The Evolution of Combat has been upon us for nearly three months, seven including the beta, so I have started to ask myself how successful has it been at accomplishing the goals within the game that Jagex has set for it. The Evolution of Combat provided an opportunity for a combat triangle re-balance along with more variation to gear choices and a way to implement more interaction and strategy in to Runescape combat. I believe that they have made substantial improvements in these areas compared to “Pre-EoC” Runescape combat, but I still think they have a lot left on their plate.
Their first goal was to balance the combat triangle, forcing people to be more versatile in their gear choices. Prior to the Evolution of Combat, Bandos and a Chaotic weapon was the best gear setup for nearly all slayer and PvM situations aside from a few niche monsters. Compared to that, the Evolution of Combat has definitely improved, although that alone really isn’t saying too much. In the Evolution of Combat, Jagex has used two main tactics to work towards this goal: monster weaknesses and a weapon/gear tiering system. I would argue that this tiering and weakness system works well to a certain extent, but isn’t very future proof. At lower levels the monster weaknesses work well to force player to mix up their gear choices in order to efficiently take down monsters.
However once you get to the level 80 and above weapon and gears, the balance begins to fade. This is due to that exponential scale getting so steep at the top and the lack of balance between two handed and dual wielding weapons. The abilities heavily favors two handed range and melee weapons and one handed wands on the magic side. So for bosses that have no weaknesses being killed by higher level players, melee and range are heavily preferred due to the huge price wall on the level 80 mage weapons. Furthermore, the lack of a need for a shield for any monster besides the Kalphite King adds on to this favor for two handed weapons. As for the issues at the top end of the exponential scale, we have already seen the problems with weapons at level 90, so one would assume that another re balance would be needed for gear with a level requirement above 90. Take for example the newly released Drygore Weapons. Due to the aforementioned exponential scale, their accuracy is significantly higher than the next best weapons at level 80. As a result, the Drygore weapons can be used to kill many monsters that are weak to mage or range just as well, if not better than, if you were to use the appropriate style for that monster’s weakness. Combine these highly accurate weapons with high defense melee armours such as Torva or Tetsu, and you’ll find it more than possible to solo Nex with a single inventory of food in just over 5 minutes. if that fact alone isn’t concerning when it comes to combat balance, there are no concrete plans in sight for range or magic counterparts to these Drygore weapons.This tiering system is also somewhat counterproductive when it comes to encouraging more variation of armour choices. Now that all weapon and armour stats are based on the level required to wield it, all uniqueness of certain weapons or armour pieces are completely gone, you simply find the highest level of gear you can afford and go. The recent strength bonus additions to God Wars and Nex armours is a step in the right direction, but I don’t believe it is enough. Overall, there is still quite a bit of work to be done balance wise if Jagex wants equality between the combat styles and encourage more variance in gear choices. That being said, the current status of the Evolution of Combat is certainly more balanced and leaves plenty of room for improvement and change that wasn’t available before the EoC.
The second goal Jagex had for the Evolution of Combat was to add more interaction and strategy to combat. I think they were much more successful on this front than on balancing the combat triangle. Prior to the Evolution of Combat, Runescape combat was never more complex than navigating between menu’s, switching weapons and eating at the right time. Not to discredit those who took the time and practice to get down the timing and muscle memory to make these, but there really wasn’t much thought put into combat. You simply clicked and and waited for your target to die.
With the introduction of abilities this has all changed. Different fights or situations within a fight call for different abilities to maximize effectiveness. While remaining simple and easy to understand, abilities add a way to engage more in what you are fighting than was ever possible prior to the Evolution of Combat. This is the most evident when fighting the more difficult monsters and bosses. Knowing what abilities to use and when to use them can have a huge effect on how much damage you deal and how much you end up taking. Giving bosses like Nex and Kalphite King abilities of their own is only the beginning of what’s to come for bossing. The addition of defensive abilities and dual wielding has also opened up the doors for roles within a boss group. Before there were people designated to tank or sacrifice defense for damage output, but the Evolution of Combat has added a new dimension to this, giving players more options to define the role they want to play.
With all the fixes and adjustments that need to be added to the Evolution of Combat, it can be hard at times to call it a success. Content at the higher levels will endlessly need more balancing, and with more and more players reaching these higher levels each day this becomes a more pressing issue. But in the end if that just means more content and more difficult and challenging fights to come then so be it. After all that is the most important factor the Evolution of Combat brings is its ability to be expanded and worked upon, whereas before we had seed just about all that could come of the point and click Runescape combat. While the road to the current state of the EoC hasn’t been pretty and many changes still needing to be implemented, thanks to it the future of Runescape combat has been opened up to allow for more interaction from the players and advancement of fighting techniques not thought possible with the old system.