2000 Reviews

Rune Demo

  • Review Date: 2000-11
  • Release Date: 2000-11
  • Developer: Human Head Studios
  • Rating: 9.0

Action games have split into several factions since Quake and Unreal built empires large enough that in order to sell you either have to beat them, or differentiate from them. There are the tactical shooters, Team Fortress, Rainbow Six, Delta Force, et cetera. There are games like Quake 3: Arena and Unreal Tournament. There are some which add RPG Elements - Thief, Wheel Of Time, ect. These are a few popular subgenres of action. But there's one which is both my favorite and quite neglected: third person action games.

When I heard about Rune it sounded like just what I was looking for: developed by some former Heretic / Hexen guys, third person, Unreal Engine, and best of all set in a universe of Norse Fantasy. I am a big fan of Heretic and Hexen, and third person action games, and Unreal, and deeply interested in Norse Mythology. The idea sounded great.

I finally managed to get the demo earlier this week, but had only a few minutes to play. There were several other problems, including one particularly bothersome video error (When we played LAN I just put someone else on that system :) It wasn't until last night that I really got to experience Rune. Three of us played several Free for all LAN games as well as playing the single player through on normal and some one on one games. Since we played FFA Deathmatch first that's what I'll discuss next.

There are two deathmatch levels in the demo. We played the second one first. It takes place in sort of a city street with some structures and basements. It's more of a level than a location really. Several axes and swords could be found on the ground in various places, while other items include shields, food to heal you, and magical runes to power up your weapons. As a side note, while it is cheesy to pick up a big turkey leg, eat it, and have your formerly bloody, bruised body back to good health, it's no worse than any other action game, and at least it takes a second or two to regain your health as opposed to touching some box with a cross on it and instantly being healed. So it took us a few minutes to get up and running with the game, controls are similar to most action games, but all combat is melee. When the preliminary combat did occur, it was over quickly because no one had any idea how to block or avoid weapons - both guys run up, mash the fire key, and one falls over. Fighting got decidedly more interesting as we acquired different types of weapons, got better with shields, and began using Runes. Combat evolved into more of an actual Viking brawl - circling your opponent, lunging in, blocking, feinting - and it was very entertaining and strategic. I lost the first game badly, though. The next few games were played in the Hel level, which is much more of an Arena, and includes some jump-pads. Some of these jump pads merely fire you back to where you came from which is exceedingly annoying. Also, you must jump onto them in order for them to work (walking won't get you anywhere). Although slightly annoying, overall these are a cool addition. Here, a lot of the fighting takes place in the 'ring' of walkways in the center and top of the level. There are more and better weapons as well; I got my hands on a Broadsword which remains my favorite weapon in Rune. It is possible to kill someone who has all the best stuff with just your regular Axe, but it takes some skill. However, it's much more balanced than in say Unreal Tournament, how is anyone supposed to do anything with their blaster when the other guy has a Sniper Rifle? Rune has some balance, and takes some fighting tactics. The better we got at this game, the more enjoyable playing it was.

There are two single player levels in the demo as well. The first is sort of an underground Lava-Castle which is supposed to represent Hel, it's not the way I would have imagined it but it looks cool. I did find it amusing that among the souls of the dishonored there are so many crabs - apparently crabs are a lot less honorable than the rest of the animal kingdom. There are also warriors, who will come back to life quickly unless you remove their heads. Weaponry is not so generous as in deathmatch, but you can do a good amount of damage with a Roman Sword or a Goblin Axe. Playing single player, as well as DM, requires some strategy. Some places it is mandatory (you must jump on the cages in order to cross the lava moat), but others it is just convenient and cool (you can cut a chandelier's chain and drop it on unsuspecting enemies). After this first level is a map which begins in a temple (quite atmospheric really), then progresses to a village. At one point you meet a Snow Beast (but do not fight him - not that I'd want to!). The second level is at least as good as the first although there is more looping back. There is no big difficult end to the demo's two maps, which is kind of a let down.

All through playing Rune, I could not but help to compare it to Heretic II. For me, there has not been an action game worth buying since Heretic II. From this demo Rune looks like an excellent game, one with its own distinct style of play, and I for one and buying the full game next week.