We've seen the Chapter 4 teaser-trailer and the peek into the Redhill Mountains, and I've written my impressions on the new starting zone (which is really two zones), but there are a few more details that have been released recently. We now know that the initial level increase will push the cap from 62 to 67. Aside from a look at Grafu's Castle, we'll also be getting a second initial instance called Sardo Castle.
There was a bit of news quickly slipped in to the new RoMcast from the European website, news I think is significant: The two new dungeons will be offered in 6- and 12-man flavors. But the difference between which party-size you choose (at least for Grafu Castle) is how far you can get. On 6-man, you won't be able to progress through all of the bosses. The last two will be off-limits unless you go 12-man.
I see some good possibilities with this. Hopefully, there will be good reason to have a 6-man farm-run while the 12-man remains the meaty loot-run. This will make it easier to farm for gold or mementos or simply get more practice-runs in with fewer players.
PUGs should also fare well despite the obvious run to new content. Quite honestly, I believe players' having a tough time finding PUGs has less to do with the dungeons as they are released and more to do with the perceived balance in the classes. Right now, Scouts can find PUGS a lot more easily than other classes regardless of what dungeon they are trying to get into. The new dungeons are supposed to be Mage-friendly, which could translate to "OMG! We NEED a Mage!" Next to Scouts, Mages may be the most popular class, so I don't see a problem there. What remains to be seen is whether there is going to be enough strategy that takes into account the unique abilities of all the other classes. If not, PUGs will be just as hard to get into as they were through Chapter 3.
Looking for new stats
Apart from the recent closed beta, there's not much in the way of stats to look at. Many players in the closed beta ventured into Grafu's Castle, but I've not heard of any groups that actually conquered it. A look at the new items listed in the RoM Database shows some nameless stats that appear to be of orange quality. They're also on level 65 gear that most likely drops in Grafu's castle, even though the European RoM site says Grafu's Castle is a level 67 instance.
The level 65 purple gear sets have some nice bonus stats attached to them, but they are all level 65. This brings up three questions: Is the next iteration of stats going to be all (or mostly) orange? Will we see all of them drop from the two initial dungeons? And will there be another batch of stats and armor sets at level 70? Because we know that by the time Frogster is done rolling out Chapter 4, the level cap will be at 70.
We have a good idea from the database that RoM will be getting some fairly decent level 65 item sets that will be obtainable from the minute Chapter 4 is turned on. This will cause a shift in prices as current uber-gear becomes slightly-less-than-uber-gear. There's no doubt some guilds are sitting at 62 with plenty of completed quests that they're waiting to turn in. They may also have plenty of experience orbs, gold and mementos stashed. Chapter 3 saw players hitting its level cap within a day. With all the help players will be getting from quests and hoarded items, I'm sure it won't be much different. The difference will be in obtaining the loot from the new dungeons this time around.
We may see the new gear being obtained at a slower rate than through Chapter 3. Twelve-mans are asked for a lot, but the truth of the matter is that smaller groups are and have been more popular in MMOs for a while now. With the top loot no doubt coming from the 12-mans that are able to progress through the entire dungeon, we'll also see a smaller number of players gaining it. Mementos also will be gained at a much slower rate since Frogster already implemented that nerf. It sounds like a strategic move, especially if we see more dungeons -- with more epic gear -- released in future Chapter 4 updates.
This may also inflate prices a bit and keep old gear from dropping in price too drastically. Some players might see that as a negative, but in order for a game to work and work well, Runewaker can't just throw out gobs of awesome new gear willy-nilly all at once. The game world is growing, more dungeons are being released, and RoM needs to be able to function smoothly for every level of player.
So much, nowadays, seems to boil down to time. The big question is: Will the disbursement of new gear and stats, along with the level-jumps toward 70, be enough to satisfy and keep high-level players busy while keeping the economy stable? I'm really hoping that some creative features pop up throughout Chapter 4.
Players need creative and fun options, even if the dungeon crawl is predominantly linear. That's one of the reasons I like the sound of new dungeons with 6- and 12-man options. It's not just about options for how many players can get together at any one time -- it's about having options for how you want to play the game, when you want to play it and for whatever reasons.
The gear from Kawak's Tomb isn't bad, but in my opinion, it's hard to beat the overall attributes and bonuses from some of the level 55 gear. We'll likely see all that change in Chapter 4. The datamined items barely hint at what we'll see, which leaves much to speculation.
As for the Screaming Gargoyle: That's just a dream of mine. How awesome would it be to have one of those flying around with you?
Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or an in-depth look at the Rogue/Priest combo, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.