A big expansion starring tiny dwarves.
Since 2009, Runes of Magic has been quietly going about its business. As one of the first purpose-built free-to-play MMORPGs to make its way to the West, players lambasted at launch for its ‘pay-to-win’ design philosophy and fantasy tropes that were more than a little inspired by a certain Blizzard game we won’t care to mention.
Fast forward three years later and RoM has had four substantial content updates and has only recently received yet another, and it’s clear that
Frogster’s Gameforge’s effort has substantially evolved with a very generous progression curve which doesn’t force players to get their wallets out at the in-game shop, and enough players to ensure that being able to group up is easy on well-populated servers, regardless of level. So what’s next for this successful fantasy experience?
Regular and consistently high quality updates have been the secret to Runes of Magic’s popularity, delivering enough new content to keep players satisfied across the length and breadth of the level curve and, unsurprisingly, the latest expansion also does exactly that. Fires of Shadowforge stars an all-new playable race: the Dwarves. Now we know what you’re thinking, ‘Oh great a ‘new’ race which every MMORPG and their mum has boasted at one time or another’ – well you’re right in that the race itself isn’t original, but Runes of Magic’s implementation certainly is.
The diminutive ones have been awakened by some inquisitive scientists, after a magical ‘present’ immobilised their race for centuries by turning them all into stone – that’s some gift! If you choose to role out as this new race, which join the Humans and Elves, your character begins just moments after their entire civilisation has been brought back to life.
Your goal as one of the two new classes, either the magic-wielding Warlock or melee-focused Champion, is to reunite the Dwarven race, reaffirm their status as one of the most powerful factions in Taborea and find out who (or perhaps more aptly what) was responsible for their slumber. To support this intriguing story concept there’s also a new starter area to explore, the all-new capital city of Taffrock, which boasts several areas including great halls, a massive mine and plenty of objects which further pad out the history of this new race. Rather than just being foolhardy warriors, this set of fantasy Dwarves harnesses magical psychic powers and a passion for technological advancement, so while wandering around Shadowforge’s capital city, don’t be surprised if you see mysterious machines and giant clanking cogs on your travels.
RoM’s take on this established fantasy archetype certainly reminded us a little bit of Guild Wars’ Asura, especially as areas of the city boasted unnatural colour hues and themes of civilised society conquering and harvesting the awesome power of nature.
All of these tropes are communicated in a very traditional manner, via lengthy quest logs and NPC characters chucking substantial bubbles of text at you repeatedly, but there’s more than enough detail to get wrapped up in the fiction if you’re that way inclined. After completing a bunch of introductory quests in this Dwarf-only starting area it concludes with an all-new instance which involves the player fighting a very intimidating Dark Gargoyle, and from there you’re free to explore the rest of the world, which has been bolstered out with an all-new continent, dubbed Kolydia.
The new landmass has two new high-level regions to explore – the Kingdom of Rorazan and Chrysalia – both of which are substantially different from one another. Rorazan’s hellish landscape populated by walking fire golems is the antithesis of Chrysalia’s green hills and stoney ruins. The latter land is a landscape wrought by tribal warfare and it’s up to you with a team of fellow adventurers to allow peace to permeate throughout all of the land.
As updates go, Fires of Shadowforge is certainly a hefty one and signifies RoM offering established players something new and different from what they’ve seen before. We’re still unsure whether this free-to-play MMORPG is as welcoming to newcomers as it perhaps should be, but there’s no doubt that there’s plenty of content in Chapter V for existing players to sink their teeth into.
This is just part of our detailed coverage of Runes of Magic in the latest issue of MMOZine.
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