There’s been an uptick lately in talk about Runes of Magic, the free-to-play WoW clone. A lot of that talk has been negative, and while there’s obviously some truth in calling RoM a WoW ripoff, I think that misses the point, which is that what RoM is supposed to be is a WoW clone, but free and better.
It’s got the free part down. As far as better… well, it’s not there yet. In terms of gameplay mechanics, there’s a lot to like about the game, and a lot to recommend it over WoW. Dual-classing and an implementation of crafting that’s a marginal improvement over WoW is a start. RoM also has player housing, which is somewhat unimpressive right now (in comparison to the equivalent feature in EQ2, Vanguard and LotRO,) but it’s still a ways away from release. The world is reminiscent of WoW while being more visually open and a bit plain (and at the same time using zoning, so there’s no contiguous world,) but it’s fairly credible in terms of visual atmosphere. The sound design doesn’t feel like it’s really in the game yet; there’s music and it’s fairly decent but little ambient noise that gives you a sense of place.
The real problem with RoM is the content, which is some of the most boring drek I have managed to muddle through. Not many MMOs really give you a sense of being part of a larger ongoing story, but almost all of them provide you with marginally interesting little stories that you get to be a part of through the process of questing. Not so Runes of Magic, which has quests that could have been randomly generated through an algorithm as far as I can tell. WoW has hundreds of little stories going on from the very beginning, and while some of them are pretty flat, others are at least marginally engaging.
Now, it’s early yet. There’s time for this content to shape up and little good reason to write off RoM just yet. But the current state of the game is no more than mediocre. It’s a title to keep an eye on, but not yet a title to get excited about.
In other news, I’ve signed up for the beta for Darkfall. I have serious doubts that I want to get into another PK/grief-fest, and if that’s what Darkfall turns out to be I have no doubt that it’ll make a quick departure from my hard drive. But it sounds interesting enough to at least warrant a closer look.