"Along with the grid layout system of the map, the other noticeable difference between this title and a typical rogue-like is that it's action- based rather than a turn-based."
First of all, what is there not to like in a rogue-like dungeon crawling game? The internet is literally bursting with a thousand different “me-too!” clones of games in this genre, each looking to be the next biggest hit. If you don’t find one you like, well, there’s always another one! Some games pull of the rogue-like elements well, such as Rogue Legacy, and some fail horribly. How does “Runers” by Mastertronic fare? Read on, brave warrior!
This game has all of the elements – permadeath, random enemies, random loot drops, and randomly sorted levels – everything you would ever expect. Along with the grid layout system of the map, the other noticeable difference between this title and a typical rogue-like is that it's action- based rather than a turn-based. That makes this game more in line with “The Binding of Isaac” and less of a slow strategy type like a classic rogue-like. And that’s not a bad thing since it’s worked so well for other games, but it is a marked difference to the genre that this game imitates. Think Robotron or Gridwars rather than a classic turn based RPG. Runers is played from a top-down view and you move about killing monsters, picking up runes or health and moving on to the next room or going down stairs. If that were all the game did, it’d receive a clap on the back a “well you tried” and you’d never play it again. What sets it apart and above is the spell combining system. The runes you find scatted along the dungeon all relate to a basic element such as fire, water, chaos, electricity, etc. What makes the runes such powerful objects is that the each impart a different ability and you are able to combine them together for spells that share the qualities of each rune. The combiners themselves are difficult to find, but you can always craft the single runes to create a basic spell and then dump your runes into that to make it more powerful. Be careful, though, or you’ll end up kicking yourself when you finally get a combiner and have no more runes to use.
"Multiple hit spells like chain lightning are invaluable while also being hard to aim. You’re lucky that you move faster than anything else, at least at the lower levels."
The controls are your basic W A S D for movement and your mouse for aiming. They have added controller support, but there’s no way to change the sensitivity and your spells and movement are almost slapdash – it feels as if you’re moving across ice and your targeted spells are very difficult to aim. I ended up switching to the tried and true keyboard controls. Your spells have a very small hit box and you need to aim quite carefully to hit your targets – unless of course you end up using magic with the “increased bullet size” buff. You usually end up running around the room in a big circle while throwing spells haphazardly towards the middle and hoping you kill something. I’m a big “Fire and Forget, AOE” damage kind of mage. You know, the kind that’s always exploding enemies into bright puffs of blood and gore and then looking distraught because I’ve just ruined my shoes… again. So the multiple hit spells like chain lightning are invaluable while also being hard to aim. You’re lucky that you move faster than anything else, at least at the lower levels.
Some of the spells in the game have a whiney pitch to them and that, coupled with a quick cast time, makes your speakers either sound like you are in a techno club or a car alarm is going off. The element of the spell seems to have no effect on the mobs when they are hit. Nailing fire monsters with water doesn’t increase the damage done or give them a debuff, and neither does hitting a water monster with electricity or earth. It’s mostly all about maximizing your DPS and casting speed. As far as I can tell, all of the buffs you can cast only affect your DPS or movement and none of them grant you extra health.
"The spell crafting is not as in-depth or involved like Lichdom: Battlemage but it’s also not trying to be."
The level design is simplistic and it’s hard to get lost. While the room structure is random, along with room buffs and debuffs, it’s always laid out in a grid pattern in your mini-map. Some rooms have special events such as “Protect the escort” or “Don’t get hit by all these fireballs, mwuahahaha!” That helps change the pace of the game but I’m always hitting them with a certain amount of trepidation. Some are very difficult but they provide excellent rewards. Other rooms may increase bullet size (for you AND the enemy) or slow everyone down or a ton of other things.
All in all it is a game I can see myself picking up once in a while to blow off stress, but it’s not the number one game in my Steam library. While it has a lot going for it, the deep customization of your starting traits and race and the random game design, it still feels a little raw. The 16 bit graphics do the game justice and the music is adequate. I don’t see myself booting the game up just to listen to the music. There are regular updates and as of this writing the publisher has released a multiplayer patch (beta) that I have yet to try. The game feels almost unfinished due to its lack of polish, but the regular updates from the publisher shows that they have a lot more to show us. The game is a solid 7. The spell crafting is not as in-depth or involved like “Lichdom: Battlemage” but it’s also not trying to be. There’s much here to love and more content seems to be on the way. The lack of polish on a released title (not early access) is telling but could be resolved by the publisher with future updates.
Review by: Mark Brenner | Reviewed on: PC