Runespell: Overture
Gameplay 7
Graphics 6
Sound 7

Runespell: Overture shares many similarities with the Puzzle Quest series, but never quite manages to be as great. It is undeniably addictive and has some great ideas, but can become repetitive and the whole thing ends rather abruptly. Considering the low price tag it is well worth checking out however.

Gameplay: Addictive but can become repetitive.

Graphics: Nice considering the limitations.

Sound: Orchestral soundtrack and great sound effects

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Runespell: Overture

Developer: Mystic Box | Publisher: Mystic Box | Release Date: 2011 | Genre: Adventure / Indie / RPG | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Mixing the puzzle genre with some role-playing elements is nothing new and games like Puzzle Quest have shown how successful this formula can be if pulled off correctly. Runespell Overture is somewhat similar to Puzzle Quest but instead of colored blocks, battles are settled with Poker cards.

The game opens with your hooded character waking up without its memory. As the story progresses and you recruit more allies you discover what your purpose is. Sadly the whole thing is over just as the story starts to become interesting, but the plot at least provides sufficient motivation to keep playing. When not gliding across the 2D, node-based map you will be facing foes in combat, which at first looks a lot like Solitaire.

Combat is turn-based and you are allowed three actions per turn. The goal is to build stacks of cards, five at a time and using these to “Attack” your opponent. The better the five cards in your stack are, the more damage the attack will deal. Some extra strategy is involved since you can grab any cards not already tied to a stack from your opponents half of the screen and vice versa. The only difference is that cards taken from their side will not reveal the next card below it. This means that sometimes you have to grab a card from your opponent’s side, even if you do not need it just to prevent them from using it against you. Using a card from your own side can also be troublesome if it is your last action for the turn and an important card below is revealed only for your opponent to snatch it away.

The name of the game stems from the special cards that can be won from opponents or bought from a trader. These are not part of the deck, but are instead triggered with “Rage Points” which build up when you deal or receive damage in combat. These Runespells give the game a bit of a Magic: The Gathering feel as you can only have a limited amount in your deck. While nice, the Runespells are not really essential to winning battles, but can speed things up a bit. Mostly they either do damage, block damage or heal damage with only one or two spells that do something interesting like increase the amount of actions you can perform for one turn. Some battles feature locked treasure chests in the middle of the battle screen which can only be opened with a specified attack. They are only present for a limited amount of turns, but can be worth the extra effort of opening for the Runespells that they contain.

Most of the quests and “side missions” in the game involve moving to a specific node on the map and killing whatever foe is present. Your reward is usually silver to spend on new cards but I completed the game without buying a single card. You do not gain any XP and health increases come from Runecards and not level increases, which means that unless you are hunting for Steam achievements there is little motivation to replay battles. The amount of foes to face are also rather limited which can add to the repetition.

The visuals are rather nice and I particularly liked the character designs. While the game is mostly 2D you get to see the characters in 3D during battles. The amount of details in their models is really nice. The 2D cut-scenes that flesh out the story also has some nice designs. The music is not particularly memorable, but its suitably orchestral and epic sounding. It might sound like an odd match for a card based game but it definitely works. The sound effects are also suitably polished and sound great. One puzzling omission is the lack of multi-player which could have boosted the longevity of a rather short game. There is only the story mode to complete and its rather abrupt ending left me wanting more. Even some sort of standalone skirmish mode would have been welcome. There are at least some nice Steam achievements to aim for.

Runespell Overture is a very addictive game with some nice ideas, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. When dealing with card games like this there is always a big element of luck involved, which means that some battles will be very hard but then become a walk in the park when retried. The story mode is also rather short but considering the reasonable asking price of the game I guess that it is not too big of an issue. One thing to watch out for is that the game is very prone to crashing if you have the Raptr game service turned on so be sure to disable it before playing. Judging by the ending it looks like this won’t be the last time we get to explore the world of Runespell. Hopefully the designers will build upon all the good ideas that they had for this game and deliver something a bit more substantial next time round.

*Review originally published November 2011.

System Requirements

    • OS: XP / Vista / 7
    • Processor: 2 GHz Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64
    • Memory: 1GB RAM
    • Hard Disk Space: 350 MB
    • Video Card: 256 MB Shader Model 2.0 (Geforce 6 series, Radeon X1000 series)
    • DirectX®: DirectX® 9.0c
    • Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
    • OS: XP / Vista / 7
    • Processor: 2 GHz Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64
    • Memory: 1GB RAM
    • Hard Disk Space: 350 MB
    • Video Card: 256 MB Shader Model 2.0 (Geforce 6 series, Radeon X1000 series)
    • DirectX®: DirectX® 9.0c
    • Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card

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