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Jagex Ltd | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 03/29/04)  | Pub:Jagex Ltd
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Browser | Retail Price:Free | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:$07.95
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2011 Re-Review - Edit

2011 Re-Review

Sucker for a Dame

Aside from various gripes and groans, RuneScape is a very immersive and entertaining title. What was once a slightly under-appreciated Ultima Online clone, is now one of the genres more traditional and yet unique games. For anyone looking for accessible, refined, and polished sandbox fun, RuneScape is a surprisingly essential game. And I say surprising because, well, due to the nature of Jagex’s MMO, there a very divisive opinion towards it.

Let’s get it out in the open, RuneScape isn’t the most pretty game going. Developed on the java platform, where the game makes up in pure accessibility, it loses a fair amount of respect for simply being behind in the technological stakes. And you know what? This is understandable, we live in the age of HD and next-gen graphical capabilities, and while it is shallow and slightly embarrassing to admit it – we are all suckers for a pretty dame of an MMORPG, and obviously this is never going to be RuneScape’s strong suit.

But this isn’t to say that the game is ugly, quite the opposite. While we aren’t seeing dazzling visuals, we do have a very colourful and solid graphical performance, which once turned up to maximium, can conjure a certain charm and appeal. Aside from the slightly bland and primitive looking avatars, environments are detailed, towns have a sense of character, and flora and fauna spring from every crevice.  For the Java platform, it is impressive, and it is importantly accessible on most machines, but, where this attracts certain players, it will also push away others.

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Another problem is  that parts of the MMORPG community are currently riding high on a wave of anti-WoW feeling, and given that RuneScape shares common traits in that it is colourful and slightly cartoonish, this is never going to bring in the most hardcore of player. And this is a real shame because in all honest Jagex Studios have created something that outshines most triple A titles, and if released on the current market, would be more than a hit than it currently is.

The Rest of the 'Stuff'

RuneScape is a perfect way to while away the hours engulfed in a fog of fantasy. The many skills on offer give a great sense of multi-faceted game play, and this is not the only thing to do. Questing makes an appearance but not in the sense that we have come to expect from most MMORPGs. Within RuneScape, questing is something that is more special and interesting than your average "kill x of y" in that there is a real story-driven and unique experience to be had.

The overriding feeling I got from attempting my first dozen or so quests in Jagex's game was how different and more single player the experience felt. There is more of a sense of adventure and being tasked to do something out of the ordinary than culling of an over-breeding nuisance that most MMOs now deliver. Heading into a certain areas takes me back to games such as "Dungeon Siege" and will also call upon puzzles to be solved, and even little mini-games. There is something fairly refreshing about the approach to questing here and it feels more engrossing and actually like a mission to do something quite mystical and exciting.

To add to all this quest-based malarkey, Dungeoneering is a randomly generated dungeon crawl experience which will have you solving certain puzzles, killing a certain boss, and simply trying to endure whatever level experience has been chosen for you. In a way this feels like the instancing system in other MMORPGs but has more of a Dungeons & Dragons feel in that these crawls are generated based on your equipment chosen and how many are in your party. They are fun and different, but I still don't see how they might push out the traditional system of journeying into the dark catacombs of online games.

Another exciting element to the game is the wilderness, which has recently returned in its "old-school" format. Essentially this is a full-loot free-for-all area in which you can indulge your inner-barbarian or simply taste some of the more dangerous aspects of the game. While it is  an area you might not find yourself delving into right away, it is scaled to certain level bands so that a level 90+ combat expert will not gank you constantly, and that you will find players of similar ilk to yourself trying to opportunistically gather more equipment.

But of course, it is not all smiles and joy, where RuneScape is going  to make or break a player’s experience is whether not they enjoy the inevitable grind on offer. For some, this is a non-issue, but for others that do not revel in continuous repeatable tasks, this game will not be for you.

RuneScape has grind in abundance and while this is not entirely a bad thing, it will put some players off looking for a slightly easier and more casual experience. Personally, I didn't mind grafting in the game as there just seemed to many directions and ways in which to do so, but, if you do not look for similar qualities as I do, then this isn't the MMO for you.

To Conclude...

RuneScape genuinely surprised me with its game play and what it had to offer. Where my pre-existing notions lent to an attitude that it was somehow beneath the genre because of its browser-based platform, I can hold my hands up and say I was wrong. Jagex Studios have easily created something that stands up head and shoulders above most "free-to-play" games and even triple A titles.

For anyone looking for that "old-school" experience but with also tons of progression, refinement, and unique ideas, RuneScape is easily recommendable. And while many will not be able to get past the graphics or the heavy-grind based nature of the game, it is none the less a solid and gem of the genre - and the best thing is, a lot of it comes for free, so why not check it out?

Final Score

8

Pros
 Can play for hours without touching combat
 Unique, refreshing, and brings new concepts to the genre
Cons
 Combat feels archaic and slightly underdeveloped
 Graphics are going to be an obvious sticking point
 Heavy-grind for the most part