<span class="bold">Rune Classic</span>
In all its pure Viking goodness, Rune brings you to a journey into the far north as Ragnar, the youngest among the “Odinsblade” warriors, mighty fighters tasked with protecting the rune stones that hold the mad god Loki in his prison.
As you might expect, a traitorous leader of another clan is roaming the land doing just the contrary, trying to bring chaos with the aid of of the Trickster himself, and foiling his plans will be up to you.
During your quest, you will travel among caves, dungeons, crypts, citadels, icy peaks, woods, Dwarf cities and towns hidden among the mountains in what is probably the most picturesque and detailed game among those made with the first Unreal Engine, of which the game also retains the great performance. Technically speaking, for a game coming from the year 2000 it is nothing short of impressive, and imo the graphics hold incredibly well even today, with a native 1080p resolution and a flawless, contant framerate.
The art direction is superb, and the animations of the many different enemies (counting crabs, goblins, orcs, giants, dwarves, undead and several more, each one with its peculiarities and tactics) always fluid.
All of this helps in defining the fast and gory gameplay, a perfect hybrid between action and platforming.
Many expect to see a kind of Dark Souls (whether good or not, that game gets too many praise for ideas clearly borrowed from much older games as if they were From Software's original ones, imo), but that is not the case: the combat system does not even brush against the depth of its contemporary Blade of Darkness, and it consists in simple, basic hit combos defined by the direction of your movements like in a third person hack'n'slash; while removing the one-on-one “dueling elegance” and tactical aspect of the above mentioned game, this improves a lot the speed and the satisfaction coming from battling several enemies at once like a berserker. One of the main mechanics of the game revolves in fact on the “rage bar”, a special counter that can be filled with each connecting hit; once you have maximized it by battling without pause, Ragnar will go berserk – the bar will deplete very quickly with passing time and hits taken, but in the meantime you will have a greatly increased attack speed and power and your base hit points will not be touched, giving you a sort of temporary “rage shield”.
Your arsenal is divided in swords, axes ans maces, with five different models a kind, each one varying in damage output, speed, range (aside from their material length, all can be thrown if necessary) and special powers; those last ones can be activated by consuming your rune power bar, the equivalent of mana, with effects like fire hits, vampirism, invisibility of petrification.
Neither health nor power regenerates automatically, so you will always need to keep an eye for food and runes.
The platforming sections are also excellent; while the game is quite linear, it gives you a great freedom of approaches in very numerous (44, if I'm not mistaken) and large maps with a very well studied verticality and filled with traps, monsters and simple riddles, making the game much more interesting than a simple “run and jump”. The game has perfect controls, great sights and an awesome frenetic gameplay (both in combat and in platforming), but I wouldn't call it perfect due to a few issues.
First of all, two of the last levels there are a couple of severe bugs, I'll give you the solution here with minor spoilers that will not affect your enjoyment of the title in any way. I'll try to be vague: in a certain map, the road is blocked until all enemies has been killed; the problem is, they first need to swim in a certain pool to be transformed in more dangerous ones, and if you are quick enough to kill them while they are still “small” the bars won't ever be removed, making you stuck until you restart the map.
In the following level, some enemies are trying to break a wall in a small cutscene; once they do, the game freezes 100% of the times due to a serious problem with the rendering of sounds. The solution is setting the sound to 0 before that event; after that, you'll have no more problems.
My last issue is with the Hard difficulty setting, draining all the fun from the game: the enemies are damage sponges and the rage bar will almost never be full, so you will have to adopt an extremely, pointlessly long and boring “hit and run” strategy that will only get you frustrated.
Rune is already challenging enough on Normal, it is infinitely more enjoyable and it is definitely the way it was meant to play.