FHM readies its sword and shield and has a go at the new Clan content in the UK's biggest online game – Runescape.
Are all MMOs rubbish? We find out
We'd never really played much in the way of Massively Multiplayer Online games (or MMOs, to give them their shortened name) – after a brief dalliance with World of Warcraft when we were supposed to be doing coursework at Uni, the endless repetition of fetch quests started to get to us.
"Mauled to death by nine rabid yetis? That gypsy was right!"
Fetch quests, for the uninitiated, are when some chap (generally in a silly hat of some kind) asks you to go and collect a certain number of something unexciting such as hog noses, bat wings, deer antlers or frog balls – all of which, you'll note, are attached to creatures that would rather you didn't remove them. The first time it isn't so bad, but when you're one hour in and all you've done is scrub around unexciting fields hammering the noses off hogs, it starts to wear. We gave up and haven't really been back since.
But Jagex, Cambridge-based developers of Runescape, asked us up to their studios for the day so we could a) pretend we knew all about the game already and nod in all the correct places and b) check out some new stuff they'd put into the game for clans – so we figured we'd give it a bash one lunchtime. But before we get into that, here's a brief primer on the game.
Runescape has been going for about ten years, and has always tried to offer an MMO experience to everyone who wants it. With an initial download of 5mb and no charge to play – and with it being hosted in a browser and everything, rather than using it's own program – there's such a tremendously low barrier to entry we'd doubt you'd trip over it even if you were running with your eyes closed.
Have at you, you rocky bastard
The core gameplay is your standard swords-and-sorcery affair – goblins, princesses, wizards, castles and so on – with a top-down interface and a massive world not unlike classic RPGS such as Diablo and Planescape. Combat revolves around a rock-paper-scissors mechanic; but instead of using actual rocks, papers or scissors1 it uses swords, bows, and magic.
As it's so easy to get into – and because it has such low technical requirements – it's often seen as a gateway MMO for kids to get into “something more serious” like Warcraft, but there's a wide age range of players as the yearly Runefest party/convention can prove.2
Castles in the Sky
Anyway, what's new in Runescape? Well to us the entire bloody thing is new, as we'd never played it before – unlike the millions of players that log on every month to kill orcs, go mining, and engage in dance parties. But recently Jagex have slapped in some nifty new clan upgrades for you and your mates to take part in.
FUN FACT: Vikings would often advertise golf sales in between raids
Back in the day, Clans – a fancy term for 'you and your mates' but slightly more organised – didn't have anywhere to go and had to hang around the game world like teenagers outside a city centre Tesco Metro. Jagex have thoughtfully fixed this problem by giving them giant fuck-off floating sky castles, and letting them decorate them to their hearts' content.
If you can convince at least four of your friends to join your clan, you gain access to your very own sky castle which even comes complete with a fully armed and operational multicoloured dance floor on the second storey. Apparently Runescapers would often hold impromptu dance parties to celebrate big wins, so it's probably best they're given a private space to do it in.
Playing with your balls
But the bit that really interested us was the Battlefield – an inter-dimensional space where you can create your own massive dungeons. Of course, you can use them to hit each other in – or to hit a variety of monsters, too – but you can also set up massive games of Dungeonball.
Gosh, what an exciting screenshot
What's Dungeonball? Take your run of the mill fantasy dungeon with spikes, pit traps, wandering goblins and crumbling rockfaces and jam a game of American football into it sideways. Players compete to score goals whilst avoiding a barrage of spells and arrows from each other and trying not to get stuck in patches of elemental ice. This can only be a good thing.
Some brief, uninformed actual play
We didn't have time to start a clan ourselves – although we're looking at recreating the FHM offices as a dungeonball arena complete with the fairly toxic kitchen as a suitable hazard – but we had a quick go on Runescape to see what all the fuss was about.
We were pleasantly surprised. It looks slightly better than you'd expect it would (given that we're running it in Chrome whilst pretending to do actual work) and the writing is funny, solid and tongue-in-cheek. We create a female Hunter called Lady DeVayn (classy) and scrub around the starting city for a bit – we convince a goblin to bugger off through some eloquent wordplay, dispatch an emergent evil cult (although we let one of them live, because he seemed like a nice boy), and throw stones at an imp until it dies. And we're only ten minutes in so far.
"Wands? No mate, all I sell is Dragon penises. You want a Dragon penis? They're cheap!"
We're even assured that those fetch quests that bothered us so much in RPGs aren't so prevalent in Runescape - instead, you're tasked with quests such as (in addition to the standard monster bashing) investigating a murder and solving a court case. Good? Yes.
Also, within LITERALLY SECONDS of starting, someone chatted us up. We can't remember his name, but he insisted that we were a “babe” and that we should “b his gf” on account of us being so “sexy.” While we're flattered and everything, we think he might have got the wrong end of the stick. Unable to work out how to reply, we enigmatically wandered off.
So is it worth it?
So – Runescape is massive, lots of fun, essentially free, and you can play it at work or school without anyone really noticing3. You can't really complain too much about that. We're just wondering why it's taken us this long to get into it.
Runescape is available to play FREE at Runescape.com.
1 Come to think of, it, DoubleFine are probably writing such a game as we speak
2 We were invited to this year's event. It's on Halloween, and we are “required” to come in Runescape costume. Not sure whether we're entirely ready for that
3 Plus it's a great way to meet guys apprently