascension, each installment offers a challenge mode, which yields extra red orbs, secret costumes, and behind-the-scenes videos. Bonus content can also be unlocked by defeating the game's difficulty levels. Battle arenas, which allow players to set difficulty levels and choose their own opponents, are included in God of War II, God of War III, and Ghost of Sparta. A quick-time sex mini-game is also included in each installment except Betrayal and Ascension.
Ascension is the only installment in the series to feature online multiplayer for both competitive and cooperative play. Up to eight players on two teams of two to four players (or a four to eight player deathmatch) battle for control of a map in order to earn rewards from the gods. Players can also fight each other in one-on-one matches. Players must sell their champion's soul to either Zeus, Hades, Ares, or Poseidon, which allows players to try different weapons, armor sets, and powers inspired by the god of their choice, and extras can be unlocked.
Development Main series
After the success of their first game Kinetica (2001), SIE Santa Monica Studio began development of God of War in 2002, and unveiled it two years later at SCEA Santa Monica Gamers' Day 2004. Game director and creator David Jaffe said that although the idea for God of War was his own, the concept owed a debt to Capcom because he had played Onimusha and said "let's do that with Greek Mythology". He was inspired in part by the 1981 feature film, Clash of the Titans, saying, "the real high concept for me was ... merging it with Heavy Metal magazine". He said he liked both "the kids stuff ... with Greek Mythology" and the idea of adding more adult themes such as sex and violence. He was also inspired by the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although the game is based on Greek mythology, the development team gave themselves "lots of freedom" to modify the myths, and Jaffe said they took the "coolest aspects of the subject" and created art and story using those elements. Director of visual development and lead concept artist, Charlie Wen, drew inspiration from these films as well as more contemporary films such as Gladiator (2000) for tonal inspiration to lead the visual design of Kratos, other characters, and the world of God of War. GameSpot said the developers described the gameplay "as merging the action of Devil May Cry with the puzzle-solving of Ico" and noted that players would be able to "sunder enemies with a single move, such as by ripping them in half". The game uses Santa Monica's Kinetica engine, which they developed for Kinetica.
A sequel to God of War was first teased at the end of its credits, which stated, "Kratos Will Return". God of War II was officially announced at the 2006 Game Developers Conference (GDC). David Jaffe stepped down and became the creative director of its sequel and God of War's lead animator Cory Barlog assumed the role of game director. Barlog said that in the game, players would see "a larger view of Kratos' role within the mythological world." Like God of War, the game uses Santa Monica's Kinetica engine. Magic attacks became an integral part of the combat system and it was more refined. New creatures and heroes from the mythology, and more boss battles were added. Both Jaffe and Barlog said that they did not view God of War II as a sequel, but rather a continuation of the previous game. Jaffe said that they did not want to include the Roman numeral number two (II) in the title for this reason, but they did not want the title to convey the impression it was an expansion pack. Both Jaffe and Barlog said that the reason God of War II appeared on the PlayStation 2 instead of the PlayStation 3—which was released four months prior to God of War II—was because "there's a 100 million people out there that will be able to play God of War II as soon as it launches." Barlog assured that the game would be playable on the newer platform, which had PlayStation 2 backwards compatibility.
God of War III was first mentioned by Cory Barlog at a God of War II launch event, and it was officially announced at the 2008 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). After the first eight months of development, Barlog left Santa Monica for unexplained reasons and Stig Asmussen (lead environment artist and art director on God of War and God of War II, respectively) became director. Asmussen said that one of the greatest challenges in developing God of War III for the PlayStation 3 was the "complexity of everything"; individual tasks, such as designing Helios' decapitation, could take a year because the "level of detail [that was] expected [was] so high and intricate, it [crossed] multiple departments." He said that the PlayStation 3's hardware capabilities allowed more flexibility in character creation and interaction with the environment. The engine for God of War III was ported from the first two installments to the PlayStation 3. As the game was being developed, the code department swapped out PlayStation 2 components with PlayStation 3 components. They replaced the renderer, the particle system, and the collision system. Although they were re-using the engine from God of War II, the core engine for God of War III was brand new. Between E3 2009 and the time the game shipped, morphological anti-aliasing(MLAA) was added, which graphics engineer Ben Diamand said "improved edges dramatically and saved substantial amounts of frame-rate."Diamand also said that "depth-of-field, motion blur, crepuscular 'god' rays and refraction were either added or improved in quality and speed" during that same time period.
On April 12, 2012, Sony released a teaser image for Ascension on its official PlayStation Facebook page, which was followed by the game's announcement on April 19 on PlayStation.Blog. Todd Papy, who had previously worked as a designer on God of War and God of War II and as design director on God of War III, assumed the role of game director; God of War III director Stig Asmussen was busy with another project at Santa Monica and did not work on Ascension. The announcement officially confirmed the game's title and Papy said it was not titled God of War IV to avoid confusion because it is a prequel, rather than a sequel, to the trilogy. The game features a retooled God of War III engine, enabling online multiplayer battles for up to eight players. The decision to add multiplayer came about from curiosity, according to lead combat designer Jason McDonald. The multiplayer was first tested using Kratos, and McDonald said the testers had "a lot of fun". Seeing their reaction made the team feel that the multiplayer had value and they then began to put the "God of War spin on it". In the developmental transition from God of War III to Ascension, one of the graphics engineers, Cedric Perthuis, noted that the limits of the God of War III engine restricted artist creativity, so they "tried to remove or push those limits as far as possible without losing any performance." Ascension did not have a graphical leap over its predecessor like God of War III did. Dynamic lighting was added, which allowed for development of the Life Cycle gameplay mechanic. Particle effects were also greatly improved upon from God of War III.
Game developer Ready at Dawn pitched the idea of a God of War game for the PlayStation Portable to Santa Monica Studio soon after the original God of War launched. Cory Barlog officially confirmed the development of Chains of Olympus at a God of War II launch event, stating "It is its own story that connects to the overall story." Chains of Olympus uses a proprietary, in-house engine referred to as the Ready at Dawn engine, which expanded on the engine created for their previous game, Daxter (2006). Originally designed for the PlayStation Portable's restricted 222 megahertz (MHz) processor, Ready at Dawn convinced Sony to increase the clock speed of the PSP to 333 MHz, which they did in a firmware upgrade. The faster processor allowed for more realistic blood effects, lighting effects, and shadows as well as improved enemy intelligence, but noticeably decreased battery life. After the game's completion, game director Ru Weerasuriya stated multiplayer options and other puzzles, characters, and dialogue had to be removed due to time constraints.
Ghost of Sparta was announced on May 4, 2010, on PlayStation.Blog. According to Sony, Ready at Dawn utilized "state-of-the-art visual technologies" that allowed "higher quality environments and characters." Ghost of Sparta offers "over 25% more gameplay" than Chains of Olympus, while adding more enemies on screen and more boss encounters. Development of Ghost of Sparta took 23 months to complete. Due to Weerasuriya's schedule at Ready at Dawn, he could not return to direct; Dana Jan, the lead level designer for Chains of Olympus, became director for Ghost of Sparta. At Comic-Con 2010, Jan noted that when development began in 2008, the goal was to make the game bigger than Chains of Olympus, which had apparently pushed the PSP to its functional limits. Jan stated that Ghost of Sparta has taken the PSP to its "absolute capacity", with another feature being more on-screen foes. The game concept was originally used as a teaser for players who obtained the platinum trophy from God of War III. The trophy revealed a site called spartansstandtall.com, which became the official site for Ghost of Sparta on May 4. Jan stated the reason they chose to have the game take place between God of War and God of War II was because "It seemed to make a lot of sense to fill in that void."