Friday, September 5, 2014

Indie Impressions - Runers


Now Available on Steam (w/ Playable Demo)

Developed by Let's Get Kraken Games

In an industry popular for flashy visuals and over-the-top plots we tend to forget what makes the games that have lasted us the longest so memorable, their content and the feeling of discovery. Runers ditches the sugar-coating and filler of modern games in favor of pure content and customization to help craft an experience that revolves around how you want to play.

Banished to the confines of a dark and dank dungeon with nothing but your arcane knowledge and the magical power of the Runes found within. The moody melodies and grim dim-lit rooms beckon you deeper in to the randomly generated chambers of ongoing dungeon floors which each act as an arena, staging chaotic top-down battles and sometimes throwing objective based events at you for a chance at an additional skill to level up and increase your survivability in these diabolical crypts.

Runers is slightly rough around the edges in terms of aesthetics with its art and sound effects having a very hand-made and appropriately gritty quality to them. This is however not at all a bad thing and will actually be a welcome feeling among old-schoolers who remember the early days of PC gaming, as this has a very similar feel visually to the obscure titles of the early 90s many are fond of.

Runers features the grid-like map progression and dungeon exploration of the classic Zelda games with the fast-paced horde slaying arcade-action of a Gauntlet title. There's no drawn out plot or complicated goals present here, instead Runers takes a more score-attack oriented approach testing the players ability to survive and make the best usage of their findings. Most of your early runs will end swiftly in humiliating defeat, but the more adept of players will experiment and explore the hundreds of possibilities made available through Rune crafting and the spells it produces.

Runes come in the form of different varying elements, from slow burning Fire to Air spells with the ability to knockback. Combining the different spells can be done in pairs of two or three depending on the amount of combiners you have. Combining two spells is as simple as using a Rune Combiner which are generally dropped off of the tougher glowing Champion type enemies as well as mid-bosses.

In order to obtain the more useful and generally passive or evasive three-spell combinations you'll need to either defeat one of the main bosses or accumulate 4 regular Combiners. This provides an even deeper level of decision making forcing you to choose between going with the instant gratification of a slightly stronger 2nd level combo or saving your Combiners up for the often life saving 3rd level spells.

The easiest way to meet your maker is to become surrounded. The game features Diablo levels of swarming from your adversaries and the worst thing to do is get trapped in a corner or against a wall as you'll quickly be blocked in by swathes of dangerous creatures with no escape other than the sweet solace of your own magic-blasting runes making way. Although you'll be overwhelmed early on much of the time consecutive runs will last longer as you learn the necessities of preparation, especially prior to facing the hectic boss battles and their bullet-hell styled patterns.

The rune system is the bread and butter of the game, providing hundreds of unique and effective combinations of magical runes all with different attacks and properties. Throughout the levels you'll find differently sized rune combiners which will allow you to combine different runes into bigger, better attacks to use on your action bar.

The abilities gained from each combined spell are unknown at first and to unlock the hundreds of useful attacks you'll have to experiment with the different complex combinations. Runes can also be stacked onto powers in the ability bar that use similar elements, strengthening a particular attribute tied to it. In the end what you have is a very free-form combat system with an extremely high skill ceiling, the limits being that of your own discovery and persistence.

Runers is the most customizable encounter I've had in the action rogue-like genre, complimenting the play style of every attribute be it speed, power, or wit. It offers a level of creativity and choice in how you approach battles that is unseen for dungeon crawlers, and offers enough variation to always keep you coming back. For the modest asking price, Runers is an engrossing and addictive experience with an amount of content that surpasses anything of its kind.

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