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God of War: Ragnarok is coming in 2022, the latest in a long series with remarkably, and reliably solid output. Even the weaker entries were still very good, and when the series peaked, it was legendary.
The God of War series follows Kratos, a Spartan general with a really bad temper, telling his violent, brutal story from the moment he swore allegiance to Ares, to, at the moment: a stable life far North among the gods of another land.
Let’s take a look at the series as it evolved over the years, with exception of minor games for mobile or chat services. We present the games in order of release, but there were several prequel spin-offs released between the main series entries, covering the previously unexplored moment of Kratos’ story. That said, let’s dive into…
God of War deals
The original God of War, the game that started a franchise. It follows Kratos, a former Spartan captain, now a furious man, cursed to forever be covered in ashes of the family he slew in an Ares-induced rage. The game starts a decade from that moment after Kratos has sworn vengeance against Ares and started serving other gods, in exchange for some hope of finding absolution.
God of War’s gameplay took quite a few hints from the Devil May Cry series. Especially the combo-focused, spectacular combat system would feel familiar. In addition to combat, there was a lot of platforming to do, and many puzzles to solve. GoW also got a lot of mileage from Quick Time Events, used especially for gruesome finishing moves. It was, and still is, a solid action game.
According to many players, God of War II took everything that was good about God of War and made it even better. The gameplay core remained the same, with a few new weapons, such as the Barbarian Hammer, and new or renamed magical abilities. There are also new relics, which, as it often is, turn out to be quite useful for out-of-combat exploration and puzzle-solving.
The story follows the classic setup of „thing would have been fine if Zeus could be chill for a moment”. It involves Kratos getting de-powered, meeting a few Titans and heroes, and generally being a much bigger problem for the gods than he would have been without Zeus’ intervention. Seeing how Kratos is screwed over by the gods makes it easy to follow him on the journey, despite his temper.
Chains of Olympus is more of a spin-off than a main installment, but it’s nevertheless worthy of attention. Launched for PlayStation Portable rather than its bigger sibling, the story it tells is a prequel to the main story, taking place during the decade before the events of GoW 1. This time Kratos has to save Attica from a Persian army and then save the world from Morpheus’ sleep spell. No big deal.
The new toys provided to Kratos in Chains of Olympus are mighty gauntlets and a powerful shield, but the core of combat still is based on the Blades of Chaos, their chains still wrapped around Kratos’ arms. There’s also a post-game challenge mode, which hides costumes and behind-the-scenes material, waiting for those, who can complete the tasks.
Not a game as such, God of War Collection is a remaster and re-release of God of War 1 and 2 for PlayStation 3. It launched ahead of the premiere of God of War III to catch PS3 player up to speed with the main story. The resolution got increased, the frame cap was raised to 60fps, it was a great way to play these two awesome games.
God of War III didn’t innovate much, content to improve on what already proved to be great in the previous installments. There are new weapons: claws and a whip, plus a gauntlet weapon coming back from Chains of Olympus. Magical attacks are now linked to a specific weapon, rather than freely accessible, which doesn’t hurt, because Kratos can fluidly swap weapons without breaking a combo.
God of War III was the final chapter in the ongoing story of Kratos, at least until the announcement of 2018’s GoW a few years later. Beginning right where GoW2 ended, Kratos and his temporary allies assault Mount Olympus in a bid to kill Zeus once and for all, no matter how many gods stand in Kratos’ way. It’s excessively violent, with an especially infamous scene with Zeus, so be warned.
Another PlayStation Portable installment of the series, Ghost of Sparta is set between the events of GoW1 and GoW 2. The story explores Kratos’ past, and sends him on a search for his brother, lost long ago when both were just boys in training. It doesn’t recontextualize much, but it does bring some backstory to Kratos’ defining design elements, and roots him stronger in Olympian affairs.
Gameplay was expanded with another new weapon: an all-time classic combo of spear and shield, and combat got a whole bunch of new death animations for weapons and magical powers. Ghost of Sparta isn’t by any means essential, but despite the limited power of PSP it was a great entry in the series.
The Origins Collection is “merely” a PlayStation 3 release of previously PSP-bound Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, bringing these two memorable installments to the big console, with nifty technical improvements powered by the mightier hardware. 1080p, 60fps, anti-aliasing, all good stuff making the oldish games from a weaker console look pretty good indeed.
Although Kratos’ Greek adventures ended in God of War III, it didn’t mean there were no more stories to tell. GoW: Ascension takes place after Kratos told Ares to go screw, which, as it turned out, was a bad move that made a lot of people unhappy. Kratos got imprisoned by the Furies, who take oath-breaking seriously. The events you play through will lead Kratos to his oath to other Olympians.
Ascension was quite unique in the series because it included multiplayer for up to eight players. It’s a PvP experience, with players fighting to curry favor with one of four gods: Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, or Hades. In terms of continuing the bold tradition of adding new weapons in every installment, in single-player Kratos could grab mundane arms laying around or snatched from disarmed enemies.
This game is exactly what it says on the box: it’s a remastered version of God of War III bringing it from PS3 to PlayStation 4. You know what it means by now: higher resolution, better framerates, and a surprising, but certainly not unwelcome photo mode, in case you want to document Kratos’ deicidal rampage. It was a nice gesture, letting PS4 owners play that chapter before the next GoW.
The belle of the ball, the Norse chapter of Kratos’ adventures amazed everyone and might have contributed to the sales of PlayStation 4. Justly so, because it’s a phenomenal, cinematic experience, with exceptionally satisfying combat animations, and awesome graphics. It also both pays tribute to and plays with Norse mythology the way it did with Greek myths, and who knows where it leads.
The story kicks off when Kratos and his son Atreus finish the funeral of the boy’s mother, Faye. After that they encounter a seemingly immortal god, take advice from a talkative head, and deal with a lot of engaging divine family drama. There’s a lot going on in this game, and the single-shot approach to immersing you in the story is an interesting, and effective idea. Meanwhile, Ragnarök is coming.
God of War (2018)
This concludes our list of God of War games leading up to 2022’s GoW: Ragnarök, a long-awaited sequel to Kratos and Atreus’ Norse escapades. Although we tried to avoid heavy spoilers, hopefully, you got a good sense of the journey Kratos experienced in his long, violent life.
Although playing all the games might not be very easy to do without PlayStation Now or owning older PlayStations and relevant discs, but if you can get your hands on these titles, you’re in for many hours of solid hacking, slashing, and puzzle-solving. Something might feel old-school, but it’s a great kind of old-school.