Fires of Shadowforge Review
In early June, the developers behind Runes of Magic introduced Chapter V: The Fires of Shadowforge, another free expansion for this free-to-play (F2P) title that further increases the content, lore, and class options for players. The question is, can Chapter V—and specifically, the arrival of the Dwarf race—compete with the newest expansions other MMOs are releasing for summer 2012? Is there anything here, within the Runes of Magic world, to lure us away from other F2P and even pay-to-play (P2P) options?
Along with the implementation of the Dwarf race and subsequent Dwarf-only classes, Chapter V: The Fires of Shadowforge came with a decent package of new content. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on the Dwarf race itself (and the Dwarf classes), but Chapter V also introduced two new instances plus a few Dwarf locations. Taffrock, the Dwarven capital, is pretty snazzy as far as major cities within an MMO are concerned. Two new world regions, namely the Kingdom of Rozazan and Chrysalia, are available for all players to explore regardless of their race. I especially loved the ravaged, torn lands of Chysalia, but both regions are worth a visit and a little exploration in my book.
Dwarves, by any other name, would smell as…musty.
One complaint I have heard consistently about Runes of Magic (RoM) is that despite its F2P status, the sheer lack of race options available. Originally, only humans existed, with their human lands and human ways. The addition of Elves brought the Druid and Warden classes—two of my favorites—plus new lands to explore, new legends to slowly unlock through quests. Increasing the racial list to three with Dwarves seems like an obvious choice, based on popular fantasy formulas, and the developers have done a fantastic job of weaving the Dwarf-inhabited portions of the world into believable dwellings for the shorter citizens: Huge, looming waterfalls of molten liquid churn in the starter city, which is built within the hallowed halls of mountains. Plenty of ore is available, which seems only fitting, and the monsters you encounter early on are perfect for a series of cavernous hallways and tiny meadows between mountains: Spiders, beetles, bats, and snakes.
The Dwarf-Only Classes: Champion
The first class I chose between the new options was the Champion, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Champion differs from the Warrior and Knight classes enough to make it a viable addition to a party roster. Generating rage to perform special moves, the Champion utilizes the Dwarven affinity for the forge, runic magic, and the innate rage of the generally unpleasant to access some pretty groovy abilities. For example, “Rune Energy Influx” converts generated rage into hit-points, and as someone who frequently plays the party’s healer I appreciate any skill that helps to keep our tank alive.
One of my favorite aspects of the Champion class is the “Runic Shield Form,” which—in a nutshell—converts your Dwarf Champion into a big, harder-to-damage robot. No, I’m not kidding—a robot, presumably from the molten fires of the forge, or something along those lines. The quest chain to gain access to this ability has been regarded as overly tedious by much of the RoM community, but arguably one of the biggest complaints I hear about RoM overall is the long, unexciting quest chains. I would have loved to see a shield form that seems a little more…Dwarven, perhaps a rock golem or giant tankard of ale, but the robot form works well enough.
The Dwarf-Only Classes: Warlock
When I first started to explore what the Warlock has to offer players, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the similarities between the RoM Warlock, and the Warlock of World of Warcraft (WoW) fame. Both are magic users who specialize in the manipulation of souls or soul-energy, wielding that power as a dark art. The Runes of Magic version differs slightly in that the Warlock’s juice is called “Psi,” but it’s basically just another name for mana. Warlock players can choose to go on the offensive, assaulting enemies with some pretty fun and powerful spells, or become more defensive by reducing damage received by the party and negating negative effects. This sort of versatility is a welcomed feature, as far as I am concerned, considering many MMOs—whether F2P or P2P—can fall into the trap of one-dimensional classes that only fill one party role successfully.
The Warlock is definitely a master of the dark arts, with abilities that are named along the lines of “Soul Pain” and “Ill Will.” It certainly changes the perception that Dwarves are grumpy, axe-wielding curmudgeons better fitted for work in a forge or an alehouse than in a mystic academy. Once again, the Warlock—just like the Champion—is not a class option that is so unique, so exciting and novel that I anticipate players flocking to RoM just to play this original, innovative class concept; that being said, the Warlock is certainly a viable option for players who prefer magic-users over tanks, and it holds its own with the more elementally-based Mage. (Gee, that last sentence could apply to WoW as well—see what I mean about the overlap?)
Neither hide nor beard-hair of a female Dwarf to be seen.
If you’ve read any of my previous content here on MMORPG.com, you’re probably aware that I tend to take an angle when reviewing titles—that is, to be specific, a Gamer Gal’s perspective. So, while I don’t tend to dock an MMO for neglecting the female portion of its fan-base, I do tend to speak out when I see an oversight. Let this section serve as my official request to Frogster: Could we get female-only race next, almighty developers? I’ve never been a fan of gender-specific classes, and while I do realize that in many fantasy worlds there are no female Dwarves in existence, I do permit myself one little twitch when explore a new MMO race only to find it gender-locked, male or female. While we could argue that adding a female-only race would only double the amount of gender-locked races, I do think that “fair is fair” when it comes to MMO class options.
Runes of Magic’s shiny new Dwarves, in conclusion:
Without a doubt, the world within Runes of Magic is better off with the addition of the Dwarf race. I enjoyed my time spend both as a Champion and a Warlock, and the Dwarven lands themselves are engrossing, interesting, and amusing. While the quest chains for the Dwarves aren’t any more spectacular than those for the Elves, Humans, or everyone, they are entertaining enough in my book. At one point, I had to retrieve a mug of ale in the starter city for another Dwarf, and I won’t deny that amused me. Nothing here is epically original, or even trend-setting within the MMO community, but I do pose one quick reminder: This is a F2P title, and while there is a cash mall full of temping items, you don’t have to spend a dime to explore the content within Runes of Magic.