Guides & editorial

Fight like a God: a combat refresher course for God of War

Haven’t had a chance to replay God of War (2018) before jumping into God of War Ragnarök? Diving in fresh and need a quick primer? Brush up the basics, learn some killer tips, and get a head start on the action.

Going on the offensive

The most basic element of combat is inflicting damage. You’ll unlock a huge range of options as you play, but keep these fundamentals in mind to get off to a great start.

Basic weapons

Those who played Kratos and Atreus’ previous adventure will be familiar with Kratos’ two iconic weapons, the Leviathan Axe and the Blades of Chaos. 

Leviathan Axe

Gifted to him by his late wife Laufey, the Leviathan Axe is a mighty, magical weapon. Imbued with the power of frost, the Leviathan Axe is not only able turn enemies to ice in battle, it can also be used to freeze running water on contact and lock mechanisms in place.

Blades of Chaos

A relic of Kratos’ violent past among the Ancient Greek pantheon, the Blades of Chaos are a pair of ferocious, chained blades. The Blades of Chaos can channel fire, setting enemies ablaze, cutting through steel like butter, and setting off eruptions.

Light and heavy attacks

Whether you’re wielding the Blades of Chaos, Leviathan Axe or your bare fists, there are two main attack buttons for Kratos: the ‘light’ attack (R1 by default) and ‘heavy’ attack (R2 by default). Each triggers different attacks and combos suited to different situations.

Light attacks

Light attacks are the fastest way to deal damage in God of War Ragnarök. These attacks have a limited wind-up, but as a result they pack less punch. You’ll be less likely to interrupt enemies with light attacks, but your rapid strikes can move the momentum of battle in your favor. 

Heavy attacks

Heavy attacks draw on far more of Kratos’ god-like strength, so they take much longer to wind up. Though the blows are more devasting when they do land by doing massive damage and potentially staggering enemies, they also take longer to pull off which can leave you vulnerable. 

Ranged attacks

When holding down L2, you’ll place Kratos into ‘aim’ mode, which will activate ranged attacks for whichever weapon you’re holding. 

Leviathan Axe

The Leviathan Axe has two ranged attacks – light and heavy. If you press the R1 button whilst holding L2, Kratos will throw the axe laterally, perfect for fast and precise throws – whether that's a trip or a headshot. If you press R2, however, he’ll throw it vertically – a throw that’s good for embedding into and freezing enemies in place. Once thrown, you can recall the axe with the ‘Triangle’ button – time it right and you might even be able strike an enemy from behind as the axe returns.

Blades of Chaos

As with the Leviathan Axe, the Blades of Chaos have two ranged attacks. The ‘light’ attack (R1) launches a single blade out in a whipping motion, pulling the enemy towards you, while a ‘heavy’ attack (R2) causes Kratos to spear an opponent with the blades and send fire humming down the chains toward them.

Runic attacks

Both the Blades of Chaos and the Leviathan Axe can harness special Runic abilities, activated by holding the ‘block’ button (L1) and pressing the ‘light’ (R1) or ‘heavy’ (R2) attack buttons. These can unleash a whole range of different attacks based on which Runes you have equipped and often unleash powerful elemental techniques.

Elemental abilities and enemy weaknesses

Kratos’ two main weapons are charged with elemental magic – frost for the Leviathan Axe and fire for the Blades of Chaos. Certain enemy types are more vulnerable to either the Frost or Burn status effects, whereas others will even have special protections. Unless you use the right weapon, it will be more difficult to damage certain enemies. You’ll want to keep both your enemies and the situation in mind when picking the right weapon for the moment.

Both weapons can unleash high elemental damage using their signature Triangle button moves. For the Leviathan Axe, holding ‘Triangle’ will activate ‘Frost Awaken’, coating the blade in a thick frost. For the Blades of Chaos, hitting the ‘Triangle’ button will activate ‘Flame Whiplash’ in which Kratos rapidly spins the blades causing them to erupt in flames.

In addition, Atreus’ arrows have their own elemental abilities that can shift the odds in combat, whilst Kratos’ bare fists are particularly good at delivering stun damage - for when you need to a knock a little sense into or out of an opponent! 

Using the environment

Beyond your basic attacks, there’s a range of objects and hazards scattered throughout arenas that can be used to your advantage. Flaming oil jars explode when struck, some trees and posts can be uprooted and used to club enemies, giant boulders can be hoisted and launched at enemies, and drop from a high ledge to rain down a thundering ‘Death from Above’ attack on enemies.

Playing defensively

You’ll often find yourself up against large mobs of enemies. You can’t fight them all at once, so learning how to respond to incoming attacks is crucial.

Blocking

By default, your shield can be activated by pressing the L1 button. Press it to raise the shield and keep it held for as long as you need it.

Advantages

  • Positioning
    Blocking allows you to stand your ground, meaning you can strike back swiftly and keep pressure on your enemies.
  • Parrying
    Timing blocks perfectly can even knock the enemy off balance and leave them open for follow-up attacks.
  • Flexibility
    There’s a variety of shields to unlock, some that are better suited to parrying and others that soak up damage more efficiently.

Limitations

  • Guard breaks
    While you keep your shield up against most normal attacks, there are some that will force you to adjust. Enemy attacks with Yellow Rings around them can be parried, but if you try to block them, they’ll break your guard and open you up to potential danger!
  • Unblockable attacks
    Attacks with Red or Double-Blue Rings are too powerful to be blocked or parried. These mighty attacks will do damage to Kratos even with his shield raised. These attacks should be avoided or interrupted in other ways. More on that later!
  • Mobility
    Raising your shield will slow your movement. While you can still sidestep and evade to reposition, it will leave you open to attacks from behind.

Dodging

You have two means of dodging incoming attacks, a side-step, that you can activate with a single tap of the ‘X’ button and a dodge-roll that can be activated with a double-tap of the ‘X’ button.

Advantages

  • Mobility
    Dodging not only gets you out the way of oncoming damage, but it also allows you to reposition yourself – behind the enemy, for example – for a follow-up attack.
  • Reliability
    Your dodge abilities allow you to avoid damage from almost all kind of attacks if timed correctly, making it one of the most reliable defensive options. However, some enemy attacks may be too dangerous to roll, so keep in mind that sometimes blocking might be the better option! 
  • Offensive
    As you progress, you’ll unlock evasive abilities that can be used as part of a dodge manoeuvre, allowing you to back away whilst still taking swipes at the enemy.

Limitations

  • Positioning
    Dodging, especially backwards, can get your out of harm’s way, but the same is true for enemies, meaning you’ll have to close ground or switch to ranged attacks to stay on the offensive.
  • Timing
    Dodging too early or too late can be as bad as not dodging it at all. You’ll need to watch your enemies carefully to make sure you move at the right moment.
  • Risks
    Dodging out of range of one attack could well put you in the path of another – keep an eye on the red arrows around you to make you’re not hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Shield Strike

Enemy attacks with a double Blue Ring are special attacks that are unblockable, but can be interrupted by a Shield Strike. Double tap the ‘block’ button (L1) during these attacks to stagger the enemies with a shield attack and leave them open for a brutal repost. Each shield has a unique Shield Strike move, so be sure to try them all out! 

Using the environment

In combat, staying still can be deadly. Kratos can use his Blades of Chaos to quickly pull himself onto platforms or swing across gaps (providing there’s something to grapple). He can also jump smaller gaps, vault ledges, leap to lower platforms or break into a sprint – use your agility to create space when you need it.

New in God of War Ragnarök are Kratos’ ‘Death From Above’ Attacks. When leaping off a ledge or grappling across a gap, press R1 to slam into the ground below causing high amounts of damage to any enemies caught in the area.

Spartan Rage

They say the best defense is a good offense – and where Spartan Rage is concerned, nothing could be more true. As long as your Rage Meter is full enough, you can press L3 and R3 together to activate your Spartan Rage to turn the tide in any fight.

Advantages

  • Regeneration
    Not only will Spartan Rage deal out massive damage, but each blow will also refill your health gauge – if you’re short on health and healing items it can be a literal life saver.
  • Crowd control
    When Spartan Rage activates it releases a huge burst of energy, sending nearby enemies flying. When you’re overwhelmed by numbers, Spartan Rage is a great way to even the odds.

Limitations

  • Time limited
    Your Spartan Rage will run for only a limited time - make sure you time it well and only unleash it when you can capitalise on it.
  • Recharging
    Filling up your Rage Meter will take time – don’t rush to use it right away, because although it will refill, you could be without it for a while.

Realising your potential

The Nine Realms are teeming with rare items, unique armour sets, weapons upgrades, crafting materials and more to uncover. 

Explore

As you’re pulled into the ongoing saga of Kratos and Atreus, it might be tempting to hot-foot it to the next story location. If you really want to be ready for the challenges that lie in wait though, it’s worth pausing to explore locations properly and collect important equipment before moving on.

Hidden loot

Check areas thoroughly: hidden beneath a ledge, behind a stack of rubble or even hanging from the ceiling you might fight handy upgrade materials, a new axe pommel, a special attack rune or a handful of Hacksilver. Every find helps build your arsenal.

Puzzle chests

Throughout the world, you’ll find high-value loot hidden in locked chests. These chests will have unique puzzle challenges associated with them, such as breaking a magic rune seal by lighting braziers or striking gongs hidden around the environment. 

Favors

Beyond the main adventure, you’ll be tasked with optional quests that unlock new story threads and special loot. Complete these and you’ll be rewarded for your trouble.

Upgrading and upskilling

There's much to learn and much to discover as you venture out into the Nine Realms. Each combat encounter will increase your experience and potential and every new discovery will add to your arsenal.

Armor and weapons upgrades

Whatever your preferred armour set, make sure you check in with Brok and Sindri to keep your equipment upgraded. In exchange for rare materials and Hacksilver, you can significantly increase the attributes of almost all your gear, including armor, axe pommels, blade handles, shield ronds and more.

Armor and weapon attachments can be more freely upgraded this time around to encourage a larger variety of playstyles, so make sure you try out some different combinations!

Character upgrades

There are new skills and combat abilities to be unlocked for each of your characters under your skill menu. These are purchased and unlocked by spending experience points you accrue in combat. These skills can add transformative new options to combat encounters, include brand-new attacks and combos or increase effectiveness for existing abilities.

Some skills can be further enhanced and customized if used enough in battle, so give those new abilities a try!

Kratos has multiple trees for each of his main weapons, whilst Atreus has a number for his bow attacks. Make sure you check in regularly and spend your experience points, otherwise you might fall behind in combat. 

The heat of battle

The final piece in the puzzle is you – the skills, strategy and playstyle you bring to the game. There’s a huge range of enemies to face in God of War Ragnarök and dozens of different ways to dispatch them. Learning how to respond and take advantage your weapons and equipment is crucial.

Experiment

There are a huge number of combat options in God of War Ragnarök. If you find yourself consistently falling back on the same moves and techniques, things might wind up tougher than they ought to be. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Use your full tool set: mix ranged attacks with close combat, exploit the environment, make use of all your weapons (including your bare fists) and their elemental strengths, and be prepared to adapt to new challenges as they emerge. 

Study your enemies

Most enemies you encounter will have unique skill sets, particular abilities or unexpected quirks. Pay attention to how each enemy moves and fights, gauging when best to strike and when best to fall back. Try out different weapons to see which is most effective and figure out where to focus your energy – enemies often appear in groups and deciding the order in which to tackle them is key.

Stay calm

While sometimes the odds might seem overwhelming, this is merely a way of life for an all-powerful deity. You’re stepping into the shoes of the God of War, so sometimes you’ll need to channel that unshakable resolve in combat. If the going really gets tough you can always retreat and grab some Health or Rage Stones before you launch back into the action.