Runestone Keeper is a turn based dungeon crawler inspired by minesweeper, a game that has dwelled in computers since the 1960s. While the objective of minesweeper is to clear the board without detonating hidden mines, Runestone Keeper replaces mines with traps, shrines and monsters. You do get the occasional explosion. A dungeon level is cleared when keys and stairs to the next level are revealed. Choose your hero, choose your god, and go fight evil for glory and for gold.
Playability: Dungeon dash
Runestone Keeper’s tutorial washes its hands off the rulebook rather tersely. Even after several runs the mechanics of runes, tattoos and god worship make little sense and will eventually force you to look up answers in online forums. Click on tiles to discover items such as equipment, life or mana points, and monsters. Tiles around monsters cannot be clicked, which soon forces you to attack said monsters. Eventually, you’ll find a key and a door to the next level of the dungeon. Initially only one hero, a “guy” is playable, and you’ll be forced to grind through ten levels at nightmare difficulty to start unlocking other characters. Playing a few minutes between important office emails and meetings will probably require several years before you can complete Runestone Keeper. Yet, there is something strangely addictive about the five minute dungeon run that will keep you coming for another head bashing.
Annoyance: Randomised grind for permanent death
Runestone Keeper spawns a variety of monsters, but the repetitive cohorts of gutless gnomes, explosive curses, christal resonators and stone guardians are fast an everlasting nuisance of dreary encounters garbed in fancy names. Discover enough hearts of life, and you’ll survive long enough. Your hero may breathe easily through several levels at chaos difficulty to get pitifully impaled on random spikes even on easier setting. The level design and the game difficulty seem unbalanced, leaving too much to haphazardness.
Beauty: Ugly blocks
While the hand drawn hero portraits are pleasing, Runestone Keeper is a long succession of encounters of icons and thumbnails of monsters, punctuated by the occasional yelp sound and a non descript musical score. Who would have thought that minesweeper actually looked agreeable?
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Aggravating dungeon sweeper 5/10
Runestone Keeper is an endlessly infuriating minesweeper with only a little logic and a lot of randomness. Mindlessly clicking on tiles to discover rather ugly pixelated monsters provides little opportunity for relaxation but does eventually put you to sleep. An obtuse learning curve combines with hours of grind to unlock playable characters make Runestone Keeper a rather taxing game. Yet for a quick dungeon crawl, Runestone Keeper does an adequate job of addling your brain. As long as you stick to a few minutes at a time, the Keeper won’t get to your nerves.