Runes may one day be a great RPG – it’s currently an entrancing oddity filled with accidental cyborg ninjas

By admin May10,2024

Open world fantasy RPG Runes emits a deeply powerful aura. I can tell it’s deeply powerful because MSI Afterburner’s fan control immediately went mental after I loaded up its free Steam combat demo. What do you mean ‘unoptimised’? That alarming sound is simply my computer shaking with awe at the fearless flippancy required to leave enemies fully untextured so they resemble Metal Gear Solid’s cyborg ninja. The promise of an indie fantasy RPG drew me in, but I must admit, I almost didn’t bother writing about this upon learning the demo is just a pre-Kickstarter combat slice. But something about it entrances me. What it lacks in textures, it makes up for in sheer moxy. You can’t optimise moxy! You can either make MSI shudder in terror or you can’t.

It’s not even the first game on Steam called ‘Runes’. The audacity of just picking a word and not bothering to check if it’s been used before! Try googling ‘runes rpg’! It’s like calling your game ‘hit points’! As I said, deeply powerful aura. And yet, I actually feel the small amount that’s here already could end up being kind of…good? Combat is a stamina based affair with directional slashes, parries, and dodges, and there’s certainly a good bit of weight to fighting – despite all signs pointing to a bit of a floaty disaster. The combat demo is also a bit of an arena mode, where you unlock perks and higher difficulty levels as you play more. Also, the writing seems pleasantly unserious, based on a sample size of one scroll:

a scroll informing the player of their drunken actions in Runes RPG
Image credit: Bimordial/Rock Paper Shotgun

Should you play more? Should you play it at all? If your GPU is prone to overheating, probably not. Ditto if you’re a real stickler for everything having textures, you snob. But, as I said, I’m left far more intrigued by this one than I probably should be. However, if you’re in the market for an indie fantasy RPG that won’t make your fan instantly revolt (wordplay!), Ardenfall still has a demo available. As you might have gleaned from the name, it’s very much inspired by Morrowind, and it’s bloody good. It does that thing where there’s no real map but signposts and NPCs give you solid directions everywhere.

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