Vorago – The Peak of Runescape Combat?

posted by on 9th October 2018, at 11:19pm

For many high level PvMers in Runescape, Vorago remains to this day the ultimate combat encounter. At the time, Vorago was thought to be the pinnacle of what the Evolution of Combat could offer in terms of advanced mechanics and group PvM. Released on July 3, 2013, I feel it is time to finally celebrate the incredible achievement of Mod Chris L and the rest of his team and ask how Jagex can replicate such a monumental success five years later.

For many players who enjoy modern Runescape combat, 2013 was the greatest year in the game’s history. While I wasn’t playing very much then, I didn’t return to membership until October 2014, around the release of Prifddinas, the release of Vorago led to an explosion of fascinating content on YouTube and it made me think about Runescape for the first time in a while. I remember being amazed by the quality of the encounter, how fun it looked, and how complicated the game I used to play in the background of whatever popular flash game was hyped on Miniclip or Addicting Games at the time. (Or pretending to do my homework – I’m sure we’ve all been there). The release of Vorago came in the middle of a crucial year for Jagex. The release of Evolution of Combat in November of 2012 led to a huge split in the community about the direction of the game, especially given the poor optimization and rampant bugs have become synonymous with how people think of EoC even to this day. The year 2013 saw the release of the first boss designed with EoC in mind, the Kalphite King, which some people enjoyed at the time, but unfortunately fell prey to many of the complaints people had about the new system. The encounter was relatively short, could be easily destroyed in a mass, and had clunky mechanics based around interactions with stuns and bleeds, relatively new concepts to Runescape. KK was good for its time, and introduced the first Tier-90 weapons, Drygores, but it was not the long, epic, encounter that was promised.
Enter: Vorago.

Vorago was the second in the set of three massive group PvM bosses that came out during 2013, the third being Barrows: Rise of the Six, and introduced players to tier 90 magic weapons, the Seismic Wand and Seismic Singularity, weapons that still have a tremendous impact on the PvM meta to this day, and Tectonic armor, tier 90 power armor that still makes up the base for the current best in slot armor in the game. Given the dominance of magic over the other styles, which you can read about in my article, “Unlocking Full Manual: Taking Advantage of the Tick System, Part 1” where I talk about four tick auto-attacking and lossless auto attacks that are only possible with magic, it’s no surprise that Vorago had an advantage over other bosses from this era in terms of longevity and sustained relevance, but the difference in styles can’t account for the fact it’s not even close. Assuming players are very experienced, duo Vorago still retains a GP rate of 25-30m/hr and trio Vorago, which is considered the standard team size in 2018 for most rotations, easily exceeds 15m/hr (per team member) even with terrible luck with drops. There are several key factors that made Vorago unique at the time and makes the boss still highly relevant today.

First, diverse and changing mechanics –

While Kalphite Queen had two different phases that required different combat styles to take down all the way back in 2004, and the Kalphite King built heavily on this idea with three different combat styles that came with changes in mechanics, Vorago took the concept of unique rotations based on different phases to the next level. In addition to each of the bosses five phases (eleven in Hard Mode) having a totally different set of mechanics, each week the core mechanics for three of those five phases changes as well. With six completely unique sets of mechanics as of the December 2014 Hard Mode update, with each requiring very different strategies to overcome, and all requiring teamwork to take down, the constant changing nature of the boss means it’s hard to ever get bored. After doing thousands of kills and countless more attempts while learning its mechanics or pushing myself to fight the boss with smaller and smaller team sizes, I still don’t find myself ever being bored because each week there is a new set of mechanics that I haven’t faced for six weeks, which keeps it constantly fresh. For those who have fought Araxxor but not Vorago, this is similar to the changing paths but significantly accentuated.

Despite its resounding success among the high level community, aside from the aforementioned, relatively minor and less diverse, changes to Araxxor mechanics, this is not a system that has been utilized in the last five years of PvM updates. While bosses like Nex: Angel of Death and Solak have certainly contained a diversity of mechanics and remain engaging, they unfortunately can get stale after a few weeks of repeating them again and again, because put simply, nothing ever changes.

Second, flexibility in team size –

One of the biggest complaints people have about modern day group bossing has been the rigidity in team sizes. While one could of course fight Yakamaru (10), AoD (7) and Solak (7) with fewer people than is recommended, there is no advantage to be gained by doing so, and the fights are designed so the differences in kill times will be massive. For Vorago, on the other hand, instead of each player getting their own unique drop that is specific to them, Vorago always drops 5 piles of loot. EG if you fight AoD with 5 people you get 5 drops instead of 7, one for each team member, whereas if you fight Vorago with 2 instead of 7, the boss drops 5 piles of loot in either case. For this reason, there is an incentive to become highly skilled at Vorago like no other group boss, because the fewer people you need to take it down, the more money you will make. Additionally, with enough skill, the difference between duo and 5-person teams can be made very marginal, with both team sizes able to get around 4-5 kills/hour depending on the rotation. The reason for this is that three of the five phases are time gated. Phase 1, 2, and 4 – assuming a skilled duo team – will take almost exactly the same amount of time as it would take a team of 50 (the max capacity for Vorago) to take down. In addition to encouraging dedication to excellence, this has also caused drops to maintain their prices, since the same number of drops come into game whether teams are killing it in small teams or in massing. Compare this to Kalphite King for instance, which a mass can take it down in a matter of seconds.

Furthermore, this pushing towards smaller teams has resulted in sustained difficulty for the fight. I remember the immense difficulty I had when I first learned to trio Vorago (pre-invention and god books by the way, we were running around in void), and how it almost felt like a completely different fight. In the wake of the massive boost in damage made available with invention, early 2016 became a race for the first ever legit, post-buff, Vorago duo, which was first achieved by Russian Dan and Prince Eric on February 27, 2016, almost three years after its release. The summer of 2016, despite the release of telos and god wars dungeon 2, became dominated by being the first to achieve duo Vorago and 4-man, and eventually trio hard mode (something I didn’t successfully do until spring of 2017), on each of the six rotations. The very first duo hard mode, a feat which only a very small handful – fewer than 6 or 7 at the time of this article – wasn’t achieved for the first time until mid-April of this year, and has only been accomplished on one of the six rotations.

Finally, the loot –

I’ve already mentioned this above, so I’ll be brief here, but the combination of tectonic energies being the primary source of income and also the basis for best in slot armor even to this day, along with the time gated nature of the boss, capping at around 5 kills/hour regardless of the number of people in the kill, has sustained Vorago as one of the game’s most consistent money makers. Following Solak, Telos, and Angel of Death, Vorago is easily the 4th best money maker in the game, which is incredible given that other bosses from its era, such as KK, are worse than Queen Black Dragon.

I hope that Jagex will again put in the work to make the next Vorago. In terms of mechanic complexity, Solak is probably the closest they have come, and is certainly a great effort. However, the incentive to push towards smaller teams, to truly become an absolute expert in every single mechanic, the race towards increasingly difficult feats, and the sustained longevity of Vorago may never be repeated again. Many people remember the release of EoC and the year or two after being a disaster for the game. For PvMers, it was a golden era that will may never again be replicated by any game we will ever play.

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