A crafting Roguelike overflowing with difficulty.
Sometimes, it is nice to just sit back and play an easy game that engrosses the player into a story without much by way of threat. Other times, players might prefer a bit of a challenge, a way to show off their skills. Then there are the times when the whole idea of repeatedly dying and then starting again from the beginning of a randomly generated dungeon seems like a good idea, all the while playing with more options than you could shake a rat at. For times like these, Runers seems like a good idea.
Developed by Let’s Get kraken Games and published by Mastertronic, Runers is a top-down, Roguelike shooter which happens to be available on Steam. The pixelated graphics and simplistic controls may lead players to think that Runers is an easy, laid back game to play. They would be wrong.
Coming with a handy tutorial, Runers quickly reveals itself to be a lot deeper than initial inspection would suggest. The player will be introduced to the most basic guide of how to play the game, coverings everything a player would need to get started. But when it comes to actually starting an adventure, in which the player must quite simply make their way through various rooms and levels of a dungeon, the wealth of options present themselves.
Creating a character is the first example of just how deep Runers is. The player will be presented with 20 different races from which to choose, and 20 classes to bestow on their chosen hero. These all come with different abilities, allowing any type of player to find something that suits them, or at least keep trying different combinations until something works.
The player then gets to choose their starting spell from a small selection. Again, the effects are quite different. This first spell is assigned to the left mouse button, with the mouse movement indicating which direction the spell will be fired in. Movement comes down to the standard WASD buttons.
Then the player is dropped into the first room of the dungeon. This is nice, a large open space with a few doors leading surely to great wealth and treasure. Let’s head through the door, shall we? A horde of rats and a couple of unknown floaty things later and the word “DEAD” is plastered across the screen. Get used to the DEAD screen, you will see it a lot.
Gradually, things will become easier, sort of. Well, the player will be able to progress further at least. The sheer variety of starting options means that finding the right starting combination to suit the players’ style is a challenge in itself. But keep at it, keep moving and eventually the player will find their first rune.
Dropped by fallen enemies or just hidden away in a destructible box, runes will soon start gathering up and are the key to becoming more powerful, or at least having more powerful spells. There are a variety of different elemental runes which can be simply dropped into the combiner to create new spells, which can then be assigned to the right mouse button or one of the two hot keys, with more hot keys opening up later in the game. The fun comes when the player uses the combiner to join two or more runes into something even more special. There are more than 280 spells to discover in the game, and the random nature of the dungeons and the drops mean that each playthrough will lead the player in different directions, both physically and magically.
Players also level up, once they have learned how to survive long enough, giving them access to yet more skills to aid them on their quest. And players will need all of the aid they can get, with boss battles, Aura rooms which generally put a handicap on the player, and other events all set to bring an end to what could potentially be a good run.
Runers is a game where the player will have to put in the hours, learn as much as they can about the different runes, races, classes and spells, and then they might have a chance of making it through to the end. It demands and investment from the player, but once things start slipping into place, Runers is incredibly satisfying.
Visually, the game is not much to look at. The retro aesthetic may well be on trend at the moment, but it will deny many players a glimpse at the complexity that lies beneath the skin of Runers, looking very much like any other retro styled Roguelike.
The controls are more than a little awkward as well. In a game which is so quick and relying on twitchy reactions, trying to hit hotkeys whilst aiming at fast moving enemies with the mouse is tricky. If ever a game cried out for control pad support, this is it.
Runers is a difficult game which will require not only a fair helping of skill, but more than just a little luck to complete. But the wealth of options and discoveries that are available mean that even a short run could lead to that one component that will make the next run the best. It is quite compelling, but really needs controller support. If you are feeling the need for a mighty challenge in Roguelike form, Runers could well be for you.