What is best in life?
Ages ago, before the time of Anger Management Classes and squeezable stress
balls, disputes between individuals were settled in a much more inexpensive
way. To the Vikings, sinew and steel decided the day. No high priced therapists
Indeed, grievances are settled by the spilling of blood and the severing of
flesh in Human Head’s new Norse inspired hack n’ slash 3D action/adventure game,
You play Ragnar, the young aspiring Viking warrior. On your first adventure,
you must accompany your father and his fellow Vikings on a longboat ride into
battle. Using cowardly magic, your adversary summons a lightning spell that
sinks your boat, resulting in the death of everyone onboard…including you.
Luckily, Odin (head of the Norse pantheon of deities) has taken a special interest
in Ragnar, whom he promptly resurrects. It’s time to exact revenge on your murderer
for his hand in the death of you father, your fellow Vikings and most importantly
that kick-ass Viking longboat.
You know how much that thing could fetch on the Antiques roadshow? Let’s just
say you wouldn’t have to worry about where your next goblet of mead is coming
from, that’s for sure.
Rune plays a lot like Tomb
Raider should have. There are no pestering keys to locate, and, for
the most part, the puzzles keep advancing you through the level. No meticulous
backtracking to find where you need to go next.
Advancing through the game also consists of much hacking and much slashing.
However, you can’t let all this fighting get in the way of your alcoholism.
Apparently Ragnar is a big time drunk, and the only way he can maintain his
health is to consume goblet after potent goblet of intoxicating mead. A lizard
crawling on a wall or a leg of meat will also do the trick, but why eat a reptile
when a liquid lunch will suffice?
Scattered throughout the 43 levels are power-ups known as rune stones. These
stones bestow a multitude of abilities depending on the weapon you activate
it with. If you have the Viking Broadsword in your hand when you use a rune,
you’ll be empowered with the ‘Vampire’ attack. Here the damage that you inflict
comes back to you in the form of health. There are a total of 15 weapons in
all, lending a great deal of variety.
Often sound can make or break a game. There’s nothing worse than listening
to footsteps that sound like someone beating Pinocchio over the head with a
soupspoon. Well, I’m happy to say that the audio in Rune is superb. Metal
clashing against metal, wood or concrete all sounds appropriate . The deep villainous
voices of Ragnar’s Viking enemies are a great addition for realism.
Visually, Rune is the cat’s pajamas. Running on the Unreal
Tournament engine, Rune sports some of the most detailed textures
yet seen in a 3D-adventure game, eclipsing the excellent textures found in another
Gathering of Developers game, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2.
On a good system, the gorgeous textures and spot-on lighting combine with terrific
level design to create a graphical treat. Lara Croft has been officially put
Also, the creatures in Rune are leaps and bounds more interesting than
those found in other PC action games. Sure, there are plenty of basics, like
malicious insects, fighting skeletons, and simple-minded creatures like goblins.
But it’s the other human warriors you face that really bring the game alive.
Disarm an enemy Viking warrior in battle and watch him search desperately for
another weapon with which to happily open your flesh. On the medium difficulty
setting, enemies will try to flank you and/or strike an exposed area, not just
hack at you in a mad rush. This advanced AI really brings the gameplay alive
and helps immerse the player into this virtual world of sweat and bad breath.
Speaking of fighting…get these guys moving and you won’t be disappointed. They
look great. Each weapon you find in Rune has it’s own set of strikes,
which are all movement dependent. Striking while moving forward will result
in a different series of attacks than if you moved backward. This will appeal
to both button mashers and those gamers that want to study Ragnar’s every fighting
movement, of which there are plenty.
character animation is smooth and clean, though the first-person engine really
becomes apparent when you turn Ragnar left or right, as there’s no animation
for turning. He just rotates. Lame! You don’t need to program leg and feet animation
for games like Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament,
but Ragnar’s got them and he should use them.
Also noteworthy is the absence of a 180-turn button. This would be extremely
helpful, as you often end up with your back to your target. Obviously this is
another result of the first-person Unreal engine.
Despite the kick-ass weapon play, Rune falls a bit short of delivering
the full barbarian experience by not allowing hand-to-hand fighting. If I lose
all my weapons, I don’t want to run away like a coward.What kind of Viking doesn’t
know how to punch?
The single player is terrific, featuring a wealth of cool environments. However,
it pales in comparison to the sheer bladed ecstasy that is Rune multiplayer.
Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch are your choices here, and Human Head has designed
many huge and unique multiplayer maps to explore. Since the game doesn’t feature
any ranged weapons (unless you power up certain normal weapons), typically cheap
sniping tactics are nowhere to be found. You pretty much have to run up to opponents
and beat ’em down. The carnage is unrivaled.
There’s even a level editor and a soon to be released skin editor. The fun
never has to stop.
And fun is really the best way to describe Rune. While playing a Team
Deathmatch, I found a fellow Viking teammate and myself in battle against four
opposing warriors. We eventually dispatched three of them, leaving one guy waiting
for our next move. In true Viking style, I raised the severed head of one of
his fallen comrades and, by pressing the ‘taunt’ button, I violently shook the
head in a display of twisted Nordic bravado. To nail home the point, I threw
the head at the feet of the dumbfounded survivor. Needless to say, he tried
to hightail it out of there, but to no avail. As he turned and ran, my comrade
threw an axe at his backside, ending his life.
If that’s not just about the coolest thing you’ve heard about in a 3D action/adventure
game, you’ve been drinking too much mead.
Frankly, Rune kicks butt. It’s easily the best hack n’ slash game out
there, chock full of bladed mayhem that offers an exemplary answer to the age
old question: "What is best in life?"