Explore a magical dungeon filled to the brim with fierce monsters and deadly bosses. Advance further into the dungeon to gather runes and use them to conjure over 250 spells as you travel through procedurally generated floors in search of the ultimate challenge!
Do you think games are too easy nowadays? Many people do, and because of that, there has been a recent resurgence of extremely difficult and unforgiving games popping up all over the video game market. These range from big releases, like Dark Souls, to smaller indie games, like FTL: Faster Than Light. Runers belongs in the latter category, being developed by the only two employees of LGK (Let’s Get Kraken) Games; this game is the very definition of indie.
You begin the game as a no-name adventurer starting his/her journey into the bowels of a vast dungeon. From the outset, you get to choose three options that will build your character. First, you must select a passive ability. This determines what bonus will help your character through the dungeon, and they can vary wildly. There are 15 bonuses to choose from, with one remaining to be unlocked. These bonuses range from defense bonuses, attack modifications, and stat boosts. Most have pros and cons that you need to choose between. Once your passive is selected, you must choose your class, of which there are also 15 to select from. Each class has specific active abilities that can further augment your efficiency in combat. Lastly, you must select your starting spell. There are ten to choose from, and vary pretty significantly. For example, the Kindle (fireball) spell is slow moving, but has high damage, whereas the Spark (lightning) spell is extremely fast and has an almost non-existent cool down timer, but damage is much lower. Now, you’re ready to jump into the game.
The game is split into floors, each of which have multiple rooms that you can explore. You must make your way through these rooms in search of the stairs that will lead you to the next floor down, and on to more powerful enemies and boss encounters. Each room has several properties that can dramatically shift how you play. Some rooms have buff modifiers, which may increase or decrease the power of certain spell types, or may even raise or lower movement speeds. Other rooms have specific challenges that you must complete. Successful completion of said challenges rewards you with a myriad of items or stat bonuses.
The game plays similar to some “twin-stick” shooters you may have played in the past. The game plays out in a top-down perspective, and you use the WASD keys to move swiftly around the room while you fire off spells at encroaching enemies. New spells can be created, or existing spells can be powered up by collecting Runes, the main mechanic of this game. Killing enemies or completing challenges can drop more Runes for you to further your spellcraft. There are multiple kinds of runes, mainly focusing around elements (water, fire, etc.) and different kinds of magic (dark, light, etc.). Existing spells can be upgraded by finding the matching runes. Alternatively, you can hold on to runes and collect another important item, Combiners. There are two kinds of Combiner, Double and Triple. Double and Triple Combiners allow you to combine 2 or 3 runes of any kind, to make entirely new spells that usually have wildly different properties. There are over 250 variations, and the main crux of the game is finding the best ones that suit your play style.
With all of this considered, the game controls fairly well. As mentioned before, you must use the WASD keys to move your character, the mouse to aim, the left/right mouse keys to fire of equipped spells. You also have your Active ability, which can be activated with the Q key. The controls slightly fall apart when you try to equip more than two spells. You have the option to equip four spells from the outset, and you can unlock two more slots later in the game, for a total of six. These extra spells are activated by hitting the number keys, which tends to be a problem in the heat of things. The game moves extremely quickly, and having to take a finger off the WASD pad to hit one of the numbers often results in lost health or death. I found myself almost never using anything besides the main two spells tied to my mouse. Anything else was too much of a hassle.
The game itself looks rough, but it works for this style of game. The enemy designs are all uniquely designed and there is a huge number of them (around 140). Environments are decidedly stale, but that is definitely not the main focus of this game. You are blasting through rooms to fast, you barely have time to even see the enemies, let alone the boring color palette. Menus could definitely use some love, but they are overall functional, and expansive. The game features a full bestiary and Runedex, which logs all of the creatures and different spells you have discovered.
The sound design in the game is simple, but well done. There isn’t much variance in the musical choices, but the tunes are fairly catchy, as I found myself humming along more than once. Enemies grunt, squeal and yell as they fall beneath your magical onslaught, which brought me back to playing old-school RTS games, complete with corny-sounding death wails. The only part of the sound design I really disliked was the sounds of certain spells. Since you are CONSTANTLY spamming your spells, many of the spell sound effects tend to get grating, to the point where I had to turn off the sound and just listen to my own music.
The game is also EXTREMELY difficult. I found myself playing on “Wimpy,” the easiest difficulty, and having a very hard time getting past even the third floor. The bosses, which pop up every third floor, are extremely challenging, and permadeath makes these encounters extremely intense, and failure very frustrating.
+ Huge array of spells
+ Variety in enemies
+ Fun music
- Too difficult
- Annoying sound effects