God of War is a fantastic journey and a superb action game, but it's also very different from the games in the series that came before it. Instead of the Blades of Chaos, for example, you now have an axe, a shield, your fists, and of course there's Kratos's son, Atreus. All these elements must be considered and utilised during combat if you want to have a chance of leaving Midgard alive, let alone triumphant, so we decided to compile a collection of tips and helpful advice that we think might help you through the process. When we played the game for review we were mad enough to choose hard difficulty, meaning we tried several approaches to combat before writing this guide, and hopefully this will come in handy as you get to grips with the game yourself.
Search everything: This advice applies to almost every game in the genre, but regarding this new God of War, it's a particularly helpful tip. The map is packed with secret areas and collectibles, and finding them can make a big difference to how you evolve Kratos and Atreus, as well as how long that process takes. You can find artifacts to sell, pieces of silver to improve or craft gear, and runes that add new abilities, all of which is helpful and available to those who search thoroughly. This is true as soon as the deer hunt begins, right at the start of the game, where Atreus will call you to specific points to follow the deer, but just ignore him and explore. However, you also need to pay close attention to what Atreus says, as he will point out a few secrets that are hidden away in the scenery.
Use the axe as a long distance weapon: Typically, an axe this big is a melee weapon, but in this particular case it's also an excellent throwing weapon. If you're having trouble fighting an enemy up close, for example, don't be afraid to pull back and keep your distance. Throw the axe, summon it, and throw again. In this way you can chip away at their health, allowing you to eventually close in and finish the job.
Keep enemies frozen: If you want to make your life easier when fighting multiple targets, you can keep one of them frozen by leaving the axe stuck in them, meaning you'll then have to use your fists and shield to put the other enemies down. That said, it's up to the player to assess what's most important; do you keep an enemy immobilised, or is better to have the axe in-hand? If you choose to keep an enemy frozen, be aware they will eventually free themselves, but regardless it's good to keep a literal pin in them and save them for a later moment.
The fists and shield are great weapons: Like we said above, you can use your fists and shield as weapons, either by throwing your axe into an adversary, or by putting it on Kratos' back by pressing right on the D-Pad. The axe is Kratos's best weapon (or is it?), but even when you're only rocking his shield and fists you can still stun your enemies as well as damage them. Keep an eye on each enemy's stun bar too, because if you manage to fill it you can execute a brutal finisher, regardless of its health. There are also enemies that are immune to the axe, so keep an eye out for those.
Learn to use Atreus: Atreus might be annoying sometimes (like all kids his age), but he can pull his own weight in the battlefield. If you press square, for example, Atreus will fire arrows at his target, although he can only fire three in a row in the beginning, after which he requires a bit of downtime so he can recharge. Those arrows don't do much damage, but they're a great way of interrupting an enemy attack, especially long range ones. Use them sparingly, but wisely, and Atreus will be a great help when it comes to keeping the battlefield controlled.
Atreus has his own skill tree: And you should definitively upgrade it. Atreus's skills are a lot cheaper than those you have to unlock for Kratos, and they can be very useful in their own right. He can learn to kick nearby enemies, stunning them, and can even neutralise opponents for a short time while choking them. Later on you can even execute combos with Kratos and Atreus while he's pinning them down, so if you want to make life easier for Kratos, make sure you evolve Atreus as soon as possible.
Dress for the job you want: God of War isn't an RPG, but Kratos does have various attributes and several pieces of gear that are divided into categories according to their rarity (common to legendary). The thing is, it's not quite a matter of "what's better", but rather "what's better for my play-style?" You can go for heavy defence and strength, for instance, or you might go with runic power and shorter cooldowns, allowing you to cause more damage with the abilities and use them more often. In other words, a 10 strength piece is technically better then a 7 runic power piece, but if you're focusing on runic power you should, of course, keep the latter.
Take your time to explore the lake - several times: It's hardly a surprise or a spoiler to say that the World Serpent is in the game, as it's been shown off in several trailers and official gameplay videos, and when you reach it you'll unlock a massive lake which you can explore. You should definitely check this out properly too, as you'll find great treasures, fun side-quests, and even entire optional areas that will keep your attention for a few hours.
Enemy level matters (a lot): If you encounter an enemy with a purple health bar it means that they're at least three levels ahead of you. It also means they will destroy you in one or two hits, and not even blocking will save you from an untimely game over screen. Is it possible to bring down such a higher level character? Absolutely, but it's not easy and you'd be better off returning later when the gap between your respective levels is a bit closer.
Adapt to enemy encounters: In God of War you will come across many different types of enemies, and it's not just a matter of them having variable health levels and damage. Their behaviours, attack patterns, and the various effects they inflict can be very different from enemy to enemy, and you will need to adapt and change your tactics accordingly. If you go into God of War looking for a straight-up slasher, the kind of game where you just spam your light attack, you're going to have a very hard time of it. If you find a particularly difficult foe, go and check the bestiary in the menu, as it might have some good tips or you might notice something that gives you an idea for a different tactical approach. Adapt and experiment with the many interlocking systems and eventually you'll find a way past any challenge.
And that's our basic God of War tips. We hope they'll help you in this grand adventure.