Having been around the MMO block quite a bit, not only with free to play/cash shop titles but also spending his fair share on stints in many premium games, I would have to say Frogster’s latest title Runes of Magic not only raises the standards higher for a Free to Play game, it damn near should raise the standards for what justifies a subscription as well.
The Obligatory Disclaimer of Reviewing a Clone
Some people get really upset in the gaming community when you describe an online game as a “clone” of World of Warcraft. On the flipside of that coin, there’s a lot of people who are looking for something that isn’t WoW, and get angry when anyone tries to convince them their favorite game X isn’t in the same ball park.
Often I try to avoid using the WoW comparison; but usually the skeptical and picky will automatically look at any screenshots, gameplay footage or the game itself and their first words uttered is “Yeah, it looks like WoW.”
I’m going to go ahead and be very upfront about this: This game borrows heavily from World of Warcraft. You can’t tiptoe around it. At all. The controls, the interface, the art direction and the graphics scream Warcraft.
But understand when I talk about this game, and make this comparison, that there are other factors involved: Level of polish. Stability. Features. Quality. It’s not right on the money, but it comes damn near close.
Taking the Best Ideas, and putting them together.
Okay, so this game mimics heavily some of the best features that made WoW a success. But they’ve also taken some features that you can find in other major titles, and put their own spin on them. Even better, they’re put together in a way that is immediately accessible to the player.
Dual Classing is the big reason to give this one a shot. Think less
Guild Wars, more Final Fantasy XI, and a lot less grind. You level both classes independently, but there’s an abundance of quests and mobs and places to explore that it should be no problem. On top of that, the character progression system lends itself to alot of build customization for different play styles. I’ve seen people level two classes to fill two roles (Literally a Tank one day, Nuker or healer the next) as well as taking advantage of the cross-class capabilities (Rogue/Warrior’s dual wielding axes for brutal DPS, Priest/Knights who serve as some of the best group healers/buffers in the game).
A customizable UI, with plenty of handy tools built in. Not only are all the crazy layout customizations there like you’d see in many of today’s games, a lot of handy functions you’d usually see as add-ons are built in. For instance, looking for a specific NPC or a mob type for a quest? Bring up your map, type in the search and click to follow. You now have a GPS arrow guiding the way. If you’re on a quest to kill X mobs, they’ll pop up on your Radar as you travel. If the interface options aren’t enough, there’s some pretty good add on support from the developers, the community and major sites like Curse.com (Ya know, the guys who hosted addons for WoW and Warhammer?)
It’s the little things.
Lots of other nice features are practically given to you where other games require ridiculous cash and time sinks. Mounts for example; you can purchase bad ass permanent ones out of their cash shop for real money, but if you’re not willing to pay a dime you can rent horses to get you around literally for chump change at any level. If that’s not fast enough, you can always hit up the Portal masters. That’s right, eff flying and waiting 10 minutes…you’re ported around the map locations. Sorry guys, but Flight time sinks piss me off in an MMO. They even have free teleporters in large cities to quickly get around (but I do recommend running around anyway to check out the scenery.)
Player Housing is given to you at level 6, and while it’s just a bare 1 room apartment with no furnishings at start it does come with a storage trunk for you to stash your stuff. If you’re willing to farm the coin, you can actually customize the place pretty decently and have some fun.
Personally, mine’s a junk depot but I am planning on shelling out for the aesthetic decour for our Guild Castle. You read that right: Guilds of a certain level (who achieve that rank by actively contributing materials and money to the guild funds) can build themselves a Castle. Sure, it’s instanced, but it’s about the size of a town and the guild members have the capabilities of customizing and decking the place out. Plus it provides guild storage and banking. In the very near future, guilds will be able to declare war with others and ransack eachother’s castles in GvG matches. How cool is that?
Enough of the features, how about the game?
If you liked World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online and other similar titles you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a very PvE focussed game, although it does have plenty of PvP options being further developed. At this time there’s open PK servers with an interesting Karma rewards system that many gripe about but others love. There’s also 1v1 and 3v3 ranked Arenas, and the developers are promising Battleground-style pvp matches in the very near future.
The PvE content is pretty damn good. Plenty of quests, with well written dialogue (which is awesome, since I originally started playing in closed beta when everything was mostly Korean or German). While it will have the “Fed Ex” and “Kill this” quests it also has a lot of fun search quests and usually has a tendency of sending you into some very, very awesome looking locales.
The starter zone alone will send you across kobold caves, crystal ponds, deep in forrested spider lairs and lush forrests.
It’s definitely a game focussed on the Fairy Tale, western fantasy feel. People looking for hardcore serious settings like Warhammer or Age of Conan will probably be put off from the get go. However, despite its cartoonyness it’s definite a very western art design (so players sick of Anime should be happy).
A word on the Cash Shop:
I’ll keep this brief: Nothing game breaking. I’d say the most important items (like the Respec potion) can be purchased using an in-game coin that you can earn from grinding daily quests if you don’t feel like shelling out the $5 to get it. Even then if you can tough it out until level 30, you get a free retraining. The real gems of the Itemshop are the aesthetics….items for your house, permanent mounts that are available on a seasonal level, new hair styles and that kind of BS. Really, if you’re playing the game pretty regularly, tossing a few bucks for a badass mount beats $15 a month subscription.
This game, for me, has been pretty rewarding and fun. It’s definitely on my A list from the free to play market, and so far I’ve found my experiences on par to my stints in WoW and LOTRO. It’s at least good enough for me to NOT want to re-sub to those games. I know they have a bit more polish and shine and content, but I’m very content here and would even argue it’s been more fun than a lot of pay to play titles I’ve tried.
The content that’s there is good, and the new content coming out looks promising. I have yet to see Frogster drop the ball in the development of this game.
It has its downfalls; but it’s the same as any online game. Servers are being worked on and expanded; occasionally there’s lags in big cities. That kinda thing. Being young, and with such a different take on class development, there’s constant balancing, nerfing and buffing going on. Which means there’s lots of people crying and bitching about their classes being underpowered, someone else being over powered, and many who just like to scream FAIL as if someone nailed the words to their testicles. You know, kinda like WoW.