Runers is a dungeon crawler that encourages experimentation and lots of replayability, in similar fashion to the likes of The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, and Desktop Dungeons. These games share common threads: they have permadeath, roguelike elements, and arena combat. You’ll circle-strafe around enemies while firing magical projectiles as you reduce their health bar to nothing like a spell-casting badass.
Runers puts its best foot forward with the way you have to carefully plot out your passive ability choice in tandem with your class of character. You’ll be spending a lot more time on this screen more than any other as you try to concoct the most complimentary character build. While not exact, there are allusions to character creations of Dungeons & Dragons without the humor of Dungeons of Dredmor. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, but the game itself is a bit dry and lacking a general purpose otherwise.
While Runers is a game of familiarity, what sets it apart from games already mentioned, is the rune system. Killing enemies allows for the chance for runes to drop that that can be combined to create more magical spells than the base ones you start out with. You’ll be blasting off different elemental and other-worldly abilities, each with it’s own way of being dispatched from you. Movement is fast and fun, but anything beyond your first two abilities is hard to pull off as you have to stop moving and aim towards your target an hope you hit it.
As you make new combinations, your “Runedex” gets entries added to it. This is beneficial for future playthroughs to optimize your playthrough rather than randomly throwing items together to see what happens. And it doesn’t matter if you have unlocked everything, the random chance of what drops at your feet is still an unknown quantity, so you cannot bank any particular combination for success.
After killing enough things, you’ll gain a level. And merely getting the satisfying ding is not enough, you’re given the choice to select one of four traits that will further your character development to become stronger and more resilient to damage, being able to deal more damage faster, or even just moving faster.
You’ll often come across rooms that are sparkly, which contain a random event that, if successful, will allow you to earn a bonus trait. If you fail, the game continues on. This being a roguelike, everything from the rooms of the floors, enemies, bosses, and items are all randomized each time you play. And of course, having to start over is a drag, but it’s all exciting to be able to fill in your “Beastiary”, which is absolutely dense with detailed descriptions.
The standalone challenge mode allows you to play the game without character creation and try to complete the objective in the least amount of time. It’s a good distraction from the main game that tests your skills with various spell combinations that are preset. It may even be a better tutorial than the tutorial itself.
When there’s something to blame that pulls you out of the experience, it is the disjointed music in Runers. It’s almost as if it were a soundtrack to an entirely different game, as it never swells with the action, or calms with the quietness of solitude your character rarely gets – it just plays. And that’s really a shame, there really was an opportunity for some dynamic music to take shape based on room types that misses the mark and never allowed me to get fully immersed for long.
Runers is pretty unique, and there’s a charm here that lies within the character creation and rune crafting. As you gather runes and spend time making them more powerful, the game becomes exponentially more enjoyable and worth playing. There are many games like this, but not done in this way, and you’d be remiss not to give this one a chance, just don’t expect too much from it.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes