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Developer:
Jagex
Publisher: Jagex
Platform: PC
Release Date: Out Now

by Wendy Gasperazzo




It's rare for something that's free to come with no strings attached, and is actually fun to boot. An MMORPG called Runescape has decided to do just this.


I discovered Runescape on some banner on a website, and I figured that it was something to pass the time. I didn't actually think it would be that good, but I tried it out anyway. I was mistaken.


Runescape takes place in a fantasy world filled with goblins, undead, wizards, your typical stuff. The goal of the game (if there ever is one in an MMORPG) is to finish the quests that you are given, advance in your skills, and as always, become more powerful. This is done differently than normal, and since there the game is skill-based, not class-based, you can become proficient in all of them.


First of all, there is no 'experience level' of your character, per se. You have multiple skills (19 total) ranging from melee combat, ranged combat and magic to others such as runecraft and smithing. Each skill has its own experience count, and as you use the skills successfully (creating a new weapon for smithing, hitting an enemy for combat, etc), you'll gain exp for that skill. Eventually, it will level up, making you stronger or letting you use more advanced tools and create better items.


However, to make sure you aren't attacking enemies five times more powerful than yourself, there is something known as 'combat level', which takes a number of skills, puts them through some computations, and spits out a number to determine how strong you are in combat.


I mentioned quests earlier: Runescape does them differently from other games, as far as I know. Right after you leave the first island (known as tutorial island), you are given the entire list of quests in the game, even where to find them. This means that you can spend your time making sure you complete every quest in the log, although you don't get experience for many of them. Instead, the person you complete them for might raise a skill level, give you some coin, or unlock some secret in the game.


For example, one of the first quests involves you acting as a messenger between mages, sending items and research back and forth. Upon finishing this you will be able to use a skill called runecrafting, which allows you to create your own magical runes.


Magic is one of the things I didn't really appreciate in this game. Each magical spell requires a set of runes to use, like the first spell requires one mind rune and one air rune. Each time you use a spell, the rune is used up. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the runes are a hassle to come by (or pretty expensive) and having to recharge your runes, especially at early levels because your magic is weak, can get really annoying. With runecrafting at higher levels it becomes a bit better, but not by much.


An interesting skill in Runescape is called prayer. Basically, it allows you to raise some aspects of combat by a certain amount, draining your 'prayer points', which can be recharged by praying at an altar. How do you raise your prayer level? By burying the bones of your enemies, of course!


The skills are sometimes easy to level up, sometimes not. Take woodcutting for example: The only thing you need to do for this is cut down trees. For smithing though, you must first mine for some ore (raising mining skill), use a furnace to smelt that ore into a bar of metal, and then you can use that metal (and a hammer) with an anvil to craft some sort of weapon.


Now, some MMORPGs have problems with PKers (Player Killers). Runescape takes an approach that I really like. There's a 'civilized' area, where many of the towns are, and you can spend a lot of time levelling up around there, without fear of being attacked by PKers. But once you travel far away from the cities, you enter the 'wilderness', which will make you vulnerable to attacks by others. So you can spend your time becoming powerful enough in the cities to defend yourself in the wilderness.


The servers for Runescape have a capacity for 2000 people each, but rarely will you see more than one full, and you'll probably never see one empty. This ensures that you'll always have a place to play, and slowdown on the servers has yet to happen to me.


However, Runescape has more to offer than the free game. If you play without pay, you can explore a lot of the world, but this still means that you are missing out on a lot. For one, there are a few skills that can not be used without paying, such as thievery, herblore, agility, and fletching. There are also some high-level items that you can't craft without paying.


Paying will also allow you to explore more of the world, as there are some areas that are closed unless you are in a member server. In addition, by paying, you unlock another 36 quests, more than doubling the amount you normally have. And the price? Five dollars a month. It's not pennies, but it's better than the 15 dollars that other MMORPGs can cost.


In short, the game of Runescape is a fun, addictive game, and while the graphics may not be perfect, for a game written in Java, they aren't bad. The skills are varied, the community is alright, and it'll eat up your time if you aren't careful.


Final grade: 83%




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