This fantasy free to play MMORPG had a small start but has since proved to be one of the most popular MMOs yet with a massive playerbase of well over 156 million registered accounts. Featuring a 3D browser based—which is client implemented in Java—mean no massive downloads. But, this game has definitely been around the block. So what does its age say about its quality, graphics, and gameplay? Well, stick around and find out!
Noted for its humble beginnings, RuneScape was created by Andrew Gower. Andrew developed RuneScape from his childhood bedroom while studying as a Cambridge undergraduate. Andrew’s love for game development led to the development of the Jagex Games Studio which now turns over £2,000,000 a year and employs over two-dozen people.
The game was rewritten and released in open beta form in 2003 under the name RuneScape 2. When it was re-released in March of 2004, it was once again released as RuneScape. At the time of its 2004 release, RuneScape was a rarity being one of the only browser based MMORPGs available. In August of 2008, RuneScape made history as it was entered into the Guinness World Records as the most popular free MMORPG in the world for the second year in a row.
It’s All Browser Baby
Okay, let’s get going! Account creation is simple and only takes a small amount of time. We’ve already established that RuneScape is a browser based RPG, so logging in, as well as character creation, and all gameplay are accessed via its homepage. RuneScape may either be run in the original standard SD or in the new high quality HD mode. Unfortunately, no matter which mode you choose, the graphics are still quite subpar. RuneScape’s graphics have a very dated feel and are look pixilated. So, if you’re looking for phenomenal graphics, keep on looking because you won’t find them here. On a positive note, because RuneScape does not require a huge graphic intense client download, gamers with older computer systems can still enjoy the game. And, you’re not limited to your computer for gameplay access.
The New You
Character creation is fair as you are given several options including clothes and hairstyles. While it’s nice to have somewhat of a collection of esthetic options to choose from, Runescape’s character customization is still limited and offers nothing special. There are three classes to choose from: Melee, Ranger, and Madge. Here’s a little bit about each:
Melee- This is the most common class in RuneScape and they excel in close combat and defense. They wear armor made of various metals. The Melee class’ weapons of choice include: swords and long swords, scimitars, daggers, and the two-handed sword.
Ranger- Rangers start a bit slower than the other two classes, but really excel as you progress higher through the levels. This class is experienced in long range combat with a seriously high attack rate. A Ranger’s armor is mostly leather. Their weapon of choice is the bow and arrow.
Mage- Mages are known to be the hardest to start because they require runes. However, once they get going, progression is quick. This class is deadly, utilizing long range attack skills. Mages prefer robes and use a staff to help raise their magic stats. While they can be quite deadly, Mages are very vulnerable because they lack any type of armor.
Other than that, there’s really not much else to be said about it as there’s not much to the character creation in this game. It’s sad, but true. Maybe as the developers continue to update RuneScape, they will improve character customization options. Only time will tell.
A Runescape Welcome
Starting out, you’re taken to a special tutorial area. The tutorial is a bit tedious but does a fantastic job of getting you established. The first portion of the tutorial serves to introduce you to various activities such as fire making, woodcutting, cooking, and fishing; just to name a few. Each activity corresponds with a skill. From this portion of the tutorial, you are then introduced to the combat skills portion.
RuneScape’s combat skills include: Constitution, Prayer, Strength, Ranged, Attack, Magic, and Defense. Summoning is the 8th combat skill, but is available to paying members only. Combat skills are divided into 3 categories: Melee, Magic, and Ranged. Those combat categories form the “Combat Triangle” which says that melee attacks are effective against ranged opponents, ranged attacks are effective against magic opponents, and magic attacks are effective against melee opponents. So, you can see where the categories come full circle in relation to the effect of one attack to the next; this triangle holds true for both player and NPC opponents. I do want to warn you; prepare yourself because initially combat is somewhat lackluster; so don’t expect too much at the beginning.
Next you are taken to the city of Lumbridge where NPCs are waiting to offer your first quests. The unfortunate truth is that there is a limit to the number of quests that a free-to-play gamer can play. So, we’ve found yet another MMO which claims to be a FTP but requires a membership to truly enjoy the extent of its gameplay. RuneScape’s gameplay is very open-ended.
Quests in RuneScape have various requirements such as particular skills, minimum levels, and quest points. Once you’ve completed a quest, you may be rewarded with unique items, quest points, XP, access to various new areas, and even money. RuneScape’s quests are also unique in the fact that some quests require that multiple players cooperate to complete the task at hand.
While quests may offer a series of tasks which are based upon a storyline, the lack of an overall storyline really leaves you with a lack of direction which some gamers will find annoying; even though the quests themselves follow a plotline. Others will enjoy the freedom that this style of MMORPG brings. That freedom enables players to pursue any combination of skills simultaneously gives them a chance to dip their toes into the various skill sets to determine which they like best. While the character customization options are sparse and do not allow for much individuality, the skill system allows players to develop a completely unique combination of traits in their character.
Keep in mind that when playing RuneScape—or as I jokingly refer to it—RunEscape, your character will die if their life points are completely gone. Drinking and eating particular consumables will help you to recover life points. When your character dies, you will reappear at a particular respawn location with restored life and skill points, but minus all but three valuables. The lost valuable items aren’t always lost forever… Many times, valuable items may be taken back by getting to the gravestone where they have been dropped. This must be accomplished within a set period of time. So don’t die. Dying is a real inconvenience.
What’s the Big Deal
So we’ve got this game that has been officially documented as one of the biggest MMORPGs, yet, the graphics, for one, are nothing special. So, what’s the big deal? Well, RuneScape has been around the block and stood the test of time. It provides hardcore gaming for the ultimate free-to-play casual gamer. Not to mention that being browser based makes RuneScape much more accessible than a game with awesome graphics, but a massive client download.
The Final Word
While RuneScape has been labeled a kids game, that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. The graphics are obviously not cutting edge, but that’s the price you pay for easier accessibility. RuneScape offers a massive player base, a player-run economy, along with constant updates. It’s been said that RuneScape offers the best browser based gaming experience hands down… And I couldn’t agree more! Sure it’s got some kinks and you may hit a few bumps along the way. I would have liked to have seen deeper story driven gameplay, but the quests do pick up a bit of a storyline—and that helps. All in all, RuneScape is a great gaming experience and has proven that it can be very entertaining.