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Ranarama was an early example of combining RPG elements into an action game to allow the player's character to grow in power throughout the game. This is done by allowing the player to collect runes from defeated wizards, which could then be combined to unlock new spells. The user is able to have one spell in each of four categories active at the same time: power, offense, defense and utility.

The power spell category represented the user's combined health and magic pool, which is depleted by using spells or being hurt by enemies. If it became completely depleted, the user would revert to the lowest power spell called "Mortal". If the mortal pool was depleted before the user was able to cast a different power spell, the game ended.

Offense spells are the player's ranged attack. More powerful spells in this area destroy enemies quicker, but also sap more energy from the player's power pool.

Defense spells are effectively the player's shield, absorbing more damage which would otherwise damage the player's power pool when struck by enemy attacks.

Utility spells offer the most varied set of uses, each being slightly different. For example, "See" allowed the user to locate enemy wizards on revealed portions of the level map, while "Conflagrate" would cause area effect damage to all enemies on screen when activated.

The goal in the game is to clear each level of all wizards, though the structure of the game was quite freeform. It is possible to leap between levels before clearing out all wizards, though without having collected runes from earlier wizards, the player would have a tough time surviving in harder levels. Once all levels have been cleared, the game starts resets, allowing play to continue with a new tile set. In this case the player also gets to keep their accumulated runes and spells.

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