Video Game Thoughts: Runes of Magic

Runes of Magic is a 2009 massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Runewaker Entertainment for the PC. I was playing World of Warcraft (WoW) when this game came out. It had been a while since the last expansion had released. I was getting bored, and I wanted to save money too. I had graduated from college, but my job search was not going well. Runes of Magic was similar to WoW but also free-to-play. This really attracted me. I kept WoW installed but let my subscription lapse while I played Runes of Magic. It was a very good game for being free.

Number one was the fact that I could level up just by myself. Very few free MMORPGs let players level up solo. Almost always they forced players to group up by making leveling up too slow or difficult to do solo. I didn’t need to find other players here. There were some quests and dungeons that required more than one player, but they were all optional. A solo player could reach the level cap in a reasonable time. I had nothing against grouping up, but I was treating Runes of Magic as a temporary game. I eventually wanted to play WoW again. I had no interest in getting serious.

Besides the questing and leveling system, the game had an interesting crafting system. Some of the professions were the same as in WoW like gathering plants from the environment, but Runes of Magic also had some new ones like woodcutting. Another change was that professions leveled up slower than they did in WoW. I really liked this because it made professions a lot more viable, like an entire job. I thought it would be cool to focus all on professions and just making money in the game.

Many of the game systems were a mirror copy of the ones in WoW. A lot of reviewers noted this, some criticizing Runes of Magic for it. I liked it though. I was right at home with a lot of things. The interface could be customized very similarly to WoW. The party and guild systems functioned almost the same. There was an auction house that players could use to buy items from other players. Auction houses were almost nonexistent at this time in MMORPGs outside of WoW.

My impressions did get worse as I leveled up my first character. The quests just didn’t seem to have any interesting stories in them. The stories were mostly not connected with each other. One person needed me to kill a bunch of wolves to protect their family. Another wanted me to find some object they had lost. WoW had quests like this too, but each area usually had a long questline or two with a neat story. Without this story, Runes of Magic felt like a lifeless world. I was not interested in making it to the next area.

Another problem I saw was that the endgame pretty much required players to pay real money. When it came to MMORPGs, I was always looking at them in the long run. Even a game like Runes of Magic that was temporary, I still expected to play it every time I was taking a break from WoW. At endgame, players needed to have really good items. The only way to do that was upgrading lower quality items. Upgrades were risky; after a failed attempt, the item could become worse than it started or even be completely destroyed. The only way to counter that was spending real money to greatly increase the odds or to get in-game money to just buy equipment that was already upgraded.

When I quit Runes of Magic, I thought I would come back to it many times. I did come back one time, but it just didn’t age well. By then I had enough money to pay for a subscription if I wanted to. In addition, there were many other free-to-play MMORPGs that were far superior. The developers could have done a lot more with Runes of Magic, but they just didn’t update it to compete as newer games were released. They came out with expansions that added new items, dungeons, and higher level caps for characters but none of the new features that were really needed to compete, such as a dungeon finder for easier player grouping.

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