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Thanks to Sony PlayStation for providing the review code for God of War.
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The gameplay is vastly different from the previous installments, as it was rebuilt from the ground up. Although the previous main installment, Ascension (2013), introduced multiplayer to the series, this new installment is single-player-only. The new installment features a third-person, over-the-shoulder free camera, a departure from the previous installments, which featured a third-person, fixed cinematic camera (with the exception of 2007's 2D side-scroller Betrayal). Cinematographically, the game is presented in a continuous shot, with no camera cuts. Enemies in the game stem from Norse mythology, such as trolls, ogres, and draugrs, as well as revenants, beings warped by seiðr magic.
A major change is that Kratos no longer uses his signature double-chained blades, as he lost these at the conclusion of God of War III (2010). Instead, he uses a magical battle axe, called the Leviathan Axe, which can be infused with different elemental abilities and thrown at enemies. For example, the axe can be engulfed in ice and Kratos can hurl it at an enemy and magically summon it back to his hand (similar to Thor's hammer Mjölnir). Kratos can also charge the axe and let out a burst of energy that damages nearby enemies. In gameplay, the axe has light and heavy attacks; heavy attacks allow Kratos to launch enemies into the air. Larger enemies, such as an ogre, have precision targets and throwing the axe at those targets will stun the enemy. The weapon can also be thrown at environmental objects, such as a container, to trigger an explosion that will damage nearby enemies. The Leviathan Axe can be upgraded by using runes, with one slot being for light attacks and the other for heavy. This provides players with a variety of options to cater to their own play style. Another new weapon that Kratos utilizes is a shield. When not in use, it folds up and appears like armor on Kratos' left forearm. When summoned, the shield can be used offensively and defensively. Kratos also utilizes hand-to-hand combat, a feature originally introduced in Ascension.
The game is open, but it is not open-world. Due to it being open, players can encounter optional boss battles, in addition to the regular story-based bosses. Quick time events are not like they were in previous games. Instead, enemies display two meters above their heads, one for health and the other for stun. Filling up the stun meter helps in defeating more difficult enemies. When the stun meter is full, a grab-prompt will appear. Depending on the enemy, Kratos may rip it in half, or he may grab them and throw them into other enemies, among other possible outcomes. As the ability to swim was cut from the game, players instead use a boat to traverse over bodies of water when necessary.
The game features elements similar to role playing games (RPG), such as archery knowledge points, as well as a Spartan Rage timed-ability during battle, similar to the "Rage" ability of previous installments. Like the previous versions, the Rage ability has a meter that gradually fills during combat. With this ability, Kratos uses powerful bare-handed attacks, as opposed to weapons, to greatly damage enemies. There are also crafting resources for the player to find. These resources allow players to create new armor or upgrades to existing armor. Throughout the game world, players can find chests with an item called Hacksilver, which is a key component in creating new items. Experience points (XP) are also required for upgrades and making new items.
Although the game is played entirely as Kratos, there are times when the player may choose to passively control Kratos' son, Atreus. One button is dedicated to Atreus and its use depends on the context. For example, if the player needs assistance, they can look at an enemy, press the button, and Atreus will use his bow to shoot arrows at the enemy. The arrows have little effect on an enemy's health, but they do increase their stun meter. Over the course of the game, Atreus helps in combat, traversal, exploration, and puzzle-solving. When facing a large number of enemies, he freely acts as a distraction for the weaker ones as Kratos fights the stronger ones. If too many enemies gang up on Atreus, he is knocked out for the remainder of that combat. Just like Kratos, Atreus acquires new skills, armor, and special abilities, such as lightning arrows.