I'm not sure if it says something about me or the kinds of games I play, but while trying out an alpha build of Rune, the upcoming third-person sandbox survival RPG from Human Head Studios, the first thing I asked after picking up the dismembered arm of a human enemy was: "Can I eat this?"
In my defense, a few minutes earlier I had stomped on a lizard, then picked it up, bit its head off, and casually tossed the rest of it over my shoulder. So maybe (hopefully) asking Rune's project director Chris Rhinehart if I could eat human limbs wasn't a question completely out of left field. Turns out you can't use human limbs as food, but you can use them as weapons. In Rune, you can beat a guy to death with his dead buddy's arms and legs. Just look elsewhere for a snack.
Rune is Human Head Studios' return to the world of what is now called Rune Classic, the hack-and-slash Viking action adventure game released in 2000. Now Human Head is taking its Vikings into the open world survival RPG genre. Servers will support up to 64 players at a time, but there will also be an option for playing solo on a private server. I got a look at the basics of Rune with an alpha build at E3.
After some character creation (I focused mostly on selecting my tattoos and facial hair), we began on one island but quickly found a viking longship—which you'll be able to craft—and sailed to another. Armed with just an axe and shield I did battle with some NPC vikings, giants, and a few other nasty creatures, though after swapping my axe for an enormous flaming sword I was introduced to a fun feature of Rune: you can throw your weapons, any and all of them, whenever you want.
It happened first by accident. I'd been swarmed by a handful of high-level NPCs and was attempting to hack at them while running by, when I held down the Q key instead of the W key. Q brings up an aiming reticle for throwing projectiles, and I didn't realize my sword was a projectile weapon at the moment, so when I clicked the mouse button to attack, I wound up chucking my sword into one of the enemies, where it lodged.
This now meant I had to retrieve my sword from the still-living NPC, so I ran past him again, yanking my sword out of his body so I could resume melee combat. Rhinehart explained that any weapon can be thrown as a projectile, and that even includes bows. Run out of arrows and your enemy is still standing? Throw your bow at him. It's what gangsters do in old-timey movies when they run out of bullets, right? Chuck their gun as a last ditch attempt to win the fight.
Once I knew I could throw all my weapons, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that's what I spent the rest of the demo doing. I threw my sword into a giant's arm, then ran up to him, leapt into the air, and yanked it back out of him again. I lost my axe repeatedly due to poor aim, missing my target and then having to hunt through the bushes to find it again. And of course, you can throw severed arms and legs as well as use them as melee weapons. It gives combat a fun and improvisational feel, being able to grab whatever is handy and swing it or throw it at someone.
My own arm was cut off at one point, but unfortunately I wasn't able to discover if I could pick it up and use it as a weapon with my remaining arm, because I was killed a moment later. According to Rhinehart, you can survive with your own arm severed, provided you heal yourself before you bleed out.
I wish I'd had a bit more time with Rune: the combat was gory, fast-paced, and fun, and the map showed a world dotted with many more islands than the two I got to visit. Rune is headed for a closed beta (with both PvP and PvE servers) on June 23, and plans to enter Steam Early Access later in the year.