God of War Ragnarok combat reveals an industry secret hidden in plain sight

The sincerest form of flattery.

god of war ragnarok

Kratos spends most of 2018’s God of War throwing his icy axe and calling it back like Thor’s Mjolnir. But outside of that and a handful of unique magical abilities, a lot of the moment-to-moment combat feels quite similar to FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games. Gritty, methodical, and often unforgiving, that approach to combat is nothing short of intense. New information about combat in the sequel, God of War Ragnarok, makes it sound like the next entry will lean even further into more contemporary Soulslike trends.

On Thursday evening, Game Informer published a feature about God of War Ragnarok’s combat, which includes interviews with lead combat designers Mihir Sheth and Denny Yeh. They confirm that the sequel offers even more ways for Kratos the god-slayer to “play with his food.” Yum!

“That’s an internal philosophy that we’ve had since back in the day,” Sheth said. “Kratos plays with his food. We tried to create systems you want to engage with that are fun, very playful, lots of different routes. And when we looked at the combat in the last game, we were like, ‘We can push this further; we can find new toys and ways of playing with enemies and strategies.’ That’s been the guiding principle more than anything else.”

The 2018 game did have gentle progression and some nuanced customization options. There were even a few special abilities you could choose from depending on your specific playstyle. But combat was still largely a mix of light and heavy attacks punctuated by infrequent fits of Spartan Rage. All this talk of “new toys” makes it sound like the player will be able to customize their version of Kratos in new ways. One can’t help but wonder how much the wide variety of options in Elden Ring held some measure of influence here.

Previously, the triangle button in God of War recalled the Leviathan Axe or switched back to it if you were wielding the Blades of Chaos, but Ragnarok introduces “a whole new suite of moves” mapped to the underutilized button.

Triangle attacks now dish out Weapon Signature Moves, which infuse the Leviathan Axe with ice or the Blades of Chaos with fire. Called “Frost Awaken” and “Whiplash,” respectively, they deal extra elemental damage that can freeze or incinerate enemies. The emphasis on two transformative weapons specifically definitely evokes the trick weapons of Bloodborne, one of FromSoft’s most beloved titles.

This is not actual gameplay but that IS Kratos’ actual shield.


The combat post also talks about new nuances to Kratos’ defensive toolkit.

The tanky Stonewall Shield is for “slow-paced bouts” as it absorbs kinetic energy and then dishes it out in a shockwave (just like T’Challa’s suit in Black Panther!) The parry-forward Dauntless Shield requires “twitch reactions” as a perfect parry will charge the shield for a “devastating smash” attack. While it didn’t have any charging mechanisms, FromSoft’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice put all its combat emphasis on parrying.

Because Kratos reclaimed the Blades of Chaos late in the previous game, it sounds like he’ll have access to both weapons from the get-go. Players presumably won’t be forced into using both all the time, instead investing in whichever weapon they prefer.

Furthermore, Kratos can also now use the BoC as a grappling hook sort of tool: “ one fluid motion, the god-slayer latches onto the ridge with his Blades of Chaos, climbs the structure, stomps on a healthstone for extra flair, and launches the remaining creatures into the sky.” Not to belabor the “Santa Monica Studios loves FromSoftware” point, but will Kratos’ grapple ability resemble the Grappling Hook from Sekiro as well?

Yeh puts the emphasis on players being able to tailor their gameplay to immediate needs. But this multifaceted approach to combat encounters is increasingly becoming the norm in gaming, particularly as games like Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring broaden the scope of what developers can achieve.

Kratos and Atreus in official God of War (2018) concept art.


God of War found such great success by deliberately smashing together the cinematic third-person navigation of The Last of Us with Soulslite combat to reinvent a waning franchise. All these gaames, and the developers that make them, are engaged in an ongoing conversation, so it’s only natural that Ragnarok might look to Sekiro and Elden Ring. While Sekiro wasn’t nearly as influential as Elden Ring, they’re both indicative of evolving trends that Ragnarok will undoubtedly continue.

God of War Ragnarok comes to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on November 9.

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