The last time MMORPG took a look at Runes of Magic (RoM), the game was recently released and still very much up for debate as far as value verses other MMO options. However, RoM is a 100% free-to-play game (with an item mall, of course), which is certainly a budget friendly investment if you’re looking for a new gaming option. In the two years since our last look at RoM, quite a few impressive changes and additions have been implemented. But does this one hold its own against the other F2P titles—and P2P options—also available?
The RoM Dual Class system.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of RoM is the Dual Class system. Each character is composed of two classes, which are selected from a somewhat disappointingly small pool of 8 options, effectively giving you two characters in one. How this works is you select a starting class, which is automatically your “primary” class, and quest or grind up to level 10. Once you hit this first milestone, you can select your “secondary” class. The only limitation is that Priest and Knight are Human-only, whereas Druid and Warden are Elf-only, so never shall the four intertwine. Elves and the Elf-only classes were implemented after the initial RoM release, and I found the Elven starting lands seemed slightly more advanced and polished than the Human ones.
After you’ve selected your secondary class, you must visit your complimentary house maid in order to swap the combo. Until your now-primary class is the same level as your now-secondary class, you cannot access all of the bonus abilities. Although many players choose to keep their character classes within 10 levels of each other at first, I found that many players over level 40 neglect their secondary class until they reach level 62—the highest level currently available. You will have access to some of your secondary class abilities as you level your primary class, but not all of them. I was disappointed that the dual class system doesn’t give you general access to at least the weapon and armor proficiencies of both classes; my Druid/Scout could use bows, but not leather armor, for example.
However, it is a refreshing change from many MMOs which offer only talent trees and minimal customization per character, and gives bonus versatility and variety to each character slot. The additional “Elite” abilities, which are available depending on your primary/secondary combination, give even more bonuses based on your two class choices.
PvE & PvP: A quick rundown.
As with most games offering PvP servers, you can access player-versus-player combat almost immediately after making a character. Simply hit level 10—which takes next to no time in a quest driven game like RoM—and you’re ready to gank other players. The PvE server players can opt to turn on their PK flag, but the majority of PvP happening on the PvE servers is going to be siege combat.
The siege PvP system puts guilds into a head-to-head combat scenario, and the pairings span all of the RoM servers instead of being limited to guilds on the same server. It isn’t the most addictive or impressive PvP system I’ve ever played, but it does give you access long before end-game if you don’t mind being essentially limited to collecting crystals to help your 50+ guildmates build siege towers and the like. Once you’re level 50+, you have access to the fun task of killing NPC monsters or targeting PC opponents. There are set PvP times for these guild-based siege raids, so it isn’t something you can chose to do day-in and day-out. The rewards for the winning guild are pretty impressive; even as a level 20 newbie, I received two 55+ pieces of “blue” grade armor, plus orbs for free XP and training points. Not bad for less than an hour of my time—and not bad for a F2P game, either.
A friendly community—for free?
One of the major downside to a F2P game—especially an MMO which has been F2P since launch, as is the case with RoM—is that the community seems less invested in the notion of being “friendly and helpful.” This has definitely been the case with F2P conversion titles, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online, where consistently you’ll encounter unpleasant sorts of people who are on the game because they don’t like it enough to shell-out for VIP membership each month. Naturally, entering RoM with an assumption or fear that the community would be the same assortment of non-committed, egocentric players is a natural one. Fortunately, that seems to be far from the case, at least on the PvE servers. Although the Elven starting lands are notoriously quiet, head over to the Human starting zones to find your Zone Chat filled with requests for assistance, helpful advice, and only the occasional provoking replies.
Of course, the experience tends to differ over on the PvP servers, which are arguably designed to promote backstabbing, 3p33n measuring and general jerkiness towards everyone not in your guild. That is the nature of the PvP beast, and RoM is no exception. Still, guilds seem to be even more accommodating and helpful in a PvP environment, so there is one safe-haven of hope for new players needing assistance.
Guilds have enjoyed a healthy dose of attention from the RoM team, who has implemented many strong features able to give legitimate benefits rather than just a fancy guild house or castle with nothing but bragging rights. Over on the Osha server, the guild “Sexy” was kind enough to allow a newbie to join their numbers and poke around in their level 9 guild castle for the purpose of this review—in addition to asking an embarrassing amount of newbie questions. I found this to be a great example of how the RoM community often displays over-the-top generosity, helpfulness or encouragement towards new players.
RoM even has a system for “Honor Parties,” in which a level 30+ player can invite one person into his or her group (provided that player is under level 30), and give the lower level 100% of the XP generated during this grouping. Several of the lads in “Sexy” were kind enough to demonstrate this feature for me, and although it would be nice if multiple newbies could tag-along at the same time I was impressed that RoM offers the system at all. Power-leveling is typically a tricky, if not near impossible, arrangement in most MMOs.
RoM Alchemy: Converting Gold to Diamonds.
Like many free MMO options, Runes of Magic offers an item mall with special upgrades, mounts, costumes and more in exchange for diamonds bought with real-life currency. Whether you choose to pick up a RoM game card or use the online system to pay via credit card or PayPal determines if you can gift diamond items to friends. In order to protect honest players from diamond vendors and gold farmers, RoM doesn’t allow you to use diamonds purchased online with a credit card to send gifts. This is unfortunate if you want to mail a mount to your friend, but especially frustrating if you want to participate in the in-game exchange of gold for diamonds. At roughly 10k gold per diamond, players with extra spending money and lots of diamonds can quickly outfit their characters with gold currency items; alternatively, players who can’t—or won’t—spend money for diamonds can still purchase diamond-only items after farming hordes of in-game gold.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a trading system in place to protect players during these gold-for-diamond trades. Players advertise the buying or selling of the goods, and these purchase arrangements consist of “buy me X diamond item, and I’ll send you Y amount of gold.” The unofficial, community-made rule is that the person with the gold sends funds first, and then the diamond owner purchases a pre-agreed-upon diamond item to send to the buyer. This system only promotes scamming, and the World Chat is frequently bombarded with accusations of scamming. Not since The Realm Online have I see a trading system, which is openly allowed by the game moderators, enable so much potential for bad trades or scamming. Still, it does allow players who cannot afford diamond purchases an opportunity to obtain those goods. You can also purchase store items with rubies and the tokens obtained doing the 10/day bonus quests, but those items aren’t nearly as fancy as the diamond-only ones.
Players can also attempt to complete free offers and surveys on the Runes of Magic website in order to generate bonus diamonds. These are usually difficult at best to qualify for, but you might be able to land 20 or 40 freebies—maybe more. Of course, these “free” surveys often collect your email info and subject you to hordes of spam invitations to bonus surveys, so proceed accordingly.
Runes of Magic: Worth the download?
Arguably, the dual class system is one of the most novel concepts present in Runes of Magic. The heavy questing system, class options, even the visuals are extremely reminiscent of other popular MMOs—especially World of Warcraft. However, considering RoM is F2P, it’s rather impressive that the game offers anything novel at all. The option of PvP versus PvE servers is another nice addition, especially since PvP is still available even if you play on a PvE server. RoM even offers a decent crafting system, and a single character can learn every trade skill and recipe available.
Ultimately, I was shocked by the volume of free content available in RoM. As a player who tends to prefer grinding to endless quests, the emphasis on the latter wasn’t something I was thrilled about. However, the XP and loot rewards are fair for the time investment, though it essentially means group leveling is limited prior to level 20. But the RoM world is vast, and the frequent updates and seasonal festivals provide a fairly continuous amount of things to do. Compared to other F2P titles, RoM manages to succeed with style and a polish rarely exhibited without a membership fee or purchase price. While it isn’t likely to ever trump the major P2P players currently in the market, Runes of Magic is certainly worth a trial run for anyone looking to try a worthwhile game for little or no monetary investment.