After five years in development, Sony Santa Monica’s God of War revival is finally out on the PlayStation 4 (and in case you hadn’t heard, it’s pretty much a masterpiece). Featuring a brand new combat system and a transition from Greek to Norse mythology, the new God of War represents a substantial shift from past entries in the series, which means that if you had the previous combat system mastered, you’re going to be starting from square one here. Combat and exploration were big parts of the older God of War games and while the PS4 reboot is much more narrative-heavy as a whole, it still features a lot of mythological beast-slaying and treasure hunting, as well as a bunch of new activities that I’m not going to spoil here.
While the transition is a smooth one overall, there are probably going to be a few things about the new God of War that will make you scratch your head, so here are the 12 tips I would recommend for every new player starting out on Kratos and Atreus’ epic adventure.
12. Playing On PS4 Pro? Switch To “Performance Mode”
While God of War is a visual and technical marvel even on standard PS4 consoles, the game benefits significantly from the jump to the PlayStation 4 Pro … if you’re running it in the proper settings, that is. PS4 Pro will render God of War in 4K but at a significant cost to frame rate, as the game struggles to maintain a solid 30 frames per second. This is fine for moments when you’re just admiring the game’s lush scenery but God of War is still an action game and in combat sequences, you’ll really notice the performance dip.
Thankfully, the game lets you choose between two different rendering options on PS4 Pro: “Favor Resolution,” which runs the game at 4K resolution using checkerboard rendering, and “Favor Performance,” which displays the game at 1080p but unlocks the frame rate with a cap of 60 fps. I’d recommend choosing the latter option, as God of War benefits more from a reliable frame rate than increased resolution and to be honest, the game is still gorgeous in 1080p anyway.
11. Learn To Block
It’s pretty easy to get through the early sections of God of War by spamming light and heavy attacks coupled with the occasional dodge, but once more advanced enemies like the ultra-frustrating Dark Elves start being added to the mix, you’ll want to make sure you’ve mastered Kratos’ shield. Blocking and countering played an important role in previous God of War games but I think it’s even more essential here, as Kratos can not only block most enemy attacks with his shield but a well-timed counter can give you a huge edge against a particularly aggressive opponent. As such, you should prioritize unlocking shield counter moves in the skill tree and get the timing down, as it really is the key to mastering God of War’s combat system.
Thankfully, enemies are pretty good at telegraphing their attacks and even indicate which moves can be blocked/countered (yellow) or have to be dodged (red). You can even counter ranged attacks later on, which is probably the most advanced technique in the game, but most ranged attacks can be easily dodged, so I wouldn’t spend the time trying to fling fireballs back at enemies unless you really have a handle on the timing.
10. Take Out Weaker Enemies First
If there’s one downside to God of War’s new combat system, it’s that it’s more difficult to deal with groups of enemies than it was in previous games in the series. One-on-one battles are extremely satisfying but not being able to see enemies behind you leads to lots of getting hit in the back, which is never a fun experience. Most of God of War’s combat sequences feature at least one strong, mini boss-like enemy as well as a handful of weaker ones.
There are a few ways of helping to cope with this and one of the best is to make a habit of eliminating the weaker, fodder-type enemies first and especially the ones who have ranged attacks. It’s tempting to want to take on a big enemy like a troll first since it’s the biggest threat, but you’ll make your life a lot easier by thinning out the herd and taking out the smaller guys beforehand. And if you see a red “R3” prompt over an enemy’s heads, always trigger it as this means they are stunned and susceptible to a special finishing move, most of which are instant kills.
9. Unarmed Combat Is Actually Viable (And Useful)
When Kratos throws away his Leviathan axe, he’ll switch to using unarmed attacks but unlike in most games, using your fists is not only viable in God of War but in certain situations, is actually more effective than using your axe! The main reason for this is that unarmed attacks cause stun damage on enemies and if you land enough attacks, they’ll be stunned and open to a finishing move. While I’d still prioritize unlocking axe abilities in the skill tree over unarmed attacks – yes, there’s actually an unarmed skills section – Kratos’ fists are surprisingly potent and definitely shouldn’t be ignored.
8. Remember To Use Atreus
One of my favorite things about God of War is the way it handles the growth of Atreus from timid young boy to a confident, effective combatant in his own right. Because of this, Atreus is rather limited in his abilities early on and can only really help Kratos by firing the occasional arrow at an enemy. However, the cool thing about this is that, even early on, you have direct control over who Atreus fires at, as you can order him to shoot an enemy by aiming your cursor at an enemy and pressing the square button.
It certainly isn’t necessary to make use of Atreus all the time, as he’ll still help out in combat on his own, but you’ll make your life a whole lot easier by making use of his skills to lock down enemies and open them up for a flurry of axe attacks from Kratos. Oh, and don’t forget to use his special attack (triggered by holding down the square button) once it’s unlocked, as it will really help deal with some tough situations.
7. Look Everywhere
While God of War isn’t a full blown open-world game, it’s certainly built like one in certain ways, which means that its massive environments contain all sorts of secrets just waiting to be discovered. This is a game where it really pays off to keep your eyes open, as there are not only tons of environmental puzzles to overcome but also well-hidden secrets that require quite a bit of effort to find. When first setting foot in a new area, it’s a good idea to scan the ceiling (or skies if it’s outdoors), as there could be collectibles such as Odin’s green ravens flying around or even hanging barrels and corpses that, when hit, may drop to the ground and reveal some hacksilver currency. It also pays off to break every vase and box you come across, as many contain health or currency.
6. Don’t Stress Out About Upgrades … At Least At First
Like most games with RPG elements, God of War throws more abilities, upgrades, and different kinds of resources at you as progress, but even in the early stages you’ll be accumulating a lot of stuff. The problem with this is that it actually takes awhile before you can use any of it and the game doesn’t really do a great job of communicating what each resource does or how it will be used later. All I’ll say is that until you unlock the game’s shop and are actually able to start crafting upgrades and spending money, don’t worry too much about the fact that you’re collecting stuff you can’t even use yet – it will all make sense before long. By the same token, experience points are somewhat hard to come by early on but eventually, you’ll have more than you’ll be able to spend, so don’t feel like you need to by hyper-focused on completing the game’s various combat challenges in order to get bonus XP.
5. Remember, You Have Two Different Axe Throws
One of the most useful abilities in the game is Kratos’ axe throw, as it’s not only an effective range attack but can be used to freeze pesky enemies in place to help give you an edge in combat. By holding L2 to aim and pressing R2, Kratos will perform an overhead vertical throw, but pressing R1 instead do a quicker, horizontal throw. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it took me far too long to figure out that I could do the R1 attack, and there’s actually strategy in using one over the other, as R2 triggers a heavy throw and R1 a lighter attack that, when aimed at an enemy’s legs, can trip them and open them up to further attacks.
4. Read The Codex
Like many games that revolve around exploring a fantastical world, God of War includes a codex that documents the various creatures and locations Kratos and Atreus come across in their journey, as well as historical background on the nine realms. In a clever touch, the database is actually comprised of Atreus’s journal entries, meaning that each page is written from his perspective. While you can certainly ignore all this background reading material, I’d recommend taking some time to check it out, as the codes not only can help you familiarize yourself with the various figures and events of Norse mythology (and there are a LOT of them), but also give you an edge in combat, as Atreus actually keeps an ongoing log of enemy tactics and weaknesses.
3. Don’t Forget About Cooldown Skills
As you get deeper into God of War and unlock additional combat skills, you’ll come across various special moves for Kratos to equip that include a light attack (L1+R1), heavy attack (L1+R2) and a Talisman move (L1+O). Each ability is powerful and ideal for dealing with groups of enemies, but have cooldown timers so you can’t just spam them (increasing Kratos’ cooldown stat will bring the overall wait time down). For this reason, I spent a good portion of the game largely forgetting about these attacks and relied on Kratos’ standard abilities.
It was only after combat difficulty really started to ramp up later on that I started employing these moves more and discovered that they’re actually incredibly useful and the difference between life and death in some fights. So, don’t make the same mistake I did and actually spend the time figuring out which ability fits your play style and actually remember to use them!
2. You Don’t Need To Do Everything Before Beating The Story
One of the problems (if you can even call it that) with a game like God of War that features a story with an actual endpoint as well as a ton of optional side objectives is that it’s unclear if certain content will be inaccessible once the story is over. I know for myself that I had a worry early on that if I got too far into the story that I would be unable to come back to certain areas that I hadn’t fully completed yet.
I won’t spoil how the story ends or anything, but rest assured that you’ll be able to go back and do anything you missed the first time through after completing the main story, so there’s no need to stress about leaving an area unexplored or having to ditch a treasure chest that you haven’t figured out how to open yet. In fact, there are quite a few areas that won’t even be accessible until after the credits roll, so this is definitely a game that doesn’t lock you out of certain content just because you’ve progressed too far through the narrative. In fact, you’ll want to stick around because …
1. The Endgame Is Awesome And You Really Should Play It
As if one needed further proof that God of War is now a legitimate RPG, there is an actual endgame experience that opens up after completing the story. I’m not just talking about going back to certain areas to find a chest or collectible you may have missed either (though there certainly is still quite a bit of that), as there is still quite a bit of story content to be discovered in the endgame.
Most games that feature a similar structure as God of War will also allow you to go back to previous areas after “beating” the story, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that returning to places you’ve been actually unlocks new dialogue from Kratos and Atreus. It’s not just lazy filler dialogue either, as the pair will actually regularly acknowledge past events from the main story, making it feel like you really are just continuing their adventure. And when you factor in all the high level armor and challenges you’ll be finding along the way, God of War’s endgame is a huge, rewarding experience that is absolutely worth experiencing.