It has been around seven or eight years since I last played Runescape. I have fond memories of staring at a pixelated figure chopping away at trees in the quest for the level 99 woodcutting cape. A friend and I used to have a little competition of who could max out a skill first: I chopped wood and he mined ore. Why we spent so much time doing such monotonous things I’ll never know, but it was all part of what became the definitive gaming experience of my childhood. So in honour of Runescape’s fifteenth anniversary this January, I have decided to revisit the world that captured my interest so intensely as a gawky teenager.
Just to clarify, the version that I have begun playing is ‘Runescape 3’ not ‘Old School Runescape’, which I believe is to be more like the version of the game that I used to play all those years ago. The very existence of this latter version did make me somewhat sceptical about the direction that the main game has been taking in my absence, though, I must admit.
Anyway, the first thing that you notice after so many years is just how much the game has changed – an obvious point to make, but an important one nonetheless. For starters, you have to download it now rather than playing it in browser, which stands testimony to the reason why ‘Runescape 3’ is also known as ‘Runescape HD’. The game now has a much clearer and much more impressive colour palette than it ever had before, and all of the objects in-game look extremely smooth. The hit-points meter has been multiplied by ten, which seems like an odd decision, but I guess it allows for more potential for varying attack damage on the player and the enemies.
But with the idea of meters in mind, what is probably the most notable change to the game is the introduction of an abilities bar: the list of key-bound actions ranging from new moves in combat, defence boosts, prayer boosts, and even magical spells. Although this is merely a step in a direction other RPGs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars have been following for many years now, it does actually revolutionise the way that we play Runescape.
Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to handle these changes. I really must give credit to how good the newly revised Tutorial Island (or whatever they call it now) helps you get used to the game’s controls. At first my nostalgia panged for the old Tutorial Island, but what makes the newer version a much more enjoyable and helpful experience is the fact that it doesn’t stop teaching you how to play the game once you enter the main world.
With additional quests (and the additional snazzy cut scenes that come with them), Gudrik’s missions have players learning all that there is to love about the game beyond the game controls. This includes the underlying storylines and lore, the puzzles and even a dungeon boss battle. And that is all before you truly invest your time in what the game really has to offer!
Fortunately enough for me, I have re-joined the world of Runescape just at the right time for one of the game’s famous seasonal events. These are never the most complex, challenging missions in the game, but they are always a fun way to mark the occasion. Although the event’s reward hasn’t been inputted into the game at the time that I am writing this, I have to say that I was always a sucker for the kind of memorabilia that you got from these each year. But one issue did arise this time around and it involved a pair of ice-skates…
To craft these ice-skates you have to combine a pair of leather boots and two iron battle-axes. The boots are easy enough to come by, but the battle-axes proved difficult: nobody was selling these obscure items on the Grand Exchange, so the only option was to smelt the iron and forge the weapons myself! Unfortunately for me, this meant that I had to get my character’s smelting skill up to level 25: a feat that involved a lot of monotonous mining, usage of the furnace and of the anvil.
Despite loving this monotony as a child for some reason, I honestly was bored out of my skull this time around. I understand that the game has to have some degree of challenge to its level up system, but without having my friends online keeping me entertained like they did back in high school, it soon became mind-numbing. This is probably one of the aspects of the game that made me stop playing it such a long time ago.
It is fascinating to see how much has changed, but also just how much hasn’t. All of the old locations are there (nobody ever forgets the welcoming sight of Lumbridge Castle), many of the same quests are still available, and people are still constantly complaining about clueless “noobs” like myself… Don’t get me wrong, there’s still tonnes of new things for me to do on Runescape, including the new locations to explore, new quests, and even some new skills, but so far I have found it quite the enjoyable trip down Memory Lane.
I’m glad to see that people are still enjoying the game that I was so fond of back in the day, it is truly a great feeling! But maybe I shouldn’t outstay my welcome. Nostalgia is one hell of a thing, after all, and sometimes reality can start to fail to live up to the very high standards that it sets.