Runers

Runers is the debut game by 2-man indie studio Let’s Get Kracken.
Aside from having an excellent name (in my opinion, anyway), the studio responsible for Runers is notable for their claim that they started their studio to ‘make games they want to play.’ Now to me that’s interesting, as it indicates that a certain amount of TLC has gone into the creation of their game.The game itself is a Rouge-like RPG set in a fantasy universe where the player must explore a magical dungeon full of various gribbly baddies, collect magical runes and generally slaughter all everything in your path as you progress. Now I’m not exactly sure what your character’s motivation is in doing this, as there isn’t really much of a story involved, but that’s actually fine. There’s enough to take in and try to get your head around without having to worry about a complicated plot. You’re a wizard, there’s a dungeon, go fight stuff.
Speaking of fighting stuff, it’s quickly apparent that you have just a couple of options when it comes to building your Runer. Firstly, you have to select your race and class. Sounds simple? Think again. There’s 20 choices for both race and class (although one race and one class are locked initially), and there’s no restriction on what combination you choose. That’s a lot of options right off the bat, as each race has their own passive bonuses, and each class has their own special ability. For example, the class/race combo I’ve had most fun with is playing as a Paladin with the Blessing (race) of Efreet. That’s “Fire-Djinn” for those who don’t know.
Now the reason I’ve enjoyed this combo should give you an idea of what I mean when I say that, while there is a lot of choices available, there do seem to be some combinations that synergise very well together. Take my Paladin: He’s an Efreet, which means that any time an enemy touches him, that enemy will be set on fire for a short time. This is nice on it’s own as the game has a lot of melee enemies, but it also combos nicely with the paladin class ability. Class abilities are activated in game by (Default) pressing the Q key. The Paladin’s ability causes you to release a circle of damaging energy bolts every time you take damage. Between that and the Efreet’s natural fire, hordes of rats, bats, slimes and even tougher foes simply cease to exist. And that’s BEFORE you start casting spells.
And I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, there is a -lot- of spell variety.
This variety comes from the rune system. There are 10 different kinds of runes in the game, and each rune can be activated to create a basic spell. However, using items called Combiners, you are able to mix different runes together to create more powerful spells. Combiners come in double- and triple-combiner variants, allowing the player to create spells using up to three runes at a time. This results in an incredible 285 unique spells available in the game. This alone would ensure that no two runs would be the same, but in true rouge-like fashion, the levels in Runers are procedurally generated, meaning different combinations of rooms, enemies, drops and bosses each time you enter the dungeon.
But that’s STILL not enough. In addition to all this, there are certain rooms that contain Auras and Events. Auras are a room-wide buff, or debuff that will only effect the player, and Events are challenges that begin when you touch the circle in the centre of the room.
Fortunately, the game has a good tutorial, and the first floor is easy enough that you do get some time to experiment and learn the game mechanics before things get too hectic. The only information the game withholds is the Runedex – a guide to the game’s Runes and Spells. This becomes very useful after you’ve played a couple of runs, but initially it’s blank, filling up only when you combine new runes to make new spells. Which is fine, until you’re on floor 3, with a full inventory of runes and still haven’t found a combiner. Suddenly one drops, and you hurriedly clear the room, desperate to finally get a spell more useful that whatever basic magic you started with and… the spell you just created is utility. Or a buff. Or otherwise not useful to you at the moment. It’s frustrating to say the least, but it’s sort of to be expected. It’s the “downside” to having so much choice. I say downside in quotes because while it -is- annoying, its not going to happen often, especially after you start filling up the runedex.
The potential flaw is the fact that there are only 10 floors of dungeon to explore, according to the steam page, and while they are procedurally generated, the enemies you encounter on each floor tend to be the same, just in different places. This can lead to some frustrating situations, where you encounter a room that you are simply unprepared to deal with. And that does happen. As I said above, the downside to having so much variety in a game that focusses on random drops is that the game will not necessarily drop you the runes you need to progress. Of course all of the runes can be used and there is no ‘right’ choice, but everyone will find themselves with their own individual playstyle with their own set of preferred spells. Which is great, until the game doesn’t let you craft them.

However, this is to be expected of a rouge-like game, and for every frustrating run where nothing you want drops, there’s an amazing one, where you get everything you want, and proceed to destroy everything ever.
Anyway, on to scoring:

Gameplay and Controls – Controls are fairly standard, WASD to move, left and right mouse as well as 1234 to cast spells, and full mouse support for aiming and inventory control. The gameplay is solid, as I have said above, with the developers having done a good job balancing the game so as not to have any ‘right’ way to play. 4/5

Sound and Music – The soundtrack is simple, but at the same time it has a nice feel to it. It fits nicely into the background and doesn’t distract you from unleashing death upon your enemies. When you stop and listen to it, you’ll find the music of the game to be pretty good all in all. The sound effects are decidedly meh, with enemy hit noises ranging from irritating to full on annoying (looking at you Light Elementals…) Fortunately, you can turn those off. 3/5

Graphics – The graphics style is very retro, giving off a little bit of an NES feel with the pixelated style. However, it does the retro look well, and there’s enough distinction between enemies, spells and aura ect that nothing gets confusing. 4/5

Story/immersion/replay-ability – Replay-ability. That seems to be what the devs were going for here. Forget story: there’s a little bit of narrative when you change floors, and there’s a bit of lore in the bestiary, and that’s it. However, as I said, the replay-ability of the game is where it’s main strength lies, with so many combinations of classes, races, runes and spells available. I’ve played nearly 12 hours of this game already, and I’ve not even come close to discovering all the spells, let alone all the combinations of spells, classes ect. 5/5

Final Score – This game does what it does very well. Exploring the dungeon doesn’t get boring, although it can be frustrating at times, and some of the spell combinations can give you a real feel of being a powerful mage as you unleash them on your foes. However, if you’re not a fan of the genre already, you may want to avoid it as the sheer amount of stuff in the game could be daunting for those new to rouge-likes. 16/20

Watch The Trailer Here