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Runescape Review: 2011 Re-Review - Edit

Everyone has played RuneScape, it is just one of those facts like eating spiders in your sleep, being in constant close proximity to rats, and hating the bottom-burp that is Piers Morgan. The chances are, if you are a goblin-loving type like the staff at this website, you will have found yourself fervently pawing at the sign-up page of the aforementioned game in an attempt to get that MMO fix that is so desperately needed.

Developed over the course of a decade by Jagex Studios, RuneScape is the one of the world’s most popular free to play online game. Boasting a player base that would make any of its peers blush and packing more content than you could shake a stick owned by Henry Content at, there is little wonder why this game continues to go from strength to strength. Recently the developers of the game decided to bring back the Wilderness and Free Trade, so in turn MMORPG.com has decided to give this online-'em-up another look-in.

Born to be Wild a Baker

In almost every MMORPG you would expect your first dozen or so hours in-game to be a mixture of killing tiny rats and listening to booming voices proclaim "you are the chosen one!" - RuneScape decides to take a different route to all of this well-trodden nonsense. Oh sure, we have rats to poke at, a goblin or two to bother, and even half-a-dozen cows to slaughter, but that's not all. Jagex's game is essentially one of many different avenues to explore, and while combat is high on many people's priority list, this is not all you can expect to achieve within the game.

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I am going to be honest with you readers; I spent the first ten or so hours in RuneScape perfecting the art of baking bread. I'm not entirely proud of it, and I'm not bragging, but while others were butchering various life forms, I spent my time jogging merrily to the fields, picking half a dozen pretty plants, and finally delivering them to the mill to be transformed in flour. And do you know why I decided to choose the life of a simple farming-chef? Because I damn well could.

Like any sandbox worth its beach-based resource, RuneScape is a game without classes and to follow this, character creation is nothing more than choosing the color-scheme of your avatar and deciding which beard would best suite your features. Only when in the game do players begin to sculpt and mould exactly what their path will be and this is done in the form of the 25 skills that are on offer, of which some are excluded to the members-only side of things.

Of course I have already mentioned my love of the cooking skill, but within this browser-based title are a dozen or so choices that will sap your attention for some time. One of the more interesting elements is that players can mine for ore, and further craft themselves a set of armor fit for early exploits in the wilds; and this can all be done before even thinking about being involved in any kind of combat. It is this kind of approach that really endears RuneScape in that you do not have to be the all conquering warrior/mage but instead an industrious civilian.

And to further the aforementioned role of the pacifist crafter, trading also plays a big part in proceedings while not essentially being a skill onto itself. A broker house is available in the game by the name of the "Grand Exchange" and interestingly rather than being more WoW-like it shares similar traits with Eve Online's system of supply and demand. Being a lowly miner, players can offer their copper ore for a guided price and then put their goods on the market; and this is either bought by those with buy orders in place already or by waiting a few hours until someone comes along to purchase.

While we have seen trading in games before such as this, there is a real sense of player-driven commodities that never falls behind to a top-heavy community or players underselling each other. And the Grand Exchange isn't the only place where  bartering occurs, as it is not uncommon to find a crowd of players in the centre of any town pimping their wares to anyone not wanting to take the trip to the bigger cities.

It is easy to see why this element of RuneScape is one of its driving successes, and this is also helped in that there isn't one firm server/realm that players choose to play on. Upon entering the game, you have the choice as to which location you wish to play and these individual "worlds" can range anywhere from trading or RP specific. By allowing anyone to jump in and out, the population essentially opens up to the 200,000+ that play each day, and with the trade system integrating into each, it’s simple to see why this works so well. With this element in place, bartering with other players becomes one of mass-audience supply and demand and this makes trading a very valuable and easy to approach aspect of game play.

So with all these directions and avenues of play-style, there is little wonder why RuneScape has kept an active community for near-on a decade. There just seems so many layers to the game and the various forms of 'fluff' (ranging from skills or user made activities) lends to the sense that this is a real fantasy world that you are inhabiting - and this is one thing that many games, at current, simply lack.

On to the Stabby Stabby

But for all of the many and varied pursuits on offer in RuneScape, we come back to that old curmudgeon of the genre – combat and wildlife genocide. This element of the game follows the traditional physical and magical abilities and in turn, both are governed by a single or handful of skills. Starting with traditional weapon-based aggression, this is achieved by progressing your Combat, Defence, and Strength stats, all of which are furthered by dealing horrific blows to an opposing creature.

I feel that this element of the game is one of the shortcomings of RuneScape in that it just feels rather bland. There is a combat menu tab that allows for one of three actions to be performed which usually falls within "offensive" "neutral" and "defensive" and while this offers a certain amount of interaction, the addition of hot bar abilities would not be a miss. In fairness, battles never take too much time to complete but the genre feels slightly passed clicking an enemy and watching two swords clunk mercilessly into opposing body forms.

The magic on offer in the game does take a turn for the better as spells are governed by using the titular runes. Essentially, in order to cast a spell, a certain element-based rune is needed, and these are collected from monsters and gained in various ways. The spell list is fairly comprehensive and it does feel a lot more interactive than the physical combat, but again, there is a feeling that perhaps there could be more specialised paths through this aspect of the game.

In all, combat feels like one of the least developed systems, while the skill list can excite anyone towards the glee of collecting cow hide and turning it into leather, the systems for violent advancement do feel a little archaic compared to the rest of the ensemble. But in fairness to Jagex, this is just one small portion of the game and while it isn't entirely impressive, it is functional and does the job.

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