Rune Classic is, not surprisingly, the re-release of a 2000 cult hit adventure game named Rune. Whilst not quite falling into the realms of timeless wonder of gaming history, it’s one of the rare successful videogame adaptations of Viking mythology… in fact, it’s the only one that comes to mind. You play as the young hero Ragnar, sworn into the service of Odin after a Loki worshipper strikes down his father and Viking brothers upon the seas. Guided by the Allfather, Ragnar embarks on a quest rife with button mashing and ledge-clambering to put an end to Loki’s scheming once and for all.
The most important thing to bear in mind going into Rune Classic is that it’s exceedingly simple, but it’s simple in a bag of chips smothered in salt and vinegar way – if you’re in the mood for it, it’s stupidly satisfying. It’s also ridiculously square.
Indeed, Rune hails from that period of gaming where round objects were still approached a little fearfully, but you can’t fairly criticise the graphics of a twelve year old game. In fact, for its age, it looks great on Steam. Obviously it looks outdated but the fit to 16:9 aspect ratio is a welcome addition and makes the game look great on higher resolutions. It certainly isn’t bad-looking, but with everything being more or less square, it’s sometimes hard to pick out where you can jump and where you can’t, or where a platform ends and a hazard begins – and I guarantee this will be the leading cause of death as you hack and slash your way through several hours of chunky Viking combat.
Ragnar can overpower most foes quite easily thanks to simple combat and a lot of sharp objects- you carry a mace, axe, sword and shield all at once which basically gives you three different flavours of dismemberment. Your currently equipped weapon is on the left mouse button and your shield is on the right – and that’s all fighting ever comes down to. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this sounds like a terribly simple system for a game focused on fighting but it works, challenging enough to be fun but easy enough to just wade in axe first without worrying about dodging or blocking too much. There’s a good variety of enemies to maim, from armoured crabs, goblins, werewolves and bandits to Dishonoured undead and gods themselves, it’s certainly better than shooting your way through generic terrorists and mercenaries.
Levels are robust and full of environmental puzzles almost akin to Tomb Raider, and throughout the Viking lore is handled faithfully, in a good middle ground between caricature and serious storytelling. As for the story, though, it’s typical fantasy fare at the best of times and takes a backburner. All the friendly humans die abruptly half an hour in, making Odin, who appears about as frequently as a deadbeat dad, the only voice in the game that isn’t screaming “Kill Ragnar!”. It really doesn’t help that Ragnar is a silent hero, either, as many of the levels are long and lonely affairs. Without at least hearing him react to events in thought it’s hard to keep track of whether something is a story development or just a random encounter (I completely missed out on several vital elements of the story until later on because there’s hardly any dialogue of any kind to signpost it).
This doesn’t do much to detract from the overall experience though. It’s a lot of fun and currently one of the best games based on the Viking civilisation, although it does constantly bring to mind the screaming question – “Why hasn’t one single company caught on to how much audiences would love a full-fledged Viking game?” Okay, there was that one back at the dawn of the current generations that never really took off because it was a simple hack’n’slash with some shoehorned RTS elements thrown in for good measure, and Skyrim, although that one doesn’t really count. With a graphical overhaul, a Dark Souls – style combat system, and some survival elements, Rune would be a huge success. In its current incarnation, it’s just a hack ‘n’ slash nostalgic for the days when collision detection was not yet a fully mastered science – but an extremely worthwhile one at that.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.