Norse mythology has been making a comeback in pop culture over the last year. Rune’s Project Director Chris Rhinehart agrees, stating that “it’s great that people are getting exposed to more Norse mythology, whether that be through a game like God of War or a film like Thor: Ragnarok.” There’s a lot of neat lore to pull from in this setting, and Human Head Studios is hoping to present their take on it with their upcoming title Rune.
This year at E3, I was able to try out Rune’s multiplayer mode with Chris Rhinehart, who walked me through the ins-and-outs of this open-world RPG that I have had my eye on since it was announced last year. I had a ton of fun with this title, which will stand out by giving players the freedom to mess around together in an expansive open world. Rune also seems like it will be easy to jump into, even for those who didn’t play Rune Classic back in 2000.
If you’ve heard of the original Rune, but haven’t played it, that shouldn’t be an issue. While Rune does take some inspiration from the original, namely in combat, the title is its beast, as players should “like this too if they’re a fan of brutal third-person melee action combat and Norse mythology.” Combat is relatively simple, though there are tons of weapons for players to choose from and attacks can be used via different directional inputs.
Before any of that though, players must choose a character and align with a god. So far, Loki, Odin, Freya, Thor, and Hel are the five gods players can align with to get special quests and abilities. During this demo, I aligned myself with Hel and then hopped into the game’s world with another developer. The world seemed vast and expansive, with several islands for players to explore.
I set off on a quest with a developer to kill some enemies and ended up finding a gigantic flaming sword. There are a ton of varied weapons, and the developers are encouraging players to find their own playstyles, as they “want players to be able to express themselves with the different weapons.” While not too off-kilter from typical action-RPG, combat in Rune can be pretty tough and will punish poor timing or mindless button mashing.
Eventually, an enemy dropped a Giant Rune, which allowed me to transform into a menacing giant. After this, I wandered around the island, destroying everything in my path. I ended up fighting another giant, and with just a sliver of health left, decided to get on a boat and sailed around. This was something even the developers hadn’t tried yet, and while it worked, the result was still quite funny.
While Rune will feature a lot of depth at launch, like most multiplayer games, the most fun will likely be had by messing around with others and stretching what the game can do to its limits. Rune’s open world lends itself well to that, so I’m sure the game will find a dedicated audience that will adore it.
While I played Rune in multiplayer, the entirety of the game can be played in single player. According to Chris Rhinehart, the “story is being told through the interactions with your god. It’s a very personal experience,” so those looking for some more Nordic single player action should also find something to like in Rune.
Those who decide to play together will have a slightly different experience depending on the gods they align with, but will still have their quests “dynamically merge” with other players, which should make multiplayer quests feel more seamless. Rune will also include both story-based and time-based raids to keep the experience fresh, even if it’s fun to just mess around in the game’s world with each other.
While Rune is poised to be much different than its predecessor, I am confident in its new direction this game is heading in. While something like God of War looks to offer an intense and emotional single-player experience, Rune seems like it will provide a somewhat lighter experience with a focus on multiplayer that fans of both Norse mythology and the series will be pleased by.
Rune will hit Steam Early Access later this year. Chris Rhinehart confirmed that the Early Access build of the game will be reasonably feature-full, stating “There will be the open world, there’s a lot of quests in the game, a ton of loot throughout the game, and PvP and PvE multiplayer. There will be PvP and PvE servers, but you can play in single player as well.” That said, I can’t wait to see how Rune changes and evolves during that time, as this concept has a ton of potential and room to grow.