Rune Raiders is a fun but flawed fantasy experience
Rune Raiders takes the turn based strategy dungeon crawler formula and boils it down to the bare minimum essence of the genre. It’s light on story, graphics, music and seemingly every other metric for judging a game. For instance, the on-screen representation of your heroes are just pictures of their faces moving around a grid. Yet for a weirdly stripped down game it’s compelling enough to be worth a look, though it might take some explaining.
Rune Raiders presents a top down perspective with the ground divided into a grid. As you step forward up the screen the ground actually passes beneath you, sort of like it’s on a conveyer belt. Your character markers do move a bit up and down and of course left to right, but most of the time they’ll be in the bottom 3rd of the screen while the ground passes by underfoot.
It’s strange, but with the grid based combat employed it does work. It actually really reminds me of combat in Dungeons and Dragons, which is also grid based. Of course in that you’re using dice and little miniatures, but the vibe in the same. Your elf has a range of X squares with his bow, and if you’re within that range, he fires. Same goes for the other classes, which depending on their class and weapons have varying mobility and attack range.
The different classes fall into the standard fantasy fare, with your stout dwarves being slow, strong and defensive in nature, and your wizards in their cloth robes preferring to stay out of the way and lob magic from afar. This all comes into play as you move around the various levels, making sure to protect who needs protecting and trying to pull enemies into the line of fire.
Before you start each mission, you’re able to bring along whatever party members you can afford – clearly this world is filled with nothing but sell-swords. You’ll earn money by killing baddies and grabbing treasure. Once you spend the money you want, you’re off to the dungeon. Best not to spend all your cash before heading off to adventure though, because if one of your heroes falls in combat you’ll need to shell out some of that cash to revive them. Money makes the world go round.
The problem is that since you can go back and re-run the same missions over and over, you can grind them out enough to essentially break the game. Bang your head against the same levels a bit and you’ll be flush with cash and upgraded past the point of game balance. It sort of forces you to either make the game harder than it needs to be to stay pure to the developer’s vision, or totally tilt the game in your favor
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever really played a game like Rune Raiders before. Not to say that’s good or bad mind you, it’s just a weird one to place. Sure, it’s turn based strategy at its core, but the movement and treadmill vibe from the levels make it feel a bit different. I enjoyed the light tactics and once I got used to the movement I found it to be quite enjoyable. While I wish there was something of a storyline to hinge myself on, I had fun battling through baddies nonetheless.