Dwarves – you gotta love ‘em! They may not be the most subtle of fantasy races, but what they lack in finesse, they most certainly compensate in a bunch of other admirable qualities, the most important certainly being their fierce propensity for a good old-fashioned brawl. The same can be said about Runic Rampage, an RPG made by indie developer Electrocosmos, which finds its inspiration in the hack and slash RPG classics such as Diablo or Dungeon Siege, but also doesn’t shy away from arcades such as celebrated Golden Axe and Gauntlet.
Just like Grimbard, a dwarven hero of the Runic Rampage, the game itself discards all unnecessary things – there are no lengthy artistically directed intros or long-winded explanations to slowly involve you with a game. Runic Rampage is as direct and subtle as a war hammer skilfully directed straight into the goblin’s thick skull. All you’ll get is a static image of our strapping hero and an age-bent counselor, against a backdrop of a generic dwarven settlement, which will remind you of the days when games were less about words and more about action. The venerable sage will laconically inform you about a deadly raging sickness which threatens to consume the entire population of your town. The only hint of the possible cure can be found in Library of Stones, which just happens to be located in the place called Desert Castle. Frankly, both things sound rather ominous and the lesser dwarf would think twice before he’d set off on that quest, but that won’t deter our ferocious berserker. After that, the game literarily shows you the hammer in your hand and sends you straight to the battlefield where you’ll find the cure, save the day and make your clan proud, or perish trying – either way, Grimbard will get his fun.
And what fun it is! Grimbard will face legions of opponents: goblins, lizardmen, skeletons, satyrs – all will fall before his mighty hammer in a satisfying splatter of blood and entrails. Although the combat system is as frantic, violent and over the top, just as it as it should be in a game such as this, it does involve a certain amount of skill. As any battle-trained dwarf, Grimbard is capable of performing a number of special attacks such as Uppercut, Jump Attack, Spinning Blow, Heavy Attack and others. In the spirit of dwarven straightforwardness, they are descriptively named, so you’ll get a pretty good idea how they look and what each of them does admittedly, these attacks drastically vary in usefulness, but at least they can be executed relatively easily and will reward you with a particularly gory death animation.
The game has four acts, one for every kingdom you’ll visit, so you’ll get to see more than the initial desert after all. End of each successfully finished act will be celebrated in a true dwarven style – with a boss fight. Each will act differently, attacking you in a different way, so these moments represent the highpoints of the entire game where you’ll actually be forced to use your head for something other than mere head-butting.
Although pleasant and not without a certain crude style, visuals are admittedly a bit rough around the edges. Nevertheless, the Runic Rampage offers a pretty pleasing experience, especially if we take into the consideration that behind the name of Electrocosmos hides just one man, a Berlin-based game designer Alexander Leps.