After nearly 20 years of working on other games like “Prey” and its cancelled sequel, Human Head Games is returning home with “Rune: Ragnarok,” a resurrected follow-up to “Rune,” the studios first project that launched all the way back in 2000. It’s something that they’ve wanted to make for a long time.
“The original game is a very linear, story based adventure where you follow Ragnar on his journey. This is an open world game with a lot more player choice,” Human Head Games Project Director Chris Rhinehart tells Variety. “We want fans to know that this is a modern take on Rune, we’re working to combine that nostalgia from the first game with things people want now.”
“Rune: Ragnarok” is an open world, third person, action-adventure title set in Human Head Games’ loose depiction of Midgard, a fantasy world influenced by Denmark. It can be played alone on private servers or online with up sixty four players in a single session. It has both PvP and PvE elements where players can team up and raid fortresses together or kill one another for loot. I sat down with a short hands-on demo of the game, currently in a closed Alpha, at E3 this year to see how Rhinehart and his team were approaching a present-day take on their first project.
After jumping in and creating my own viking with a series of character creation tools, we see that Ragnarok, the Norse myth that leads to the world being submerged under water, has begun and mankind needs to stop it. They’ll need to swear fealty to one of a handful of Norse gods, Thor, Odin, Freya, or Hel in order to fight Loki and his minions. Each god represents a slightly different playstyle, with Thor being focused on powerful melee combat. “Most of the world has already been destroyed and flooded,” Rhinehart added. “Loki found a way to keep Ragnarok from finishing, you need to find him and kill him to save things.”
My short time with “Rune: Ragnarok” reminded me of several other fantasy games in the same genre, including ones that explored Norse mythology. Quests are received through hundreds of glowing ‘Loki’ stones that get you one step closer to the trickster god, items can be both picked up throughout the world and crafted with the proper ingredients, and combat consists of familiar melee and magic-based third person action.
The one question that was in the back of my head as I fought undead vikings and sailed through freezing waters was: How is this different?
“It’s not just deathmatch or team deathmatch with multiplayer,” Rhinehart said. “You can go on raids together. Every once and a while a notification will pop up in the server telling everyone about a specific raid only happening for the next hour and everyone will rush to that spot and usually only one player or side will be left standing.”
“Rune: Ragnarok” does have the potential to be one of the most full-fledged Viking experiences in games right now, it has most features that players could ask for in a Norse focused power fantasy. Sailable long boats that can be engaged in ocean warfare, formidable giants that can kill you with the snap of their fingers, classic role playing elements, and a personalizable story that matches your playstyle with an almighty god.
“You’re getting more story beyond what happened to Ragnar in the original “Rune,”” Rhinehart added. “You don’t have to have played the original to be able to enjoy “Ragnarok,” and we hope fans of the original will mesh with the modern mechanics that we’ve added.”