‘God of War’ combat guide: How to crush enemies with Kratos

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Advanced techniques and strategy

All about crowd control

god of war combat guide runic attack

Wailing on enemies with effective combos is all well and good, but most of the fights you’ll find yourself facing in God of War will pit you against multiple opponents. While you might be tempted to isolate and focus on taking down one enemy, controlling the group and keeping them from surrounding you should be your first priority.

Look for opportunities to distract enemies you’re not ready to fight, so you can deal with the ones in front of you. You can do that by knocking guys down by throwing the axe at them, blasting them with runic attacks, or using your bare-handed heavy attack to push enemies back and give yourself more space. A heavy throw with the axe can also pin enemies to walls or freeze them so you don’t have to deal with them for a few seconds. Atreus will help as well — when you’re not controlling him, he’ll shoot at any enemies you’re not actively dealing with in an attempt to keep them from bothering you. You can also point his arrows directly at the enemies you want to stall.

Avoiding getting surrounded is key to victory in God of War. It’s less about overwhelming force and more about maintaining control. That way, you’ll never start a fight you don’t think you can handle.

Don’t overuse the ax throw

god of war combat guide range

It’s tempting to go wild chucking the Leviathan Axe at enemies, especially because it’s so damn cool. You can overdo it though: Hitting triangle to call back the ax can be useful for hitting distant enemies both coming and going, but it also leaves you vulnerable. You want to throw the ax when it’ll do the most damage, not when you’ll immediately be wishing you had it back. The second or so it takes the ax to return is enough to leave you open for damage.

Focus on throwing the ax for a clear purpose. Taking out ranged enemies throwing fireballs at you is a major one, but you can also use the ax in key tactical ways. Hitting an enemy in the head will usually stun it briefly, and with bosses like trolls, you can actually interrupt big attacks before you have to try to dodge them. Similarly, a light throw to the legs will knock a lot of enemies down, briefly taking them out of the battle. With a heavy throw, you can often freeze one enemy solid, allowing you to break off and fight others without having to worry about the first one. The point is, the ax is usually more useful in your hand than it is on the ground, so when you do throw it, make sure the attack is highly useful, and try to work it into a combo to keep your fighting fluid.

Armor matters

god of war combat guide armor matters

Although the leveling system in God of War is a bit opaque at first, you don’t want to ignore the armor side of things when thinking about how you fight. Each piece of armor you find affects Kratos’ stats, and each of his stats change how effective you are in battle. The same is true of “Enchantments,” which are items you can attach to your armor for more stat boosts. For instance, armor and enchantments that enhance your Strength stat are good if you’re a straight-up fighter who likes to wail on guys. Items with high Runic stats, on the other hand, are good if you’re the kind of person who wants to use lots of runic attacks in high-pressure situations. If that’s the case, you’ll also want items that increase Kratos’ Cool-down stat, which makes all your attacks recharge more quickly. The Defense stat decreases how much damage you take when hit, so you want it as high as you can get it. the Vitality stat increases Kratos’ health, but also decreases how badly you’re staggered when hit, which makes it a good investment for fighters who like to parry a lot (and might miss sometimes).

Enchantments and armor also sometimes come with “perks,” which are passive abilities that activate under certain circumstances. A perk might cause you to get health when you parry an attack, or increase your defense when you take big hit. Perks aren’t a sure thing, though — they only have a chance of being triggered based on how good the item is. Increasing your Luck stat can drive up how often perks are activated. Perks can make a big difference in a battle, so you’ll want to pick your enchantments and armor based on what kind of fighter you are. You can do the same thing with Atreus’ armor as the game progresses, choosing what kind of fighter he’ll be and how he can best augment your style. Pay attention to how you like to fight, and equip items accordingly — it’ll help make you significantly tougher and more effective to have the right stat boosts and perks in a difficult battle.

The most important aspect of your armor, however, is the overall armor level (the big number in the diamond at the top of your Armor menu). God of War employs a Destiny style “gear level” system that rates and balances your abilities versus those of your enemies. Each piece of armor and enchantment has an armor level, and you receive an overall level based on your aggregate gear rating. You can easily tell if there’s a difference between you and your opponent by looking at their health bar, which features their level and is color-coded to tell you who has an advantage. Enemies with a yellow health bar are your equals, orange enemies have one level on you, red have two, and purple enemies have three. (Pro tip: If you see a purple health bar, just walk the other way). While optimizing your specs for your play-style is important, building your armor level is the single best thing you can do to make the game easier. Always upgrade your gear and purchase new armor when you can, even if you need to put resources into it to make it more powerful.

Go on an XP spending spree

god of war combat guide xp spending spree

You’ll earn a ton of experience points fighting in God of War, which is good, because there are lots of things to spend them on. You can unlock skills and moves for Kratos in close-range and long-range ax fighting, bare-handed fighting; and Spartan Rage, plus more moves for Atreus. You can also spend your XP on upgrading your Runic attacks. Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming as you try to decide where to spend your experience, but don’t worry — there’s always much, much more coming.

In fact, it’s a good idea to spend your XP as fast as you can, whenever you can. Start by buying all of the basic moves for Kratos and Atreus. Don’t worry about being too discerning, because you’ll own them all before too long. The trick is to pay attention to what you’re purchasing, and consciously work your new moves into your fighting style. You’ll add abilities like doing leaping attacks after sprinting or hitting multiple enemies with an ax throw, and there really are so many moves that it can be easy to forget about them. Regardless, spend your XP liberally. God of War is a long game and you’ll fight plenty of bad guys to keep the experience flowing.

Switch stances

god of war combat guide stances

One of the cooler sets of moves you can unlock as you spend experience points allows Kratos to switch stances, opening up a new set of moves as he fights. Once you unlock the ability in the Skills menu, the trick to switching stances is to briefly pause while fighting. Kratos will change how he’s standing with the ax (or shield, depending on which set of stances you’re using), and that’s your cue to start fighting again. The ax stance moves tend to throw the blade like a boomerang for lots of damage, while the bare-handed stance moves are good for hitting lots of enemies at once and pushing them back.

As soon as you can get the stance-switch upgrades, you should. These allow you to add a lot more moves to your strings of attacks and they’re pretty easy to execute. Most of God of War‘s combat is about using the right tool at the right moment, and these add a lot more to your enemy-thrashing toolkit.

Heal on the go

god of war combat guide heal on the go

Kratos has no real means of restoring health in battle on his own. There are some perks and talismans that can give you health in a pinch, and you can get some back by deploying Spartan Rage, but generally, avoiding damage is your biggest focus in a fight. If you’re desperate for healing, there’s only one real way: Looking for green healing stones on the ground. Enemies often drop these when they die, and you can snag them to refresh your health by pressing Circle.

In a fight situation when you’re desperate for health, focus on killing weaker enemies to see if they’ll drop health. If they don’t, you can usually find health stones in arenas by smashing objects along the edges. It’s tough to divert your attention, but you’ll often find yourself hunting health stones at key moments, so keep your eyes open for things you can break in battle. As the game progresses, you can also purchase Resurrection Stones, which will give you a second chance in battle. It’s always a good idea to have one with you, especially if you’re exploring optional areas and missions that are full of tough enemies.

The environment is your friend

god of war combat guide environment

A lot of battles will take place in de facto arenas with lots of stuff around that you might be able to use — and you shouldn’t be shy about taking advantage. Explosive red bottles will, unsurprisingly, explode when you hit them and set enemies on fire. Later in the game, Atreus can shoot red and blue crystals to create explosions and blind enemies, respectively. Even when there aren’t obviously useful things around, the environment is still your friend. Kick enemies off cliffs or into spikes to kill or injure them, and use your ax to pin enemies against walls for more damage and to take them out of fights. You don’t just have to hammer the ax buttons to victory, in other words — God of War has a ton of room for tactical thinking in fights, so use everything around you.

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