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This review contains events of the very beginning of the game and names a few enemy types. Other than that it is spoiler-free.
Rune Classic is a re-release of the original hack&slash game called Rune. You play as the young Viking Ragnar who just gets into the status of a warrior as the story begins. Ragnar's village is one of the villages that are built around special rune stones. Those stones were created by the god Odin to keep his son Loki in his prison and thus preventing the great cataclysm that would follow if Loki was to be released. The warriors of Ragnar's village belong to an order called the Odinsblade. It is their duty to protect the rune stones from all harm. When Ragnar is just accepted into the Odinsblade the people of Ragnar's village learn that an allied village guarding on of the rune stones is being attacked and immediately set out to intervene. On their way they run into the viking Conrack who was responsible for the attack. Conrack is in league with Loki and is hellbent on destroying every single rune stone to release him into the world. Due to the powers that were granted to Conrack by Loki the people of Ragnar's village are no match for him and he sinks their ship. Ragnar gets rescued by Odin and makes it to an undersea cave. With nobody else having survived the battle it's on Ragnar to keep Conrack from destroying the stones. But to do that he has to make his way back to the surface.
Rune Classic is played in the third person perspective. There are various weapons to be found. They are separated into three classes: swords, maces/hammers and axes. There are five weapons in each class, three being one-handed and two of them being two-handed. One-handed weapons can be used alongside with a shield. You can hold shields in front of you to block incoming damage but they also offer passive protection if you are hit on the side where you are carrying the shield. Shields' stability decreases as they are hit and they are eventually destroyed. Most weapons have different attack animations depending on the direction Ragnar is moving while executing the attack. Some of the heavier weapons like two-handed hammers are restricted to overhead strikes only though. If you have ever played Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast you have a basic understanding how the combat in Rune Classic plays out. In addition to different speed, damage and attack animations every weapon has a unique rune power that can be activated using rune energy. Rune powers ranger can be offensive, defensive or utility oriented. The combat in Rune Classic also features dismemberment. If aimed well it is possible to cut off enemies heads or limbs. Those can be picked up and be used as weapons. While there are no ranged weapons in the game Ragnar is able to throw his weapon. Luckily Ragnar is able to carry one of each weapon in the game, so he is able to draw a replacement after having thrown his initial weapon.
Ragnar has two resources: health and rune energy. While he is carrying a shield the shield's stability is also represented by a bar making it kind of a third resource. Health can be replenished by eating fruit, lizards or meat or by drinking mead. Rune energy is replenished by picking up energy runes that are scattered throughout the levels. Different weapons' rune powers have different energy costs ranging from energy cost equal to one rune pickup to emptying the complete energy bar. Shield stability is replenished by picking up additional shields what is not very realistic but quite comfortable. The maximum shield stability is dependent on the type of shield Ragnar picks up with heavier shields obviously having more stability. Ragnar can increase his maximum health by picking up health runes which he can find from time to time. Some of the health runes are placed in obvious places while some of them are missable when not paying attention. If you find all health runes in the game Ragnar's maximum health is twice as as high as the initial value.
The enemies in Rune Classic features a variety of enemies. There are fairly weak ones like crabs or goblins but also stronger ones like undead, vikings, ice giants and dwarves. Even the weaker enemies are able to drain Ragnar's health pretty quickly if they land an attack combination though. Thus it is only advisable to stay next to an enemy if you know you can kill them before they can retaliate. Most of the time it is better to stick with hit-and-run tactics, going in for one or two quick attacks before retreating again. Alternatively it is possible to circle a single enemy to permanently stay out of their attack range. Depending on the enemy type this can be rather difficult though. Ragnar's life is not only threatened by enemies though since some of the levels are littered with traps. Some traps can be activated manually and used against enemies. However, the enemies can and will do the same if given the chance.
Being mostly about combat Rune Classic features some platforming elements. Those are fairly easy though because Ragnar can hang on to ledges an pull himself up. There are also minor puzzle elements like flipping switches or creating a path by destroying the environment. Ragnar is able to destroy certain doors and weakened walls or supports. If you find yourself in a place where you don't know where to go it is advisable to first look for something to climb, then for something to destroy.
The multiplayer is fairly straight forward. There are four modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Arena and Headball. While the first three modes are fairly self-explanatory headball revolves around trying to cut off the opponents' heads and then throwing it into the goal to score. While the game can be played online Rune Classic also features LAN functionality.
As opposed to the original version some changes have been made in Rune Classic. Some levels have received are slight redesign while some others have been cut out to improve the pacing and make the game less grindy. I can see why this was done since the game is fairly long and especially the beginning tended to drag. If you want to play the missing levels there is a fully compatible mod out there that restores them. Further Rune Classic introduced some new enemies into the game that before were only featured in the later released Playstation version. Additionally this version has gamepad support although in my opinion it is played better with mouse and keyboard.
Despite being an older game Rune Classic pretty much runs out of the box. There are two oversights though. First depending on your operation system there may be problems with sound positioning. It is a shame since Rune Classic's sound design is even today very atmospheric. There has been an unofficial fix for this but that got lost after the shutdown of the site that featured it. If it re-appears this guide will be updated to include a link. The second oversight is a certain section very far into game where entering a cutscene makes the game crash, at least on certain systems. This can be circumvented by switching the game sound off until after the cutscene. Luckily this is a cutscene in which nobody is talking anyway.
There is on other minor gripe I have with the game. Sometimes triggering a certain event is required to progress. This is not an issue in most cases but some triggers are placed a little awkwardly. So if you don't know how to progress make sure you have actually been everywhere.
In summary Rune Classic still holds up pretty well. It is an enjoyable mix of visceral third person combat with a huge variety of weapons and powers and some platforming and puzzle elements. If you like hack&slash games or action adventures you should definitely give it a try.