Game Review: Runespell: Overture

I meant to review this game soon after I bought it from the Steam Autumn Sale, but then stuff happened, so I didn’t get to it, but since I still have that nasty cold that just won’t go away, you get stuck with more reviews, aren’t you lucky?

Runespell: Overture is an RPG-with-a-twist where you play as an ambiguously-gendered character known only as “the Changeling” in an AU Medieval Europe which is much like the Medieval Europe that we know, except with magic and dragons and stuff. The story goes that in the time of Edward the Confessor, a great blizzard known as the “Grim Whyte” covers the land. Predictably, the Changeling finds themselves lost in this blizzard while heeding a strange call sent out by someone (or something) seeking the children of a god.

Okay, so its story probably won’t win it any awards: you don’t know where you are or what you’re doing, go and find out, and in many respects you do the same kinds of things you would do in every RPG: complete quests, recruit allies (including captive monsters), manage your inventory. Yep, nothing special here. The “twist” that I referred to in the “RPG-with-a-twist” label is the game’s combat system. Combat involves playing poker until you win.

The game’s “mystic poker” system is the one innovative thing about this game. Basically, you generate attacks by creating creating poker hands, which each have a certain damage value (ie. one pair gives you an attack worth nine points of damage, and a straight flush gives you one worth forty points). Attacking generates MP RP (rage points) which you can use to cast “runespells” (basically skills and magic). You can also steal cards from your opponent (and vice versa). Don’t worry if you don’t know your flush from two pairs, though, because the game provides a handy guide to poker hands that you can access at any time during battle.

A typical battle screen.

You don’t really have a party, per se, instead, all of your abilities, allies, stat buffs, and even money are represented by cards (separate from the poker cards you use in combat). You use the silver you stockpile to purchase “uses” for each skill (passive skills don’t require you to purchases “uses” though). So some strategy and a little luck is required to do well (though the game is pretty good at giving you the cards you need).

As you might have guessed from the title, the game contains more than a few references to Norse mythology. I knew something suspicious was going on the moment I came across the name “Heide” (sound familiar?). There are also references to what I assume are historical events (one of your party members claims that she fought the Saracens in Sicily, and there’s a guy who claims to be the King of Hungary who was booted off the throne and is hanging around for….some reason that I’ve forgotten….) but on the other hand, this is an alternate universe Europe with historical characters, so I’ll let the history buffs figure everything out.

My point is, this is a good game to pick up and play in short bursts. The music is appropriately epic (though not particularly memorable) and the game does have a sense of humour, poking fun at common RPG tropes. There’s no voice-acting, so you’ll just have to imagine a former opponent’s voice being as dry as possible as he comments that he’s happy to join your group as they go forth into utter obscurity. It probably won’t have you ROFLing, but it’s good for a chuckle.

I guess the bottom line is that if you have ever thought making poker hands would be a little more exciting if they just added vikings, yeah, pick this up. Find it on Steam or at http://www.runespell.com/

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