Rune II is one of the more interesting tales regarding video game sequels. Originally released in 2000, Rune was given generally favorable but not exceptional reviews on PC with the following PlayStation 2 port generally getting panned. There was talk of a sequel since 2001, but no such sequel ever actually emerged until November of 2019 which was met with shall we say less-than-favorable reviews. This led to its own little set of disasters, as the released product was quickly abandoned and accused of being sabotaged by the original dev team. Studio 369 took over development duties and attempted to revive the game into something worthy of entrance to Valhalla, rebranding it Rune II: Decapitation Edition.
Rune II is universally regarded as a huge disappointment 19 years in the making, so this re-imagining of it is an ambitious venture. The reworking of this title includes a new main story, several additional characters and quests plus a new ending sequence. There were also other quality of life gameplay changes that have been implemented in the reworking, with traveling to islands being among the more noteworthy. Previously it was a lengthy boat ride from place to place but Decapitation Edition has built on the open world philosophy of if you can see a location you can go to the location through whatever traversal means seem appropriate whether through ship, walking, climbing or swimming. There’s also some fast travel points but these are of a more limited scope than some other games.
Rune II: Decapitation Edition is an open world action RPG where the player is free to build their viking in whatever way seems best fitting to their play style. There are various weapons to be found such as spears, swords, axes and hammers. Weapons may be used in their intended melee way or thrown as projectiles. Combat is visceral and gory, and it’s not uncommon for limb amputations to occur with axes or hammers smashing people into a splattering puddle of goo. The game is naturally steeped in Norse mythology as the plot involves a war against Loki and players are given the opportunity to align with either Thor, Odin or Hel to unlock different god-given abilities, or choose to remain a disloyal heathen which has its own set of special skills. Once players choose a god they are bound to that choice, but they are able to freely re-spec their ability points to experiment with different character builds and skill sets.
Rune II: Decapitation Edition plays similarly to how I remember the original Rune played. This is a game that’s best played with friends and they do have a tethering system where companions can’t venture too terribly far from each other to keep some semblance of party unity. The battle controls were intuitive and switching between god given abilities and regular attacks was simple, as was dodging and blocking attacks though I didn’t get the parry timing down. The world of Rune II is full of fully-destructible environments, so after killing a band of bandits there is the option to hack and slash their home base until it’s no more and chopping down trees is a good way to gather building resources, just make sure your companions are not under the falling tree. Also, do not run under a falling tree after you’ve chopped it down. These are lessons I learned the hard way.
After only a couple hours of playing Rune II: Decapitated Edition it’s hard to say how much the overall improvement is. What can be said is that the time spent with it was actually a good time, so things at least seem to be moving in the right direction. How much Studio 369 is able to reinvent and salvage Rune II will be revealed when it is released on November 13 to PC. So far at the very least they’ve brought it to a state where it could be a fun hack and slash game to play with friends, which seems like an improvement from what was already there, so maybe this could be worth revisiting a year after its original release.