E3 2018: Rune Arrives at E3 With Tons of Improvements Over GDC

Human Head Studios has been hard at work resurrecting the franchise that first put them on the map, Rune. Back at GDC, we got a chance to meet up director Chris Rhinehart to see how the latest game, also called Rune, was coming along. What we saw was an early build with a lot of promise. At E3 2018, we met back up with the team at Human Head to see how the game has progressed since March.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the game, Rune is a hack-and-slash action-adventure game set in Norse Mythology. Loki has begun Ragnarok, and it’s up to you, a champion of the gods, to put a stop to it. This time around, Human Head is taking the action online where up to 64 players can play at a single time. For those who want to play solo, however, the option is there.

The first things players will do upon entering the game is to create their own Viking and pledge allegiance to one of five gods. In a change from the GDC demo, Human Head has spent time diversifying the gods. Before, the bonuses players would get were negligible, but here they are more pronounced.

Once that’s decided, players are thrown into an open-world with nothing but a few clothes to wear. From there, it’s up to each player to decide what they want to do. Hunt for better equipment, try and beat the story, or participate in activities layered throughout the world. During that time, you’ll do battle with enemy humans, frost giants, and draugrs among other Norse Mythology beasts.

Back at GDC, combat was in an early stage of development and felt a little clunky. Since then, the team had worked hard to polish and refine the combat, and the results showed during the demo. Picking up a weapon and swinging it felt smoother than before. Rhinehart stated that the team had been working on polishing the game’s animations to give combat a more fluid feel.

There’s plenty of variety in the game’s combat. However, we were concerned about mission variety. During the game, players can approach stones cursed by Loki that grant side quests. The problem is that, during our play time, there wasn’t a lot of variety. All of the missions we got to play involved finding a specific type of enemy and killing a certain number of them. The game is in alpha, and we only got to see a small slice so there could be more variety we just weren’t able to see. For now, however, it remains a concern.

What we saw at E3 2018 was a significant jump up from GDC 2018. Character creation continues to expand in meaningful ways by making the gods feel like an essential factor in the decision-making process. Combat feels appropriately brutal for the setting. Players can wield a variety of weapons, including the severed arms of vanquished enemies. Human Head Studios has done an excellent job improving the combat from the last time we saw the title, making it a more fluid experience. While mission variety is a concern, there’s still plenty of time to add additional objectives.

Rune enters closed beta on June 23 and comes to Steam Early Access at some point this year. The team has yet to decide on a console release.