Rune delivers a bloody and visceral adventure grounded in Viking mythology.
One of the most disappointing games for me in recent years was Viking: Battle for Asgard. Sold to gamers as a more open God of War-style action game steeped in Norse mythology, it just plain looked cool. Sadly the final product was lacking, only succeeding in making me hungrier for something to make good on the horned helmed, mead swigging experience I'd been hoping for. Little did I know that another game had already come along eight years earlier and delivered almost exactly what I was looking for. This, of course, would be Rune.
Originally released in 2000 and recently added to GOG's retro library, Rune drops players in the role of Ragnar, a young Viking warrior who, rescued by the god Odin from some impromptu betrayal, is tasked with combating the forces of the trickster Loki and averting the world ending conflict Ragnarok. The story is honestly one of Rune's weaker parts. It's not bad by any measure, but it's also beat-by-beat predictable and does little more than serve as an excuse for you to butcher your way through a smattering of locations based in Norse mythology.
The combat, in turn, is also perhaps a bit shallow, never quite evolving beyond basic hack-and-slash mechanics that you'll probably master within the first half hour of gameplay. There are some bits of diversity to vary things up a little bit, though. For instance, throughout the game, you'll have three weapon types (sword, axe, mace) with different strength tiers that you can switch between freely. You can also pick up objects like torches and even your enemies' amputated limbs to use as makeshift bludgeons. These options still don't add up to combat you could really call deep, but it's still frequently satisfying. Your foes are varied and challenging enough to keep you interested and the simple thrill of lopping an enemy's head off never gets old.
Where the game really excels however, is in the world it creates for you to play in. Aside from being just being generally epic, Rune does a great job of fashioning environments that are linear but still feel open and explore-able. You will occasionally waste time trying to figure out what to do and where to go, but it's rare that you'll get stuck. The game's puzzles rarely graduate to the realm of frustration and, more often than not, the process of solving them is broken up by combat, traps and environmental hazards that will keep your adrenaline pumping even as you're wandering around looking for some obscure, hidden switch to take you further into a level.
Rune also has a multiplayer mode that I sadly never really got to try. Every time I attempted to join a match there were either none available or not enough players to make any real sort of game. It's unfortunate because I've heard good things about the multiplayer and was looking forward to giving it a go. That said, even without any online experience I would wholeheartedly recommend Rune to any action fan looking for a visceral, lengthy adventure steeped in some of the coolest mythology human history has arguably produced. It's not a perfect game by any means, but it's a damned fun one.