I thought long and hard about how to approach a story-based post for Runes of Magic. In the end, I felt it was best not to write on the lore, but about the lore. To sit down and lay out what happens for you felt like cheating you of actual game play. I didn't want to write what I thought would essentially be a long list of spoilers, but rather try and paint a picture of Taborea. Something that could hopefully act as a book review -- in a way -- to let you know the flavor of the world without spelling it all out.
I applaud Runewaker for the work they've done to include a rich amount of story into RoM. They're a Taiwanese developer making an MMORPG for a largely Western audience. Then, the German publisher Frogster has to deal with localizing everything into English. Those are no easy hurdles to jump and still end up with a story as good as the one Runewaker and Frogster give us. Before translating even begins, they have to deal with imagining a Western tale. RoM has become very popular and Runewaker is no doubt steadily growing their company, but they are still fairly small in relation to some larger Western developers and have to work that much harder to get the quality job done.
A detailed timeline is non-existent, but the first taste of the world comes from the background story. You'll find a general history that starts at the creation of the world and has important events leading to present-day overviews of all the zones. There's also a decent amount of lore background covering major factions in the game that you'll encounter throughout your journey. Chapter 3 isn't even finished being deployed and the website doesn't reflect it yet, but I found some great overviews of the new zones that Frogster made public. The histories, factions and zone descriptions all overlap and will fill in a few holes that only reading one will leave, but there'll be a lot of head scratching after reading it all. The good news is that a lot of the questions left behind by the written lore does get addressed as you play the game.
You have to realize that the continent of Candara is full of ancient mysteries that you unearth through exploration or quests. That premise doesn't necessarily leave a lot of room for detailed back story, on the other hand it seems to make quests more meaningful. Even quests seen as boring are pertinent enough because they tell you there are sneaky kobolds or violent wolves in Taborea. In turn, those quests typically lead to other quests which will let you know why the kobolds are sneaky and the wolves are violent. I love this tying together of quests so they all play off each other and add to the bigger picture.
All the regular quests are centered in or around the many towns and hubs in each zone. When I sauntered in to Ayren Caravan in Sacilia Steppes, I thoroughly enjoyed helping the White-furs launch attacks into Khant and learned more details about what happened to Hafiz. It's a great and sad tale of a hero who fought to save his race, and best friends left fighting each other as the one fell into corruption while seeking to save everyone. Never once did I feel as though I was being pointlessly sent to some remote location to simply slaughter a bunch of the local wildlife. I was still left with many questions and wanted more details on the individuals, but something that gets you that interested in wanting more is a success in my book.
I view those hub quests as story seeds. They plant the unique main characters and plot points that contain tried and true story elements, but leave plenty of room for fleshing out details later on down the road. After traveling through Ayren Caravan I learned about the violent and bloody war between the normally peaceful Capra and the Cyclops hungry for battle and conquest, the heroes that valiantly fought alongside the Capra while the mysterious Zurhidon aided the Cyclops with their scheming magic and machinations. Some of these story elements are also directly related to the history of Taborea. There's also the epic quest-lines that offer a bit more detail on main events that help flesh out RoM's unique story.
The long-running epic quests will take you through many levels as you learn about the World of the Void that the different races created to banish most of the Daemons to eons ago, or the elves' involvements in that battle with their prophecy and famous magical sword. I haven't finished all the epic quest-lines yet, but I've already learned a great deal about individuals, how their actions created world-altering consequences and how it all ties into the regular quests and histories to form one cohesive world story.
I think it's easy enough to see the overall story is not generic. You learn about the era when some Humans misused the power of the runes they discovered and turned themselves into the Daemons which enslaved all the lesser races. The races united to create the World of the Void and banish the evil entities, but the giant magical constructs they created to sweep up after mysteriously went haywire and destroyed whole civilizations. The start of the game is after rediscovery of the continent of Candara now filled with many ancient ruins and secrets. Within this there are typical fantasy staples like elves, naga and dragons, but they have their own legends and cultures that make them exclusive to RoM. There's also some interesting races like the Capra, the feline Leonine, the rhinoceros-like Kalo, the Tiktaalik, and so on. As the game expands we are learning about still more lands and how they had their own heroes and significant parts they played during the ancient civilizations and the war against the Daemons.
I really respect the people who worked on RoM's story. After reading the background lore and going through many of the quests, I can tell that great care was taken to separate and deliver it in different key ways and at just the right times. At every level I learned something new and cool that made the world more unique and detailed without feeling overloaded. It's also really surprising that so much ongoing story and depth can be found in a free-to-play MMO. I don't think I've ever run across a F2P game that had anywhere close to the amount RoM has. My only complaints are that the existing story needs to be polished and there needs to be more details added about the lives of the key historical figures.
What's currently there is a feat for having gone through two different language barriers, but it still shows. It would be nice to see if Frogster could squeeze Mr. Bhatty into their production schedule. His work with telling story in games and the fact that he's familiar with RoM could sky rocket the current lackluster way the game's lore is told. He could also flesh out a lot of details which would add a considerable amount of new story, even if it's on people and events that took place before the present era.