God of War Ragnarök’s skill tree is kind of like a to-do list. In Santa Monica Studio’s action game — out now for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 — you unlock skills the traditional way: by earning XP and then spending it. But nearly every skill you get can be upgraded a second time by applying a perk called a mod token, giving that skill a stat boost.
For anyone who feels a sense of satisfaction ticking off checkboxes, it’s an irresistibly deep progression system structured such that you always feel like you’re moving toward a goal. It’s also, as with many things in this dense, complicated game, kinda easy to miss. Here’s how it all works.
How to level up the Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos
In God of War Ragnarök, you start the game with both of Kratos’ primary weapons: the boomerang-esque Leviathan Axe and the extremely mid-2000s nü metal Blades of Chaos. You can level up each weapon multiple times. Whatever level you’re at dictates the unlockable skills available to you, starting from level 1 and going all the way up to 5.
You can increase the level of your Leviathan Axe with Frozen Flame, a rare resource typically earned by defeating massive bosses who punctuate major story beats. The Blades of Chaos, meanwhile, can be upgraded with Chaos Flame, earned from both mandatory and optional mini bosses. (You can also earn fragments of Chaos Flame by defeating high-level enemies in draugr pits strewn around Ragnarök’s primary explorable areas; find six fragments and you’ll get a full Chaos Flame.)
How to apply mod tokens in God of War Ragnarök
Both of Kratos’ primary weapons have three skill trees. Unlocking new skills is pretty self-explanatory: Earn some XP, spend it on the move you want. The real grind comes after you’ve unlocked a skill.
The majority of Kratos’ offensive skills will allow you to apply a permanent upgrade called a mod token. Successfully perform a move several times in combat, and you’ll level that skill up to bronze rank. Keep performing the move, and it’ll eventually hit silver rank. Once a skill hits gold rank — which could require you to land it 50 cumulative times or more — you’ll be able to spend 1,000 XP to give that skill a stat buff. You’ll have different choices for which perk you can apply, but these are the common options:
- Damage: Increase how much damage an attack deals.
- Stun: Increase how much an attack stuns an enemy.
- Element: Boost the efficacy of the attack’s elemental effect (frost for the Axe, fire for the Blades)
- Protection: Prevent Kratos from getting staggered while using that specific ability (terrific for moves like Serpent’s Snare that have a long windup)
It’s an enormous benefit — and also easy to miss. Often, in the heat of combat, you’ll miss the pop-up notification that says you hit the threshold. On the skills tree, though, if you see a skill glowing gold, that means it’s eligible for an upgrade.
There are some guardrails, however. You can’t just spam the ability out of combat to get it to gold rank; your total usage count will increase only if you actually land the attack. In theory, this is meant to prevent you from out-leveling your enemies, but come on. Obviously there’s a workaround. During the Svartalfheim section — about three-ish hours into the game — you’ll run into low-level enemies who consistently spawn from nests until those nests are destroyed. As long as you don’t destroy the nest, you can easily grind skills up to their gold ranking.
Where do you get runic attacks in God of War Ragnarök?
In addition to Kratos’ basic skills, you can also use Runic attacks. They function much as they did in 2018’s God of War: high-powered moves tied to cooldown meters. You’ll get a handful of light runic attacks fairly early on, though Kratos’ cooldown is strict in Ragnarök, so you won’t be able to rely on them as much as you may have in the previous game.
You won’t find heavy runic attacks until way, way later in Ragnarök. I found my first during the second visit to Alfheim — it was in a legendary chest located in the underground area — while a colleague got theirs during the initial Vanaheim segment. Either way, you’re looking at 15 to 20 hours of gameplay before unlocking a type of move that was critical in this game’s predecessor.
In other words, if you really want to make the most of Kratos’ robust toolkit, you’ll need to use the full breadth of his standard skills. And for that, you’ll need to use mod tokens.