Runes of Magic Preview: Embrace the Familiar

I've been looking forward to href=""> style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
(RoM) for a long time. Frogster Interactive has promised a
free-to-play experience that uses story (in the form of quests) as the
primary method of advancement. A F2P game that doesn't use mind-numbing
grinding for character development? Count me in!

Frogster was kind enough to add me to the RoM closed beta in
September 2008. Now that the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has lifted,
can tell readers what I saw. In short, style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
mimics a lot of other games in much of its gameplay mechanics, but it
provides a deeply developed story for the backdrop. The result is a
gameplay experience that is immediately familiar and engaging.

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Interactive has lore for each location and creature in
of Magic.

Check out the
Hook While My Deejay Revolves It

The thing that hooked me about RoM was the incredible
amount of detail built into each zone, dungeon, and creature. Just
check out this preview of href="">Aslan Valley.
Each picture in the preview has two or three paragraphs of background
story to go with it. F2P developers have a reputation for churning out
games filled
with pointless kill quests that slowly turn the treadmill on a leveling
curve that is sadistic at best and tantamount to torture at worst. In
such a dismal market, RoM could be a ray of sunshine.

In RoM, gamers will explore the world of Taborea, which is
filled with budding outposts trying to carve out a place in a rough
land. The player is an upstart trying to make his way rather than the blood
relative of a legendary hero or a demigod who simply needs to unlock
his powers to rule the world. The story does its best to make the
events of the world the real draw for the game. You just get the
pleasure of experiencing it all through your avatar.

Crafting a Winner

Any game that hopes to capture a cut of the MMOG player base
needs a
rich crafting system
, and RoM does not disappoint in that
department. Harvesting and crafting work a lot like style="font-style: italic;"
href="">EverQuest 2.
Resources spawn in nodes scattered throughout the over world and in
dungeons. Players can harvest from nodes of the lowest tier until they
gain enough levels to harvest the next best node. Crafting involves
using refined harvested resources with store bought additives and

Choosing a crafting system like the one found in EQ2 is an
example of how all systems in RoM aim to be comfortable
without reinventing the wheel. EQ2's crafting
is more sophisticated than a simple "combine items in a pot
and click a button" method, but it is not as complicated as a system
like the one found in style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard,
where players must labor over each crafting item, adding in elements in
a timely fashion to prevent disaster. Players can choose to craft heavy
armor, metal weapons, bows and staves, or clothing. They can even
dabble in alchemy or cooking to make potions and consumables that give
a buff. 

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Some mounts
can be rented in the game while others can be purchased in the item

Two other elements that seem to be required for MMOGs are the
ability to obtain mounts and player housing. RoM fulfills those
prerequisites with systems that are not original but that are very
functional. Don't look to be riding any sea serpents or giant thunder
lizards in RoM, but count on a nice horse to increase your movement
speed. Likewise, don't expect to build a href=""
target="_blank">Fortress of Solitude for yourself
on a frozen tundra, but do plan to get yourself a simple house that href="">you can
decorate as you see fit.

Get a Job, You
Bum! Better Yet, Get Two!

Standard classes in RoM include warrior, knight, scout, rogue,
mage, and priest. Warriors remind me of a D&D barbarian in that
they can hit hard and have a lot of hit points but do not wear plate
armor. Knights are the defensive bulwarks who aim to soak up damage.
Scouts use bows to deal damage from afar while rogues cloak themselves
in the shadows to come in close for burst damage. A mage is the direct
damage caster, and the priest focuses on heals and buffs with the
occasional nuke thrown in for good measure.

Much like in href=""> style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy XI,
gamers can choose two classes in RoM. One becomes the primary class
while the other is secondary. The cool part is that you change which
class is your primary to fit the needs of your party. Want to be a
paladin? Combine the tanking prowess of the
knight with the healing magic of the priest. Want a battlemage? Try
warrior plus mage. My personal taste tends toward the old D&D
ranger, a mix of the scout and priest. The dual class system has been
done in games before, and
Frogster's not trying to improve upon a formula researched by other
developers. Instead, the aim is to make the player's choices have
meaning. Just like in D&D, a pure mage has better magic
capabilities in RoM than a mage/thief combo, but the latter has some
stealth abilities to compensate for the diminished firepower.

to page two
to find out about the graphics and gameplay.

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