One of the reasons that I wanted to do this “A Week In…” series is to satisfy my curiosity about various MMORPGs. And I’ve certainly been curious about Runes of Magic, which might well be the poster child for the forgotten MMO. It was super-popular for about two weeks in 2008 when people latched on to this as the “free-to-play World of Warcraft,” before F2P was that widespread. Since then, it’s continued to be updated but has really faded into the background. Perfect for an expedition!
Sunday: The goal of this week is to simply make a new character and pilot her through the newbie experience. While Runes of Magic really lacks in the race (human, elf, dwarf) and generic class options (I went with Scout, which is a ranger/archer), I greatly amused myself with all of the sliders. You can make some really freaky looking alien characters, let me tell you. I made Super Anime Girl by blowing up her head, giving her saucer eyes, and slapping some blue paint all over her hair. And I kind of like the result!
Monday: Right off the bat, the game offered me a “handsome reward” if I would deign to run its tutorial. I never say no to a handsome reward, so I humbled myself to be taught how to move and click on things all over again. Did you know that WASD moves your character? Amazing! The actual tutorial is weirdly short, culminating in a seconds-long battle against a brightly colored Spider King.
Question: Since I defeated it, am I the new Spider King? Spider Queen?
Tuesday: Forget the mediocre graphics — Runes of Magic’s real artistry is in its lush soundtrack. Seriously great stuff. It’s one of those underrated MMO soundtracks because not many people think much of the game itself, but it’s really top-shelf material.
Anyway, today’s adventure took me into the starting village of Pioneers… something. Cove? Hamlet? I already forgot, that’s how memorable it was. PioTown! That’ll work. While the starting quests are extremely vanilla — talk to these dudes, kill some fungus — one weird thing is how much *stuff* Runes of Magic throws in your inventory from all of these starter missions. I swear, half of the quests were “You need to go talk to this guy, he’s got a welcome package for you. Now get a package from that other guy. And those next six guys.”
Wednesday: Two observations I want to share today. The first is that I discovered that by clicking on waypoints or quest givers on the map, you have the option to have the game automatically run you there. Some people don’t like auto-run, but I figure that if you’re OK with automatic transport elsewhere, it’s pretty much the same thing on a smaller scale. Gets you where you want to be.
Secondly, while the game may superficially look like early World of Warcraft, the combat is nowhere near as tight, interactive, or has that audible punch that I came to expect from WoW. It’s serviceable, but nothing better than that.
Thursday: I have two distinct memories of Runes of Magic from Back in the Day”. The first was the novelty of having a free-to-play MMORPG that was sorta (but not really) like World of Warcraft, which was perfect for those on a low budget. The second surrounded reports of how monetized the game was. The above quest is an example of this, as it’s a monetized quest. Haven’t seen those in MMOs lately, eh? Well, here you go. You can do the quest normally or pay to do it faster and get a better reward. And this is in the newbie zone, so they’re just buttering vulnerable players up for more milking later.
That makes my skin crawl.
Friday: By the end of the week in Runes of Magic, my heart really wasn’t in this. I can see why desperate players who couldn’t afford WoW would have flocked to this game back in the day, but it’s not an ideal substitute. The animations, combat, and visuals come off as stiff, and the cash shop-infused design leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, it was functional? That’s something. And the music is, as I said, wonderful. But I can listen to the music and play something else entirely, which is what I’ll do.