Rune Raiders in Review – When Rogue-Like Meets Strategy

 When I first saw Rune Raiders I had a feeling it would be something different, and it turns out it really is.  You’ll find it often referred to as a RPG, but it’s a slick little strategy game that might best be described as Fire Emblem for the iPhone, and that’s not even a good analogy.  Suffice it to say that if you like the atmosphere of a dungeon crawl, the need to think instead of simply slash your way to victory, and game design that doesn’t fit the standard mold, Rune Raiders is a good choice for you.

There might be a grand, sweeping story to tie this all together, but to be honest I started the game long enough ago I don’t remember if there is.  Each mission does have a basic goal as defined by a scroll left at the beginning of the level, but I think that’s mostly meant to be silly more than anything.  Rune Raiders is basically a series of loosely tied together episodes that can be enjoyed independently but are connected via the characters you use and level up throughout them.  At the beginning of each mission you can select up to 6 characters to take on the journey, but each character costs a fee that must be paid every time you use them.

Leveling up a character is permanent, and can be accomplished either by finding an upgrade arrow somewhere on the level or by tapping on the character once you’ve added it to your party and choosing upgrade.  Thankfully an upgraded character doesn’t cost more money to use.  Along the way you’ll have opportunity to collect gold, which you can do by walking over it with one of the characters or by tapping on it.  You’ll also find healing options which are activated by walkovers or by dragging them onto the needy party.  If a character should happen to get killed, you can tap on their bones to resurrect them, which costs the same price as initially hiring them.  As long as you have money this is an option.


A turn is one of the following: moving the whole group one square left, right or up, or dragging one character anywhere on the screen they are allowed to move.  Once you’ve moved anyone that can attack will, and then you repeat.  You can resurrect as many characters as you like without wasting a move, and you can also collect gold and potions freely as long as you use the tap or drag methods.  At the completion of each level you are told how many moves it took, how many deaths you incurred and what your bonus value is.  You also get a star ranking, though I’m not sure how it determines the number of stars or the bonus.  There are a few Game Center achievements to earn, but it’s more likely the act of trying to earn three stars or the desire to beat the game on the difficult setting that will keep you coming back.  There’s also a survival mode if you like random encounters.

While I don’t necessarily care for ultra stylized visuals, I do like games that look different, and Rune Raiders fits that bill as well.  Everything is tile based and the characters are not scaled to fit completely on the tiles, so you basically get little more than a bust.  It’s fun to watch them move, but even more entertaining to watch everyone attack.  Even though you know you’re getting beaten on, some of the monsters’ attacks are really cool.  The sound effects simply enhance the action and help make combat a joy.  The music, on the other hand, is pretty generic adventure fare, and gets old about the third time through.

There was a time when I actually enjoyed detailed, choice-laden strategy games.  These days, I’m perfectly content with simple mechanics that still make me ponder my decisions, and that’s exactly what Rune Raiders provides.  I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the endless Survival mode, but the campaigns are great, and hopefully by the time I get them all complete there will be some more for me to take on.  Otherwise, I’ll just try bumping the game up to Hard mode and see how often I can get killed!

Kiss It Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: Rune Raiders Developer: Retro64
Reviewed Ver: Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $1.99 App Size:
  • Simple mechanics
  • Thought provoking levels
  • Cool characters
  • Great visuals
  • Complimentary sound effects
  • Survival mode is dull
  • Music extremely repetitive


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