Of all the games that IMG got to see at E3 back in Spring, Rune was one of the titles that made our hearts go pitter-patter. When the news was confirmed that Gathering of Developers would indeed be bringing this title to the Mac OS, through the offices of Westlake Interactive, we were totally ecstatic. Now that this game is well along in development and might go ‘gold’ for Mac within a few short weeks, we thought we’d give you an idea of what to expect.
Rune is an unusual title in several respects. Created by Human Head, this game is a third-person melee combat game; this means that not only are there no guns, rocket launchers or even pea shooters, the camera perspective has also been altered to provide a top/down point of view. In keeping with the Viking theme that informs the plot and backstory, only close-combat weapons are used: swords, maces and axes, with shields for defence. The overhead camera view was a controversial choice, as in the past, games with this perspective featured much less action and much more adventure – see the Tomb Raider series for details. However, in this case the third-person POV is very functional, as it allows you much greater control of where your weapon blows will land and your physical relation to your target, both critical issues for attack and defence.
The StoryRune is set in an interpretation of the Norse world of the Vikings, who ruled Greenland and northern Europe from 750 to 1050 AD. Though they had a reputation as bloodthirsty pillagers, the Vikings had a rich and complex mythology which Human Head used as inspiration for both the plot and content of the game itself.
The game begins with an in-engine cinematic which tells the story of Ragnarok, the Viking version of the Apocalypse. Odin, the All-father, imprisoned the ‘trickster’ god Loki deep in the Earth, where this evil god waits for his chance to take his revenge on both mankind and Odin. Only Odin’s Runestones, Stonehenge-like monoliths, hold the disaster of Ragnarok at bay – and when Ragnarok comes, Loki will be set free to loose his evil on the world.
As or story begins you take on the persona of Ragnar, a young warrior of his village. He has just been appointed a member of the Runestone guardians of his town, an honored position only given to those who have trained hard in combat and have bested the strongest fighters in the village. You are immediately given your first quest – to face the ‘weapons master’ of the village in single combat. This simple quest also serves as an introduction to player movement and armed combat in the game.
As soon as you accomplish your task, a surprise awaits: the news that a once-trusted Viking warrior, Conrack, has turned to the dark side and has joined the cause of Loki. With a band of fellow betrayers, he has besieged the Runestones of Midgard (the name the Vikings gave their kingdom) and is destroying them in an attempt to win Loki’s favor and bring about Ragnarok, the End of the World. Another in-engine cinematic depicts an epic sea battle between Ragnar, his father and fellow Runestone guardians against Conrack and his minions; using the dark power given to him by Loki, Conrack is able to destroy his foes utterly and send their boat to the bottom of the ocean.
Only Ragnar is spared, and by Odin’s own hand. Hoping to prevent Ragnarok and the release of Loki, Odin chooses Ragnar as his instrument in the battle against Conrack, setting him on a quest to defeat him and protect the remaining Runestones. But Raganar has his own motivation: revenge for the death of his father. In his long quest to find Conrack’s castle and wreak his revenge, he will meet with all manner of beasts both mythological and all too real, and travel from the depths of Hel to the highest Nordic peaks.