Not much about runes, but plenty about raiding, it’s Rune Raiders 2! Well, at least, we are hoping that there would be a sequel. The first was fun and enjoyable to play, though it did have its downsides. Hopefully the developers would take note of some of the parts where they could have done a bit better so that the next game would be more fun to play. Rune Raiders places you in control of a small team of heroes as you go off and slay monsters and other vile creatures in order to fulfill some command or other from a king who keeps leaving missives in the middle of a field map.
Rune Raiders will have you wondering about the title of the game –after all, you would expect that Runes would play a big part of the game. They are mentioned in the story, and the story has not much bearing on the overall game, so expect the runes to be perpetually absent for the most part. It really does not matter, the game is easy to pick up and play –it does not require any previous gaming experience to master. The controls are intuitive and the challenge level is very forgiving. In fact, if you wanted to give a complete RPG newbie a good primer, this is it.
Everything You Wanted to Know about Monster Bashing
Rune Raider’s biggest charm is the straightforward battles. No long narratives, no enemy monologues, no annoying puzzles; just straight up swords, arrows, axes, magic, and whatnot being thrown all over the place. There is a strong strategic element in the game that is important if you want to get into the meat of it. In fact, some stages are impossible to finish without using a strategy. Still, it does not require you to twist your mind inside out. Once you figure out how to deploy your heroes in an efficient manner, it all becomes a matter of determining the fastest way to exterminate the enemies one at a time.
The next Rune Raiders game would benefit greatly from the implementation of deeper strategies that take more than just range and movement into consideration. Factors such as defense against certain attack types, magic elements, and direction would be useful. Also, allowing characters to change the direction they are facing would change the way people deploy units –as this would enable formations that compensate against enemies coming from the sides.
Monsters should also pose a more strategic danger –as opposed to just being plenty in number. When monster units move in formation and attack as small squads –as opposed to just randomly charging at the player, a greater focus on planning is involved and players will get to do more than to keep recycling old tactics.
Of course, nothing else spices up combat like new skills. Since manual usage of skills is not an integral part of the game (if anything it would be nothing short of detracting), then the developers should be more creative in creating new passive abilities. Skills that provide defense as well as offense you be useful. Such as ninja units being able to make enemies miss or make them aim at decoys, or soldier types automatically protecting adjacent allies with their shields for reduced or nullified damage. Even existing support units like the healing cleric would be more useful if they were also able to provide buffs when all allies have full HP (more useful than standing around doing absolutely nothing).
Making It Epic
The most underwhelming facets of the first Rune Raiders was the artwork –the character designs were simple, the stages looked tired and old, and the enemies were for the most part, unimaginative. The things about strategy games is that they are visually unattractive once you take out all the fancy spells, awesome attacks, and impressive character artwork –none of which are present in Rune Raiders. Sure, you get a pretty blank slate, plenty of focus on the actual combat system and a no-frills gameplay. If the game were more in depth with calculations, the lack of fuss would be fine. But RR has been already too simplistic to begin with; something to brighten up the game would certainly be nice.
For instance, better character artwork for the icons would give each unit a distinct attitude and appeal (as opposed to the generic look all the heroes have –they all look like they go to the same barber and are all drunk from the swill served at a local bar).
Even better is to provide all the characters and enemies with actual animated sprites in battle. Instead of looking at moving tiles, it would be more interesting to see them all fight as sprites. This gives the game’s combat system a little more pizzazz, a make a little less of a bore.
The terrain could also use a bit of an upgrade. Providing the map with altitude differences, traps, environmental hazards, interactive objects, and a variety of other content will not just make the game better to look at, but it will also deepen the strategic aspect of the game by incorporating the environment into the play.
Pre-Set Your Commands
One of the biggest gambles in any strategy game is coming up with a plan, watching your troops execute it, and hope that things go as you had expected. Rune Raider’s turn by turn gameplay makes tactics less of a gamble and more of a play-by-ear kind of thing; allowing you to switch tactics anytime in accordance to how your enemy behaves.
That said, it would be interesting if you could provide your units with 5 to 10 moves in advance. This would allow you to practice not only your strategic skills, but it will sharpen your ability to figure out the most likely maneuvers to be taken by the enemy. Of course, it would still be possible to give overriding orders to your units at any point in time, but watching a well laid plan play itself out is certainly one of the most satisfying things to see.
Another great thing about being able to pre-set commands is that it helps refine and polish tactics that you can use in combat. Watching your plans without having to manually make each turn allows you to view it work in action; this allows you to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each formation and strategy (so that you can adapt them according to various enemy formations and stages).