RuneScape 3: The Quest for The Skinny

In Part One, the stage was set for a look into RuneScape 3. But does a hands-on Alpha gameplay help or hinder the Jagex message?

BY HAROLD GOLDBERG

Cheshire, England  

So there we were in this Game of Thrones-like locale outside of Manchester, England. In the bowels of PeckfortonCastle, I came upon a room with so many computers, I thought I was in a startup in San Francisco – except the ceilings were dauntingly higher than any loft’s.

The press had just been listening to a sometimes-hard-to-follow speech about the wonders of RuneScape 3, which will use HTML 5 to enhance its graphics. Now, it was time to see an Alpha version of the game.

First, I could see that I could adapt and change the interface to my own needs. But what struck me more? The graphics were exponentially better than what’s playable now in RuneScape 2. It’s stunning to see a level full of detailed, giant mushrooms and toadstools, and you can climb high on them to battle various creeps. The whole environment is tinged in shades of foreboding green and purple. It reminded me of the underrated (and much condemned because of a financial scandal) RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur. Whatever you thought of Amalur, the idea of getting that level of artwork in a browser-based game is impressive indeed.

But the Jagex employee who stood near to help answer questions had a bit of a language issue. So when he needed to be loquacious, he was more like, say, Don Draper after sex, a man of a few words.

I was still in need of an succinct explanation of what the story is in RuneScape 3, and how the narrative will inspire my appreciation for the game. I still hadn’t gotten a detailed explanation or an elevator pitch.

In an effort to stop what Jagex must have felt is the buzzkill of respawning, the developers gave us nearly unkillable super-characters. This was great to check out the weapons and magic power interfaces and for battling various demons with various spells and weapons. But it required little skill.

I moved around the dark room to find another worker and asked him about the issue of bots and botters in the game. And then I asked another. Both assured me that botters would be diminished with the new release. That indeed was a relief to hear, and I hope it happens.

But I was still on a quest to hear more about legend and story and characters. I proceeded further into the bowels of the castle into a round room that looked like a dungeon but actually was a private bar usable for debauchery when wedding receptions and parties occur. There, I witnessed something I didn’t expect at all.

To be continued…

Harold Goldberg is the founder of The Circle.

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