Sometimes these PopCap-y games get a little old. They’re either too easy or they’re simply another form of Tetris Zen, putting blocks here, switching jewels or shapes there, removing a stick or inserting a ball. Occasionally there are, ahem, gems in titles like Plants vs. Zombies or Puzzle Quest in which you are making some sort of progress, there is a definite end goal in sight and you will feel like you will have successfully consumed a game. It was a great ride and now is an appropriate time to stop, a lesson Runespell: Overture has taken to heart.
Runespell: Overture has no pedigree backing it, as it comes from an unknown developer, and a lot of titles in this genre can be distilled to “PopCap-wannabes.” But this ain’t no wannabe.
Runespell is a storied game with 1-on-1 fights, similar to Tetris Attack or Puzzle Quest. Instead of jewel and skull and block puzzle antics, you and your opponent have stacks of playing cards like in Solitaire. You use your own cards and the opposing players single cards to make combinations to eventually build poker hand combinations. The higher the hand, the more damage it deals. You get three actions per turn. Using a hand to attack uses an action, moving a stack to a stack uses an action, adding a card to make or strengthen a stack uses an action. Using a special move in the form of an ally or spell also uses an action. Special moves use Rage Points, which are gained by taking damage or using attacks. Managing your Rage Points is half the strategy here.
Poker has little to do with this game. The combination happens to be poker-based and that’s it. There is always a button to quickly show the different hands if you don’t remember, and it could just as easily be jewels, rocks, or some other symbol instead of face-cards.
The story has multiple dialogue options along with side-quests and fights, but the story is generally pretty linear. It’s not a bad story and not badly written, either, but the joy is in the fights. Runespell’s strongest suit is its difficulty curve with the challenge swatting you down early on in the story, but not so hard that you can’t figure out what you did wrong. Most of the boss or quest-based fights are close, win or lose.
Unfortunately, Runespell: Overture doesn’t have multiplayer, which seemed like it would have been a simple affair. Still, it’s an enjoyable strategy-based questing game that takes a while to play through. Maybe, like Magicka, a player-versus-player option will be added down the road. One can only hope.
Pros: bite-sized playing, good save system, good difficult curve, strategic but simple
Cons: no multiplayer, battle music loops and tires quickly (but can be turned off)