The name Royal Quest refers to the overreaching objective for all heroes of the land of Elenia. Elenia's main draw is a lighter-than-air element called Elenium, a material with the power to make big things like castles and islands float. Such an element has great value, and it attracts a group of alien alchemists from outside Elenia's home planet of Aura who want the element for themselves. Unwilling to stand by while otherworldly magicians plunder your home planet, you answer the kingdom's call.
The first thing you do when becoming a hero is decide what kind of hero to be. Royal Quest gives you four choices: Mage, Warrior, Archer and Rogue. Within those categories are sub-professions with nifty titles like “Sorcerer,” “Crusader,” “Sniper,” and “Assassin.” My seemingly ingrained magic bias led me to choose Mage, and so my heroic career began at Wizarding School where I learned about Concentration, a mage-specific resource that uses runes for spell-casting.
The Concentration system consists of three runes that sit under your mana bar. These charge up as you use lower-level attacks like Fireball or Ice Arrow, and once they're lit up, you can use your strongest spells or lengthen the effects of them. From what I've seen, there's nothing mind-blowing about this set-up. I'm holding out hope it becomes more compelling once my level is high enough to choose a profession (Warlock or Sorcerer).
I've yet to reach that level after a good number of hours with the game, and that's because Royal Quest relies on one of my least-favorite things—grind. The design is somewhat strange, because early on it makes you think it's like other modern MMOs: built on a foundation of XP-rich PvE quests that lead you into grouping, dungeons and PvP. After setting up this scenario through a steady stream of quests though, PvE drops off completely and the effect is jarring. Until then, you've been interacting with the world, being introduced to new people and places, and then suddenly people stop talking to you and the map goes dead.
Having checked the “Available Quests” menu and finding nothing, I spent a good long while exploring, searching in vain for quests. (The only up side to this was that Royal Quest lets you open your map and click on a destination to make your character path to it on its own. Your character can end up dead that way, but at least it's an option.) No one in town knew what was what so I took to the Royal Quest forums where I found players commenting on the mystifying lack of quests. RQ moderators stated that the game is designed that way to emphasize PvP.
This came as a bit of a surprise (not only to me) since the RQ website mentions the game's PvP options but doesn't call PvP out as the whole point. Not clearly communicating that is a big mistake on the part of developer Katauri Interactive and publisher 1C Company; I suspect they'll miss out on avid PvP-ers who would likely embrace a PvP-heavy game, and alienate PvP-averse players who don't know what they're getting into. Ah well.
In any case, the grind is apparently built in, although it's meant to be less arduous for PvP-ers. Honestly, the PvE must have been designed with the same mindset, because it too is a bit of a grind. Its old-fashioned “one at a time” quest-granting method means lots of running back and forth, and the quests themselves aren't exactly bursting with creativity. They're basically an un-embellished stream of, “kill so many of this” and “collect so many of that.” Once this obligatory intro is done, your options for earning XP are random farming and PvP.
The first option does have some interest, at least for a while. The game's played from an isometric point of view, which generally provides a good view of the playful environments. Locations are varied and peppered with whimsical monsters and random resources, both of which you can farm for crafting materials. Moreover, here and there you encounter random holes in the ground which you can enter to fight subterranean monsters and look for loot. Everything looks great, and if you're in the mood for an old-fashioned dungeon crawl, it could fit the bill. Drops do seem modest however, and (speaking for the first few zones in the game) that means when it comes to characters, there's a high degree of visual monotony.
Your best bet for having unique gear (at least stats-wise) is Alchemy, Royal Quest's item improvement/crafting system. The game teaches it well, and it's fun tossing a philosopher's stone, an item and a Rune of Preservation into the pot and seeing what comes out. (Next RIP I really need to dig deeper into this to find out how useful it is.) It's also fun setting up your own little store in town and selling stuff to other players, though it's not exactly immersive having the streets festooned with row upon row of merchant bots.
Before this writing, I only managed to dip my toes in Royal Quest's PvP waters but I did discover that farming monsters in PvP (or PvEvP) zones gives an XP bonus, as does surviving as long as you can in those zones. Of course, doing either depends on being part of a group. Word to the wise--competitive players are waiting in those zones to hand you a beat-down and rob you of your items and your dignity. I for one won't go there again without backup.
In addition to open PvP zones, Royal Quest offers Duels, Battlegrounds, Arenas and Castle Siege. There's little information about PvP modes on the RQ site, so there's no way to learn about them except by jumping in. I did find evidence that Castle Siege is up (it's a weekly event that gives guilds the opportunity to own revenue generating castles) but have yet to try it.
So far, my feelings about Royal Quest are lukewarm. I enjoy the look of the game, and I like what I've seen of the crafting/item improvement mechanic, but I admit I'm disappointed by the lack of quests/story context. Further, I'm put off by the old-fashioned interactivity and quest construction which makes it feel less alive than most modern MMOs. Still, I have yet to dig into my Mage skills and see what they can do, and there's a whole slew of PvP play I've yet to experience. It remains to be seen if Royal Quest can keep me playing long-term. I guess the weeks to come will tell.