Blast from the past: originally published December 22nd 2000.

Lately there hasn’t been much time for game playing, but during those scant free minutes I managed to finish Rune. In case you haven’t heard of it, Rune is a third person hack ‘n slash about Ragnar, a Viking youth sent against the forces of evil to save the world from Ragnarok.  To aid on the journey All Father Odin appears with long monologues to move through the story.  Now that we have some background let’s get into the meat of the game.

Based on the Unreal 3D engine, Rune is just beautiful to look at.  Take a look at the screenshots and judge for yourself.  Fortunately you don’t get much time to stand around as you’re too busy killing everything in site with your assortment of fifteen melee weapons.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The game is made up of various settings as you fight through the land, from the pits of Hell to dwarven mountains to your own village.  Each setting is accurately modeled and detailed in a lush and naturalistic way, from flowing waterfalls to blazing pools of lava.

On your journey through these lands you encounter a good mixture of enemies.  Giant beetles, undead warriors, Vikings, dwarves and a few more fight on your every turn.  While the creatures were well done in terms of visual appeal, there wasn’t enough variety. In total there are about ten different enemies to face, and I didn’t like the fact that I faced those beetles at the beginning and all through the game.  The best creatures were the Wendols: an abominable snowman like cat-beast that was tough to face.

Weapons are highly detailed, as is the entire game.  Three categories to work with: swords, axes and hammers, with five weapons per category. You get better weapons as you work through the game, but keep in mind certain weapons do better damage to certain situations.  Each weapon in the hierarchy does more damage but is heavier and slower to use; trade offs have to be made.  I found myself using the three headed or tri-mace for a lot of the game because it had a good balance and the forward attack was an upswing that did the deed.

Combat is handled simply and effectively; one attack button and four movements allow for a variety of swings and swipes.  Moving forward and attacking with the mace has an upward swing while moving left is a side slash.  Circle strafing is easy to do once you get the hang of the system, and will be needed to finish the game.

Gameplay is straightforward and effective.  You move through the levels killing everything and trying to find your way out. Puzzles abound, but none are too difficult.  All in all a killing fest with a story line to move you along.  Stress relief at it’s finest.

Two enhancements are available to aid you: Rune stones and Berserker rage.  You collect Rune stones throughout the game, and activate your Rune power to get special damage with the weapons.  Each weapon has a different special effect, like invisibility with the hand axe and a blazing fire ring with the tri-mace.  The better the weapon the more Rune power it takes to get the special attack, so judge carefully and use only when necessary. Berserker rage is built up from each blow you strike an enemy; after your red bar hits the end you experience a frenzied attack that does massive damage.  Comes in very handy.

Two nice side features; torches and limbs.  You can use torches to light your way through the dark tunnels, and if they extinguish just place them in a fire to relight. You can also use them to light enemies on fire and watch them scream and run around.  When you hack limbs or heads off of enemies, you can pick them up and throw them or use them for attacks.  There’s nothing like clubbing a ghoul with it’s own severed arm. Which brings up a good point: there is a bit of gore, so keep this one out of the kiddie’s hands.

Rune from Gathering Of Developers and Human Head Studios is a great third person melee game.  Go to here to grab a demo and see for yourself.

Rune provided courtesy of Gathering Of Developers.