Five essential early-game tips for God of War Ragnarok

Don’t spend it all in one place.

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It’s finally here. After four years of breathless anticipation, plenty of theory-crafting, and a couple of last-minute leaks, God of War Ragnarok is finally upon us. The sequel expands upon the combat mechanics and RPG-like character progression of the 2018 game, while also adding a host of new traversal gimmicks and accessibility options to customize your playthrough. Ragnarok mostly does a great job of explaining all of its systems, but it’s all too easy to blaze past a tutorial to get back to the action. Here are five things I wish I knew before I dove into the Nine Realms.

Santa Monica Studio

5. Upgrade strategically

There are two kinds of experiences in God of War Ragnarok — main story quests vs. exploration and sidequests. Often, main story quests task you with making your way through a gauntlet of enemy encounters while solving the occasional environmental puzzle along the way. At the end of it all, you’ll have a splashy showdown with a formidable boss. Boss fights usually yield a lot of experience and items.

But you’ll want to resist the temptation to upgrade Kratos and Atreus’s skill trees and weapon attacks right after those showdowns. Often, you’ll need to leave the area and meet up with your companions elsewhere in order to officially complete that main story mission. The game refers to these missions as “The Path,” and completing them will grant you another pile of experience — and will often unlock new branches on your skill tree, as well as armor and items to craft.

That means if you upgrade a bunch of skills immediately after the boss fight, you might miss out on more interesting options that open up just a few minutes later. You might upgrade a so-so Runic ability, only to access a whole new tier of skills for your Leviathan Axe after checking in with your friendly neighborhood blacksmith.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until all of the story beats are done for a chapter of “The Path,” and consider your upgrade choices only after you’ve checked in with Brok or Sindri. When you’ve got a big pile of XP to work with, don’t upgrade on the fly.

4. Sidequest smarter

God of War Ragnarok refers to its optional side quests as Favors, and you can find a full list of the ones you’ve started under the Goals section of the main menu. The description of each quest has the usual blurb to jog your memory, but it also includes the XP rewards and items you’ll earn for completing it. (Unfortunately, it only tells you the name — there isn’t an option to see a description of the item.)

If you’re short on time, looking for specific crafting materials, or want to prioritize XP, the Favors descriptions can be a handy resource for figuring out what to do while taking a break from the main quest, or to find low-hanging bonus goodies nearby.

Santa Monica Studio

3. Tinker with accessibility

The team at Santa Monica Studio has put forth a remarkable effort to make Ragnarok the most accessible game in the series, and there are loads of options to tinker with to make the experience more enjoyable for you. You can access the settings at any time through the pause menu — it’s not the one where you tinker with skills and weapons, but where you save.

Two options that I’d recommend to every player are Puzzle Aim Assist and Auto Pickup. Both can be found under Gameplay settings and make gameplay feel smoother and more fun.

I’d like to be able to recommend Navigation Assist, where you press R3 to point toward your current objective. But it just points you in a general direction, rather than guiding you through a specific route around terrain and obstacles. It steered me wrong enough times that I didn’t feel like I could rely on it.

2. Embrace your Rage

Unlike in the previous game, you can upgrade Kratos’s Spartan Rage berserker abilities in God of War Ragnarok. If your red bar is full enough, you can trigger a limited-time burst of Rage by pressing L3 and R3 simultaneously.

There are three forms of Rage this time around, and each one can be upgraded twice with XP through the weapons menu, in the same way that you upgrade Runic attacks. You can swap between Rage modes at any time, even during combat. These upgrades are easy to overlook, but can provide a significant edge in tough boss battles.

1. Put out the good stuff

Atreus gets two kinds of Runic arrows this time around — Sonic and Hex. Sonic is great in the early game for inflicting stun damage and wrangling hordes of enemies, while Hex becomes more valuable in the mid and late game once you start dealing with enemies that have more resistance to standard melee attacks. Atreus is much stronger than he was in the last game, so be sure to take advantage of it.

Both types of Runic arrows help Kratos’s elemental abilities with the Axe and Blades to be more effective. So don’t sit back and let the AI control Atreus all the time — he will generally favor plain arrows that don’t have the perks of the Runic ones. You’ll want to keep jamming on the Square button as often as possible during fights, because Atreus can do a really great job of softening up enemies for you — if you’re willing to let him.

God of War Ragnarok comes to PS4 and PS5 on November 9.

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