Rune 2 sticks to the old ways in its open multiplayer beta

Rune 2 has loads of potential. Created by the same team as the original 20-year-old hit, this hack and slash sequel promises an epic single-player quest against Norse monsters and fierce warriors. This isn’t a sequel in name only as the developers have tried to make a modern iteration of the PC classic. That counts for its other modes as well, because Rune 2 will feature a full deathmatch component. It’s an interesting throwback to another time, and some may say that the game feels incomplete without it. After playing through a few matches myself as part of the open multiplayer beta, it’s hard to think of it as anything but a novelty that is a bit out of place in 2019.

Rune 2 Multiplayer Beta | Consulting the old scrolls

Rune II Fists Gameplay Multiplayer Beta

After creating my bearded and tattooed warrior, my first experience with Rune 2 involved looking at a server browser. So far, so retro. After jumping into the most populated one, there was no tutorial to be found, no real sense of guidance. It’s a mode that just drops you into the action and lets you figure things out.

Despite this being a sword fighting game, you don’t even start with a weapon. You need to find one strewn about the arena, and there are plenty to choose from. From long spears to hammers to several types of swords, weapon choice is one of the beta’s brightest spots because it offers a decent sense of variety. There are even food items and magic runes to find, although they didn’t appear nearly enough to be a real factor in most matches. Most of the combat pitted foes with different blades against each other in bouts that quickly devolved into bloodbaths. If you manage to cut off a limb, you can even pick it up as a makeshift weapon, just like in the original.

Rune 2 Multiplayer Beta | Kill stealing with the best of them

Rune II Mace Multiplayer Gameplay

There’s a lot of fun in battling one-on-one or in large groups. However, the map chosen for this beta didn’t quite facilitate a constant stream of action. I was just as often wandering around aimlessly as I was swinging a sword, which is not a balance that suits a multiplayer game like this. There are far off sections to explore for seemingly no reason, and you can fall off the edge of the map into icy waters below. In most games, this would mean instant death. In Rune 2, you slowly freeze to death as you swim around looking for the one area you can climb out of the deep. Although tedious, at least the animations for swimming backward looked pretty good.

When you do get into a fight, the combat doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth. There’s a handful of attacks and a block button, with motions measured by a confusing stamina system. Only certain actions drain your bar, and you can spam attacks with lighter weapons until the cows come home. I saw players running into the middle of brawls and stealing kills and poor, unfortunate players spawning with their fists out and facing slaughter. It makes for chaotic melee bouts that are just plain goofy in an age with so many refined multiplayer games.

This is very basic deathmatch, the type you just don’t see anymore. Players float in and out of the server, matches flow together, and it just feels like a hangout more than anything. I even had a few fun exchanges over text chat, something mostly absent from today’s modern console-focused multiplayer environment. The whole thing is a somewhat refreshing change of pace, but it’s hard to be confident in how this old school game will attract players in 2019. Outside of a few examples, multiplayer-focused titles struggle if they charge any amount of money in this day and age, so a tacked-on bonus mode feels even more superfluous. And Rune 2‘s multiplayer isn’t doing enough to feel like more than a neglected extra.

Rune 2 Multiplayer Beta | Rose-tinted beer steins

On the technical end of things, it still needs a bit of spit and polish, but it looks good in this pre-release state. The world of Rune 2 isn’t going to stand up to the biggest guns in the industry but it is a damn pretty vision of an older experience. Like the best reboots and reimaginings in gaming, Rune 2 looks exactly like you remember the original looking, but with contemporary bells and whistles. Just do yourself a favor and avoid loading up Rune Classic after playing this one. We’ve come a long way when it comes to character models and texture work, which is a testament to Rune 2‘s visual fidelity.

The most disappointing thing about this early look at Rune 2 has to be the lack of controller support. It’s a problem that isn’t as common as it used to be, but Rune 2 seems dedicated to old ideas. According to a few scattered threads on the now-abandoned Steam page, this Epic exclusive is planning on having gamepad support in the final game. I was able to acclimate myself somewhat to the mouse and keyboard, but these classic controls just didn’t hold up as well as they should.

However, as an overall package, the brief glimpse into Rune 2 has me excited to see more come November. The same button-masher hack and slash combat that feels off in deathmatch could be great in a single-player environment, especially when combined with the fantastical elements that will only appear in the campaign. It’s a strange way to introduce the wider world to Rune 2, and hopefully anyone put off by this interesting novelty will still check back for the main event.