Game Over Online ~ Rune

GameOver Game Reviews - Rune (c) Gathering of Developers, Reviewed by - Adam Fleet

Game & Publisher Rune (c) Gathering of Developers
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 88MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 77%
Date Published Tuesday, November 7th, 2000 at 08:00 PM

Divider Left By: Adam Fleet Divider Right

So you want to be a Norse superhero? I really can't blame you. Check out the cool threads; this year's line of chain mail and animal pelts has everything for the Viking on the go. Check out the weapons; swords and axes and hammers, oh my. And don't forget the carnage. Yessir, nobody sprays bloody giblets like an angry Norseman. But wait, what's that? Being a Norse superhero also means slogging through repetitive levels and hunting around for switches and levers until you're blue in the face? I don't remember seeing that in the brochure. Well if you can survive the tedium, you may still find some of the action you've been craving in Rune, a Norse mythology themed game from Gathering of Developers and Human Head Studios.

In Rune, you play the role of Ragnar, Norse hero, valiant warrior, and all around good guy. But before you get too cozy in your role of Odinsblade, defender of your town's sacred Rune, some crazy warlord bent on freeing Loki from his prison and bringing on the end of the world attacks and sinks your longboat, killing you and all your towns warriors. Talk about having a bad day. Odin, being the sporting father of all gods that he is, and not really looking forward to Ragnarok, where he gets chomped by a giant wolf, resurrects you and gives you a chance to fight your way out of the underworld and stop Loki's plot. Now, where did you put your axe?

Using a modified version of the Unreal Tournament engine, Rune is a slicing, dicing, hacking, slashing and don't forget pounding and squashing, 3rd person action game. Unlike a lot of 3rd person games, where the camera floats around mindlessly, messing up the perspective at every given opportunity, Rune plays a lot like a first person shooter that's been pulled back a step. You can actually play in first person mode if you please, but you won't be able to see how you're moving and slashing, which takes a lot out of the game. Not counting the occasional episodes of weapon chucking, all fighting in Rune is hand-to-hand, melee fighting with swords, hammers, and axes. A lot has been hyped about the combat system, with talk of combos and special timed attacks, but basically it's a click-fest.

And when you're fighting, the game is pretty good. There are fifteen different weapons to pick up during the game; five of each type, with a definite trend towards bigger is better. You increase your rune power level by finding, duh, power runes as you go along, and each weapon has its own special rune power. Rune powers vary from turning you invisible, to shooting fire and lightning, and even to making you enemies fight on your side for a short while. The enemies themselves are not terribly bright, but they are more or less functional in a "we're coming to kill you now" kind of way. Skeletons, who must be decapitated to be put to their final rest, are a persistent nuisance through most of the game. You'll also fight other Vikings like yourself, as well as goblins and dwarves, but the total number of enemy types remains fairly low.

Unfortunately, when you're not fighting, things get stale pretty fast. The levels themselves are beautifully rendered and look absolutely spectacular. It's really too bad that far too much time is spent running around them either looking for the next ledge to jump to, or trying to find which switch to throw so you can get on with the killing. I don't like to complain about games being too long, because more of a good game is always better, but with so much down time per level, and so many levels to get through, Rune drags on way too long. As far as sounds go, the effects are nothing special. Goblins gibber, breaking walls make an appropriate crashing sound, and all the slicing and dicing sounds are present. Nothing wowing. The music, which fades in and out at dramatic moments, is reminiscing of that from a Conan movie, and manages a little success at setting the mood.

Multiplayer is the word on the tip of everyone's tongue these days, but for Rune there's no redemption there. As anyone who's ever tried for the humiliation of a melee kill in games like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 can attest, getting close to other players in an online game where everyone is just a little bit out of sync is very hard. And in Rune, there's no rocket launcher to fall back on. Connection speed, even more than usual, counts disproportionately towards your chances of victory rather than any amount of skills, and unless you have a high-speed connection like DSL or cable modem, playing Rune online can be a very frustrating experience.

Still, Rune is an action game that has its moments. If you can get through a slow start and endure the troubles with bothersome levers, there is a lot of hack and slash fun to be had. The combat system is not quite the innovation that it has been made out to be, but it is smooth and responsive and quite fun to play with. There is a certain visceral thrill that comes with combating your enemies up close and personal, and Rune delivers more than its share of limb lopping and head popping. Multiplayer is a wash, but with the robust Unreal Tournament engine at its core, there's still the hope of add-ons and extras from the Internet's mod community breathing some life into this one yet. If you buy only one game this month, this probably shouldn't be it. On the other hand, if you can't get enough action games, download the demo and give Rune a try. It may not be the best action bang for your buck, but it certainly isn't the worst.

[ 40/50 ] Gameplay
[ 09/10 ] Graphics
[ 07/10 ] Sound
[ 08/10 ] Controls
[ 05/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 08/10 ] Bugs


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