The God of War franchise has been a critical and fan favorite since the PS2-era originals. Even by those lofty standards, Sony Santa Monica crafted an undisputed modern masterpiece with their 2018 soft reboot of the series. The hype for its impending sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, is reaching a fever pitch in anticipation of its November release.
The game’s new over-the-shoulder camera angle, altered combat dynamics, and more mature and focused storytelling bring unprecedented depth and immersion to the franchise. The classic hack-and-slash action is replaced with a far more deliberate combat system built around Kratos’ new weapon, the Leviathan Axe, and the abilities you unlock as you progress through the game.
The most deadly addition is that of the Runic Attacks, a selection of diverse magical abilities Kratos can use to devastating effect throughout his quest. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at these attacks to help you master Runic combat on your adventure through Midgard and the realms beyond.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Before we begin, we have a quick disclaimer. This guide discusses all the Runic Attacks available in the game, including those acquired after late-game plot events. The accompanying GIFs also show late-game locations, enemies, and abilities.
Proceed only if you, like Kratos, heed no warnings of forbidden knowledge and seek power wherever you can find it.
What Are Runic Attacks in God of War?
Runic Attacks are powerful combat abilities that Kratos can use to deal devastating damage or turn the tide of battle back in his favor. Each of Kratos’ major weapons can equip two Runic Attacks at a time — one light and one heavy. Each attack has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to know which ones will benefit you most in certain combat scenarios.
These attacks can be triggered at will, but then go on cooldown for 30–90 seconds before they can be used again.You can improve your Cooldown stat to reduce the waiting period, but even at higher levels, you’ll need to use your skills deliberately and with careful consideration.
Every combat encounter in this game is an overwhelming spectacle. Enemies flank and swarm you at every opportunity, and even Kratos’ gear and abilities can be a bit daunting to new players. There’s a lot to juggle — gear, stats, elements, rarity, combos, stances, etc. — and Runic Attacks may easily get lost in the shuffle. The key to victory is using them early on and often, becoming adept at using each to its full effect.
The Leviathan Axe
For the first and largest portion of the game, Kratos faces his enemies equipped with the Leviathan Axe, a powerful mystical artifact left to him by his late wife, Faye. Its devastating power is demonstrated right from the very start, as the opening scene begins with Kratos felling a massive tree with but a few swings of the Leviathan. The axe only becomes more powerful from there.
Imbued with the elemental power of Frost and able to be recalled instantly to Kratos’ hand, it will serve you well against the Draugr hordes and other foul beings that stand against you. There are eight light and eight heavy Runic Attacks to discover for the Leviathan Axe, and each earns a unique spot in Kratos’ combat repertoire.
Leviathan Axe: Light Runic Attacks
1. Njord’s Tempest
Zelda fans will appreciate this spin attack, which turns Kratos into a whirl of bladed damage. High damage output combined with a quite reasonable Cooldown rate make for a very usable Runic Attack, highly effective in most scenarios.
Njord’s Tempest is one of the best choices to have equipped for general exploration when you don’t know what sort of enemies you might run into next. Be aware, though, that since it does limit Kratos’ movement for a moment, it may not be the best option against highly mobile enemies like wolves and Revenants.
2. Fury of the Ice Troll
A radial burst of freezing energy blasts forth from Kratos in all directions, inflicting moderate damage and slowing all nearby enemies. Excellent for quick and powerful enemies that overwhelm Kratos rapidly, like the Dark Elves in Alfheim.
It’s got very high damage potential if you’re willing to wade into a pack of enemies before triggering the effect. That sort of tactic comes with clear risks, obviously, as its windup gives a small but dangerous opportunity for enemies to interrupt the attack.
3. Tyr’s Revenge
Kratos launches the Leviathan Axe out a short distance, spinning it rapidly as it slices and dices an enemy for a moment. This Runic Attack can inflict severe damage if an enemy is caught in the entirety of its effect, making it valuable during fights against single, high-HP targets like trolls and ogres (particularly once it’s upgraded to include a final slam attack). Because it stuns its target while they’re taking damage, it can be a great way to isolate and occupy a harder-hitting enemy, like a Heavy Draugr, while you focus on their support.
Be aware that nimble enemies can and will dodge away after taking only a few hits from this move. It has one of the longer Cooldown timers of all the light Runic Attacks, so be careful picking your targets to make sure it’s fully effective.
4. Leviathan’s Wake
Another Runic Attack based around spin-throwing the Leviathan Axe, this move looks like Kratos is launching a fastball into his opponents, slamming hard for decent damage and knocking back everyone in its path.
This is a fun move to use with impressive range and versatile utility, making it a good all-arounder without being particularly effective in any specific encounter type. Though its damage potential doesn’t match up to some of the other options, its relatively quick Cooldown means that it can be used more freely during longer, larger battles.
5. Charge of the White Bear
Kratos rockets forward with a devastating shield bash. When the move is upgraded, he also follows up with a powerful downward shield slam. As simple as it is effective, this move is great for any player who wants to aggressively take the fight to their enemies.
The damage output is not as high as some other options, but if you want to play Kratos as a rough-and-tumble brawler, this is a great choice.
6. Wrath of the Frost Ancient
Why bother cutting your foes with the Leviathan Axe’s edge when you can fire a concentrated beam of Frost out of its blade instead? This powerful and flashy attack is hard to beat when it comes to freezing your enemies, and the damage output is quite high. That said, it’s a precision attack that requires steady aim and a relatively stationary target, so you must choose your moments to fire carefully.
Used properly, it is among the most devastating — and visually impressive — Runic Attacks in the game.
7. Strike of the Utguard
A big horizontal chop hurts and freezes the enemies in front of Kratos, with higher levels granting multiple subsequent chops and a much more powerful Frost effect. It’s far from the flashiest attack, but still very useful as a panic button move that lets Kratos catch his breath and gain some space, and its relatively quick Cooldown lets you use it frequently.
Level it up to lean into Kratos’ lumberjack side, and chop-chop-chop your way through Midgard with abandon.
8. Hel’s Touch
Hel’s Touch is a remarkably effective and useful attack that will serve you well throughout the game. A quick burst of energy blasts forth from the Axe, knocking back and stunning enemies directly in front of Kratos.
Since so much of the game’s combat is designed around crowd control, this is always useful, though its limited range and lacking damage means that it’s far less applicable during boss battles and other large one-on-one encounters. Still, Hel’s Touch more than earns its place in Kratos’ arsenal, allowing the player to catch their breath and gain some valuable space when surrounded.
Leviathan Axe: Heavy Runic Attacks
1. Thiazi’s Talon
A swift upward swing of the Leviathan Axe sends a wave of freezing energy forward (multiple on higher levels). It’s extremely quick for a heavy Runic Attack, and its rapid Cooldown lets you use it frequently.
That said, it’s not the most efficient damage-dealer or Frost inflictor in Kratos’ arsenal. It’s great for nimble players who want to rapidly control the flow and pace of the battle.
2. Invaldi’s Anvil
Invaldi’s Anvil is the first heavy Runic Attack Kratos discovers. With it, he slams his axe to the ground and generates a relatively quick, omni-directional blast of knockback energy. It’s a good option to gain some breathing room when combat gets overwhelming, and is a solid choice for exploring new areas. Its damage potential is quite high, particularly when upgraded, so it can end standard encounters almost before they’ve begun.
The lack of focus to its effect means that it’s perhaps not the best choice during boss fights and other sole-target battles, but even then, it can be an effective “get out of trouble” card and deal reasonable damage in the bargain.
3. Mists of Helheim
Emit a damaging, freezing fog across a wide area, inflicting steady damage over time to any enemies within the effect. AOE attacks like this are nearly always useful during large crowd fights, and the slowing effect of the Frost can help keep Kratos from getting crowded.
Unlike certain other Runic Attacks, the effect doesn’t prohibit Kratos’ movement or his use of the Axe while the attack is taking effect, making it great to just set up a large zone that’s passively helping while you then fight as normal.
Because damage is dealt equally to all enemies within the field, this attack isn’t really being used to its full potential during small group or one-on-one fights, but it’s valuable in nearly every other encounter.
4. Frost Giant’s Frenzy
Kratos takes several large overhead swings, slamming the Leviathan down into one or more foes directly in front of him. The damage potential here is huge, and while the move’s range is fairly limited, the stun is high enough to keep anything that gets hit from getting away easily.
The relatively short Cooldown and high versatility make this a go-to choice for any fight where Kratos needs to be a damage-dealing powerhouse.
5. Blessings of the Frost
To the untrained eye, this straightforward buff to the Leviathan Axe’s combat effectiveness — increased damage, increased knockback, and a small Frost burst on each hit — may seem underwhelming, just an incremental improvement to an already effective weapon.
In use, however, the value it provides becomes clear. Every hit lands harder, every lifebar drains faster. Enemies that usually withstand your hits get knocked back, and the ones that already get knocked back go flying.
As much as God of War is already a game that lets you feel like an incredibly powerful deity, when Kratos is imbued with the Blessings of the Frost, you truly feel like you’re unleashing the power of a mythological being upon every unfortunate soul in your path.
6. The River of Knives
With a forceful upward swipe, Kratos sends a wide swath of jagged ice crashing up out of the ground before him. This Runic Attack represents one of the most effective ranged damage-dealers that Kratos can employ, making it very useful in any fight where you wish to keep your distance. The icy damage zone lingers a moment after firing, making it useful for area denial against mobile foes.
The effect emerges somewhat slowly, however, so timing and positioning are critically important to gain the full benefit of this powerful ability.
7. Glaive Storm
It’s not a new observation that the Leviathan Axe, with its innate throw-and-recall capability, is more than a little reminiscent of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, as depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But when Kratos employs Glaive Storm, the Axe resembles a different MCU character’s signature weapon — Yondu’s arrow, flying around the battlefield and dispatching enemies seemingly of its own accord.
A significant Cooldown will prevent you from leaning too hard on its destructive capabilities, but Glaive Storm is an undeniably effective tool in Kratos’ combat toolkit.
8. The Breath of Thamur
A violent whirlwind of Frost energy whips around Kratos for a short time, severely hurting (and, when upgraded, freezing) any enemies that stand within its range. If any Runic Attack could be deemed overpowered, this would be it, as its damage potential is unparalleled if used effectively.
It has a large Cooldown, but its biggest drawback is simply its exorbitant cost, which will see all but the most diligent players unable to afford to buy it during the course of a standard playthrough. Very useful, if you’re willing to put in the work it takes to get your hands on it.
The Blades of Chaos
After you’ve progressed through a good portion of the game, Kratos once again equips his Blades of Chaos, the flaming chained daggers he used to fight his way through the original God of War games. These grant him very different combat abilities from the Leviathan Axe, and have their own set of eight light and seven heavy Runic Attacks to utilize.
Many of these are based on special moves from the previous God of War titles. Fans of the older games will likely feel right at home laying waste to Midgard’s vicious inhabitants with these devastating and powerful Runic Attacks.
Blades of Chaos: Light Runic Attacks
1. Cyclone of Chaos
Spinning the Blades of Chaos in a wide, sweeping arc, Kratos knocks back all nearby foes while hitting them repeatedly. An iconic combat move from the earlier games in the series, the Cyclone is a time-honored clutch move to pull when surrounded by foes and needing some space.
Used effectively, this quick-hitting attack will be a worthwhile part of your repertoire throughout many longer or more complicated fights.
2. Nemean Crush
Kratos brings the Blades crashing together directly in front of him, inflicting tons of Burn, plenty of damage, and decent knockback to boot. For raw brutal power, it’s hard to beat this Runic Attack, though its range is deceptively short until it’s properly upgraded.
A relatively quick Cooldown means that you can Crush repeatedly in most encounters, though few enemies can withstand more than one of these devastating hits.
3. Rampage of the Furies
Rapid vertical slashes hit anyone directly in front of Kratos as he swings the Blades with reckless abandon. Each hit is decently powerful, but catch an enemy in the full sequence? The only thing faster than the Blades is the speed with which their lifebar drains. Damage potential is through the roof with this one, so it’s great against bosses or any encounter that might otherwise give you trouble.
It’s worth being aware, though, that this is one of those attacks that locks Kratos into its animation with only limited enemy tracking. Making sure you’re positioned to effectively catch enemies in your range is vital.
4. Rage of the Titans
Kratos delivers a powerful and graceful series of dagger strikes in this whirling move. Visually impressive and with the potential for serious damage, this move is largely limited by its short range. The chains aren’t used for this attack except for the final slam, which is only added when upgraded. Additionally, it generally only hits a single target.
Quicker enemies may be too nimble to catch them in the full series of hits. However, if you can get a target isolated, Rage of the Titans can take them out of the fight quickly and with a ton of style.
5. Icarus Storm
A very quick spin deals rapid damage around Kratos. The damage is high and the range isn’t bad (it gets much better when upgraded), but the true strength of this move comes from the speed at which it can be thrown out. There’s barely any recovery time, so this move can essentially be incorporated into combos, Cooldown permitted. Overall, it’s a powerful, versatile ability that you’ll almost never regret having equipped.
6. Wrath of Artemis
This is a rapid out-then-back double-swipe of the Blades of Chaos that hits everything in a wide stretch before Kratos. Other attacks might be flashier or hit more times, but this move does very reasonable damage at a very reasonable range, making it a solid if unremarkable choice. It can knock around lighter enemies, deals plenty of Stun, and it doesn’t take long to cool down, so it can be a fun way to manage the flow of the battle.
7. Blast of Hephestus
In terms of ranged attacks in video games, it doesn’t get much more classic than the good ol’ fireball, and Kratos gets his very own with this Runic Attack. There’s a small but notable windup before the attack fires, so you’ll need to be cautious of getting interrupted. Once it fires, though, you’ll be dealing significant Burn damage at a pretty good range.
This is great for crowd control and only slightly less effective against bosses. The value of this attack makes it a good choice throughout most of Kratos’ adventure.
8. Spartan Charge
The fiery counterpart to the Charge of the White Bear, Kratos dashes forward shield-first, slamming hard into anything in front of him. Just like its icy equivalent, this move is great for anybody who wants to play Kratos as a bruiser, crashing into fights and ending them just as quickly.
One thing to be aware of, however, is that enemies to either side of your direct path will quickly be left behind by the speed of this move. This potentially puts them into position to deliver an attack from behind if you aren’t careful.
Blades of Chaos: Heavy Runic Attacks
1. Tartarus Rage
Two big downward slams of the Blades hit a large area in front of Kratos, heavily damaging and inflicting serious Stun to any enemies before you. This move hits hard at a good distance, doesn’t take long to Cooldown, and is effective from the time you get it straight through the endgame. What more could you want? It’s a solid choice for any fight in the game.
2. Fire of Ares
This is another powerful slam move that throws the Blades down in front of Kratos. This one is much closer and creates a Burn-inflicting blast of heat energy. In its base state, the attack is fine but not that impressive — there are other, better ways to hurt things with the Blades of Chaos. But dump some XP into it, and this attack really begins to show its worth.
Adding a second, then a third, blast-producing slam into the attack brings the damage from unremarkable to truly remarkable. It might not be for everyone, but a certain kind of player will love little more than wrecking shop with this slam-tastic Runic Attack.
3. Prometheus Flame
Planting the Blades of Chaos in the ground on either side of some enemies allows Kratos to blast up from beneath them with fiery columns, dealing good damage to small groups at fair range. It’s a neat effect, looks very cool, and is reasonably effective when it lands. The main thing to be aware of with this Runic Attack is the significant setup time, and the way that interacts with the fire’s area of effect. Time it right, and you’ll decimate your foes. Time it wrong, and you’ll whiff while your foes close in. Practice makes perfect with this one.
4. Hyperion Slam
Once again, Kratos slams the Blades of Chaos down into the ground in front of him, and once again, it’s remarkably effective. A great volcanic gout of flame bursts upward from the point of impact. This deals incredible Burn damage to foes caught in its blast.
If you enjoy leaning into the fire aspect of Kratos’ combat abilities, it really doesn’t get much more powerful — or impressive-looking — than this. Like Tartarus Rage, this attack can serve you well in virtually any combat encounter in the game.
5. Hyperion Grapple
Kratos launches both Blades into an enemy up to a considerable range, then rapidly flies to them and deals a big burst of Stun at the site of impact. This Runic Attack is just plain great, possibly the very best the Blades of Chaos have to offer. It gives you a quick new way to zip around the battlefield, which is fantastic and really lets you set the pace of a given fight. It’s quite powerful against the primary target. Plus you get the Stun blast to clear a bit of space for your landing.
Aiming is vital to land that critical initial hit, so you can’t just fire it off recklessly and hope to do much. The only other caveat you could level against it is that it won’t work against blocking or armored foes. No matter. Those are truly small prices to pay against the overall effectiveness and utility this Attack provides. If you’re using Blades of Chaos, you’re really never gonna go wrong equipping this.
6. Meteoric Slam
Get this: Kratos brings the Blades of Chaos slamming hard down upon anything unfortunate enough to be in front of him. But wait! This time, a rain of fiery meteors comes down in their wake, scorching a wide range around him for persistent damage after the initial hit. Each one hits for tons of Burn damage, so you can really devastate crowds.
As always, mind the timing and positioning as you get ready so it doesn’t miss or leave you vulnerable (Cooldown is particularly long here). But, if you like your combat moves epic and just plain awesome to watch, few others match this one.
7. Gift of Apollo
Just as the Leviathan Axe received the Blessings of the Frost, The Blades of Chaos are bestowed with the Gift of Apollo, a unique passive buff that can be incredibly effective if used correctly. This time, the Blades’ attacks gain a regenerative quality for each hit. This allows Kratos to recover health by pressing his offense.
Anyone who’s played another PS4 exclusive, Bloodborne, may see a slight resemblance between the effect of this Runic and that game’s Rally system. Just like in that game, equipping Gift of Apollo will see Kratos rewarded for taking a scrappy, aggressive, even risky style of play.
It can be a ton of fun to wade into combat with little regard for the damage you’re taking as long as you’re dealing out plenty of your own. If that sounds appealing, then this Runic is well worth playing around with.
The Talon Bow
Kratos’ son, Atreus, accompanies him throughout his quest as both companion and combat partner. Atreus’ primary weapon is the Talon Bow, made for him by his mother prior to her death. As his talents develop through the game, Atreus will aid Kratos with cover fire, distraction tactics, and even directly engaging enemies to help Kratos decimate their many foes.
Eventually, players will discover unique Runic Attacks for the Talon Bow, which take the form of spectral animals that can be summoned to aid the father and son duo in their battles. Much like his father’s Runic Attacks, these must be used sparingly due to lengthy Cooldown timers. Though, when employed carefully, they can easily turn the tide of a given fight.
Talon Bow: Runic Summons
1. Wrath of the Wolf
The first Runic Summon Atreus can equip, this attack brings a small pack of spectral wolves down upon your enemies. Though it’s not the flashiest or most powerful attack, each wolf deals a reasonable amount of damage as they hang around for a moment, pouncing at nearby enemies a few times each.
They also provide a moment’s distraction, breaking up the flow of battle and allowing Kratos to catch his breath if the horde had previously been focused strictly on him. A solid option for most standard combat scenarios, though somewhat less valuable against bosses and other enemies that can’t as easily be knocked around.
2. Falcon’s Dive
A flock of phantasmic falcons swarm and attack the target in a fast and powerful aerial display. It’s most useful against enemies that use verticality to make themselves hard to hit, like Nightmares, though any given foe is likely to take a good amount of damage and be considerably stunned by the attack.
3. Bitter Squirrel
A utility summon, this Runic will allow Atreus to bring forth Ratatoskr the squirrel spirit, who will instantly bestow you with recovery stones for Kratos’ Health and/or Rage meters. This is obviously useful during extended fights when your combat endurance is pushed to its limits. Plus a well-timed healing stone can easily be the difference between death and victory in many fights.
That said, the number one reason to use this Runic summon is Ratatoskr himself, a hilariously grumpy little animal spirit who finds something to insult you about every time he shows up to help. It’s well worth summoning him in a variety of scenarios to hear the plethora of lines they included, so he can make fun of Kratos no matter what might be happening at the time.
4. Boar Stampede
A pack of ghostly boars emerge and, just as the name implies, stampede across the battlefield, trampling and damaging any enemies in their path. Each boar hits hard and there are quite a few in the pack, so it can be very effective at dealing damage and keeping several enemies otherwise occupied for a moment. That said, unlike most of the other summons, this attack is highly directional. Be aware of Atreus’ position relative to the enemies you’d like to hit before you fire.
5. Murder of Crows
You may be tempted to think that, since falcons are larger and more powerful than crows, then naturally Falcon Dive would be the superior move. While there may be a situation here or there where Falcon Dive is more suited, Murder of Crows is devastatingly powerful and arguably the best Runic Summon the game has to offer.
These crows hit hard, and fast. They fly around quickly in a cloud of damage that persists for quite a long time, and deal a ton of Stun while they do so. It looks amazing, and it rips through enemies. Doesn’t get much better than that.
6. Storm of the Elks
The spectral elk summoned from the Talon Bow is possibly the most relaxed character in the entire game. Unlike all the other summons, there’s no urgency or hostility to its movements, no direct attack from its hooves or antlers. No, this dude just shows up and kinda… wanders around. Does he deal damage? Sure, large amounts of it, in intermittent waves of crackling energy that Stun anyone they touch.
But the main reason to love Storm of the Elks, the reason I have it equipped even when I know that by the numbers, Murder of Crows is the more effective attack…it’s gotta be those chill vibes. In a game that seems designed to crank your heart rate through the roof every few minutes, you just can’t undervalue the calming presence of a mystical lightning elk.
Join the High Ground
Did you enjoy this article on Runic Attacks in God of War 2018? If you have questions or comments, please drop them below for our author or writing team! Go forth now into Midgard, Spartan warrior, and wrench a brutal and glorious victory from the clutches of the vile horde that stands against you. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date on the latest God of War content.