We last saw Human Head's Viking action game during the GOD press tour of Europe a few months ago, and were impressed by our first look at the title. With an enhanced version of the Unreal engine powering it and a healthy mix of blood letting, mead drinking and puzzle solving, the game looked to be a winner.
London's ECTS computer games trade show gave us the chance to catch up with Human Head, and find out how their game has been progressing since then...
The most noticeable change since the last time we saw the game is that there are now far more playable levels being shown off. Our demonstrator loaded up a spectacular looking mountain map swathed in fog, with your character Ragnar edging his way along a series of cliff-side ledges linked by some precarious looking rope bridges.
Snow fell from the overcast skies, and powerful gusts of wind carried Ragnar across chasms, although you will need to time your jumps carefully to avoid falling to your death far below. Having cleared the cliffs, you progress down through a snow-covered valley into an ice cave inside a vast glacier, which looks simply beautiful. Cracks open up in the ice sheet as you run across it, stalagtites break off from the roof of the cavern and crash down around you, and underground rivers drag you through into new areas of the map.
According to our demonstrator the single player maps are now essentially complete, and the ones we have seen so far are certainly impressive, ranging from a derelict Viking village to the pits of hell itself. With some simple puzzles to solve and plenty of scenery to smash up with your dirty big axe, Rune certainly isn't lacking on the gameplay front.
Multiplayer has also been getting more attention as the single player game has come together, although sadly we weren't shown any of the four deathmatch maps which have already been completed. Several more maps are apparently in progress at the moment, so there should be a wide range on offer by the time the game ships.
We were also sorry to hear that the interesting sounding "Capture The Wench" multiplayer mode won't be included with the game. Disappointing news for hot blooded vikings everywhere. Still, there's always the chance that it will be released after the game, and with source code and editing tools also due for release, there should soon be plenty of alternatives to the usual deathmatch and teamplay options which are included out of the box.
Multiplayer should also offer some interesting situations thanks to the game's unique combat system, which allows you to pick up almost anything in the game and use it as a weapon, including the severed limbs of your enemies! And as the demonstrator pointed out, "heads don't cause much damage, but they make a nice splodge on the walls". The sheer humiliation involved in beating an enemy to death with his own left arm is sure to make this kind of combat popular, if not particularly effective.
Rune is looking better than ever, with far more gameplay and polish on show since we last saw it back in June. There's also good news for console gamers, as it's now likely that we will see Playstation 2 and Xbox ports of the game some time next year, with the possibility of new levels and other little extras for our gamepad wielding brethren. Maybe even Capture The Wench, who knows?
In the meantime, the PC and Mac versions of the game are due for release at the end of October, so start polishing your axes...