How did Kratos get here?
The new God of War picks up many years after a trilogy that kicked off in 2005. Kratos has a new home. A wife and child. A fresh lease on life. The game of course creates a whole new set of problems, but he had a nice run for a while there.
While 2018's God of War doesn't tie directly back to the original trilogy, there are good reasons to play catch-up. If nothing else, the emotional weight of the story's central journey lands with a lot more impact when you're familiar with the events that led Kratos to this point.
Who has time to catch up, though? Nothing is more stressful than an entertainment backlog. For anyone who hasn't made their way through the original trilogy, again or for the first time, here's a refresher.
(Note: We're just recapping the original trilogy here. The two PlayStation Portable spinoffs and God of War: Ascension have little bearing on the events of the new game.)
Long ago, before the events of the original game, Kratos was a captain in the Spartan army who led his people to victory after victory... until he was one day felled by a barbarian king. Nearing death, Kratos called on Ares, the Greek god of war, to come to his aid.
Kratos pledged to live his life in service to Ares, in exchange for the power to defeat his enemies and a guarantee of safety for his troops. Ares agreed, and gave to Kratos the Blades of Chaos: Twin curved short swords attached to long chains that wrapped themselves around the Spartan captain's wrists — a sign of his bondage to Ares.
Renewed, the Spartan used his gift from a god to defeat the barbarian king, and then went on to fulfill his part of the bargain. That path led him one day to a village occupied by worshipers of Athena, the goddess of reason.
Unbeknownst to Kratos, Ares had brought the Spartan's wife and child to the village. Gripped by bloodlust, Kratos razed everything, killing his own family in the process. Ares had hoped for that turn of events, believing the act would free Kratos and make him the perfect warrior. But the plan backfired, and Kratos renounced Ares instead.
Nothing could change what he'd done, however. A surviving village oracle cursed Kratos, magically coating his skin in the ashes of his dead wife and child. That's what gives him his white appearance, as well as the nickname that followed him ever-after: Ghost of Sparta.
In the decade that followed, Kratos committed himself to serving the rest of the gods in the hopes it would free him from the nightmarish memories of what he'd done. A chance eventually presents itself when none other than Athena makes him an offer: Kill Ares, and all will be forgiven.
Soon after, Kratos learns of Pandora's Box, a mystical artifact that possesses the power to kill a god. He tracks it down, but the victory is short-lived. Ares, who had been watching the whole time, ambushes and kills his former servant, taking the Box for himself.
Instead of his journey ending there, Kratos finds himself in the Underworld. There, he meets a grave digger he had also encountered earlier in his journey. With help from the mysterious man — who cryptically reveals that Athena isn't the only god looking out for the Spartan — Kratos escapes, returning to Athens and a waiting Ares.
In the game's final encounter, Kratos recovers Pandora's Box and uses its power — along with his newly obtained Blade of the Gods — to slay Ares. Athena fulfills only part of her promise in return: Kratos is forgiven, but the nightmares of what he's done, the same ones he's been fighting to escape, will never go away.
She does, however, have one other gift to bestow: Godhood. Kratos, having slain Ares, becomes the new god of war.
Kratos doesn't last long in his new gig. One day, while he's off fighting with his former Spartan brothers in the city of Rhodes — against the wishes of Athena and the rest of the gods — a giant eagle appears out of nowhere and saps away his powers, animating the Colossus of Rhodes in the process.
As the giant statue moves to attack, Zeus appears with a gift: the Blade of Olympus. In order to power the blades, however, Kratos must imbue them with the little that remains of his godly might. He does it and quickly bests the Colossus, only to discover that the whole thing was a trick.
The eagle that started the whole mess was Zeus all along. He stripped away Kratos's power to teach him a lesson. But he also has an offer for the Spartan: Stay loyal to the gods from here on out and all will be forgiven. Kratos refuses. Angered, Zeus kills the short-lived god of war with his own blade and wipes out the entire Spartan army.
Before he can land once again in the Underworld, Kratos is saved by Gaia, a Titan and one of the forebears of the gods of Olympus. She explains how, long ago, she raised a young Zeus who then betrayed the Titans because of the way his own father, a Titan named Cronos, had treated the gods of Olympus.
Gaia has an offer for Kratos: Go find the Sisters of Fate, corporeal manifestations of destiny, and use their power to undo his own murder at the hands of Zeus and get revenge. He agrees, and sets out to find the Sisters, encountering a number of Titans along the way: Prometheus, Typhon, and Atlas.
After freeing Prometheus from his endless torture, and earning the power of a Titan in the process, Kratos escapes from the clutches of Typhon. His journey then takes him to the island home of the Sisters, where he meets Atlas.
The imprisoned Titan reveals that Kratos has again not been given the whole story: Gaia and her fellow Titans really just want revenge on Zeus because he defeated them. Atlas also reveals that Zeus is vulnerable to the Blade of Olympus.
Kratos eventually reaches the Sisters' stronghold, where he learns that Zeus, after murdering the one-time god of war, destroyed Sparta. Worse, the Sisters not only refuse to help Kratos, they also try to change the past so he loses to Ares.
They don't succeed and Kratos kills all three, gaining control of their Loom of Fate in the process. He uses the powerful artifact to return to the moment Zeus betrayed him. With his strength fully restored, Kratos attacks and nearly kills Zeus... until Athena intervenes. She gets between the two gods and impales herself on Kratos's blade.
Athena has one major revelation to share before she dies, however: Kratos is actually the son of Zeus. The elder god attacked his child out of fear; a younger Zeus had overthrown his own father, Cronos, long ago. He was afraid Kratos would do the same to him.
In his final act, Kratos travels back in time to the moment the Titans were defeated. He saves them all and brings them to the present. The game ends as Kratos and his new allies converge on Mount Olympus.
God of War III opens on the same moment its predecessor ended. As Kratos and his Titan allies scale Mount Olympus, Poseidon, god of the sea, comes forward to stop them. Kratos kills him with some timely assists from Gaia, flooding all of Greece in the process.
Then, Zeus steps in. As he casts the invaders off of his mountain, Gaia shows her true colors: Instead of helping Kratos, she lets him fall, calling him a pawn in the Titans' scheme to unseat the gods of Olympus.
Abandoned, Kratos once again finds himself weaponless and trapped in the Underworld. There, he meets the spirit of Athena. She's realized she was wrong about Zeus; to save humanity, Kratos must overthrow Olympus. The only way to do that, she says, is to snuff out the Flame of Olympus — a mystical fire powered by none other than Pandora's Box, which only Pandora herself has the power to retrieve.
Kratos journeys across the underworld, eventually recovering his lost, god-killing Blade of Olympus and using it to slay Hades. This is only the start of what turns out to be a murderous rampage through the Greek pantheon, Titans and gods alike.
Perses, Helios, Hercules, Hermes, Cronos, Hephaestus, and Hera all fall in battle against Kratos. He also maims a wounded Gaia, severing her arm during his second ascent of Olympus and sending her plummeting into the sea.
Finally, after many battles, Kratos reaches the Flame of Olympus with Pandora in tow. Zeus tries to stop them, but he's too late; Pandora quenches the Flame, sacrificing herself in the process.
The final showdown starts out as a three-way battle, with Zeus and Kratos trading blows while a still-injured Gaia reappears and tries to kill them both. Kratos first destroys the Titan and then, with help from the spirit of Pandora as well as those of his dead wife and child, Zeus himself.
In the game's final moments, Kratos has one, final encounter with the spirit of Athena. She reveals that his original act of opening Pandora's Box to defeat Ares released an evil that infected all the other gods. She commands him to return the power he'd taken, so she can rebuild everything.
Kratos, now mistrustful of all gods, refuses and stabs himself with the Blade of Olympus. Doing so releases his power, restoring Greece — which became increasingly devastated as each god was murdered — in the process.
Athena retrieves the blade and departs, leaving Kratos to die. Of course, that doesn't happen. A post-credits scene suggests as much, and now, the new God of War is here to show us all where he went next.