Runers Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Runers Review



Going by the old strict definition of what makes a rogue-like, Runers is not exactly one. However, the term “rogue-like” has been so frequently used (or rather abused) nowadays to mean any game featuring procedurally generated levels, even if they play like a retro arcade style shooter game (a case in point being “The Binding of Isaac”) that, in this aspect at least, Runers can be considered a rogue-like.

Now, don’t get me wrong; this is not meant as a verbal bashing of the game, because Runers is, at its core, a fun and addictive game with lots of variety contributing to its longevity, in spite of its tenuous use of the term “rogue-like” to refer to itself; it’s just a minor rant on my part on how games are quick to apply that label to their games, regardless of how rogue-like purists like myself would fume and go all crazy on them for blasphemies against the sacred definition of what constitutes a “rogue-like”. But I digress.

As mentioned before, Runers is (in a loose sense of the word) a rogue-like action shooter, featuring some pseudo RPG levelling mechanics. You are first given the choice of race and class: each race has different, passive perks, usually in the form of stat boosts and adjustments, while each of the 20 classes has unique special abilities, such as the bard who can activate a bard song that stuns surrounding enemies for a time.

Each dungeon level consists of several rooms that are randomly generated; however each room is a self contained “arena”, much like how it is in “The Binding of Isaac”, where all enemies in a new room have to be defeated by blasting spells at them before the room unlocks and you are free to carry on and explore other adjacent rooms.

While it may not be necessary to explore all rooms in a level, it may be worthwhile doing so to gain experience points, as well as to find precious Runes, and Combiners with which you are required to make new spells with. Gaining experience points will eventually allow you to level up, allowing you to select a perk from a list of 4 randomly presented choices, which will grant you a small advantage, such as the ability to heal a small percentage of your health upon killing a humanoid creature, or having a guardian arcane spirit that shoots a violet projectile at your enemies every 50 seconds.

What makes Runers unique among similar games is its core mechanics involving combining raw, elemental runes to make spells with which to build your arsenal. There are no other weapons to wield, no suits of armor to discover or equip, and no potions to brew or drink; the primary means at your disposal for dispatching foes revolves around the combination of runes to make new spells and special perks you gain upon levelling up. While there are over 200 possible spells to make and discover, you can only equip 2 spells into your 2 “Click Slots” at any one time, so called because each of those spells are cast by clicking on either the left or right mouse button respectively.

Making new spells involves combining anywhere from a single rune to up to 3 runes. Combining 2 or 3 runes requires the use of the appropriate combiners (double or triple combiners respectively), unless you already know the spell from a previous play through, in which case it is permanently unlocked and available in your Runedex, which is a codex of all spells you know and their effects and stats.

To make matters more challenging, there are only a limited number of inventory slots for storing “raw” runes and only one spare storage slot for spells on top of the click slots and hotkey slots. You are thus forced to decide at some point in the game whether to discard old spells in favour of new and seemingly stronger spells you have combined or instead to focus on upgrading the strength of existing spells that has seen you through the dungeons so far.

Upgrading an existing spell involves placing a spare composite rune onto the spell, strengthening a spell parameter that depends on the type of rune used. For instance, a “Flame Devil” spell that causes a fireball to rotate around its caster, can be made by combining a Fire and Air rune; upgrading the spell with a spare Fire rune improves its damage and speed, whereas upgrading it with an Air rune improves the spell’s cool-down rate.

Runers is certainly no walk in the park. Rooms swarm with enemies of all types, each having varied attack styles, and it is easy to get overwhelmed and die several deaths and unlock more spell combos before you get the hang of the game and survival comes easier for you. There are over a hundred monsters to discover and learn so there should be plenty of interesting foes to hold your interest for a long while. A beetle for instance is content to hug and crawl along whatever surface it comes into contact with, oblivious to your presence until you come within close proximity of it; or a bandit steals any power-ups or runes it sees, then attempts to weave a portal of escape to make off with its ill gotten gains – quick, destroy it! Learning a monster’s attack or movement style can allow you to take advantage of that knowledge in tackling your foes, such as in the case of a beetle, where you could bait it to hug along a straight stretch of wall to make it easier to aim and obliterate it in short order.

Another interesting feature that adds some spice to the game has to be event rooms: these are essentially challenge rooms where you aim to complete an objective – such as having to successfully dodge an onslaught of fireballs within the time limit – upon which you are rewarded with bonus runes or some other perk such as an increase in elemental mastery; and of course boss rooms, which as you might have guessed, contains boss monsters which are powerful variants of the other common denizens of the dungeon.

The graphics, like most rogue-likes, aren’t especially ground breaking or flashy, essentially the player and monsters are just 2d sprites against a bland dungeon backdrop of greys and browns, and the techno or dub step style music, while making for pleasant background music, gets pretty old after awhile.

However the selling point of Runers isn’t so much the graphics or fancy music, but its replay value and the myriad things you can do in the game. With a somewhat unforgiving difficulty, tons of class-race combinations to try out, hundreds of spell combos to discover, a variety of enemies to discover and vanquish, and the odd challenge room or two to spice things up, Runers delivers a lot of value for just under 10 bucks, and looks set to entertain for hundreds of hours to come.