Things to Know Before Playing God of War

With the new God of War, one of the biggest surprises was the announcement that the game would feature Norse mythology.  This is a huge change from every other title in the series and its Greek mythological roots.  While fans of God of War have become quite familiar with Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, general knowledge of the immortal powers of the Nordic might be as shallow as a Viking longboat.  Here are the things you need to know about the Norse gods compared to the Greek gods.

Olympian Ruler vs The All-Father

The Almighty Zeus

 

Zeus is the ruler of the Olympian gods of Greece.  He rules from on high on. Mt Olympus where no mortal may travel (Kratos excepted of course).  Zeus was one of the first Gods after defeating his father Cronus in battle.  He drew lots and won the right to rule from his brothers Hades and Posiedon.   Zeus was married to Hera and sired many of the other Gods, including Aphrodite, Athena, Ares, Apollo, Dionysus, and Artemis.  He sired many mortal offspring as well. He would have been quite the repeat guest on Catfish as he appeared to mortal women in a variety of forms (including a goose) in order to gain their love.

Zeus has control of the heaven and skies and can create storms, tempests, and other aerial phenomena.  He uses his shield, Aegis, and throws thunderbolts as a weapon.  Zeus is known as the God of the Skies, the ruling state and the god of men.  He is also considered the God of Natural Law.

The All-Father

 

Odin, unlike Zeus, is himself associated with battle and death.  Odin has near limitless knowledge after trading one of his eyes for a drink from the Well of Knowledge, which is pretty decent trade in my book.   The All-Father understood the old adage, No Pain No Gain. Making a sacrifice of himself, to himself, being pinned to the World Tree for nine days before he was shown a vision which gave him access to 18 powerful abilities or runes.  He is accompanied by two wolves and two ravens.  He is the father of the gods Balder, Hod, Hermod, and Thor.

Odin uses the spear Gungnir, which cannot miss its target and the ring Draupnir as his magical accessories.  Odin is also attributed with giving us mortals the ability to write.  The Norse gods did not have access to Omnipotent knowledge or power.  Everything Odin and the other Norse gods gained was through sacrifice and work.  In the final days, he is said to be killed by the wolf Fenrir.

Poseidon vs Balder

Poseidon – God of the Seas

 

Poseidon is the brother of Zeus, who along with Hades, drew lots and was awarded mastery over the waters of the Earth.  He is the protector of all things aquatic and was worshiped by seamen and voyagers.  Poseidon is all attributed to being the Lord of Horses, having created the animal in a quest to gain the affection of Demeter.  Poisedone used a trident as his weapon of choice and could control the waves and create earthquakes with his power.

He is considered second in power among the Gods, behind only Zeus.  Poseidon is also considered to be one of the most stubborn and difficult of the various gods of Mt. Olympus.  He was extremely greedy and regularly attempted to take over cities that other gods held patronage over.

Balder – God of Light

Balder is considered to be the greatest and most cherished of the Norse gods.  He is the god of light, joy, purity, and innocence.  Balder was loved by gods and mortal men both as the best god.  He was considered to be gracious, friendly and wise. To the point that his mother made a deal with the entire world so that nothing could harm him.  In much the same way with mortals, nice guys finish last.  Not only was Balder the least powerful of all of the gods, he was also given a pretty raw deal. Balder was killed, through trickery by Loki (apparently a branch of mistletoe was considered too small to be considered harmful by mommy), for no other reason than jealousy.

Odin was able to barter for Balder’s life if every creature and thing in the world wept for  Balder.  Everything did.  Except for Loki.  Thus Balder remained dead and the gods and men were in anguish.  Balder will be resurrected after the final battle of Ragnarok.

Ares vs Thor

Ares – God of War

 

Ares is the Greek god of war and civil order, which seems very hypocritical to rule over both of these facets of mortal life.  He is also the god of courage and bloodlust.  Ares is a son of Zeus but did not have his father’s luck in romance.  He was humiliated and caught in the act of adultery with his sister Aphrodite by her husband and other gods.   Ares was also known to kill those who crossed him or annoyed him.  He murdered those who slighted his mortal born children and those who gained the love of the ones he desired.  Unsurprisingly, the snake is the animal most connected with Ares.

Ares actively supported his Amazonian-Queen daughters in their wars and battles, which is in stark contrast to the near constant rivalry he is depicted in having in most pop culture versions of the god.  Ares is almost always portrayed as the villain in both mythological and modern stories.

 

Thor – God of Thunder

 

Thor is considered one of the most powerful of the Nordic gods with power rivaling that of his father, Odin.  He is  the god of thunder and is the protector of both mortals and the gods.  Along with his hammer Mjolnir, Thor also wore the belt Megingjard, which doubled his godly strength.  Thursday is considered, aptly enough, to be Thor’s actual day, with the title being derived from his name.   While modern depictions showcase him to be blonde, mythology typically shows him to be a redhead.

Thor was typically more popular than Odin and several other Norse gods due to the fact that he did not require a human sacrifice to worship him.  Storms and lightning are said to be Thor riding his goat-pulled chariot through the skies.  Thor is fated to die during Ragnarok but not before killing his mortal enemy, Jormungandr the World Serpent.

Hades vs Loki

Hades – God of the Underworld

 

With a name that stands for Hell make no mistake that Hades was the god of the dead and the underworld.  He ruled over burial rites and the rites of the dead who were due an according to burial.  He was also considered the lord of hidden wealth.  This was both wealth of the earth in natural form; food, seeds, plants; as well as in precious metals.  Hades was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon who drew lots together and was awarded the underworld as his domain (rough luck there).

He abducted his wife Persephone, daughter of Demeter and through this abduction created the changing of the seasons.  The God of the Underworld is typically shown as owning a large three-headed dog, Cerberus.  Much like Ares,  Hades is usually the villain of stories both modern and mythological. Even though on the whole, Hades was the most sympathetic to humanity compared to the more vane and egotistical Zeus and Poseidon.

Image result for Loki
Loki – God of Trickery

 

Loki is the god of trickery and his tricks aren’t always the enjoyable kind.  Unlike the other gods of the Norse pantheon, Loki was sired by Frost Giants, the enemies of the gods.  He is responsible for several deaths of other gods including Balder, the most beloved of the Norse gods.  Events put into motion by Loki will eventually lead to Ragnarok, the viking end of the world.  For his crimes, he was punished to be strapped to large rocks with venom from an overhanging snake dripping into his eyes.  His wife catches the venom for him but every time she empties the bowl drops touch him which results in earthquakes.

Loki is considered one of the most powerful gods.  Only he and Odin have the ability to change form, shape, and gender at will.  Loki also sired several strange offspring, including frost giants, wolves, and a six-legged horse named Sleipnir.

These are several of the most important gods of both Norse and Greek mythology.  This brief overview definitely shows the difference in ideologies between the two pantheons.  The Greek gods are given more power and fantastical abilities and outnumber their Norse peers.  The scale and scope of the pantheon created a great backdrop for the God of War series up until now.  The Norse gods definitely seem steeped in more realism and their powers are more limited and realistic (although still fantastical).  The change to Norse mythology will allow for a much grittier tone and presence for Kratos.

For more on God of War check out our feature on God of War Ascension and if you want to see how the God of War games themselves have changed, check out Trevor’s piece.

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