The gameplay of God of War will be vastly different from the previous installments, as it has been rebuilt from the ground up. Although the previous installment, Ascension (2013), introduced multiplayer to the series, this new installment will be single-player-only. The game will feature elements similar to role playing games (RPG), such as archery knowledge points, as well as a Spartan Rage timed-ability during battle. This ability appears to be a new take on the “Rage” ability of the previous installments. There will also be crafting resources for the player to find. 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).
A major change is that Kratos will no longer use his signature double-chained blades, as he lost these at the conclusion of God of War III (2010). Instead, he will use a magical battle axe, which can be infused with elemental abilities and thrown at enemies. The E3 2016 and 2017 trailers showed that the axe can be engulfed in ice, to which Kratos can hurl at an enemy and magically summon it back to his hand. Kratos will also be able to charge the axe and let out a burst of energy that will damage nearby enemies. Game director Cory Barlog said that the axe has a deep rooted history and connection with the characters; it is connected to both the son and his mother. Another new weapon that Kratos will utilize 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 will also utilize hand-to-hand combat, a feature originally introduced in Ascension.
Although players will play as Kratos throughout the entire game, there will be times when the player will passively control Kratos’ son, Atreus. One button is dedicated to Atreus and its use depends on the context. Barlog stated that Atreus is “like magic, an additional combat resource, and the player is training him and teaching him.” Atreus can shoot lightning arrows with his bow, depending on where the player looks. Over the course of the game, Atreus helps in combat, traversal, exploration, and puzzle-solving. When facing a large amount of enemies, he will freely act as a distraction for the weaker enemies as Kratos fights the stronger ones.
The developers claim that they have matched the new gameplay with the same level of accessibility of the previous installments. Barlog confirmed that the game will be open, but it will not be open-world, and quick time events will not be like they were in previous games. The game will not feature any morality system or branching story; all players will have the same story experience. The developers also confirmed that some of the more controversial mini-games found in previous entries will not return.