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What diehard fans don't even know about God of War

There are some things that are very obvious about 2018's God of War, like the fact that it is a really good game. Sony's Santa Monica Studio managed to make the masterpiece stand out in a year of seriously good games that could have overshadowed its early 2018 release. Even with games like Marvel's Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 taking up space on everyone's consoles, God of War deservedly snatched up Game of the Year at 2018's Game Awards. It has captured the hearts, minds, and spare time of many, but there is more to this game than meets the eye.

You don't have to be an expert in Norse mythology to play God of War, but a rudimentary education in the Icelandic language might make players appreciate the game all the more. God of War has layers. The concept of Kratos crushing and killing his way through a whole new pantheon may not seem complicated on the surface, but the Nine Realms are wide and full of secrets.

Zombie fans might recognize the score

Video game scores have many jobs to juggle. They are meant to immerse the player, evoke emotion, and become a memorable part of the experience. The God of War soundtrack does so deftly, submerging the player in a world of gods and monsters with melodies crafted by an expert hand. In fact, that hand has made consistently iconic songs for a good number of fan favorite shows. Ever watched an episode of The Walking Dead? Battlestar Galactica? Outlander? Then you've heard Bear McCreary's musical genius before.

McCreary called his work composing the score for the game a "daunting and challenging dream project." His main concern was how music could guide the audience through the twisting story while still calling back to the main theme. McCreary threw himself into the task of making a theme that would do justice to a complicated character like Kratos. His theme doubles as the main theme and can be found in almost all other songs. "I used these three notes so consistently that I hope they achieve a shorthand with the audience, a Pavlovian response that instantly recalls all the other moments they were heard," he wrote in a PlayStation blog post. "On the soundtrack album, Kratos' Theme is featured on nearly every track, in one form or another, but is presented most obviously in the title track, 'God of War.'"

The Infinity Gauntlet is in the game

Who would win in a fight: Kratos or Thanos? The obvious answer would be whoever happens to be wielding the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet. The ability to manipulate time, reality, and existence is pretty OP, after all. As big and beefy as Kratos is, a fight against Thanos is one that he might lose. Unless he also had an Infinity Gauntlet at his disposal. Which he does.

In a clever reference to Avengers: Infinity War that was released just a week after God of War, the game features an ancient relic that sounds suspiciously familiar. The Shattered Gauntlet of Ages was deemed too powerful, and so the stones that give it power were scattered throughout the Nine Realms. The six Enchantments line up nicely with the soul, reality, space, mind, power, and time stones, but have cooler names like Muspelheim's Eye of Power and Ivaldi's Corrupted Mind. The gauntlet on its own isn't that impressive, but the Enchantments will give it a punch to be reckoned with. However, in order to equip a maximum of three enchantments into the Shattered Gauntlet of Ages, the talismen has to be fully upgraded.

Fully upgrading the gauntlet requires a load of hacksilver, 43 Dust of the Realms, and all five Dragon Tears found in the game. Then to get the Enchantments, players will have to hack their way through a couple Valkyries. There's a lot of time and effort in store for players who want to match up to the Mad Titan himself.

Reading Icelandic will come in handy

Kids usually don't have tattoos at such a young age, but Atreus is no normal boy. His dad, Kratos, is significantly tatted up with his signature red whorls, but if players look closely and squint a bit during cutscenes, they may notice that Atreus has a few tattoos of his own.

It's one thing to notice the tattoos, but a wholly different task to be able to read them. The tattoos are written out in the sharp, runic marks, evidently passed down from his mother Faye. It's hard to imagine Kratos making such delicate marks. On Atreus' neck is one tattoo that reads "logn hugr" which means "steady mind" in Icelandic. Wrapped around his right arm like a bracelet is "happ-skejtr" or "lucky shot"; the words for "strong arm" run through the circle. This seems like a kind of good luck talisman for his bow when paired with the words on the back of his hand, "hrađa hönd" that translate to "quick hand."

Atreus also has rings around his fingers and other seemingly random letters, but the tattoos on his neck and arms were clearly meant as a reminder from his mother.

Baldur's tattoos are slightly more ominous

The various runes scattered throughout the game give God of War a kind of Nordic authenticity, but these runes do more than just look cool. Erudite fans have been compiling and deciphering what the messages sprinkled throughout the game mean. Of course, players can make their way throughout the whole of Kratos and Atreus' journey without knowing what the marks say, but if they happen to be able to read them, there are some omens written on skin.

Specifically, Baldur the Stranger sports quite a few tattoos of his own in blue and red ink. Their translations read like an edgy biker's might: "Cursed" across his shoulders, "Never Forgive" on his arms, and above his heart is a plea that he might be able to feel something: "Lights confide me with warmth so that I might feel (something)," according to Reddit user herpaderpmurkamurk. Baldur is blessed with invincibility, but cursed with unfeeling as a result of this immunity. Those knowledgeable of Norse myth will know that this was because his mother Freya made it so that all things living and inanimate promised to never harm him, but she forgot to make sure that the mistletoe was in on this deal.

Baldur's prophesied death is what kicks off the start of Ragnarok, and he knows it. On his neck, under that scraggly beard of his, is a tattoo that foretells his fate: "I mark the twilight of the gods.

Kratos' and Faye's true names

Baldur's sick tats might be a spoiler for sharp-eyed translators when he shows up as a mysterious stranger hellbent on beating the snot out of Kratos. They paint a clear picture of Freya's favorite son. But what about Kratos' son? His place in the mythos doesn't seem as straightforward, but with knowledge of his parents' true names, Atreus' identity becomes pretty obvious.

At the end of the game, at the top of the mountain that father and son set their sights on so long ago, is a temple the giants built. On the temple's walls is a mural, a little worse for wear, but nevertheless showing the whole of Kratos and Atreus' story: their past, present, and future. Written there are the names that this world knows Faye and Kratos by: Laufey and Farbauti. Laufey is a giantess, best known for being the mother of Loki, alongside her husband Farbauti, whose name means "cruel striker." Seems like a pretty accurate name for Kratos.

If players were suspicious of Kratos' loving pet name for his wife, they may have sooner figured out that Atreus is known as Loki on Jotünn murals. This was the name the frost giantess wanted to name her son before Kratos convinced her that Atreus would be a better name, chosen from a story he told of a young, hopeful Spartan warrior he had commanded in his other life.

There was once a troll under the bridge

For this God of War fun fact, there is no Norse mythological education necessary. Everyone knows that trolls live under bridges. According to storybooks and children's shows, they lie in wait there for travelers, whom they will either eat or entertain with increasingly hard riddles. In the case of God of War, they're more into the former.

Back in 2016, Sony gave players a first peek of the intricate and brutal world that Kratos and Atreus live in. In the gameplay trailer, the two are on Atreus' first hunt with his father, pursuing a glowing antlered white deer. They come to a bridge in front of a temple that a massive troll suddenly bursts through, pulling the player into one of the first boss fights of the game. This gave eager players a first look at Kratos' Spartan Rage and Atreus' unsteady hand. The two narrowly escape tumbling over a waterfall before they resume the hunt.

In 2018, players found that this fight came later, and that the bridge was actually safe to cross after all. However, Atreus who apparently inherited his mother's proclivity for prophecy, seems to remember the original location of the troll's ugly mug. Beneath the bridge on the frozen pond there are some wolves and dragur guarding a chest. After defeating them, Atreus will sigh in relief, "Whew. I half-expected there to be a troll under that bridge."

So did we, Atreus. So did we.

Atreus' true name is closer than you think

If players wanted to figure out Atreus' true name, they just needed to take a better look around Kratos' humble abode, as it turns out. This was teased as a final secret by God of War developers, and this nudge naturally sent players scrambling to figure out the mystery Santa Monica Studio had hidden. Reddit was sure they had found it when they discovered the Forbidden Grip of the Ages, a legendary axe pommel, the location of which was coded in a cloth map found in the Collector's Edition of the game.

As cool as that is, the actual secret was that there were four runes carved into the corners of Kratos' house that spell out "Loki." Concept artist Joe Kennedy all but confirmed it after congratulating the Reddit sleuths who put the runes together. He was the one who first teased the mystery after the God of War ComicCon panel. Despite this, fans continued to search for the secret, saying that a couple runes spelling out a known fact for players who completed the game was lackluster.

There is a slightly more cryptic hint left in the house about his identity. Beside the bed is a half-woven tapestry. The unfinished image that Faye was weaving matches Loki's symbol which is found elsewhere in the game. Again, nothing new, but just another detail that developers paid careful attention to.

Atreus is sporting hand-me-downs

Atreus has inherited quite a bit from his formidable parents. Although players never get to physically see his mother, Faye, we know that he is just as much her son as he is Kratos'. From Faye he learned how to speak many languages, from dwarvish to elvish. He spent the most time with her during his childhood, hunting by her side while Kratos was trying to master control over his infamous temper.

At the start of the game, it is clear that Atreus feels as if he doesn't really know his father. It doesn't help that Kratos his prone to monosyllabic answers and has an inherent aversion to sharing his feelings. Despite all this, Atreus has more in common with his bear of a father than he thinks.

For one thing, he's wearing hand-me-downs from his dad. God of War fans who have been killing gods with Kratos since back in 2005 may have noticed a certain iconic loincloth wrapped around Atreus' waist. The red and gold is eye-catching amidst the Atreus' fairly monochrome outfit of furs and leather, a clear call back to the sparse coverings Kratos sported in games past. In a colder climate, Kratos has traded up for some actual pants, bequeathing his old gear to his young son.

That boar you nearly kill is a legend

Like most of the characters in the game, the Witch of the Woods isn't who she seems to be. Kratos is initially suspicious of her, and he has every right to be. The game reveals in its own time that she's of the ilk that Kratos can't stand: she is the goddess Freya. Freya has been trapped on Midgard after she left her husband Odin, who was using her magic for dark purposes. Spurned, Odin stripped her of her Valkyrie wings and cursed her so that she could never harm a living creature.

Perhaps this is why she is so panicked when she finds that Kratos and Atreus have shot a boar in her woods. She forces the two to help her save the life of the animal, which she says is the last of its kind. Once the boar is saved, she sends the player on their way through the witch's cave. Completionists might've realized the witch's true identity upon backtracking to the witch's hut from there. Petting the wounded boar, she tells Atreus that his name is Hildisvini.

In Norse myth, Hildisvini is Freya's steed, a battle swine that was once a man named Ottar. In the game, the witch says that the boar is a very old friend and that in another realm he was able to take many forms. Now, however, Hildisvini is stuck as a boar and she fears that he believes himself to be nothing more.

The alternate ending teases storms to come

Even the end of the game demands that players pay attention or else miss out on more extras that Sony's Santa Monica Studio has peppered into God of War. For those disappointed that Kratos' fists didn't get to know the more of the Norse pantheon, there's no need to worry: more gods are on the way. In order to get an alternate cutscene that at the end of Atreus and Kratos' journey that suggests more epic battles to come, players will have to first complete the main game, which isn't exactly an easy feat.

After the credits roll all the way through, players will need to return to Midgard and navigate father and son back to their humble abode. After their scattering Faye's ashes and killing a couple gods, they're pretty exhausted and deserve to sleep, which is the prompt players are given when they enter the house. Years later, they awake and in a moment of deja vu that may remind players of their first minutes of gameplay so long ago, they find a stranger standing in the storm. When he unveils a hammer at his waist, crackling with electricity, there is no more ambiguity as to who this man is.

Apparently the encounter with Thor had all been just a dream, but Atreus has inherited his mother's visions of the future, and says that his weird dream was maybe a premonition. Perhaps this is future DLC content? A sequel? Regardless, this easy-to-miss bonus is well-worth the journey home. 

The boat captain returns, again

Encounters with Kratos are usually unlucky ones. The least lucky character of the whole series is probably not Baldur, in spite of his self-pity and mommy issues, but rather the boat captain. Don't remember a boat captain? Players of previous God of War titles will.

In the very first game the boat captain met a grisly fate after a run-in with the many-headed Hydra. His ship on the Aegean Sea was attacked and the captain himself swallowed whole after he and his men tried in vain to fight the creature off. Kratos, however, didn't have as much trouble fighting the monster. He fought his way down the Hydra's throat to find the terrified and grateful boat captain, who thought he had been rescued by the Ghost of Sparta himself. Kratos just needed his key, though. He let the captain die after getting it. Later in Hades he also used the poor boat captain as leverage to avoid falling into the River Styx.

The second game saw the captain as a soul summoned to fight Kratos and further titles made references to the boat captain's big beef with the biggest and beefiest Spartan. In 2018's God of War, his ship and key somehow made it to the Norse realm, where it sank in the Lake of the Nine. A treasure map will lead players to its sunken treasure in the side quest "The Boat Captain's Key."

There is a heartwarming message on the Collector's Edition box

It's not easy making video games. There are countless hours and unimaginable effort that go into crafting a masterpiece that can claim the title of Game of the Year. There have been some controversies around the creation of games that make it seem as though the long hours and years of effort may not be worth the final product, however fun it might be to play. God of War isn't like that. God of War was a labor of love. Players who can read runes already knew that, however.

The God of War Collector's Edition has a couple cool bonuses: a really cool statue of Kratos and Atreus, that aforementioned cloth map, and some choice digital content. Plus a secret. On the box are runes that at first glance may appear to be nothing more than aesthetically pleasing. In reality, the Collector's Edition box is decorated with a love note to players.

Reddit translators found that the runes read: "For every one of us who wrapped a blanket around our neck and believed we could fly. For every dreamer whose waking fantasies pit them against great beasts and monsters. For every human who desires a sense of wonder and discovery in their life. For the child in us who, if we are lucky, is never lost. This adventure has been crafted by hand for you. Thank you for making it possible for us to dream, create, and to be kids again. Santa Monica Studio."