Format – PC
Top-down shooters are always a lot of fun but are often criticized for lacking depth. Roguelikes have depth to spare but can sometimes be ponderous exercises in walking about and dying. Aiming to address the flaws of both genres, Runers combines them together, marrying the immediacy of a shooter with the difficulty and random level generation of a roguelike. Coming from fresh indie studio Lets Get Kraken, I gave it a go.
What immediately struck me about Runers was it’s state of completion. A lot of placeholder text and UI features remain at this stage, which is apt considering the amount of work the game needs. The main menu is functional and the tutorial, while necessary, whips through the game’s deep rune combination system way too fast and with basic boxes of text, making it difficult to fully grasp the concept.
Once in, I chose from one of 16 races and 16 classes, an overwhelming number. The former grant permanent stat changes and the latter a special ability. While it’s nice to have a lot of choice, I can’t help but fee it makes all the options less distinct; although that could be intentional. After that I chose my starting spell, with no tooltips to tell me what any of them do. Picking the Magic Missile from the tutorial, I proceeded.
The levels, at present, don’t feature any floor tiles, which seems like an odd omission with the game in Early Access. Thankfully it does have doors, so navigating around the randomly generated dungeons is straightforward. I killed a few boxes and tree stumps before popping through a door to my right. Instantly, i’m swamped by 30-or-so rats, I died my first death.
In subsequent runs I managed to find a few runes and try out the game’s novel rune combination system. Sticking a single rune in the combiner produces a basic spell indicative of the runes element. For me, an Air rune produced a sort of air blast spell. Easy enough. The depth comes from combining multiple types of rune into new and interesting combinations, with new combinations being unlocked in the Runedex (a Rune-pedia of sorts) for later runs. However, special items are needed to combine 2 or more runes together and unfortunately I never managed to find any. I also have a feeling this could hinder the joy of crafting new spells on the fly and I feel the combiner items may have been added to stop someone crafting all the spells too quickly. Considering the sheer number of combinations, though, I don’t think it’s something Let’s Get Kraken need to worry about.
While Runers is clearly a roguelike in that you’re meant to fail and try again multiple times, some serious work needs doing on the balancing. At the very start of a run, on the lowest difficulty setting, I would regularly walk into a room brimming with enemies. They would zigzag around avoiding my spells or just rush me in a large group and chomp my health away in seconds. I didn’t feel like I could have beaten them or that I learned anything from my death; a key necessity of roguelikes. I simply wasn’t powerful enough to take on that many enemies at that stage and unfortunately, that sort of experience was a common feature in all of my runs.
Areas for Development
- Level Design
- Rethink the Combiner items
- Difficulty Balancing
- More Engaging Tutorial
Runers shows potential. The rune combining system is novel and clearly has depth. The graphics are basic but well-drawn and with a little more work the environments could be interesting. With the jumble of text and so many missing pieces, it’s difficult to judge exactly how good Runers could be, but I’m confident that with a lot of work it could stand out as a unique title well worth playing. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
Technical Competency – 6/10
Graphic/Sound Quality – 5/10
Network Stability – N/A
Current Quality Grade – 5/10