LGR – Rune – PC Game Review

September 7, 2019

[typing] You know what I really love about video games? It’s their ability to instantly teleport
you away to an exotic time or place. Like the early 2000s in the video gaming industry. And it was a time that was really interesting to me because, you know, it was before things were getting, uh, too “modern,” so to speak. They were still holding on to a lot of older school ideals in game design, but at the same time these games were getting really involved
and these graphical engines were letting people create worlds
that we just never seen before. It was really cool. And one game that really personifies this idea to me is… Rune, developed by Human Head Studios and published by Gathering of
Developers in 2000 for Windows PCs, and later for Linux and Macintosh. And man, I have always liked this box because, well, it looks like a Rune and it’s all embossed and shiny and sleek. I had already played the demo
when I first saw this back then but even if I hadn’t I would have been sold. The fact that it used the Unreal Engine
was good enough for me to want it anyway since I was always looking for something
to put my 16 MB Voodoo3 card through its paces and the Unreal Engine was awesome for that. I’d never heard of Human Head studios though and that was because this was
the first game they developed. However, the team had a pedigree nonetheless
from when they were employed at Raven Software, working on games like
Mage Slayer and the Hexen series. Human Head went on to create some other games, some of which were excellent, like Prey in 2006, and others that didn’t quite hit the mark, like Blair Witch Volume II and Dead Man’s Hand. And today they’re known for
free-to-play games and stuff on Steam, the most recent of which is Minimum. But back to Rune, inside the box you get the game in one of the most metal CD sleeves I have ever seen, containing both the game itself and a
publisher demo disc from Fall of 2000. And of course you get a manual, and though it’s pretty cool-looking and useful, I really wish they would have made it bigger. These jewel case-sized manuals really
don’t do it for me like a full-sized one does, and an epic Viking game
deserves an epic Viking manual. It’s also worth noting that Rune was
later ported to the PlayStation 2 under the name Rune: Viking Warlord, but this features shortened and missing levels, worse graphics, major framerate issues, subpar controls and is all around pretty crappy. So we’ll just be taking a look at the PC version here. Rune begins with a Rune logo animated in 3D because they licensed the
crap out of that Unreal Engine, so they’re going to use it for all it’s worth. After this, you’re given a main menu that
could easily have come from a Flintstones game, judging by the copious usage of rocks for everything. It’s all the typical stuff you would
imagine here, as is the options menu, if you’re familiar with Unreal Engine games. Be sure to crank everything to the max,
including 32-bit color depth since the game makes heavy use
of gray, green and brown colors, so using 16-bit makes everything
look like day-old vomit. You’ll also want to crank up the brightness, since seriously, this game is almost
unplayable on the default settings and is arguably too dark, period. Start up a new game and, behold, a voice actor brings forth tales of Viking lore MAN:
And it is only the power on Midgard of Odin and his runestones that holds Ragnarok at bay. LGR:
Mmm, Norse mythology. Too few games take full advantage
of the richness of these stories and Rune was one of the first I
remember to make me feel like I was actually a son of Odin. Even though you don’t play a son of Odin in the game. You’re just a badass named Ragnar that Odin happens to really like. The beginning level of the game consists of a tutorial of sorts where you are in
your village participating in a ceremony that means you’re no longer a child and
are now a fully fledged warrior. Walk around, explore the area, look in awe as you realize the foliage
actually reacts when you move against it, and complete your man training by slicing up a dude and becoming a warrior of Wotenkeld. Then, conveniently, word that a nearby village is being attacked by cognac and everyone is super drunk. Er, wait, it’s actually just some guy named Conrack, but everyone is still super drunk, because Vikings. After this, it’s on to a lengthy cutscene
involving you and your buddies on a long ship, trading words with Saturday morning cartoon villains. MAN #1:
Whisking a man across the sea
faster than the falcon flies is well within the powers of my new master. Why guard a rock when I can stand at the front
of an army set to rule the world– MAN #2:
I have 40 men within an axethrow of your hearts! Prepare to visit Hel. [men yelling] LGR:
Turns out that some people
have betrayed some people and they’ve pledged allegiance
to the evil trickster god Loki, which is kind of a bummer, since he then strikes everyone down with
lightning, sinking your boat. But just before you’re killed by an
oddly-placed credit sequence, Odin says, “Relax, dude, you’re cool.” And the cutscene ends and the game finally relinquishes control to you once again. And from here it’s up to you to make
your way through 40 plus levels of action and puzzle-solving to stop Conrack and Loki and save your beloved Viking world from destruction. And I’ve got to warn you,
this game starts off slow, especially in the PC versions with
longer and more numeral levels. At first, all you’ve got are dark caves, dark ruins
and dark dungeons to walk through with the occasional evil hermit crab or
undead warrior to contend with and that’s about it. And these continue for the first couple hours, so just hold on, it gets better. This is an action game with a heavy
emphasis on satisfying gory combat. It just holds its most enjoyable naughty
bits until later into the affair. Before long you’ll be decking
yourself out in some sweet gear by scavenging corpses and weapon racks. And the combat is straightforward
and super easy to get into, as this was before the days of
locking onto enemies or performing button combinations for moves. You aim with the mouse,
attack with the left mouse button, block with the right button
and you have a key for throwing weapons. Combine this with jump attacks for
extra damage and some circle-strafing and dodging, and you pretty much have your entire
combat strategy right there. It is not exactly elegant and it can
even fall into slightly cumbersome territory, but it works well, and I never
found it dissatisfying. Much of that has to do with the copious
amount of visceral on-screen happenings, like frequent decapitations, dismemberment and the fact that you and your weapon can both end up covered in blood
and guts the more you fight. Enemies are freaking brain dead, though, and will just run for you as soon
as you’re in their line of sight. So while the AI is kind of disappointing, it’s also predictable enough to make up for
the combat’s sometimes clunky shortcomings. Another aspect of combat is the rune system and this plays directly into the weapons themselves. You’ve got shields, swords, maces, hammers and axes at your disposal, and Ragnar can carry all 15 of them at once because he’s a total beast. Activate the rune power and, depending on your weapon,
you’ll have some fantastic abilities at your blood-soaked fingertips. Fire, lightning, vampiric health sucking and the ability to turn enemies into
ice or stone are just a few of them. And while most of the runes you’ll find around will simply act as ammo for refilling your power meter, others will increase your max health or send you into a berserk rage. Thus explains the reason the game is called Rune. Although really a more accurate name
would have been “Find the Hidden Passage” because, holy crap, you’ll be doing a lot of it! Puzzle solving is a huge aspect of the game, although I hesitate to call them puzzles because they’re not exactly of
the mentally-taxing variety. You know, it’s stuff like press
this thing to reveal that tomb to defeat that creature to open
the door to the next corridor, etc. Most of the time the puzzles are
in the form of levers or switches and they’ll do things like reveal a
passageway or disable machine. But the rest of the time the puzzles are finding your way through a
series of confounding corridors designed by the most sadistic of Norse architects. You know how a lot of games
back then featured secret places? You know, like a ledge you have
to make a weird jump to reach, or a bonus room lurking behind a wall, or a rope that’s hiding around the very last corner you’d expect to look? Yeah, Rune’s core level design
revolves around these things. You absolutely have to think like a
secret-finding walkthrough author to even complete the main levels here. Now, part of me loves this
because while it’s a linear game, finding out what you have to do or where
you have to go remains a challenge all the way to the end. Seems like there’s always another secret
passage to find behind another wall you have to break down or something hanging
around a corner that you didn’t expect. But, alas, the other part of me hates this because the solutions to some of
these levels can be lavishly obscure and even downright unfriendly. Platforming is a big part of this, which is probably why even though the
game allows you to play in first person, it defaults to third-person every time you boot it up. Thankfully, the platforming never gets
any more complicated than grabbing onto ledges to pull yourself higher, but sometimes finding the freaking ledge or making the jump to the next one is an absolute trial and error approach, with a hard emphasis on the “error” part Just take this area, for example. The only place it appears you can go is across
this ravine but there’s no way to do it. Other levels featured jump pads
for crossing these areas, or a hidden thing underneath or
something, but none of that’s around. So what do you do? Oh, you just have to make a leap of faith when the wind is blowing in the
right direction at the right speed and hope it catches you. Seriously. Wind is not a factor anywhere else in the game. This is the only time this happens. And half the time it doesn’t even
work and you just fall to your death. Thank goodness for quick saving because otherwise I’d have been tempted to just quit right here. But once you get past stuff like this, oh, man, what a game this turns out to be. To me, Rune is a game about atmosphere and an unnerving sense of doom that comes from exploring this weird world. Ninety percent of the time there’s no music, just the ambient sounds of death and horror, and I freaking love that! [screams echoing] [distant screaming] Roaming through the realms of Hell with
its torture devices and lakes of fire, exploring ancient tombs of
plague-spewing undead warriors, rummaging through goblin-run
factories filled with ugly machinery and performing a one-man siege on
a snow-covered Viking fortification. These are all just highly memorable The fact that you’re also able to do all this
uber-macho stereotypical Viking stuff is great, like wielding axes bigger than your torso, hacking off arms and legs only to pick
them up and beat things to death with them and drinking mead while smashing the
tankard down to the floor afterward. Oh, yeah, and you largely get health by eating lizards. Whole lizards! Just grab them off the wall and chomp into them, tossing their corpse over your
shoulder when you’re done. Ha ha! Yeah, I love this game. It’s all this stuff that makes Rune rise above the typical action-adventure-platformer fare
and turns it into something that continues to stand out to me all these years later. And it just gets better and better as the game goes on. The enemies become more
varied and more challenging, the puzzles get more creative, your rune powers continue to increase
as you find more weapons and armor, and eventually, you become a
freaking immortal stone beast that feeds on slime that can jump twice as high, and strike twice as hard. Holy crap, yes! Gimme more! And they did. Once you’re done with the 10-hour-ish campaign, there is more in the form of multiplayer. And if you’re familiar with Unreal Tournament,
then you know pretty much what to expect. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, mods, mutators, etc., all through LAN or online through the server browser. And you can still play online today since
they patched out the GameSpy requirement, even though there aren’t exactly
too many people playing. And the multiplayer was popular enough
at one point that it got its own expansion, Halls of Valhalla, which added tons of levels, character
skins and two new multiplayer modes. This was later released with
the main game as Rune Gold, making this the ultimate version to seek out. There was even a series of pen
and paper RPGs by Atlas games that used the Rune universe as a
starting point for its own adventures. Not only that but the PC games were
re-released as Rune Classic in 2012, and is available on and Steam in a package that’s still being updated
and works great on modern systems. In somewhat of a controversial move, however, it features some changes to the original
game in the form of additional enemies, an autosave feature and
some cut and redesigned levels. It’s still awesome, though, and if you enjoy Norse mythology,
foreboding fantasy atmosphere, lopping off heads and eating lizards, definitely give Rune a shot. It’s engaging, challenging, still holds up
today and I recommend it to pieces. Gory, dismembered pieces. [heavy electric guitar] And if you enjoyed this video and would
like to see more on video games from this time period and all over the place, really, then you’re in the right place. I’d made a ton more and a lot more are coming as well, so subscribing is a thing that you can
do to be notified when more occur. You can also interact and follow
me on Twitter and Facebook, as well as support LGR on Patreon, which not only helps the show
continue and be more awesome, but it also lets you see videos
like this before anyone else, as well as some other perks, so go check it out. And as always, thank you very much for Odin– wa-watching. For watching. I wasn’t looking at my script. I’m gonna leave that slip in there.

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