Runespell: Overture Review
Runespell: Overture Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Mystic Box
Pub: Mystic Box
Release: July 20, 2011
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-768p
Your Boss Will Hate You for It
by Joshua Wirtanen

Card games like Solitaire can be good ways to kill time when you're stuck behind a computer. So long as your boss isn't looking, that is. As addictive as they can be, they generally don't offer any sort of character or story advancement. Runespell: Overture changes that, mixing poker and Solitaire with turn-based RPG combat and a medieval fantasy storyline. As strange as the concept sounds, this is actually a hard game to step away from.

Runespell: Overture tells the story of a mysterious Changeling who awakens in a blizzard without any idea of who he is or how he got there. He fights his way through some tutorials to a small camp, where he learns his fate might be tied to an ancient castle called the Skullgrim. He also runs into a mysterious woman who seems harmless at first, yet is perhaps hiding an ancient secret.

Runespell: Overture Screenshot

As you travel through the "Grim Whyte" toward the mysterious Skullgrim, you will meet several characters and partake in brief snippets of dialogue. You will sometimes have multiple response options, but you're pretty much just deciding whether to be a mysterious—yet oddly agreeable—stranger or a cantankerous brute who just likes to whack things with a sword. Your choices will be along the lines of "I don't want to fight you, but if I must…" or "Let's fight, you miserable wretch. I will grind your bones into a powder, burn that powder, then feed it to the wolves." Things like that. Your dialogue has no impact on the storyline, and, in fact, no impact on how people react to you. Of course, if you're feeling exceptionally antisocial, you can hit the escape key to skip the conversation altogether.

The overworld map is composed of points of interest connected with lines representing pathways. It's actually quite similar to the maps in games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre. Some points on the map will have enemies to battle, and those are clearly marked. You won't have to wonder whether traveling to a specific point will force you into combat, which is nice. And once in a while, defeating an enemy on the map will even cause new pathways to open.

Runespell: Overture Screenshot

My one complaint about the map is that I would like to be able to scroll it. The entire map doesn't fit on the screen, and it stays pretty much focused on wherever your character is at the time. If you're curious to see just how far these paths extend, you'll just have to wait until you are able to actually go there.

But the real meat and potatoes of Runespell is the combat system. When you enter a battle, you and your opponent are each given a card setup very similar to a Solitaire opening. However, instead of lining up your cards in sequential order, you'll match them to make combos based on poker hands—three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, and so on. Each combo has a number value assigned to it, and playing that hand will deal that amount of damage to your opponent. If there's ever any confusion about the values of these hands, there's a convenient little tab that you can click on to see how much combos are worth at any point during battle. (As a side note, there are multiple decks in play, so getting a five-of-a-kind is entirely possible.)

Runespell: Overture Screenshot

You are able to move any of your own cards that are face up, but you also have access to your opponent's cards. For example, if you have a three in your stack, you can pull a three off your opponent's stack to make a two-of-a-kind combo. However, you are not allowed to steal cards from your opponent's combos. This brings an additional element of strategy, as you'll be able to see the combos your opponent is working on and sabotage them. For example, if you see your enemy has three aces in a combo so far, and there's another ace waiting to be added, you can steal that ace and place it into your own combo. It then becomes off-limits to your opponent. You can even set up "junk hands" specifically with the intent of stealing the cards your opponent is drooling over. Be careful though, you'll be penalized ten points of damage for playing a junk hand.

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