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Runes of Magic: Chapter I - Rise of the Demon Lord
Also known as Radiant Arcana
One of the best free-to-play fantasy MMORPGs, and it's filled with nice and unique features!
A long time ago the god Ayvenas created a book in which he captured the shape of the world and recorded the origin of life. The book's name was "Taborea". Soon, Ayvenas started to form the physical realm according to the book. This young and innocent world was soon populated with wondrous creatures, animals and humans eventually. Differences and imbalance started to appear among the inhabitants of the world. As conflicts began to destroy the pristine world Ayvenas had imagined, he decided to tear apart the remaining pages of the book and scattered it across the world and abandon it altogether.
Runes of Magic : Chapter I - Rise of the Demon Lord is a MMORPG set in a fantasy world. This is one of those games where you create an avatar for yourself and set out on numerous quests, either alone or together with an adventuring band consisting of other players. The game has enticing graphics, great gameplay, some of the best music ever written for a game and a very interesting set of features. The game is completely free to download and play, following the successful trend of micro-transaction supported games where players can use real world money to buy themselves special items that give them certain advantages in the game.
When you start the game you must create your character. You can choose to play as male or female and any of these six classes; warrior, scout, rogue, mage, priest or knight. These classes all excel in their own fields – warriors are mean fighting machines, scouts focus on immobilizing their foes and attack at a range. Rogues use stealth and use dirty fighting techniques to deal killing blows. Mages use the arcane powers to wield elemental powers and the priest is mainly a supporting class that has very powerful healing spells. Finally, the knight class can take heavy damage and is the most durable class. The game also allows for some character customization – there are a bunch of faces and hairstyles to choose from, and you can also adjust your bodily build and hair color in quite some detail.
Before you can start playing the game, you must also choose what server you want to have your character on. The choice you have is whether you want to play on a PvE (Player vs. Environment) or a PvP (Player vs. Player) server. On PvE servers, player vs. player battles are only allowed in controlled forms such as duels between two players and between players who have flagged themselves as available for player vs. player combat. On the PvP servers however, the rules regarding player killing is less strict and there's even a reward system for being good or evil towards other players. Fighting other players is, or at least should be a big deal in any MMORPG, so you may want to think twice before selecting what type of server you create your character on.
The game does have an optional tutorial village where you learn the basic controls of the game. It's very brief and easy, and most importantly it introduces you as a player into the smooth gameplay of the game. Attacking and using skills is very straightforward and easy to understand even if you are new to these types of games – running around, jumping and swimming is also very easy and intuitive with the easy controls. The combat is very fluid and allows freedom of movement during fights – this allows for some very flexible and dynamic battles, especially when fighting other players. The game also gives you extensive possibilities to bind customized hotkeys to controls and various functions of the interface.
The basic goal of the game is to build up your character with skills, experience and equipment. Fighting monsters and completing quests will give you experience points that will make your character advance in levels, and once you reach a certain level new skills will become available to you. In Runes of Magic you also collect talent points along with the experience points. Talent points are used to power up the skills you have learned. This way you can choose what skills you want to be efficient with and how you balance them out with your other skills.
When you reach the tenth level you may choose a secondary class for your character. For example if you chose to create a knight, you may choose priest as your secondary class. This combination would end up as a knight with healing abilities. Each class skills are divided into class specific skills and primary skills. At any time when you have chosen a secondary class, you're able to use the primary skills from your secondary class.
In Runes of Magic : Chapter I - Rise of the Demon Lord there are more than 1000 quests to take on. You will see numerous NPC's (non-player characters) in the game world that you can talk to that will need various things done for them. The typical quests you will be doing involves killing monsters, collecting items and forwarding messages and information between the NPC's of the land.
The difficulty level of quests are pretty uneven – many quests can be done solo, but there are a bunch of quests that are very hard and a few sturdy companions are required to pull them off. The sad thing is that there's only really one way to find out the difficulty of a quest – and that is the hard way.
As in many similar games, there are also special dungeons here and there in the game world. These dungeons require you to party up with fellow players in order to survive the difficult challenges and defeat the bosses within them. The dungeons work as a high risk/high reward element in the game world and often require you to utilize special tactics to stand a chance. It can be tiring to manage random people into organizing a dungeon party, so you better join a guild if you're going for the dungeon bosses.
When things go bad and your character dies, you're taken back to the nearest resurrection shrine. Your equipped items take a severe durability loss, and you're taxed with a so-called experience and talent points debt. The severity of this debt is scaled to your current level. While you are in this debt, 70% of all your experience and talent points earned are used to pay off the debt. This is a very fair way to deal with character death. You'll want to avoid dying but when it happens, you'll have a fair chance to catch up by for example doing some extra Daily Quests.
As for player vs player fighting, you can't attack innocent players unless you tag yourself as a “player killer” first. Killing random people for fun will tag you as a “criminal”, and players killing criminals in turn will be tagged as “hunters”. There's also a reputation mechanic in place where you either have positive or negative reputation, reflecting the amount of good or evil in your character. Either way you go will give you bonuses – for example evil characters will get a damage increase bonus while good characters will get an increase in the amount of damage their character can withstand. There are also special items that can only be bought when you reach a certain reputation, and the risk of dropping items will also change depending on your reputation. As a general rule, evil characters drop items more easily upon death, but earn more talent points from battles while good characters drop items more easily when dying at the hands of evil characters only.
Other than questing your way through the lands of Taborea, you can also engage in the rather sophisticated professions- and item crafting system of the game. You can learn many different professions such as blacksmithing, alchemy, woodcutting, tailoring and mining, but you can't become a master in all of them. Crafting items will require materials gathered directly from the game world, and you can either gather them yourself or trade and buy them from other players. Not only do you need to gather correct the materials, but you must also have the know-how to actually craft the item. You will learn how to craft new items as you progress through the profession levels, and you can also buy new recipes from other players. Leveling up these professions are all very time consuming and the materials needed are very expensive. As it appears now the majority of player crafted items are of no value in the game, which is sad. The effort put into leveling professions isn't worthwhile, but as the game evolves there's sure to be lots of interesting recipes added, especially at the higher levels.
You can also create guilds and battle other guilds. You can also maintain your own house and decorate it with furniture that grants you various bonuses and extra storage space. If you want to use items from the micro-transactions store, you can get yourself permanent mounts, color your equipment, change appearance of your equipment, buy potions that give you extra experience points and you can even buy equipment locks that prevent you from losing items when being killed by another player.
Players cheating with automated leveling scripts and bots thankfully aren't very obvious in this game. During my time in the game world I have seen some players with a peculiar and robotic behavior, but I'm not entirely convinced that they were actual bots. One problem that I have encountered numerous times though, is that the quests you try to finish become bugged. I don't know what causes it to happen, but sometimes you can't finish a quest and get its reward and you must instead abandon it. In rare cases this might mean that you must do the quest again in order to get your reward. Thankfully most quests can be done in just a few minutes, so it's really no big deal.
For the hardcore gamers and script gurus the game also allows users to create add-ons and script macros to extend the customization of both battle tactics and the user interface. The game also has a growing suite of fan sites and reference guides on the web such as http://romdata.getbuffed.com/ to help players out.
When it comes to high level gaming, there are some problems that everyone will face; the risk of dropping items when being killed by another player is a cool game mechanic, but does feel a little bit too punishing (and is being exploited). Getting the better items in the game does more or less require you to buy refining items (those that cost real world money), which may put many players off. Also the high level dungeons require you to have decent gear, which you just can't hope to come by easily as it requires you to collect and refine equipment which in turn means that you must repeatedly kill the same "lower level" dungeon bosses over and over again.
In Runes of Magic : Chapter I - Rise of the Demon Lord there are around nine areas to explore and quest in. You'll have the chance to explore deep forests, snow-covered valleys, hot and dry canyons, numerous villages, marsh lands and the subtropical pirate coast known as Ravenfell. There's a generous variety in environments, landscape features and monsters. The questing areas are quite well designed for the most part save for some lazy texturing and modeling that can be seen here and there. The graphics are otherwise very lush, inspiring and detailed - especially in and around towns and villages. The level of detail in both textures, monsters and player models is also very pleasing. Even if you have a low-end computer the game looks great. All in all, the game looks just neat, and it is a pleasure to wander around in the game world.
The audio in this game is a total blast. Everything from the harmonic fantasy themed music to the ambiance of the forests, towns etc is extremely well done. It really drags you into a living, breathing game world. The music fits the game perfectly and it plays dynamically depending on where you are. Typically a new piece of music plays when you enter a new area. Also, certain songs are tied to certain locations, which further enhances a feeling of recognition when you enter an area that you are familiar with.
In its current state, you can play through the main bulk of the quests in just a few weeks if you're playing extensively every day. Reaching the max level can also be done in a relatively short time frame, thanks to Daily Quests and various power-leveling tactics. But the game does not end there. On the contrary, that's when you can really start fine tuning your skills and equipment. The game has some PvP content such as guild battles and three vs three battle arenas that you can sink hundreds of hours in if you're going for maxing out your equipment.
If you're looking for a sweet MMORPG, you can't go wrong with Runes of Magic. It basically has everything you could possibly ask for – great graphics, deep crafting and item refining systems, unique housing features, wonderful sound and music, dungeons, player vs player content, dynamic trading community, monsters and treasures galore.
Written by Mattias - 2009-04-19
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