Rune II's latest open beta was a worrisome reminder that the game still has a lot of work to be done ahead of its release date. Nearly 20 years after the original game, Rune II manages to feel like it's a product of another era. September's open beta highlighted the game's Deathmatch mode, which basically acted as a free-for-all.
Players spawn on the map with nothing but their bare fists and have to find weapons and items to use against opponents. The most successful players move and collect gear quickly, while also making conscious decisions about when to go into battle. The game mode ends when one player reaches 20 kills. While Deathmatch certainly is not a new game type in the Rune series, the unrefined mechanics and gameplay glitches get in the way of what could be a really good time. Longtime fans could have a lot of fun with this mode 19 years ago, but years later, Rune II manages to feel weak in comparison.
Anyone familiar with a competitive title could pick Rune II's meta-game up quickly. Spears were notoriously overpowered when paired with a skillful player, more specifically the Rune veterans that were populating the open beta. Swords and shields provided a good counter to spears to an extent, but hammers were pretty much useless against anything and everything. Additionally, bow and arrow combat feels like a missed opportunity and never really feels great to control. It's also difficult to get a good idea of weapon length in the game - swords, axes, and hammers swing distance were all oddly difficult to get used to. Oftentimes it felt like everyone would have to get up in each other's faces to dish out some heavy damage.
Then there's Rune II's competition. While the game isn't inherently the same as titles like Chivalry, Mordhau, Mount & Blade, and others, it certainly looks like it from the outside looking in. Rune II is more arcade-like with fast-paced movements and quick moment-to-moment battles. If there's anything worth comparing it to, it's the Star Wars Jedi Knight series. Rune II's greatest advantage is the fact that there still isn't really anything like it, however, it's not refined enough to promote that uniqueness. It justifiably tries to modernize many of the mechanics found in the first game that made it so popular. Unfortunately, it does so to mixed results.
There are definitely fun moments to be had with Rune II's combat. The hectic nature of Deathmatch can be exhilarating at times and it genuinely feels good to find the perfect weapon and item combination. With a lot of refining before launch, the more problematic systems and mechanics can be rectified to an extent. It's also worth mentioning that Rune II will have a myriad of other modes in multiplayer and single-player. At the very least, the game may be able to provide a single-player experience that's more akin to what fans loved about the original.
Human Head Studios, the development team behind the original Rune are taking on the game's sequel. What they need to focus on ahead of launch is really buffing at the dents in the game's combat. As of right now, combat is lacking balance and seems very glitchy from a visual standpoint. The original Rune, at its core, was carried by the in-depth fighting systems that were more akin to a fighting game title. Human Head should be embracing this and interacting with players who have stuck around all of these years to really find and eliminate all of the problems with combat. As it stands, Rune II doesn't look like it'll be delivering on the promise of improving the original game.