So today I deemed it Long Enough for the aggravation of downloading and installing the Runes of Magic beta client to wear off, allowing me to give the game a fair chance. Problem is, there seems to be an NDA in place, which makes no kind of sense to me… what’s the point of an NDA with an Open Beta? For what its worth, I didn’t notice anything for them to be worried about in letting people talk about the game.
I’m going to ride a fine line here and talk about stuff that you could find out from ‘authorized sources’ with a bit of Googling. You’ve probably heard RoM referred to as a WoW clone, and that definitely is the first impression you get, from the art style (though with a lot more ‘cute’ thrown in here) to the interface. If you’ve played WoW, the game will feel very familiar to you. But then, that could be said for most fantasy-themed MMOs, and you could swap “WoW” for “EQ” or “DAoC” and it’d still pretty much apply. Combat and Harvesting are both very WoW-like indeed, but beyond that the game does diverge somewhat.
The most obvious difference is that there’s no subscription fee, and the idea is that you buy “Diamonds” with real cash to spend in-game on items. To that end, a lot of things in the game are time-limited, and you get a taste of this early on in the life of a character when you get a gift bag with a 24-hour mount in it. This is a horse that’ll be with your character for 24 hours from the time you get it (and I’m assuming they mean 24 real hours regardless of if you’re logged in or not, but I’ll check on that [EDIT: Confirmed, I popped in for a second this morning and my horse had 10 hours left.]). The “Item Shop” is full of stuff like this… buff potions and limited time mounts and so forth. We call these micro-transactions but they aren’t all micro – a permanent mount without a time limit will cost you about $20 USD in Diamonds. Hopefully there are other ways to gain a means of transportation.
Another big difference from WoW is that there is housing, and every player gets a small instanced house early on in their career (I had mine by level 6). There is no charge for the basic house, and you get a nice chest to store items in. But the biggest deal of all is that every house comes with a housekeeper! That’s her to the right there. She looks very professional, doesn’t she? You can expand your house in various ways by spending House Energy, which you get in exchange for Diamonds, which you got in exchange for real cash. Housing looks closer to EQ2 than to LOTRO. Rather than the very-limited “hooks” of LOTRO, it seems like you can place items at will in your house. That was true of the storage chest you’re given, at least. I haven’t managed to get any furniture yet.
Another difference: every character gets a secondary class. My character hasn’t gotten there yet, and there was a lot of debate in chat over whether you can change your secondary class or if, once picked, it’s a permanent part of your character. More exploration needed there.
And then there are the titular Runes. From very early on you’ll be finding Runes of various kinds. Runes can be attached to certain weapons and armor (assuming said item has Rune Slots in it) to give them bonuses, and they are also used in Crafting. They work as you’d probably expect: once a Rune is attached to an item it can’t be removed (possible exception: there’s a potion in the “Item Shop” that sounds like it would remove a Rune). It requires no special skill to apply a Rune to an item. Just right-click the Rune and click on the item you want to attach it to.
New characters get a nice quest chain that takes you through combat and getting harvesting skills and stuff, as well as good basic equipment. I was playing a Scout (think Hunter) and quickly got a nice range of skills to use (ha! pun not intended). Every time you level up you get a bunch of skill points to apply to these skills; so far I’ve been able to keep everything maxed, but I’m sure that won’t be true over the long run.
All in all, it seemed OK. I had fun for the short time I played and will probably give it some more time eventually, as long as I’m not forced to do much buying from the Item Store. I get that they need to fund the game somehow, but $20 for a horse seems pretty steep to me. But there’s no real “US” store to buy Diamonds from, so maybe they’ll adjust the costs for release? I will say that of all the free2play MMOs I’ve tried, this feels the closest to a “traditional” sub-based, fantasy-themed MMO. Whether this is good or bad, I leave to the reader. If you can’t afford WoW or EQ2 its nice to have an option, but its also nice to find unique offerings in the free2play-space like Wizard101 or Atlantica Online