Who actually likes killing boars? The World of Warcraft phenomenon has passed us by entirely because we couldn%26rsquo;t understand the appeal of spending hours hacking and slashing through hordes of low-level creatures in order to gain experience. Replace the boars with giant mushrooms, and you%26rsquo;ll see that Runes of Magic makes efforts to follow the same baffling formula as WoW.
In the lead up to Runes%26rsquo; release, one of the main worries about the game was that it would attempt to follow the well-trodden path of WOW much too closely %26ndash; a route many a failed MMO has dared to take. With the exception of a few new features this is exactly what Runes has done. The interface is unnervingly similar to Blizzard%26rsquo;s game, and the rune system %26ndash; which the developers proudly claim is one of Runes%26rsquo; defining features %26ndash; resembles the gems and socketable items found in other MMOs.
Yet the Arcane Transmuter is an interesting mechanic that does help to distinguish Runes from its subscription-based rivals. This feature allows you to strip stats from armour and weapons and transfer them elsewhere. This may stand it head-and-shoulders above its free-to-play peers, but it isn%26rsquo;t enough to compete with the genre%26rsquo;s heavyweights.
This is a solid MMO that ticks most of the boxes that fans of the genre will be looking for, especially those who like statistical spreadsheeting. The dual-class feature and promised update schedule do distinguish it somewhat, but it%26rsquo;s still completely overshadowed by its behemoth rivals in terms of gameplay, character development, refinement and detail.
Runes of Magic goes some way to disarming us of our distrust of free-to-play MMOs (is it only us expecting an invoice any day now?), but it%26rsquo;s leagues behind the subscription-based MMOs of the world.
May 6, 2009