Rune combines beautiful graphics, hack-and-slash gameplay, and an authentic narrative that draws on the rich roots of Norse mythology. The god Odin maintains peace and order in Midgard, while his nemesis, Loki, the God of Chaos, seeks the opposite. The world of Ragnarok is protected by runestones, which also keep Loki at bay. A Viking, Conrack, attempts to destroy the runestones to hasten the fall of Ragnarok and free Loki.
Ragnar, the appointed guardian of the village Wotenkeld's runestone, has just become a member of the guardians, or Odinsblade. Receiving word that Conrack has struck again, Ragnar hastens on a longboat with his father to engage the enemy, only to see his comrades and kin brutally struck down by magic. Fortunately for Ragnarok, Ragnar survives, and you must guide him in his quest to thwart Loki and save the world.
Rune's 45+ levels contain a multitude of mythical enemies, including goblins, skeletons, dwarves, snakes, fish, crabs, Vikings, and bosses. The encounters scale appropriately, starting out small and becoming increasingly more difficult as the adventure progresses.
As a Viking, Ragnar engages his foes with various weapons, including axes, swords, and maces. There are five different types in each category, ranging from the weak Viking short sword to the powerful dwarf battle hammer. Each weapon is empowered with a supernatural force when used in conjunction with one of the runestones, and their powers depend on the number of power-ups Ragnar has acquired. Using the stones drain rune power, forcing you to replenish their power by picking up more stones along the way.
The combat system is effective yet simple. Battles are handled through a keyboard-mouse combination, with the left mouse button controlling your weapon strike and the right used for defense. There's more to Rune than combat, of course, as Ragnar faces a variety of puzzles, from find-the-switch and jumping puzzles to manipulating complex machinery. Perhaps the biggest challenge he faces is which path to take, as there are enough dead ends and confusing passageways to frustrate some gamers.
Rune makes excellent use of lighting effects in the game, adding plenty of atmosphere and color to drab surroundings. But, for all that, the overall effect is still of a dark world, even the outside environments. Textures are beautifully sculpted in the caverns of Hel, through icy Midgard, and the Dwarflands. The characters, while a bit stereotypical, are well detailed and animated, and few awkward camera views are evident, with cut-scenes that help maintain continuity.
The biggest drawback to the game, however, is the lack of staying power. After a slow but promising start and the paced introduction of increasingly difficult foes, gameplay eventually bogs down as you slog your way through 47 levels. One can only explore and hack his or her way through so many tunnels and hallways of seemingly similar construction before tiring of the fight. Also, the number of different enemies seems disproportionate to the length of the game, and the number of skeletons seems disproportionate to the number of enemies.
The simplicity of combat eventually works against continued interest as the long, drawn out affair becomes tedious, despite the combinations. Scores and scores of skeletons roam the world, and once the secret to slaying the bony nuisances is discovered, it's easy. Other complaints include a rare but annoying glitch that causes the inventory to disappear, and unintentional game killers caused by slaying something or someone you weren't supposed to. In terms of length, this is a good example of the designers going for length over quality.
Despite good graphics and excellent sound, Rune falls short of its potential due to various flaws, glitches, and a lack of variation over the long haul. Rune is a prime example of not being able to judge a game by it's pretty exterior.
Graphics: The attention to detail makes great use of the 3D perspective. When Ragnar rises out of water, it drips and splashes to the ground, when he eats, he tosses the remains over his shoulder, and he actually removes weapons from his belt before wielding them.
Sound: Sounds complement graphics and gameplay. The Viking themes is appropriate, and the soundtrack builds at just the right moments to create an ominous feeling foreboding ill. Voice acting is well done, with Vikings sounding like Vikings and creatures sounding like creatures. Crabs make an unnerving scrabbling noise, water drips from ceilings, and sounds echo through cavernous rooms.
Enjoyment: Despite the flaws, Rune can be enjoyable to play, though it's probably a bit too long for its own good. Lack of variety in enemies, tunnels and hallways can dampen enthusiasm and eventually lead to the feeling of just wanting to finish. Scripting errors that cause reloads to previous saved games occasionally crop up.
Replay Value: Due to the severe length of the game, the unchanging storyline, and lack of diversity, replay is limited.
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