As I kick off my slightly longer, more detailed reviews on some of my Steam games, it's only appropriate that I start with a game that was part of my youth.
Rune is, surprisingly enough, one of the few games focusing on Norse mythology that made it into history. Not many good and consistent ones out there, and this one brings its own identity in terms of gameplay, aesthetics, and character development. It creates its own accounting of Norse cultural and religious topoi in fiction, and that does more good than harm as the storyline goes. You play as Ragnar, a young man whose responsibilities escalate with the killing of his kinsfolk and the dooming of his birthplace, Wotankeld. Simple name for a protagonist, simple purpose for his endeavour. Vengeance couldn't be more bitter and more expected.
But that's where things get sharp in Rune. You're introduced to fluent combat mechanics, advanced graphics for the time (the first Unreal Engine was just starting its brilliant run), and the grandeur of the game's environmental variety. This is a videogame epic tale, with all its classic characteristics, as the protagonist rises through the image of the savior and avenger of his clan and descends into the dark realms of Helgrind, imprisoned, assuming the figure of bare life and shamanistic sacrifice - true to the Norse notion of the Cosmogonic death in order to attain the knowledge of the Runes; Wotan speared onto Yggdrasil -, to then rise again as the ultimate Berserk who transcends revenge and defies material existence. Ragnar is ready to put it on the line at every moment. And that motif is auxiliary to the development of the game's combat system, a hack-n'-slash which is as smooth as it gets, and a map configuration that challenges the player's reasoning as well as it puts them under the pressure of claustrophobia and constant darkness.
This is an atmospheric game, and a grim one as it is. The double ending is up to you, and that's a bonus coming from an action game with tacit storytelling elements. Rune scores high in both single-player and multiplayer - which is still active, and resembles heavily the fun and flow of the Unreal deathmatches -, and the variety of weapons, as well as the distinct styles and contrast in movement swiftness that each one of them brings up, enrich the game even further.
A must-have for hack-n'-slash fans, as well as fans of games that dialogue with the epic genre.