2014 is shaping up to be an important year in RuneScape. The combat system is undergoing major changes as we speak. Aspects of the Beta are being implemented into the main game and we are also awaiting the return of the 138 combat level and the much anticipated Legacy Combat. All of these things begs the question, are we entering a golden age in combat, or is Jagex throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to try to make players happy and continue playing? One thing is for sure, it will be an interesting year. It has been a long hard road since EOC has entered the game but after a little more than two years, it looks like there are solutions to some of the most annoying problems with EOC. We are definitely entering a new era that is for certain, however, the results will not be what Jagex or many players anticipate. The mixture of old and new components will bring more choice than ever before and the game experience will be unsurpassed by any previous era in RuneScape.
Let’s begin with the changes to EOC. On February 24th Revolution and ability queuing along with Momentum Plus were rolled out. This effectively gives the player three different combat modes to choose from. Revolution is a mode in which basic abilities fire automatically, alleviating the much hated button mashing conundrum we have been in since 2012. This mode is very useful for slayer because it is more relaxed and you still build adrenaline and can use thresholds and ultimates. The drawback to Revolution is it is slightly slower than full manual mode. There is a very small delay between when Revolution fires abilities and when you can fire them manually. Of course this is a fair trade-off for the more relaxed gameplay. The other mode that was introduced was an improved momentum mode called Momentum Plus. This mode does not use abilities but it does build minimal adrenaline and you can use ultimates. The damage output has been upgraded and is marginally better than the old Momentum. It is by far the most relaxed combat mode requiring you to only click on a target once, however, while better the damage output is still very poor and it is hard to see a place for Momentum especially when Legacy Combat comes into game. Lastly we saw the addition of ability queuing. This is a minor update compared to the above mentioned two that allows you to queue up on ability and have it fire when it is ready. It’s nice because you can queue a threshold or ultimate to fire as soon as you have enough adrenaline. All of these changes are in game already and the response from players seems to be very positive.
There is still more content being developed in the beta. Probably the most anticipated update that is to come out of the Beta is special attacks. Special attacks were taken away when EOC was first conceived and it is something the player base has been asking for since that time. Special attacks add another dimension to weapons themselves and generally make combat more fun; however, that is not all that is to come out of the Beta. Just last week it was announced that certain armour sets will also have special effects. This is to help address the stale armor choices in game today. EOC brought us three classes of armour: hybrid, power, and tank. The three class system works for the most part but it has become boring and stale. Special set effects will make your armor choices more relevant.
The next change that will be coming this year is Legacy Combat. Legacy Combat, much like everything else this year, came out of a power to the player poll where in it asked if the players would like a mode that resembled the old combat system. This is probably the most important update of the year. It has to be done right; unfortunately I still haven’t heard any solution for some of the biggest issues with Legacy. Namely how will PVP work if someone is using Legacy and their opponent is using manual EOC. The idea was a little contentious to begin with, but it appeals to the nostalgic player. You know, the player that always tells you how awesome the game was back in the day and if we would only go back everything would be awesome again. The true benefit of Legacy as I see it, is that it brings choice into the game. I think it was having the ability to choose to play in Legacy Combat or not that players really voted for. There is a lot riding on this update and if all goes well it will be a great addition to the game, however, if it goes badly then it would be one example of Jagex trying to do too much regardless of any poll.
Lastly by far the most contentious update coming in 2014 will be a return to the 138 combat level. There are really good arguments for both sides of the debate. The prestige associated with a 138 combat level is something I think a lot of players miss. The old formula will most likely be reworked giving range and mage more equality in the formula while retaining the prestige of almost having to have 99’s in all combat skills. The simplicity of the 200 combat level is its most appealing factor. Unfortunately achieving 200 was just a little too easy in the eyes of most players as evidence in the power to the player poll suggested. So when you put it all together what does it mean for the future of combat in RuneScape?
Had these changes been announced in October or November of 2012, I would have been very worried about the future of the game. At that time numbers were down, the economy was in the toilet and bots were still running amok. It would have looked like Jagex was making one last-ditch effort to please everyone. The bottom line is you can’t please everyone. Eventually choices have to be made and this is exactly what happened when Jagex got serious about bots and introduced a comprehensive new anti-bot system. By that time the criticism had reached a fever pitch. I remember how it seemed everywhere you looked people were saying RuneScape was dying. Bots and the economy and dwindling numbers weren’t the only problems either. EOC also still needed major improvements. Now that the game is turning around Jagex has decided it is time to fix the original problems with EOC. All of these changes are aimed at a particular aspect of EOC that certain groups of players really still don’t like. Most of these solutions actually do address the problems people have been complaining about for years. However, I caution Jagex and the players, do not expect too much out of this. Don’t expect thousands of players to come back to the game. The ugly truth is many of them have moved on and will never come back. Nor will these changes bring a multitude of new players into the game. The rate of new players will probably in all likelihood remain about the same as it is now. The best we can hope for is to reach equilibrium between new players coming in and older players that are leaving. However sheer numbers are not the only metric to consider when measuring success. Jagex is a large company that is making money. They employ a lot of people and if you watched any of the live stream during GameBlast you can tell their facilities are quite nice as well. The metric we need to focus on is retention, and that is where all of these updates are going to shine.
Like I said before Revolution is very appealing to people who like slayer as well as people who just don’t want to button mash. This is something that people have wanted since EOC came out. This is the kind of update that will retain players. Now let’s look at Legacy Combat. Legacy appeals to people on a few different levels. It offers an alternative to EOC, which is great to have a choice. It also appeals to those nostalgic players who just want things to go back the way they used to be. Lastly, I think it will appeal to the PVP community who were the most adamant about their hatred of every aspect of EOC. Legacy may indeed bring some from the old PVP community back. It does address some of the things they have been asking for, however, I see these players coming from 07 and not necessarily from other games they have moved on to. The return to the 138 combat level is something that may be contentious now but will settle down when it is introduced. It brings back a sense of accomplishment and prestige to players who have worked very hard for their levels. In a way it’s like showing appreciation for those players who have worked that hard to get their combat skills to the highest level. Last but not least, the reintroduction of special attacks is something that everybody wanted, and I think will be well received. I think we have all missed our Dragon Claw and God Sword specials and soon they will be back with us. Although these measures, while maybe not bringing huge numbers of players back into the game or a multitude of new players into the game, will in fact retain players. That is what the focus should be right now and I see these changes doing just that.
2014 could be shaping up to be a Golden age of combat. It’s going to be an exciting year that is offering a great deal of choice to the players. There will be a mixture of new and old aspects of combat. Things that we all miss are coming back and things that we had to get used to but can’t live without now are remaining and getting better. A sense of accomplishment and prestige is coming back to the combat level bringing a sense of pride back as you walk around RuneScape. You will smile as you pass people and you know as they hover their mouse over your name all they are seeing is a big red 138. I look forward to the upcoming year and I am hopeful that nothing will be botched and everything will go smoothly. There is good reason to believe this will be the case, but if there are hiccups along the way we will take them in stride. If we just look at how the Beta is going this time versus the last time I think it’s clear Jagex learned some valuable lessons from EOC and players learned you get the system you tested. There is so much more I could talk about regarding bossing and how players will learn to use each new mode for a given situation but that would turn this article into a novel by the time I was done. Sorry skillers, it looks like 2014 will be the year of the killer. Till next time, happy RuneScaping everyone.