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God of War Ragnarok beginner’s guide: 7 tips and tricks to get started

Kratos and Atreus are back, older, and preparing to face off against even greater challenges in God of War Ragnarok. The titular apocalyptic event is looming, and in the years between the original and the sequel, father and son have been preparing. You, as the player, may not have touched the previous game for years or never played it at all. Even if that game is fresh in your mind, this sequel adds quite a bit new to the mix to learn.

The initial controls and feel of God of War Ragnarok will be familiar to you if you played the reboot. You’re still controlling Kratos from the same tight perspective and hacking and slashing mythological foes with your weapon of choice. While that can get you through the opening hours, there’s a lot more you will need to grasp to keep up with the difficulty curve this game has in store for you. To really feel like the God of War, here are some essential tips and tricks for God of War Ragnarok.

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Image of Kratos and Atreus showcasing God of War Ragnarok's high contrast mode feature.

Before the game even boots up to the main menu, God of War Ragnarok will present you with a series of options and accessibility toggles. Following the trend of all Sony first-party games having extensive and very detailed accessibility controls, God of War Ragnarok once again allows you to tailor the experience to your liking. You might be tempted to skip past all of these if you have no disabilities that could hinder your enjoyment, but there are a lot of settings here that everyone could find useful.

These will mostly be subjective, so go through the entire list to see what you personally think would make the game more fun. While we love using subtitles, you may find them distracting. That said, here are a few we think are standouts.

First, we hate mashing buttons and find that we’re not alone in that hatred. God of War Ragnarok brings back quick time events, though not as abundantly as the original trilogy, which include timed taps and rapid mashing prompts. Rather than strain yourself, we highly recommend using the hold button option for mashing instead. It’s far more comfortable and doesn’t take anything away from the experience.

A very nice quality-of-life option, especially if you are keen on exploring a lot, is the one to automatically jump without hitting the circle button. Normally, even at full sprint, Kratos will stop dead at a gap and wait for you to hit circle before hopping across. It’s just an extra step that isn’t necessary, especially when climbing up multiple steps or scaling straight up a wall. It feels far more natural, and almost like an older Zelda game, to simply move the stick in your desired direction and know that Kratos will scale, drop, leap, etc. to continue on without breaking his stride.

In combat, things can get hectic when facing multiple fast enemies. This is made even more troublesome thanks to how tight the camera can be on Kratos. To keep track, we highly advise turning on the lock-on functions. By pressing in on the left stick, you will focus on one enemy, but there are two further settings to make it even more useful. These allow you to flick between targets by using the right stick, and the second adds on the ability for the game to automatically lock on to a new enemy when the one you’re focused on is defeated. It isn’t as snappy as you might want, but it’s far better than leaving it off.

Last up, the auto-pickup option, set to work during combat, is a lifesaver. You can set it to work only out of combat, but we feel it really only helps out in battle since you won’t have to worry about scurrying around on low HP and mashing circle, trying to get that health drop in time. Instead, Kratos will automatically stomp HP and rage pickups during a fight without you having to take your hands off the controls. Don’t worry, he won’t break them if he’s full on HP and waste them.

Explore to your heart’s content

Kratos and Atreus sail on water in God of War Ragnarok.

God of War (2018) gave you a nice HUB to explore. God of War Ragnarok more than doubles down on the potential for exploration across its various realms, as well as during the more linear sections. So often, you will find optional paths that lead to treasures, artifacts, Odin’s ravens, and other goodies. Unless you’re locked into a set piece of some kind, always take the road less traveled first.

It’s easy to know which way you’re supposed to go based on where Atreus, or any other companion, is going. If you see a split path and Atreus running down the right side, take the left and see what you find. You will never come back empty-handed, and every bit of Hacksilver, resources, or upgrade material will be useful.

One thing to remember when exploring is that God of War Ragnarok is far more vertical than the last title. Those familiar hanging buckets are back, but you will also find areas you can climb or use your chains to climb up way more often. You might even need to unlock some of these vertical paths with your chain’s fire or one of Atreus’ arrows, so don’t just assume everything worth finding is at eye level.

Chest puzzles are back

God of War Ragnarok Atreus touching a mural.

During that exploration, you’re going to find all kinds of chests, including the rune chests that require you to solve an environmental puzzle to open. The same types from the first game are back, like finding and hitting bells in a short time, spinning gears to get the correct runes to show, or simply breaking corresponding runes around the environment.

If you come across one of these chests, finding at least the first part of its solution is typically very simple. This will tell you what kind of puzzle you need to solve to open it, but early on, you will find some that can’t be solved until later. If they can be solved, then don’t leave that area until you’ve solved and looted the chest. You will need to be clever in searching the area, but the solution to a chest is never far from the chest itself.

Don’t be stingy

Sindri examining a bow.

You might feel hesitant about spending your Hacksilver and crafting materials in the early game, and that’s fair. God of War Ragnarok continues to include different armors and accessories to buff Kratos and Atreus, each of which can be upgraded, but once you’ve reached your first open HUB area, you generally will have enough resources to upgrade what you like. God of War Ragnarok is tough, even on normal, so trying to hoard all your money and materials until you get late-game gear isn’t going to go very well for you.

Your weapons also use exclusive upgrade materials, so if you have the option to upgrade them, do it. There’s absolutely no benefit to waiting, and in fact, that will hold you back from buying new skills in addition to doing less damage.

Going back to exploration again, finding money is simple. You’ll get it from chests, off the ground, from enemies and hanging pots, and more. However, if you’re a Zelda fan, you will be pleased to know that you can still get easy cash by breaking vases. Boxes and barrels don’t count, but if you spot any pottery, chuck your ax at it to grab a few quick bucks. It isn’t much per vase, but it will more than add up over the course of the game.

Also, while buying your upgrades and armor, make sure you tab over to the Sell option. While you could sell any armor you know you’ll never use, the things you will always want to unload are your collectibles. Once collected, they’re in your journal and counted, so there’s no need to fear selling them and them not counting toward that task. Go ahead and unload all those trinkets for easy money.

Remember to spend XP

Kratos looks at the Leviathan Axe.

God of War Ragnarok is surprisingly subtle about the skill system. Kratos and Atreus each earn their own dedicated XP this time that you will allocate between their different skill trees. However, after the initial tutorial, you will get very few, if any, reminders to spend that pile of XP you’ve built up.

Make it a point to check how much XP you have and what skills you’re aiming to get, at least every time you find a shop. Just like your Hacksilver and materials, sitting on XP isn’t doing you any good when there are new moves you could be learning.

Use the environment

A giant lizard monster jumps on Kratos in God of War Ragnarok.

Combat in God of War Ragnarok is built off the base from the last game but enhanced with a few new exciting options you should get in the habit of exploiting when possible. First and most prevalent is the verticality of combat arenas. More than ever, enemies will move between elevated parts of the area to attack at range or escape you. Don’t let them be the only ones to use the environment to their advantage. You will be taught very early on a new plunging attack you should look to pull out whenever you’re positioned above a target. Oh, and go ahead and knock or throw enemies off ledges to a quick and easy death whenever possible.

One new trick that isn’t told to you is that some objects in the environment can be used in combat. Besides things like explosive pots hanging or resting in certain areas, you will also find specific tree trunks and slabs of rock that give you a circle prompt when you get close. Hit this prompt, and Kratos will use the object in question as a temporary weapon or projectile for tons of damage. They’re not necessary to win any fights, but they absolutely make them easier and more fun.

Always have a resurrection stone

Kratos and Thor clash in God of War Ragnarok.

You’re a god, but by now, we should all be fully aware that even gods can fall. To make sure you don’t stay down, always keep a handy resurrection stone in your pocket. These can be purchased for cheap from Brok or Sindri, though you’re only allowed one at a time. If you are bested in a fight and go down, hit Square to have your ally rush over and give you a second wind.

You won’t come back with full health — in fact, it will be on the low side — so if there are no heal pickups around and whatever you’re fighting isn’t close to death, this is a perfect time to pop your Spartan Rage to regain some of that HP and deal safe damage before taking another bad hit or two and going down again.

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Kratos and Atreus sail on water in God of War Ragnarok.

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