Wait, where have I seen this before? Well, the folks at Runes of Magic are following the World of Warcraft model very closely and have made no bones about it. As you can imagine, there's a lot of WoW that you'll see when playing through RoM, so prepare yourself for some more deja vu.<br /><br />That said, even with the similarities to WoW, there are many, many other things that are starkly different from it, instead reminding players of other systems in games they like. I'll touch on a few of these as we go.
There's only one race in Runes of Magic - human. While mildly disappointing, it's not really that big of a deal when you consider how many other free-to-play titles don't give you racial choices either. You're given quite a lot of customization options, from colors to faces to sliders allowing you to further define what you want your avatar to look like. Also, if you decide you hate your character's looks later, you can redo them from within the game.
This is the face/hair combo I decided to run with after flipping through the works. The style reminds me of Guild Wars, honestly, and I'm quite happy that I'm able to have my favored purple hair.<br /><br />There's just one small problem with her...
Clothing is decided by whatever class you happen to roll, and that character's gender. If you opt for a Mage or a Priest, you'll get flowing robes. If you happen to opt for a female Rogue, you'll wind up in a leather thong with what appears to be ripped up flesh-colored pantyhose.<br /><br />Gives a whole new meaning to turning the other cheek.
Again, we're following the World of Warcraft model, even so far as the loading screens. The load between areas is pretty zippy, so if you dig tips, you'll want to read them fast.
At first, you'll spawn into the noob village, which will give you the option of taking a short tutorial, which is probably best if for no other reason than you get a title and some experience doing it.
I'd also add that when I say short, I'm really not kidding. First you'll zone over and get the hang of moving around by targeting and running towards a few flags.<br /><br />Movement is handled via WASD, left-click to move, or holding both the left and right mouse buttons down. Of course, if that doesn't work for you, just remap your keys.
Combat is straight textbook MMO. Tab-targeting and click targeting are both valid, and your base attack is an auto-attack. From there, you have a couple of additional moves, each of which has its own timer. You can click them, or just use the 1 to + keys across the top of your keyboard. There is a macro system as well, for those that like them.
it's time to head back to the first questgiver, who asked you to go beat down the eerily, cheerily pokemon-like mushrooms. Once this one quest is completed, it's back to new playersville. <br /><br />See? Told you the tutorial was really short.
If, for some reason, you opted to skip the tutorial, the first quest giver will essentially paraphrase everything you learned in there in big red text, after whispering you that she's there.<br /><br />Because, you know, you might miss her standing right in front of you with a chat bubble/animated exclamation mark over her head. Maybe.
Look who followed us over from World of Warcraft, like little lost puppies; it's everyone's favorite gold spammers, nfhhh and gdgrh! That said, much like WoW, there is a right-click option to blacklist a user (they even call it "blacklist") so you never have to hear another peep out of them again. I can't tell you if there's a limit on it, as I (thankfully) only saw about 3-4 of them standing around the first area.<br /><br /> General rule of thumb for Runes of Magic; anyone standing near you that looks like they generated their name by facerolling should be immediately blacklisted. Trust me, even if they are legit characters, they probably won't say anything you really want to hear anyway.
Not only did I manage to score a jacket that covered my butt in the first area, I was also given several bags full of other goodies, including one that leveled up with me for a while. At first, it had lots of potions and other miscellaneous stuff, but the rewards got slightly better as time went on. I also scored a temporary 24-hour mount from one (that's real world time, not /played, sadly) which made getting around the first few areas nice and fast.<br /><br />You're given the first two "backpacks" which are handled by tabs at the top of the bag interface. There's also an items mall bag (the one on the left) which will hold anything you've gotten from the shop. I didn't really mess around with the item store beyond browsing through, but there's just about everything in there from experience potions to pets to permanent mounts.
In Runes of Magic, you pretty well get access to build your skills via skill points straight off the bat. The nice thing is also that for the first few levels, you have more skill-points than you could possibly need, so you don't have to be picky about what you want to train; just train it all up. <br /><br />When you level up, the UI will pop up a small round icon with a book to indicate that you've got new skill-points to spend. Alternately, you can reach them via the menu on the right (the gear next to the bag) at any time.
Merchants are pretty standard fare, and this is where the similarity to WoW will benefit players. You have a purchase tab, a repair one/repair all option, and a tab for selling items. You'll probably also note that everything is seemingly really expensive, but this isn't the case. There is no copper or silver - only gold. You'll make tons of it as you go along. If you're worried about making gold, you really don't need to be as there are repeatable "daily" type quests even in the new player's area if you want to gather up 100 mushroom stems or various wolf bits.
This menu option may be something a bit more familiar with EverQuest or EverQuest II players. It offers you several options like your character sheet, which breaks down gear, statistics, and the like.
Your next option is the skills menu, seen earlier.
This is a very nice improvement over many quest logs; colored text will link to either an item's description, or to the map.
Well, if you ever get lost and can't find your way to the quest NPC you need to find, just click on their name so it populates in the map. Then click on the "Follow" button, and boom. Instant arrow. If this looks reminiscent of a quest helper mod in World of Warcraft, we'd bet that was intentional. Still, it's really nice to have it as a built-in feature to use - or not - as you like.
This brings up a sub-menu similar to WoW's social menu. The first tab is friends; the second is your blacklist; the third is for "nemesis" which I believe has something to do with PvP, but I can't guarantee that as I was playing on a PvE server and didn't get past level 15, the first level at which you get your ability to flag from what I was able to ascertain. Finally, we have the party and raid tabs, respectively.
For those who love to Role-play, here's a nifty interface, snagged from either a WoW RP mod, or loosely from other games like City of Heroes or EVE that allow you to enter your own little text blurb. Were you the daughter of some insanely powerful character who pissed off a demon by pilfering the leftovers out of their fridge? Let the world know in this handy interface.
If so, the compendium may prove of interest to you. It will chronicle every beastie you run across in the world, from the lowest fungi to the biggest, nastiest boss. Of course, mine is fairly empty, but you can't expect much from a new player's zone.
As mentioned earlier, you can change your looks, but if that isn't enough for you, you can change your armor color and even customize your mount with diamonds purchased from the cash shop. Best I could get without them was a preview, but the option is there if you crave it.
With a wide variety of options, you could spend quite a bit of time wandering around in here. Items go from cheap to extremely expensive, and are all purchased by using diamonds you buy from the cash shop on the main Frogster site.
If you said this looked pretty well spot-on for WoW's primary menu, I'd say you were right. Again, they use the familiarity to good effect, as any player who has spent time in WoW will recognize where things are immediately.
Looting is pretty straightforward. There's an option to auto-loot in the menus, but you may not want to take it. I actually found people using the old EQ method of looting - leave something you can't use on the corpse and it eventually unlocks so other players can loot it. I netted a nice belt that way, thanks to some kind player.<br /><br /> Personally, I'm glad to see that mechanic in this game. I always did like it, but I'm also a flaming carebear.
Everyone has access to adding runes, and even some of the lowest newbie gear has rune slots in it, allowing you to customize your options. The other nice thing? Runes are drops at early levels, although I'm pretty sure I saw some of them in the cash shop as well.
Until level 10, there's no real death penalty that I could ascertain. After level 10, the system is similar to many others, incurring a small debt to both experience and skill points. You don't appear to lose levels or talents though; you just gain a small debt to repay. While you spawn with your gear, running back to your tombstone will erase some of the debt that you incurred, leaving you with only a fraction to work off.
You'll notice quest tracking on the right side, common to many games and scrolling combat text over your head. A nice added feature is the ability to tell if you need anything from a particular mob type by hovering your mouse cursor over it. If you need pieces parts from it, a box like the one over this wolf will appear. That's quite handy.
Sure enough - even in the starting area, you can encounter rare event spawns like this enormous frog, so it's best to stay on your toes. (I wound up as a frog for 15 minutes due to wandering too close to this guy. I just used the time to gather up crafting materials.)
You can pick up every crafting skill you wander across. That said, you will only be able to level a handful of them into the higher levels, eventually specializing in only one. <br /><br />Also, look ma! I'm a frog.
Dueling is alive and well in Runes of Magic, with players able to duel from the earliest levels. Luckily, I managed to pester a friend into logging in and testing this out with me. He promptly kicked my carebear butt all over the place. <br /><br />(Thanks, Jaylen.)
Remember that 24-hour mount? He's pretty, isn't he?
You'll find a lovely NPC who serves as merchant, the NPC gateway to your player housing - available free at level 1 - and your bank. Make friends with her, you'll see her quite a bit.
It's spartan, it's spare, but it's a place to put your enormous leather trunk that you get for free. In turn, you can store items in the trunk. We've seen some amazing things done with these spaces, and there are items available from both in-game gold and the item shop.
Travel is handled via rental horses attained through in-game cash, or permanent mounts purchased through the item shop. There may be more options down the road, but in the 15 or so levels I played through, that was all I saw.
There's one final thing to mention that's a stand-out option, and that's the Dual Class option that reminded me of Final Fantasy XI's jobs. You have your main class, and at level 10, you can pick a second class, which then starts at level 1. You have to switch over to your second class to level it up, and the second class can never be higher than your primary class. (Apparently you can max them both at the current level cap of 50, however.)
While there are aspects that will remind you of other MMOs here and there - WoW, Guild Wars, EQ2, FFXI, CoH, LotRO, etc. - I can't honestly call this a true clone. It's a <em>refinement</em> or perhaps <em>hybrid</em> if anything - it takes lots and lots of great aspects of different games to build a fantastically complex, rich world. If you've been looking for a free-to-play title, but aren't quite sold on the idea yet, Runes of Magic should definitely be on your list of games to check out.<br /><br />Oh, and feel free to say hi if you see me knocking around. I'll definitely be back to dig deeper into all this f2p title has to offer! <br /><br />Return to <a href="http://www.massively.com/2009/03/18/first-impressions-runes-of-magic/">First Impressions: Runes of Magic</a>.