A Legacy of Adventure
A decade ago, RuneScape might not have needed much of an introduction. And while it’s still popular, the legendary open-world MMORPG doesn’t quite have the presence it used to. Still, the recent port holds up well and could probably teach modern mobile MMOs a thing or two.
Now, if we want to get technical, the current iteration of RuneScape is RuneScape 3, while the original game goes by Old School RuneScape these days. However, the current version includes content from before 2013, so it’s a bit complicated. Either way, the game’s age is only really felt in the graphics and animation, not all of which aged gracefully.
RuneScape’s gameplay will be familiar to many MMO players. Which makes sense, considering how many games pilfered ideas from RuneScape and its contemporaries. Players tap on the screen to move, attack, and talk to NPCs. Now, that might sound like a lot of functions tied to one command, and I’d argue it is. I killed at least two NPC’s trying to talk to them or even just walk past. Also, the touch interface isn’t nearly precise enough for how integral it is to the game. You can press and hold characters and items to show a drop-down menu with more options. Unfortunately, it only seems to work about half the time. These control issues aren’t so much crippling as mildly annoying, but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t get me killed at least once.
Might and Magic
Combat itself is pretty straightforward. Players click on a valid target, and the player character auto-attacks until it dies. Combat styles are the usual array of Melee, Magic, and Ranged combat. It runs on a rock, paper, scissors logic, with Melee countering Ranged, Ranged countering Magic, and Magic countering Melee. Players can swap between them as they please, though there are still advantages to specialization. Characters level up different styles by using them, unlocking new abilities in the process. The player can then assign them to one of two quick menus or place them in the auto-attack list.
Prioritizing a Skill helps you level it up faster, and few enemies are entirely immune to specific styles. I mostly ignored Magic, focusing on Ranged combat and only occasionally dipping into Melee. The game divides armor into Melee, Ranged, and Magic as well, and gear that boosts one style often hinders another. So, unless the player intends to clutter their limited inventory space with three sets of armor and weapons, it’s not worth trying to max out all three Skills.
Speaking of Skills, the game has twenty-eight of them covering a wide variety of activities. These include RPG staples like Strength, Defense, Magic, Smithing, and Runecrafting, plus things like Fishing, Woodcutting, and Firemaking. Notably, about fourteen of the Skills have something to do with crafting. For example, say the player wants to make a bow and arrows. At least four distinct Skills govern various parts of the process, which have multiple steps within steps. But that’s only a criticism if you don’t like crafting, as RuneScape offers a reasonably in-depth crafting system. And if you’d prefer to never think about crafting after the tutorial ends, that’s also a viable approach.
Dungeons and Dragons
But you can’t have an RPG without quests, and this is where RuneScape shines. MMOs are infamous for padding their runtime with repetitive fetch quests. Fortunately, RuneScape is not one of those games. Developer Jagex mostly did a great job of implementing quests with compelling stories and characters. Even many low-level quests carried a sense of urgency not often found in the opening hours of many games. Quests also have a fair bit of variety and can take some interesting turns. For example, investigating a small village’s local bandit gang can lead to an epic adventure of sorcery and political intrigue.
Unfortunately, RuneScape treats a few of its quests as something like advertisements. While the game is technically free, somewhere between half and three-quarters of the content is locked behind a subscription. For example, the quest chain mentioned above runs just long enough to get the player invested before hitting them with a paywall. The game also locked off or otherwise restricts half those twenty-eight skills from free players. Still, there is a decent amount of free content. Plus, Jagex has always been open about RuneScape being a primarily subscription-based game with a free option. Think of the free-to-play servers as an extremely generous free trial instead of a complete game.
Despite a few hiccups, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with RuneScape. The interface issues were a pain, but they are easy to ignore amidst the flood of quality content. I can confidently say that RuneScape remains a fantastic game even after all these years.
While I found some minor issues with the mobile port, RuneScape remains a great game even after so many years.