Runic Rampage is a top down Action game in where you play as Grimbard, the last champion of the nearly extinct Dwarven empire. With nothing but our axe in hand and an amazing beard, we set out to recollect the 36 fragments of a powerful rune in order to save our people. From its top down point of view, it may appear similar to something like Diablo. It is not. In Runic Rampage, you do not want to sit around and take a hit. Your best bet for survival is not to mash that attack button but to improve your footwork and dash around the battlefield.
We will only have three buttons to worry about. One is to dash, another to activate magic and finally your attack button. In a nice turn of events, combat is not as simple as you may assume from having a single attack button. This title has a heavy emphasis on using your short, simple to perform combos, in order to uppercut or hit multiple enemies at once by swinging your axe around. Fighting is the first thing you will learn to do, and there is a menu containing all your combo inputs if you forget. Double tapping the dash button will result in a ground pound and is something you will have to get used to in order to avoid accidentally attack when you meant to dodge.
The ground pound is something I never really found useful as it is very slow to pull off and you should always be moving around in this title. Grimbard can take a decent amount of hits, but he does not have any invincibility frames, meaning that if you get surrounded, you will get hacked apart pretty quickly. Some enemies can damage one another with their projectiles, but it’s best not to rely on that since this feature is quite inconsistent and you never know which attacks do so without trial and error. You may find a giant orb of energy phase right through an enemy and hit you right in the face. It all depends on the specific type of foe that launched it.
Combat is pretty fun overall, and all your foes have a nice gib effect to them once defeated. The real reason you really do not want to get hit is that this game has some rouge-lite elements to it. Every time you start up a level it will generate a new one, your rewards at the end will be different and most importantly of all, health drops are completely random. For that reason, the game can be as easy or as difficult as the RNG allows it to be. You may find a ton of health being dropped for you and are able to play recklessly but most of the time health pick-ups will be a rare commodity with every injury possessing a real threat in the long run.
Death is not the end of the world however. You will retain all the gold, keys and experience you’ve gathered before your unfortunate demise. The levels themselves are bite sized and randomly generated as well, so the only consequence is missing out on the goodies given to you at the end of that stage. It is an interesting mechanic, you fight your way to the end and loot three objects from a massive chest. The loot can range from gold, useless things, armor and the rune shards that are vital to your progress. It sounds all well and good but the contents inside of it are randomly generated, and they are the only way to get shards. That, in turn, can lead to you replaying older sections of the game, over and over again to collect all of the 36 required shards.
In total, you will have 4 Acts, each containing two unique areas with their own enemies and a boss fight at the end of each act. All areas are a decent time to fight in other than “The Caves.” This area has falling boulders that quickly materialize into the ground then proceed to full again in a random place. They cause a ton of damage, are numerous and unpredictable forcing you to play in the very lame manner of simply making a mad dash towards the end and hope you don’t randomly get crushed. Other areas have traps like spikes and giant enemies chained to the floor that aggro when you get too close, but this one simply feels cheap and not fun in the slightest.
Now onto the boss fights. Oh boy, the boss fights. If you were lucky with the RNG up until then, these handcrafted battles will put a stop to that. You will have to fight tooth and nail in order to bring them down. And more importantly, be forced to get proficient at dodging as you can not fight toe to toe with these beings and come out alive. These are likely to stop you in your tracks even if you are decent at the game as they are very challenging compared to anything else you will face. When you do manage to take them down though, it is just the best feeling.
As you break random objects as well as your foes, you will receive gold. It can be used in between levels to buy a new weapon, upgrade your existing one or improve your spells. Your character will also level up and gain skill points which can also be a random choice at the end stage chest. These allow you to improve your attributes like speed, damage, and defense. Finally, you have armor sets. They require you to gather every piece in order to equip them and have no benefits whatsoever aside from making you look badass. It all sounds more complex than it really is. At the end of the day, all of these minus the spell upgrades have little noticeable effect on the game.
Your spells work more like power-ups in this title. You need to gather one of three magic icons that enemies randomly drop in order to activate them. These will last for a limited time with your elements such as fire that damages enemies, ice freezing them and poison slowing them down. You can upgrade them to have a special attack such as summoning a wall of fire or using all your magic energy to fry all the foes near you. They are pretty cool, but some spells such as wall of fire require you to hold down the attack button. This is extremely clunky. It always causes you to attack the air first, and then you start charging up your spell. Once again, this is not the type of game where you can afford to waste time in the midst of battle. A better solution would have been to bind the second spell onto the unused Y button of the controller.
On the occasions that you are not charging into a fight, you will be treated to some nicely drawn cut-scenes that forward the plot. It is a decent story and serves its job though it’s hardly anything to write home about. In total it lasted me a bit over four hours which is decent considering its low price. With its fair share of issues such as cumbersome controls, 36 randomly generated vital shards that could have you grinding for some time and those cheap cave levels, it is far from a great game. Though on the flip side the combat that demands more from the player than just button mashing and its randomly generated levels to make the grinding more bearable does about even it out. Runic Rampage is a fun but flawed game that I’d suggest checking out if it has sounded even vaguely interesting to you.
[Review copy was provided]