Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
8 MB Video
Is the latest game using the Unreal Tournament engine any good? Hell yeah! Read on for full details.
October 30th, 2000
Just to make something clear from the start... if you are looking for a "blow the enemy to bits" fragfest then you won't find what you're looking for with Rune. Rune is a 3rd person action/adventure game that sort of resembles Drakan, with one major difference, the Unreal Tournament game engine. You won't find pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, or any of that powerful weaponry in Rune. What you will find however are swords, axes, and hammers. And I'll tell you that there's nothing more fun than bashing your enemies into a bloody mess with some of the weapons you'll find in this game. The whole "coolness" of the game doesn't end there... when attacking other creatures you can chop off heads, limbs, there's plenty of violence and gore to be found within Rune. Possibly one of the neatest things is the ability to pick up the weapons and shields that the enemies drop. You can even pick up severed limbs and heads to use as weapons. Some creatures require certain tactics to kill, and there are multiple ways to do it. For example, in the Hell level there are creatures that can only die in one of two ways: either decapitate them with a well placed swing of your weapon; or light them ablaze with your torch and watch them burn. You can also take your aggressions out on the environment... there isn't a lot of things in Rune that can't be destroyed. You can bash through walls, tables, floors, barrels, doors, the list goes on and on. It's always hard to resist smashing your way through a room filled with barrels, it's just so much fun.

There are five types of weapons within each weapon class (Sword, Axe, Hammer). You collect the weapons as you make your way through the game. Some you can find on weapon racks and others you can pick up by defeating enemies. As you advance through the game you'll find better weapons but you won't lose the weapons you already have. This is a good thing because it would be pretty painful having to collect all of the weapons again as each one has a unique Rune power. Let me take a minute to explain these powers, this is what can make each battle very different. As you journey through the levels you can pick up Runes that add a small bit of power to your Rune meter. Each weapon requires a certain amount of this power to improve your weapon for a short period of time. One of the axes is able to freeze enemies with it's Rune power, while one of the swords has a vampiric power (able to give health back with each strike). Each of the 15 weapons having a different Rune power adds quite a bit of variety to the battles.

Controls in Rune are excellent. It utilizes the Unreal Tournament engine so you can expect the game to handle quite easily. There aren't many controls to have to worry about so you can pretty much have the game fired up and ready to go in just a few minutes of customizing. Rope climbing is not always done great in these types of games but I've had no problems with Rune. It would've been nice to be able to swing back and forth, but I'm really just being picky. Jumping issues always come up with these type of action/adventure games as well. There is a lot of jumping/climbing involved in Rune and you'll be glad to know that it couldn't have been done any better, you'll rarely ever miss a jump.

Level design is very well done. To say the least, the levels are massive. While there is usually only one path to take, the levels are big enough so that it doesn't seem too linear while at the same time giving you lots of freedom to explore. There is usually quite a bit of playing before the next load screen. This brings me to another point. Load times are exceptional, it's perhaps the fastest loading game I've seen. Loading a save game literally takes seconds, so you won't have to get too frustrated when you die and have to load that last save. There are puzzles in Rune as well that usually involve pushing switches, levers and that sort of thing. The puzzles aren't too complicated but gamers who absolutely hate puzzles may find them a little frustrating.

The enemies in Rune are also nicely done. You have your Goblins, Dwarves, and even little crazy looking monkeys, just to name a few. There is enough variety throughout the game to keep you interested. The farther you go in the game, the more difficult the enemies become. The Dwarves will charge you and even throw their weapons. The enemy AI isn't perfect though... there was more than one occasion when an enemy would be looking right at me and not attack, while at other times they would run in the spot caught up in another creature or object. This doesn't spoil the game, most of the time the AI is just fine but it is very noticable and mars an otherwise perfect title.

As you'd expect with the Unreal Tournament engine, the graphical environment is breathtaking to say the least. Everything from buildings in ruin to waterfalls to the lava pits of hell, look spectacular. It seems the deeper you travel through the game the more impressive the visuals become, just the underwater environments alone look truly amazing. I was extremely impressed with the winter levels later on in the game. They looked so real that I nearly got chills playing through them. When I walked across a sheet of ice and heard it crack and break away from under me, that's when I realized that Rune was a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Details, details, details... I can't stress enough how great the game looks and feels. There's enough eye candy in Rune to visually impress anybody.

Sounds are well done, voices sound good and all sound effects fit in with the environment perfectly. The moaning and screams of pain you hear through the Hell level really add to the game environment in so many ways. Overall the sound and music aren't exceptional however but at the same time they're not poorly done either.

Multiplayer gaming for Rune gets served up in the flavors of DeathMatch and Team Deathmatch. Unfortunately I found the multiplayer in Rune to be a little disappointing. Like Unreal Tournament it plays perfectly and just like the single player game, however, that isn't the problem I had with it. Although the levels are totally different from the single player missions, there aren't many to choose from and most are anything but exciting. I found myself getting bored with it really fast and wanting to go back to playing solo. Perhaps this can be re-evaluated once people start creating new deathmatch maps, but as it stands now, multiplayer isn't the strongest point of this title.

In the end it comes down to the fact that Rune is a game you absolutely must buy. It's the most fun and addictive action/adventure title I've come across in a long time. All the hard work Human Head Studios has put into this game certainly shows. Any fan of games like Drakan and Tomb Raider will instantly fall in love with this title. With it's stunning visuals, tight gameplay, and 43 huge levels to explore there's lots of fun to be had. Don't buy this title expecting an exceptional multiplayer experience however, but as a single player game it holds it's ground as the best action/adventure title I've played this year.

The good points: great visuals, excellent controls, huge levels, very fast load times, just damn fun!

The bad points: enemy AI could've been a little better, multiplayer isn't overly exciting

Review by Mark Dillon
Video Gamer Guy