A blocky boat ride
God of War was developed by Santa Monica Studio and released by Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC in 2018 to critical acclaim and commercial success, while reinventing almost every aspect of the God of War franchise. It was a bold step from the series debut in 2005 and highlighted how much the protagonist Kratos, the titular "God of War", has evolved. Driven and consumed by rage he laid waste to almost the entire Olympus, which forced him to leave his home and old live behind. Now Kratos tries to control himself to shield his new son Atreus from suffering a similar fate. Being a father and teacher is a completely new experience for Kratos. So it is only fitting that the setting of the series switches to a foreign world for both him and the player at this point. The new realms of the Norse mythology, in which God of War takes place, feature stunning vistas and magnificent environments. And it is these worlds that stuck with me the most after finishing the game.
If you ever played God of War, you know how much time Kratos and Atreus spend on water. While searching for the highest mountain in all the realms, they travers most of the world by boat: From the Lake of Nine in Midgard to the Lake of Light in Alfheim. Their talk and banter (or the lack thereof) on the boat undoubtedly forms the heart and soul of the game.
So when I decided to build a scene out of LEGO®, I wanted to capture one of those somber moments of just the two sitting opposite of one another, trying to reconnect as father and son. There are several of those moments in the game and not all of them lend themselves well to being recreated in brick form.
World in Ruins
Alfheim is the second realm Kratos and Atreus visit. After finding their path to the highest peak in Midgard blocked by Black Breath they have to search for the Light of Alfheim. Upon their arrival they find the realm in ruin, tormented by the recent war between the Light Elves and the Dark Elves. Encountering relics of that time is a constant for them while journeying across the Lake of Light at the heart of the realm: Fallen statues, abandoned temples and weapons from lost battles taint the beautiful scenery of Alfheim.
Kratos and Atreus witness all of this from the safety of their boat. And while the former tries to keep his distance, Atreus is all too eager to engage in the conflict of the Elves. Kratos sees a lot of his former self in the boy, but is unable to communicate the problems that come from messing in the conflict of others. Atreus on the other hand misreads his father's reluctance as an unwillingness to help and this part of their journey thus just furthers the divide between the two.
It is for this circumstance that Alfheim is such a remarkable location. As a war torn world it serves as a remainder of Kratos' past and as a valuable lesson for Arteus. The boy desperately wants to see the Light Elves and the Dark Elves as good and bad, while Kratos knows that war is not that simple of a matter. They may never know the history of this realm or the losses it had to endure. With their actions the two might just inflict more harm, which Kratos knows all too well. Therefore Alfheim serves as both, a poignant commentary and a beautiful backdrop for the story to unfold.
Picking a scene to rebuild was quite straightforward: When entering the realm the player initially journeys across a river twisting and turning until it eventually empties into the Lake of Light. While the Lake itself offers some incredible scenery, it is this last bend of the river which left the biggest impression on me. Going around the face of a collapsed statue not knowing what mysteries await beyond marks a beautiful moment in the game.
My initial concept only included the face of the statue and the tree growing on top of it. While building I realised that I needed to include the river bank on the opposite side as well to faithfully capture the scene in the game. This however created a new problem: the entire outside of the river bank would have been nothing but a bland wall.
To fill this part with meaningful builds, I discarded accuracy and included a scene associated with a different part of Alfheim: Sindri's workshop. The dwarve's shop can actually be found at the very beginning of the realm, before even stepping into the boat. But the hill of the river bank serves as a visual separation, which makes it possible to include the tent as well as the boardwalk without distracting the viewer from the main river scene. This way the diorama displays not one, but multiple scenarios from Alfheim, depending on where you look.
The trees in the scene serve as an eye-catcher, so I paid special attention to making them as colourful as they are in the game. I used a combination of dark pink (Colour-ID 47), bright pink (104), white (1) and lavender (154) LEGO® pieces and to give them a messy and saggy look, I used LEGO® flowers (Part-ID 3742c01). Normally they are meant to be separated from the central part, but if they are kept connected they can be combined with a flower stem (Part-ID 3741), to create a lush tree crown. This also allows for the leaves to hang from the tree branches, thereby making them look more realistic.
Of course the diorama would not be complete without minifigures of both Kratos and Atreus. I used different pieces from official LEGO® toy lines to recreate the boy. His torso (Part-ID 973pb0377) originates from the Viking products, while his quiver can be found in some Ninjago sets (Part-ID 35137). Kratos' look on the other hand could not be reproduced using official LEGO® parts. I therefore used a custom minifigure designed and printed by Leyilebrick.
At Journey's End
When I started building Alfheim, it was solely to pay tribute to a game which moved me more than any other that year. The environments of games are rarely the focus of fan-art, so I built this LEGO® scene as a "thank you" to all the artists and designers who work tirelessly to create those fantastic and inspiring worlds. But never did I imagine the model would get the attention it got.
Shortly after posting a photo of the build online, the community team of Santa Monica Studio reached out to me and asked if there was any chance the LEGO® Alfheim model could be exhibited in the studio's lobby. I had already brought multiple models to Guerrilla Games, so I should not have been too surprised that another studio was interested in an art piece I had created. Still, receiving such an invitation from the other side of the world was both a shock and an honour. Needless to say, we made it work and Alfheim is now a permanently exhibited piece in the lobby of Santa Monica Studios in Los Angeles.
A special thanks goes to the community manager of Santa Monica Studios, Aaron Kaufman, seen in the picture above, who reached out to me in the first place. He also organised the creation of a video to document my visit and the building of Alfheim in the studio lobby. The video, titled "God of War - An Incredible Creation" was later shared online by the official Playstation accounts.
During my visit, everyone I got to meet was incredibly welcoming. At that time, God of War had already won numerous Game Awards and became one of the biggest games of this console generation. Yet they were all unbelievably humble and curious about the LEGO® model and its creation. Many of the staff have kids themselves who were, as I was told, extremely excited that there was now a LEGO® model at the work place. It is that aspect of LEGO® fan art I enjoy the most: That it connects people of all generations by inspiring them to create and build.