The Taborean tourist
A few months ago I did play a bit in the closed beta of Runes of Magic. I cannot say I was particularly impressed with the game then; although I did only play a few levels. But since it was also a closed beta at the time it would be expected to perhaps be incomplete and a bit rough.
Recently I decided to pick up the game again even though it is in “open beta”, after I read in a post by Saylah that the characters would stick around and not be wiped. This means that they are essentially doing changes and tuning to the game still. But since the characters will stick around we basically have the same situation that a number of former MMORPGs has been at their official release. At least here it is being a bit more honest about where they are currently. Saylah also has a number of other posts on Runes of Magic – well worth a read!
Payment to play the game is through an item shop, which seems to be fully functional at this stage. In order to see how much the game might cost me in practive I did order 500 diamonds (the item shop currency), which cost me roughly 22 Euro. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts.
Starting the game again this time did not initially give a much better impression that from the closed beta, although texts in general had been translated at this point to English. The initial tutorial feels a bit cheesy and not particularly exciting. There is no feeling of excitement, destiny and glorious adventure waiting. The environment does not have the splendor and detail that may be found in Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars or the ambience of Chronicles of Spellborn. And while the sound is not completely non-existant, there is not much of it and not something that I would consider memorable at this point. But maybe they will improve on that before the real release.
Still, that does not mean that it is bad. In fact I did start to like it more and more as I played. It has more of a bit cosy and casual feeling over it, not taking things too seriously and providing a bit fun for a bit of time. In a sense it is a spiritual child of World of Warcraft in my view. The developers have certainly been inspired by Blizzard’s game, but they have done more than merely trying to copy it.
There are currently six classes in the game (with more to come later): Warrior, Scout, Rogue, Knight, Mage and Priest. If you have played fantasy MMORPGs before it will not be difficult to guess what each of these classes do. One interesting aspect here though is that similar to Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) or Guild Wars, one can choose two separate classes for a character. Similar to FFXI, these have to be leveled separately, but you can mix skills from both classes to use and what you can use will depend on how far you have leveled each class.
I started out with a rogue; mechanics are a bit similar to World of Warcraft in that there is a “power bar” that i used for rogue skills and you cannot use them too much before it is depleted, but it recharges quickly also. From level 10 it is possible to choose the second class. When my rogue was 12 I picked a new class, which ended up being a priest. Priests use mana, so I had now also a mana bar to consume from when I used dual classes, separate and independent from the rogue power bar. At that point I switched to priest and started leveling him to be in level with my rogue abilities. Currently my rogue is at 13 and my priest at 12 and the combination seem to work quite well so far.
One of the classes will be the primary class and the other the secondary. The skills that can be chosen from the secondary will be limited, while the full use of the primary class’ skills are possible. While one cannot regret the choice of classes it is possible to switch which one is the primary and which one is the secondary class.
Equipment that can be used is dependent on the primary class, which means that one may need to have separate sets of weapons and clothing/armor depending on the class combinations chosen. The switch can only be made in one’s own house though (similar to FFXI), so the other set of equipment can be stored in the house storage and do not need to be carried around.
Housing; eveyone can have a place of their own and this can be obtained at a fairly early stage at one of the newbie villages. The houses are “virtual” and does not take up space in the real world. The starter housing is essentially a single room in which 10 items of furniture can be placed in. The house itself has a general storage area, but one also recives a chest to place in the house for a couple of more slots.
Furniture is one thing that has to be bought in the item shop. While the selection is not huge they do have a decent amount at least. It is not only fluff though; similar to FFXI pretty much all types of furniture can give some kind of bonus. That might be experience points (xp), training points (tp) or crafting bonuses. As long as the amount of furniture is within the initial 10 piece limit there is no extra cost to have the house beside the furniture bought. However, if the house space is increased beyond that, it will start to cost energy – and energy is bought with diamonds. Energy is consumed over time also, so essentially it is some kind of rent. But, that is only if the house is expanded beyond the initial size.
Besides the character levels, there are a number of other leveling systems in place. New skills are obtained automatically when new levels are gained for the current primary class. However, the skills do not scale up automatically with level. Instead there is a leveling system for all skills where training points are spent to level up selected skills. Training points (tp) is gained similar to xp – defeating mobs, completing quests etc. Initially it is possible to max pretty much all skills, but as the number of skills grow one has to be a bit more selective about where to put the training points. All in all it feels a bit like a simplified version of the Anarchy Online skill system. There is supposedly a respec option at level 30 and it is possible to by respecs from the item shop, so it is a bit restricted on when you can change the choices made here.
There is a crafting/harvesting system in place in the game, which has it its own leveling of course. In the first tier of crafting/harvesting skills (level 1-20) a character can obtain and use all of them. Advancing beyond that limits the number of choices though to a few at intermediate tier and only one skill can be completely mastered at the top tier.
The whole system is fairly similar to the World of Warcraft system, with harvesting nodes of different types and levels and learning recipes to use to advance in the crafting skills. Crafting some item typically involves refining pieces of harvested material (at least 2 types) and then use refined pieces to make the item, at least for recipes that are bought from a crafting instructor. There are also recipes dropped as loot, which seem to requires two stages of refinement before actually being able to create the item. These also tend to be a bit more resource heavy.
There is relatively small amounts of pure trash loot that is dropped from mobs compared to some other MMORPGs. There can be a lot of items dropping though. Besides weapons, armor and potions mobs may typically drop quest items and runes. Runes seem to play a fairly central role in the game – some of them can be used to boost stats by placing them in equipment which have slots for runes. Which runes to use in a slot is up to the player. There are also runes that supposedly can be used in crafting and it is possible to combine runes to get new boosts and effects. There is also some runes that seem to give some guild bonuses. I have not tried any of that yet expect slotting my equipment, but I do save every rune I get. Not surprisingly, some runes can also be bought at the item shop.
The other part of loot that is dropped from mobs are the quest items. The interesting part here is that some of those items may drop even if you do not have a corresponding quest – the daily quests. Instead one can collect there quest items and at some point later pick up the quest(s) and cash in the reward directly. This is also true for quests that require harvested material – if you happen to have the material just turn in the quest directly, no need to go and obtain it again. These quests give rewards in form of Bierdine tokens, which is another form of cash which can be used with representatives of the Bierdine Brotherhood to get other stuff.
There are also some other systems in place to collect and consume stuff through talismans. All in all there seem to be a number of different systems and “currencies” to collect stuff, level different skills, get bonuses etc. At least at the lower levels where I am it gives a number of different activities to tinker with and does not feel particularly grindy yet – although I suspect I might get there in terms of crafting/harvesting soon enough and that might cause me to visit the item shop for some bonuses in that area…
There is also an auction house system in place, where consumables, harvest resources, recipes, runes, weapons and armor can be traded. But also quest items are possible to buy. And there is also a section for mounts, but that is currently empty. Given that the section exists though I guess that there will be some rewards/loot that can provide mounts. I think that there will eb other mounts available later in the game; at one point I ran into a high level player who was riding on a unicorn.
Regular mounts (horses) can be bought from the item shop though, either by renting them for 7 or 30 days, or buy a permanent one. There is also a teaser mount that is provided when the character is created and is available for 24 hours.
While the initial starter zone did not feel that large I did not consider a mount that important at first – nice to have but not essential. But with my harvesting/crafting there is need to travel back and forth to the rights spots to refine/craft and after a while I do want to speed that up a bit. Also moving on to other zones expands the area to go through.
I do like though that the option to get a mount is available right from the start though, even if it cost some diamonds. I have never understood why other fantasy MMORPGs seem to consider that mounts are so special that they cannot be obtained until after a number of levels and on top of that cost a lot of in-game currency. If it were a dragon or something I might understand it, but regular horses and similar? I just don’t get it. In this area I like Runes of Magic much better and if the same type of option presented itself in LOTRO for example (to buy for real cash) I would jump on it immediately.
The mobs encountered so far seems to be of three kinds – regular mobs, sort of “elite” mobs and bosses. The regular ones are quite easy to deal with, the “elite” ones a bit tougher and may need multiple players. The bosses are significantly tougher and do need a team.
While there are some story arcs behind a few quests I cannot say that that the lore or stories have been particularly impressive so far – some nice pieces but not much really memorable yet. Most of the quests are soloable so far, but some (i.e. those with boss encounters etc) will generally need teams. There are no indicators on the map where to go for a quest, but the instructions are in many cases quite clear. For those times when someone actually want a clear direction on where to go the World Search function comes into play. Itis essentially an NPC/quest locator tool through which it is possible to find the location of various NPCs and quests. A marker can be set to track those and will then give direction arrows to follow to get to the right spot.
I think that is a good compromise; those that do not want direct pointers where to go can rely on the quest text only, but for the times where more direction is neede the search tool does its job also and everyone can be happy(ier).
The user interface of the game is fairly ok; the usual types of quickbars can be set up (again influenced by World of Warcraft) and skill icons are pretty clear and easy to read. There are some customisation options available in the settings, but what seems to be the more encompassing customisation is also a World of Warcraft inspiration – addons can be written to customise the interface and create new types of function. Also similar to World of Warcraft the scripting language is LUA and there seem to be enough similarities that supposedly some add-on code for World of Warcraft might work with Runes of Magic. There are some add-ons available already if the game becomes more popular it may be a lot more of that.
Overall I have enjoyed playing Runes of Magic so far and I do feel an urge to jump in and play more, which is a good sign. It is not a game that I feel excels in any single area, but it has a good mix of a lot of game mechanics which work good enough. I think it certainly can work as a game to play every now and then; solo or with a few friends. The price model works quite well in that sense; only pay some when needed to make it a bit more convenient. It does not cost anything to try it other than some time to download the client and space on the hard disk, so by all means give it a shot.