At least it felt stuck in time when I logged into Runes of Magic. However, in carrying on from yesterday’s post, it had also been at least six years since I logged in and memory is a tricky thing. I have been dead certain about specific memories only to run across some solid evidence that contradicts them.
Still, even if Runes of Magic has evolved some since 2009, it doesn’t feel like it went very far. It “feels” very much like a mash up of East and West from the last decade.
When you finish creating your character and enter the game, the first thing that pops up is an offer to send you through the tutorial, for which you will receive a handsome reward.
The tutorial is mercifully quick and covers the very basic of the game. You learn how to move by clicking, move by using the WASD keys, interact with NPCs, accept a quest, kill some things for a quest, and finally how to turn in a quest. It goes by so quickly that I had to go back with another character and do it again just to make sure I did not miss anything.
After you wrap up the initial question you get a few rewards including a bag that give you something new every level and a temporary horse.
You also get a buff that lasts for two days.
And then you are dumped, on your mount, just outside of the first town, which is where I started to really soak in the UI and atmosphere.
The art style feels like an Asian attempt to imitate Western MMORPG of the time, but without shedding the game’s origin. There is still the soft focus effect for things in the distance, which makes everything look so pretty, while the character and mob models have an anime feel to them.
The UI itself looks very familiar. Aside from the odd setup of the WASD keys… odd for me at least, as I expect Q and E to be strafe left and right, not A and D, but that was easy enough to fix… the usual suspects appear. You have, going clockwise, your avatar nameplate, the nameplate of the NPC or mob you have selected (which, in turn, will show who the NPC or mob is focused on if applicable), buffs, a mini-map encircled by tiny icons, buttons for inventory, settings, and maps, the usual hot bars over the experience bar, and chat windows.
All normal, yet sized and placed in such a way as to make my 1600×1200 monitor seem small. Yes, that resolution isn’t huge by today’s standards, but it was a fair sized monitor back in the day. But this 2009 era UI feels crowded in what should have been a relatively spacious chunk of real estate. I went digging through the settings looking for a way to scale the UI down a bit… one of the first things I do with a fresh install of WoW… but couldn’t find anything on that front.
And then, as you ride into town and accept your first quest, the quest tracker area becomes apparent, filling in the gap between the mini-map and the hot bars. (And, I assume if I formed a group, their name plates would end up in the area below my own.)
Quests. So many quests. Runes of Magic is from a time where, if you were copying World of Warcraft, you would be looking hard at The Burning Crusade. And one of the themes of that expansion seemed to be, “Players like quests? Then we will give them lots of quests!”
The quests start out with a series that send you around town to meet the vendors, each of which rewards you with an item. Worth doing for sure. Then it expands to the other NPCs around the village, who have their set of chores for you, as well as the daily quest board, which has its own set of quests. As it turns out, Taborea suffers from the same bear/boar/wolf problem that seems to plague so many MMORPG lands, and the only solution is to send passing strangers out to slay them.
Ideally I suppose you should just take all the quest in the classic quest hub vacuum approach, as you will find some overlap. I took the quests piecemeal and ended up having to go out and kill some of the same mobs again. One thing, which seemed more of a nod to LOTRO than to WoW, was that the drops for quests from the daily quest board seem to be normal drops from the mobs in question, so you may end up with a sack full of quest items and can grab, then turn in, one of those quests almost immediately.
Or, if you did the daily quest first, you may end up with a sack full of items you need to hold onto until tomorrow. As with LOTRO, you can only run so many of these quests in a day and you lose access to them if you get too far ahead in levels. Unlike LOTRO, you cannot vendor these items, so you either need to trash them or hold out for the next day.
All of which has a bit of nostalgic charm to it. Again, this is how things used to be and WoW has, though the ongoing slow churn of expansions, moved beyond the raw quest hub and bear/boar/wolf formula to a more focused, story line approach that usually limited you to 3-5 quests at a time in a zone. So there is a bit of freedom in just grabbing a whole stack of quests and stalking the countryside to slay things, then returning to the hub to let rewards and experience rain down on you as you turn everything in. I was quickly level five.
Every so often, when you level up, the game prods you to do something. The mayor in question was a ways down the road at the next hub, but I wasn’t done here yet. I picked up the intro to crafting quests and got all the harvesting skills and ran around to level them up a bit as well. I ran out all the quests I could find, including items from the daily board. Soon level five turned into level ten and the game was a bit more direct with me.
I was now about ready to move on. Logar is the main town in the Howling Mountains zone where I started out.
I had milked Pioneer’s Colony for all it was worth so it was time to move on. Logar has a portal, which lets you travel to other portals you have discovered, which seem to be distributed about one per zone. It also offered up a lot more quests… time to add Kobolds into the mix, along with more bears/boars/wolves… more expansive crafting options, and your introduction to housing.
Housing seems simple and instanced, but useful at least for storage. The scantily clad house maid out front lets you access your home and the storage space therein, will sell you furniture, and, for some odd reason, is also the NPC that allows you to swap classes when you decide to pick up a secondary class. I opted to leave secondary classes aside for the time being and went about in the ongoing quest vacuum manner.
I did start getting some quests that went beyond simply murdering the local fauna. Actual minor story lines opened up, including a rather fun series of scavenger hunt quests that promised a big reward at the end. But when I got to the last quest in the chain, it said, “Okay, go form a party of six and kill a major thing” and I felt a bit left out in the cold. Another thing that was fine back in the day, starting off a quest chain that could only be finished with a group, but not telling you until you hit that stage. Ah well. I dropped that.
As my character leveled up he acquired new skills and upgrades which required attention. Runes of Magic isn’t completely old school. You do not have to go visit your guild or class master to obtain new skills or update old ones. But every level you have to assign the task points, or TPs, you have collected by killing things and doing quests to boost up skills.
I found that I did not always have enough TPs to upgrade everything at every level, so there was some picking and choosing to be done. I eschewed defense in favor of simply killing things faster. You don’t need defense if your enemy is already dead, right?
In addition to the above skills, which are things that go on your hotbar, the game also still has old school skills for weapons and such which you have to level up through usage. I started off with a 1h axe, but swapped to a 1h sword when I got an upgrade, which meant I had to swing it for a while to work up that skill. Then I got a 2h sword, which required the same, as did the 2h axe I picked up after that. Fortunately the penalty for starting from scratch at my level was fairly low and the skills popped up soon enough. But it does make me wonder if spending some time now getting the first bit of boost on those skills might save me time later. I just have to find the variations.
The quests from Logar were vaguely familiar. I remember doing some of the Kobold related ones back in the day. I ran around there for a while, eventually rising up to about level 15, at which point I was getting pointed northward towards Silversping, home of the first actual city. But that is a topic for a future post.