Library of Runia Is a Challenging Switch Experience


I always wanted to properly get into deck-building games. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the GameBoy Advance at the tender age of thirteen was my first exposure to this kind of game. I wouldn’t run into anything even remotely like it until Slay the Spire burst onto the scene in 2017. However, nothing about Slay the Spire drew me into it. The visuals weren’t enticing enough to hold my attention and, despite the deck building aspect being more than proficient (the game is a hit for a reason), I dropped it after clocking in a measly ten hours. When I was asked if I was interested in checking out Library of Runia, I gave the game a quick look and agreed, unaware that I would be spending weeks desperately trying to decipher the complexities of what has become one of the most challenging turn-based RPGs of my life. Honestly, I’m into it.

Library of Runia is a visual novel with deck-building components and all of the bells and whistles associated with turn-based RPGs attached to it. Players follow Roland, a Fixer from The City. He stumbles upon the titular Library and ends up meeting the Head Librarian, an enigmatic woman by the name of Angela. She ends up recruiting him as a member of staff. Through this, he becomes a Librarian, which you think wouldn’t be all that exciting. However, in this world knowledge is power. Those that seek out the tomes within this illustrious building must fight the staff in order to obtain the books they desire. That is more or less the premise, which weaves itself into how the game itself is played.

Players can create a team of Librarians, each with a unique set of skills associated with whatever outfit they are wearing at the time. Each Librarian is given a default outfit, which contains a set of cards that will appear in their deck. Initiating combat requires players to offer a book, which then entices combatants to come out. This in turn allows you to take books off of their corpses to obtain more cards and their outfits. It is also how you progress through the story. You can grind stages for multiples of these books to burn, but the game does warn you that you should keep a copy of each, just to have the required offerings on hand to challenge a specific stage.

Now, I had no idea that this was a sequel to Project Moon’s Limbus Company. Not having known that and immediately being thrust into the game, I actually advise those looking to play Library of Runia either experience Limbus Company themselves or watch a playthrough. The lore gets confusing and sometimes hard to follow, even if the premise is simple enough. I ended up setting time aside to watch a playthrough of Limbus Company just to get a better grasp of The City and the world in which these games take place while I grinded for more cards and experience, as I was often woefully underprepared for each fight.

As mentioned previously, Library of Runia is a turn-based game. However, there is an extra layer of complexity added onto this that requires some level of resource management. Every card (called “pages”) costs a certain amount of Light points. So you don’t want to blow all of your Light to take out one enemy if you have several stages ahead of you. Because while you need to factor in the cost of Light, you also have to take into consideration turn order which is determined by Speed Dice. I still don’t have an idea of how Speed Dice work. I more or less pick a card and pray that I attack first, killing my enemies before they break my defense, stagger me, and force me to go back and grind.

Attacking isn’t the only thing you can do in the game, as playing defensive cards are also an option. You see, each card has several status effects attached to it, some with more offensive capabilities and negative status effects, and others capable of guarding attacks.

This is where you need to be strategic in using your cards. Especially as the game progresses. At first you will fight one round of enemies at a time, picking off two or three combatants before you are given a break to burn books you’ve acquired from fallen foes to obtain their cards and outfits. But you are quickly thrown into tiered fights, sometimes facing upwards of three waves of enemies with no way to heal or recover what remains of your stamina. Rushing through stages no longer becomes an option. Instead you need to carefully consider what outfit you are equipping your Librarian with, and what cards will accompany that deck. Thankfully you can save builds and swap between them before entering stages very easily. Which is great. Because having to recreate your deck every time you switched out an outfit would be a chore.

It’s these little bits of quality of life features that stop Library of Runia from being frustrating to the point of making the player never want to pick the game up ever again. However, I do wish the font was larger, as on the Nintendo Switch it’s almost impossible to read any kind of text. This is especially true in handheld mode. I was squinting most of the time as I played the game during commute, and even docking it and projecting the game onto my PC monitor I was having issues reading the text just because of how cramped and small it was. This can be a make or break for some players, and for me it has actively factored into my score. As after a handful of hours with the game my eyes were tired, sore, and bloodshot.

That said, Library of Runia is a fantastic game. The voice acting is top notch, the story is intriguing enough to entice players who otherwise may not be interested in deck building games to give it a shot, and it forces the player to engage with its systems to meet each challenge. However, this means that it won’t be for everyone. Those that have gotten tired of fiddling around with the same deck builders for hours on end may find Library of Runia enticing, especially with its heavy emphasis on story. Overall, I had a blast with the game, even if I’m still figuring out just how to optimize my deck some thirty hours in.

Library of Runia is available for PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.


Library of Runia

“May you find your book in this place.” Combat between the guests and the librarians breaks out as if it were on a stage. Defeated guests turn into books, and the Library grows onward. And eventually, get your hands on… The one singular, perfect book. Switch version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Library of Runia is a challenging deck building RPG that will provide a challenge for even the most experienced players.

Food for Thought

  • Library of Runia is a complex game, that will take you hours upon hours to master.
  • I had no idea what was going on for roughly 10 hours, but was weirdly fine with it.
  • Even the most tried and true card game enthusiast will find that they have met their match.

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