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Runers Review

Math magician

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As unassuming as its visuals are, Runers is an unexpected pleasure. High-fantasy dungeon crawling with roguelike elements and a post-euphoric soundtrack make for an uncommon experience. This, in combination with fever-clicking addictiveness and a staggering catalogue of classes, buffs and debuffs, is what makes Runers unique.

The mathematical ramifications are many. You’re treated to some nineteen classes, each with their own special move, and a further nineteen passive abilities. Skills range from overall stat boosts, to reduced cooldowns, as well as increased bullet output, greater speed, and the like. You choose from one of ten starter spells, too. Even before heading out to battle you’re presented with a wonderful autonomy over the kind of character you’ll play. Which is good because there isn’t much room for error.

Runers borrows permadeath, as well as procedurally generated stages, from the roguelike manifesto, and embellishes things with rooms full of grumpy monsters. Each room’s multiple exits slam shut as you enter the area and only open again once all foes are vanquished. And there’s dozens of enemies to fend off at a time. Giant rats charge you, pointy-hatted wizards shoot flames and barbs of ice at different angles, and globular pustules spew out colourful gassy clouds.

Runers isn’t shy in giving you what feels like a hundred things to consider, and no time to consider it. Thinking on the go is key, and the frenetic nature of every encounter is such that the game’s greatest asset, runes, or the selection thereof, becomes ever more important.

The impressive array of 140 enemies and numerous class/buff combinations are dwarfed by the staggering number of spells available. There’s 285 in total, which can be forged from runes gathered as random drops from enemies. Any mix of two or three runes, based on elemental properties, can be combined to create spells with more powerful effects.

You might start by simply crafting slightly stronger spells from the runes at hand. It’s more likely, though, as time progresses, that you’ll end up indulging in the impressive and varied range and trajectory of your bag of tricks, forging more complex spells as you go.

Some projectiles fire in waves, straight lines, or circles; some shoot in several directions at once; some are larger than others; some are best used defensively, emitting short-range AOE effects – the choice is exceptional.

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Of course, you’ll soon establish favourites. There’s no persistence between runs, but you keep a spell book that contains any discoveries you’ve already made. Runers is particularly challenging out in the field but it does well to afford you the tools and time to equip yourself properly.

Picking your punches is important. As you earn runes and craft spells, you assign your two primaries to the left and right mouse buttons. More spells can be assigned to the number keys, but you can only fire off so many shots at once. Choosing a balanced mix of range, potency, and bullet size and speed is fundamental – as well as which attacks you’ll assign for more frequent use.

At its most intense (and it gets very intense), Runers fills each room with innumerable projectiles and rampant attackers. The dichotomy between calmly scanning your Runedex for spells and dropping everything and frantically dodging bullets is striking. The occasional rooms containing only loot crates and nothing else hold an uneasy calm.

Runers‘ levelling system adds to the game’s strategic element too. Each time you level up, or progress to a different stage, you’re awarded a choice of buffs to add to your character. As per usual, there’s enough variety to these to let you influence your path significantly. Taking on all rooms on a given level before descending to the next is incentivised well by the extra XP on offer. Further exploration reveals challenge rooms, too. These might contain puzzles or mini tower defence modes which, if completed successfully, yield yet more stat boosts.

With so many positive facets, Runers occasional negatives stand out. For one, it’s a shame controller support isn’t included. Space is often at a premium, and not having an analogue input to flit past enemies and grab pickups on the go often makes things tricky. Even so, it’s a minor gripe as you’re still afforded enough control that you feel responsible when things go wrong. Runers never fails to give you enough rope.

Visually Runers isn’t particularly varied either. In the heat of battle rooms are alight with brilliant colour permeating your periphery, but the lulls between fights reveal rooms to be rather bland. There’s a few different tile-sets but environments all feel much the same from run to run.

It’s a shame, too, that the top-down view is from so far out. Sitting at a PC you can just about make out the details of the game’s cutesy sprites, but Runers isn’t one to enjoy in Big Picture mode from your couch.

There’s plenty of ten dollar games knocking around on Steam. If you’re picking your next purchase based on visuals alone, you could be forgiven for overlooking Runers in favour of something more eye-catching. Ignore the functional aesthetic. Runers is a dungeon-crawler of exceptional variety, surprising levels of pre-planning and strategy, and combat both feverish and addictive.

Edit: Whether it was me being crap or a content update, controller support is now included. There’s now fuller control of your character with the analogue stick and your four active spells are assigned to the shoulder buttons. All the new mapping seems to work well.

TheGamersHub Score
Reviewer: Leo McCloskey
+ Pros

+ Hugely enjoyable combat

+ Opportunity to strategise uncommon in games of the type

+ Wonderful variety of spells, buffs, runes and enemies

+ There's a great challenge mode too

- Cons

- Functional, but basic visuals

- Lack of controller support

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