Rune (video game)
|Developer(s)||Human Head Studios|
|Publisher(s)||Gathering of Developers (Windows)
Loki Software (Linux)
|Engine||Unreal Engine 1|
November 18, 2000
June 21, 2001
|Genre(s)||Action, hack and slash|
Rune is an action video game developed by Human Head Studios which was released in 2000. The game is based on Norse mythology, showing the conflict between the gods Odin and Loki and the buildup to Ragnarok, the end of the world. Built on the Unreal Engine, the game allows players to explore a fully realized Viking world.
Upon release Rune received mixed though generally positive reviews. A standalone expansion to the game, called Rune: Halls of Valhalla, was released in 2001. It as well as its expansion was also ported to Linux by Loki Software. Ryan C. Gordon, a former Loki employee, would also later port Human Head's 2006 title Prey. A port to the PlayStation 2 was also released under the title Rune: Viking Warlord in 2001. The game was re-released digitally under the name Rune Classic in 2012.
The game casts the player as Ragnar, a young Viking warrior. It follows a fantasy plot based on Norse mythology. The various enemies Ragnar faces include among others man-eating fish, goblins, zombies, Norse dwarves and other Vikings. As the game goes on, as in most games of its type, better weapons are accumulated. Late in the game you find yourself wielding weapons of enormous size, even though most weapons maintain their usefulness to the end.
Weapons in Rune are divided into three categories: swords, axes, and maces/hammers. Each of the three classes have five weapons, ordered below in increasing size. Each weapon has a unique "Rune Power" that can be activated for a short period of time when the player has gathered sufficient energy from runes. Shields may be equipped along with the first three weapons of each class. Weapons of tier 4 and 5 are twohanded, and may not be used along with shields. Besides these standard weapons, other items such as torches and severed limbs may also be equipped to be used as weapons. While high-tier weapons tend to be preferable in singleplayer games, all tiers are considered somewhat equal for multiplayer situations due to balancing factors such as speed. Despite this fact, the three most widely used[according to whom?] weapons in Rune multiplayer are the Dwarven Battleaxe, the Dwarven Battlehammer and the Dwarven Worksword - two tier 5 weapons and one tier 4.
Although rather linear, Ragnar does not need to kill everything in sight (common in games of the time) to travel from one level to the next. In some levels, players have found alternative ways of getting through to the next level. However, particular scripted pawns must be activated (killed, moved or tripped) in key zones to initiate certain actions to continue and move the story along.
Rune multiplayer is a game of spatial orientation in which opponents manoeuvre around each other, feinting and swinging in and out of range and attempting to score hits on each other. There are a variety of attacks available to the player at any one time, dictated by the weapon they hold at that moment. However, it is not solely the variety of moves but also range, timing and position that determine the winner. The geometries of each swing are immutable - thus players are able to fine tune their movement to precisions of a few pixels, and accurately behead their opponents. The inclusion of instant death via beheading or one-hit-kill weapons has an interesting effect on multiplayer gameplay - no matter how much of an advantage a player has over an opponent, there is always the risk of loss.
The actual playability of the multiplayer aspect of Rune is also quite an important feature of the game, and is especially influenced by the vast majority of the Rune gaming community. While Rune is arguably an outdated game by now, it still retains a sizeable multiplayer community of active players. The Rune multiplayer community has had significant problems with cheating and exploits since the release, perhaps culminating in a notable scandal in 2005 where several respected members of the by then declining community were discovered to have used disallowed commands to enhance their performance. The trend was more or less reversed with the sudden appearance of numerous anti-exploit mutators, although as a result the community is characterized by lingering suspicion.
There had been demand to have a Cooperative (Coop) Teamplay mode added to the Multiplayer aspect. However, the developers were unable to make one in time before the game's October 29, 2000 release. Some community members decided to make one instead and a "Co-op" team was organized to take on the challenge. Upon learning about the project, Human Head Studios offered the team any help needed to complete the task.
Based on the Single Player 45 levels and content (with a few alterations) the Rune Cooperative Teamplay was one of the first major mods. Within a few months after Rune's release, a full 45 level "Coop" Mod conversion was completed and announced as a free download June 11, 2001. A few months later, the final version (v1.2) was announced December 27, 2001 as a free download. However to play it, a special 1.07 patch would have been needed to install. Yet despite this, the Coop, (along with other "Rune" mods) have added to the game's popularity and continuing gameplay over the years.
The story begins when the player, as Ragnar, is initiated into the Odinsblade, an order of warriors sworn to protect the runestones, magical creations of Odin which bind the evil god, Loki and prevent him from unleashing Ragnarok - the end of the world. Ragnar then must face Ulf, the strongest fighter in the village, to be truly considered a warrior. After the battle is concluded, a warrior bursts into the scene and informs the two that a Viking known as Conrack and his men are attacking an allied village. The three then depart for the village's longship, to do battle.
Ragnar, his father, Ulf and the rest of his village's warriors encounter Conrack and his men at sea. Ragnar's father is about to order his men to attack, when Conrack calls upon Loki and destroys the ship with a surge of lightning from above. All the men on the longship die, and slip into the sea. After a while, Odin calls to Ragnar, telling him it is not yet his time to die. Ragnar recovers and swims to safety in an underwater cave. Ragnar then proceeds through the caverns, doing battle with a vast array of monsters. He eventually enters the land of the dead, domain of Loki's daughter, Hel.
Passing through the Underworld and facing the ghastly undead, Ragnar learns the enemy's plan: Conrack's carnage sends many dishonored souls to Hel's domain, who in turn gives them to Loki to transform into an army which will conquer the world. After fighting his way through Hel, Ragnar is captured by goblins and fights their beast in the trial pit. He defeats the beast and escapes goblin lands riding on a giant flying beetle. When he emerges from the caverns, he stands before Thorstadt, the mountain fortress of Conrack, and fights his way through it to a Temple of Loki. Inside, Sigurd - Conrack's right arm - confronts his master about all the destruction and asks him to drop the charade of worshipping Loki. Conrack states that Sigurd has outlived his usefulness, and sends two of the transformed dishonored to kill him, then escapes. Ragnar enters the scene and stands before the dying warrior. Sigurd informs Ragnar that he is the last of the Odinsblade, and saving the world is up to him, then dies.
Ragnar follows Conrack, and ends up in the land of the Dwarves. In Rune, Dwarves are depicted as short, stocky, purple beings. He travels through the industrial powerhouse of the dwarven land and learns that the dwarves are supplying weaponry and armor for Loki's new sinister armies. Odin then tasks Ragnar to murder the dwarf king, whose will holds the dwarves' allegiance to Loki together. The king has apparently proclaimed himself a semi-god, and resides in a great temple dedicated to himself. Ragnar enters battle with the king, and he uses the great machine that bestows the king's powers upon him to destroy him.
Ragnar travels deep below the earth and to the castle of Loki himself. Odin tells Ragnar that even he will not be able to contact him whilst he transverses through Loki's realm. Ragnar discovers that it is Loki's blood that transforms Hel's undead warriors to the monsters of Loki's armies. He passes through the castle and Loki's maze, arriving at the holding chamber of Loki himself. It is here Ragnar faces Conrack at last, and attacks him. Conrack soon learns that he is no match for Ragnar's power, and is knocked into a river of Loki's blood, which, at first, is agonising for him. However, the great stone snake which binds Loki drips acid onto his gaping chest wound, causing him to scream with rage. The spectacle turns the green blood purple. Conrack rises out of the river, reborn in Loki's image as a hideous monster. Conrack reveals to Ragnar that Loki's armies are invading Midgard and are destroying Odin's runestones left and right. He leaps over Ragnar onto a high cliff, and escapes. Ragnar is then attacked by two of his creatures, but bests them. He, however, is trapped in the pit of Loki. With no other choice, he leaps into the purple blood.
Ragnar emerges from the river as a powerful being, but an abomination, one of Loki's creatures. Loki tries to persuade Ragnar to stay with him and join his armies. He refuses and leaps from the pit, chasing after Conrack. He escapes from Loki's castle and makes his way through caverns out into the world above. He then stands witness to the devastation wrought by Loki's armies. Loki mocks him, but he presses on. His fellow warriors no longer recognize him, and attack him on sight. Ragnar finally arrives home, only to see it totally destroyed. Loki offers one last time to join him, and Conrack sends his men forward to destroy the runestone and Ragnar. There are two possible outcomes of the game, depending on what the player does here.
Canonical good ending
Ragnar marches forward upon Conrack's men and destroys them utterly. He then turns his sights upon Conrack and does battle against him. Conrack is still no match for Ragnar and is defeated. Odin speaks to Ragnar, telling him that the people of his village are safe in the hands of his servant Bragi. He informs Ragnar that he has succeeded and Ragnarok has been averted. Loki, full of bitterness and rage, has his cave filled in by Odin, thwarted for the time being. Odin then opens up a portal in his last runestone, telling Ragnar to step through and join him at his side as the first living warrior to enter Asgard. Ragnar complies. Ragnar enters Odin's realm and finds himself restored to his human form. Beckoned by Odin, Ragnar runs over Bifröst and enters the Halls of Valhalla.
Ragnar strides up the hill toward the last runestone and shatters it. As soon as this happens, Loki is freed from his underground prison. The last we see of Ragnar is that he is crucified in the cave Loki was captive in. Loki then takes over all of Midgard.
Human Head Studios licensed Epic Games' "Unreal Engine" and made several enhancements to it, including a skeletal animation system, a new particle effects system, and an enhanced shadowing system. Although made using the Unreal Engine, Rune is a third-person perspective game without any shooting. The weapons used in the game include swords, axes, maces, and other mediæval/fantasy melee weapons. Despite using an engine made for shooting, the interface lends itself well to a playing style consisting of running, jumping, and hacking at opponents.
An innovative feature of the game is that anything dropped by a dead opponent can be picked up and used. This extends to include body parts. Limbs can be swung as clubs, and heads can be carried and used as weapons. Although the game includes no ranged weapons, any weapon can be thrown. The handaxe is a commonly thrown weapon because of the range and speed with which it travels through the air.
Both Rune and Rune: Halls of Valhalla (HOV) were released with their own RuneEd toolkits which the community quickly used making several popular multiplayer mods (coop, CTT—capture the torch, 'bots, etc.). Although a few single player addons have been made, it is Rune's multiplayer aspect has been the focus of several mutators, skins, and hundreds of maps that are available through many clan and resource websites.
In 2004 the source header files were released freely by Human Head.
Upon release the game received mixed though generally positive reviews, with the PlayStation 2 port being more heavily criticized than the original PC version. Rune currently holds a rating of 76 at the review aggregator website Metacritic, as well as scores of 77.12% at GameRankings and 82 from MobyGames.