God of War is an exceptional game, and easily the best Sony has put out for the PS4 yet. It’s far more expansive and open than anything else in the series thus far, with Director Cory Barlog clearly bringing some of his expertise over from working on the Tomb Raider reboot to inject the once extremely linear franchise with a bit more breadth. There’s also a lot more going on with Kratos. You’ll have gear to shuffle through, moves to upgrade and attachments to scratch your head over. It’s all a bit daunting at first, so here are some small (spoiler-free) tips to help you get the most out of your adventures in Midgard.
God of War opens slowly
God of War is a game about Kratos and Atreus first, so it’s reasonable that Sony Santa Monica chose to have a rather slow start to their adventure to really set up the stakes. The paths you take in the first two hours hardly give you space to explore (although you should), and don’t open up the combat in ways it later is. Don’t be put off by it. God of War is excellently paced throughout, and once you get to the game’s hub world – Lake of Nines – you’ll see that first hand.
Always look around for stray paths
Chests and collectibles litter this new entry, and so if you see a fork in the road there’s no reason not to try to take them both. This expands ten-fold at Lake of Nines, where you’re given a canoe and freedom to row anywhere your heart desires. Taking a few hours off the main path is well worth it, as God of War hosts some incredible pockets of puzzle solving and lore in its side content. It’s content that isn’t marked by an icon on your map either, so be sure to look around every corner you can.
But don’t bang your head against impossible puzzles
God of War borrows a lot from Metroidvanias, and as such you’ll often come across challenges that seem impossible to overcome. That’s because they are, waiting for you to return to them with a new piece of gear or ability that only the main story will bestow on you. Puzzles are challenging, but there’s a clear cut between not understanding a solution and not being able to engage with it at all. If you feel this way, don’t fret. Hop back into that canoe and return to it later. You’ll be rewarded for your patience.
Let stories play out
During your travels Kratos (and later Mimir) will flesh out the world with stories to Atreus while you’re travelling on boat. These stories, especially those told by Mimir, are incredible, but are put on hold every time you dock your boat. It doesn’t take much to keep rowing in a circle to hear the end of them, and I never found myself running out of tales to hear. They flesh out characters you don’t get to see in engrossing ways, and give a lot of context to the strange world Kratos finds himself in. Listen and soak them up. It’s worth it.
Don’t forget about Atreus in combat
God of War’s combat is very different to what you might remember, and simply mashing on buttons for combos is not going to work. Part of the new system is a subtle aggro balance, one that can be influenced by Atreus. If you feel like too many foes are coming at you at once, command Atreus to fire off some arrows to steal their attention. His strikes will inflict some stun damage or chain together given which of his arrows you use, but it’s really easy to forget he’s there at times. Utilise the boy, and keep him upgraded for maximum effect.
There are two different types of axe throws
The Leviathan Axe is Kratos’ new weapon of choice, and its most satisfying feature lays within being able to throw it out and recall it to your hand with the press of a button. Axe throws are more than just pretty though, and serve a big purpose in crowd control. Light axe throws do damage and can stun an enemy a little if you hit them in the head. But it’s heavy axe throws that really are useful. They’re slower to wind up, but hit an enemy with them and you’ll likely root them in place with frost damage, taking them out of the fight for a few seconds while you pummel his friends with your fists. Don’t forget the difference as I did.
Speaking of, take combat slowly
God of War feels a lot more like Dark Souls in its construction of combat, which means patience and awareness are more key than ever. Don’t go in thinking you can pull off incredible unstoppable combos without retort. Enemies will break out of juggles and punish you for it, and larger ones will straight up not give a damn. Be cautious with your approach in the early game as Kratos is so fragile, and be sure to switch up between your axe and fists. Knowing which enemies are better off killing with an execution attack after you’ve built up some stun damage is important, and might save your life.
Get good at dodges and parries
Kratos has had a shield of sorts before, but parries have never had such a strong emphasis. Learn how to use it properly early on to avoid annoying deaths later. Enemy attacks will glow either red or yellow, with the latter being susceptible to a counter if you block at the last moment. Upgrade your abilities further and you’ll be able to engage in devastating combos on the counter too. Just avoid those red ones. Stronger enemies will sometimes down you in a single hit if you don’t get out of the way, and your shield won’t protect you.
Don’t buy all your gear
This should be a given for any loot-driven game, but the gear that blacksmiths Sindri and Brok have for crafting always fall slightly below what you can find in the world. Money is scarce for a large portion of the game, so save that silver for upgrades to gear that you find rather than new threads entirely. You’ll need to fork our for gear for Atreus often, and some Talismans might be useful enough to sink some silver into. But don’t be allured by higher powered gear only to find better in a chest 30 minutes later. The Aesir will laugh at your bad choices.
Swap out your gear frequently too
Staples like chest, wrist and waist armour often accompany you for long stretches at a time, but you’d be missing out by not keeping a healthy stack of attachments for them on hand. Some of these augmentations are specifically helpful in certain areas, where enemies will be of a certain type or have particular elemental effects. Swapping between attachments will always give you the upper edge, either giving you more damage output against a certain type or protecting you against their effects. It’s not required, but it’ll certainly be for some of the late game challenges.
Return after the credits
It’s actually pretty easy to finish God of War without engaging with extra content at all, but you’d be missing out on some of its best parts. Side quests are one thing, but the game features multiple endgame challenges designed for a Kratos that has seen war and then some. These combat challenges are gruelling and engrossing, pushing your understanding of the systems to a level that the main narrative never does. They’re scattered across different realms and hidden rooms you can’t access until near the end, so don’t forget to return to them once you’ve dealt with the journey to the mountain.
And that’s it! God of War is no more complex than other action games of this ilk, but given its linear heritage it’s easy for you to miss so much of what it has to offer out of habit alone. Breathe it all in and savour it. This is a special game, and it deserves every hour you’re willing to spend with it.
Last Updated: April 20, 2018