Where RuneScape shines is simple accessibility

On the surface, RuneScape doesn’t appear to offer much more than a hundred other fantasy-themed RPGs. Beyond its pleasant visuals and orchestral music (newly recorded for RuneScape 3), there’s nothing to shout about narratively, with a generic “monsters invading” set-up. Nor does the questing system, with its familiar list of kill/craft/collect objectives, even attempt to break the mould. Where RuneScape shines is simple accessibility, allowing players to continue their adventure through web browsers. The brevity of solo missions helps, forgiving some of the repetition, and a robust, friendly player community makes exploring the world a joy. It’s easy to see why devoted users invest so much in it. However, for RuneScape neophytes such as myself, a lot of it will feel stilted. Mouse-clicking to move anywhere is slow, and combat feels restrained and boring.

The original RuneScape was crude even for its day, with a world that barely qualified as 3-D, no sound effects, and very little to do but grind skills for months on end. Writing the game in Java presented some pretty serious graphical limitations but was ultimately a huge boon for developer Jagex as accessibility through a web browser helped the game’s initial explosion in popularity. The first major engine overhaul came with 2004’s RuneScape 2 beta, which replaced the 2-D monster sprites, and characters with basic animated 3-D models and produced new graphics for practically every object in the game. RuneScape Gold online for sale still looked a generation behind the big industry players, but for the first time it was a fully 3-D MMO.

“On one level, it’s been great,” says Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard, who has been with the company since 2009. “When your friend told you [about RuneScape] it was like ‘wow, I’ve just discovered something’. Perhaps that was a better moment than if you’d approached it cynically because it had been advertised to you – I don’t know. But I think we missed out a bit, as an organization, to get players to understand what we’re passionate about and the kind of experiences we want to give them.” In truth, there are as many RuneScapes as there are people who have played it. For many, it was the free MMO that they played on the lunchroom computers at school; for others, it is one of the most hardcore levelling challenges out there. Ultimately, the return from RuneScape reflects the effort players put in. A casual half-hour is a satisfying distraction, while hardcore commitment will reveal hidden depths beyond clicking enemies to death.

If its charms fail to grab you though, you’ll be wondering what the fuss was about. At the center and focus of last Summer’s changes (and subsequently the first to be made) was the shift to an HTML5 game client. With the new client, Runescape’s performance and aesthetic are massively improved and appear pristine. Environment textures are now more complex and object-specific. Lighting and shadows are now dynamic, meaning that they play off-of the environment and move, relative to the player’s position, in a more realistic manner than before. Weather effects (in relevant regions such as Draynor Village) have been intensified and made more complex and realistic. So, how did it go?

Now that I’ve gone and made this event sound cool, time to bring you out of the cave. They somehow made it boring as hell. The event boils down to woodcutting, mining and fishing for hours and hours. You just click on a resource, wait for it to deplete, then move to the next one. Repeat for hours. And hours. It is boring and tedious, just like Runescape has always been.

Overall the update improves the graphics to late PlayStation 1 graphical standards, and earlier updates brought the gameplay up to the standards of decade-old games. The Runescape 3 update offers little to no reason to play the game and I suggest avoiding it unless you have a nostalgia kick.