I am barbarian. I do not have a name, because I only name my characters if they survive past level three. None of my characters have had a name as of yet. Maybe barbarian will be the first. His mighty sword throw should destroy all and any enemies in his path, and he has an almost unholy command of earth magic to smite those who would survive his cleaving blows. Surely, SURELY, this time I can make it past... oh wait he's been killed by rats.

Runers is not a good friend. Runers has punished me over and over again since I installled it, and will continue to punish me for as long as I keep playing. I would love to say that my fearless barbarian warrior died at the hands of a demonic overlord, but no, it's always the rats. They're not in the dungeon, they ARE the dungeon...

My barbarian was the fifth character that I created in a three hour period. I was doing so well, until I foolishly accepted a challenge that swarmed me with rats and other horrors while making me push rocks into vortexes to close them up. I died, and it was embarrasing. However, I jumped straight back into character creation and had another crack.

Herein lies the beauty of Runers. The premise of the game is not massively original (create hero, delve into dungeon, kill stuff, die) but the execution is what matters. Runers has a couple of slick tricks up its sleeve to help it stand out from the crowd.

Each hero (or antihero) is a combination of a class and a gift, or curse. Bards, barbarians, assassins and dark wizards can be combined with traits from centaurs, vampires and gnomes, with all the  associated benefits and problems. This allows a rapid  and comically slapdash method of character creation: I have an assassin who can poison enemies and also has the power of having completely randomised stats upon entering a new room. Alright! This guy obviously isn't getting a name!

Next up is spell selection. Grab one of the starting spells (some weak, some pretty cool, some hellishly random) and you are ready for some dungeon-diving demon-slaying action.

In your brief time as a soon-to-be-dead adventurer you can collect the eponymous runes from the corpses of the slain. These runes fall into several different categories, and sound like Captain Planet got carried away one day. EARTH! WATER! FIRE! ENTROPY! DARK! SHOCK! The true power of the runes and of the game as a whole, lies in the ability to combine these runes in either a double or triple stack to make a new super awesome mega spell! There are 285 combinations to play with, some of which will be really helpful and others which will make you hate yourself for being a rubbish wizard.

This is where Runers really comes into its own. The almost random spell generator coupled with procedurally generated dungeons makes the whole game both chaotic and compulsive. Throw horrendously difficult challenges, leaderboards and simple gameplay into the mix and you have a recipe for an addictive dungeon shooter that never quite lets you go. I would write more, but I'm going back in for another round, and this time I swear I'll at least get to a boss...

Runers is available here, and for the faint of heart or light of wallet the demo is here.

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ReviewTom Woolfordlgk games