Switch[Scape]ing it Up: A Review of the Weapon Diversity Beta

posted by on 19th June 2019, at 1:39am

For many RuneScape players, I included, nothing conjures nostalgia like the feeling of Old School style combat. Back in the day, each weapon included its own unique style bonuses which could be tremendously beneficial depending on the opponent’s weakness. Oftentimes, these differences were significant enough that it was common to select a lower tiered weapon more suitable for taking advantage of this system. Additionally, special attacks were a huge part of the game – much more so than today – which gave players a feeling that selecting the right weapon was truly impactful. For the purpose of this article, I won’t be delving in depth on any of the individual weapons, as they are subject to change and the information could soon be meaningless.

Today however, while the combat meta involves intense switching to maximize DPS at the highest levels, for the most part the ideal selection of those weapons is pre-determined by their tier. Simply put, if weapon A is higher tiered than weapon B in the same combat style, there’s virtually no reason one would choose weapon B. In recent months, and especially since the last Game Jam, Jagex has revealed an interest in bringing weapon diversity back. Certain weapons such as the Seren Godbow and Eldritch Crossbow have been given game changing special attacks that have made them an important part of any high level ranged load-out, but the goal of the latest RuneScape Beta is to make weapon diversity more widespread by giving numerous types of weapons special abilities. From browsing the RuneScape social media and forums communities, it seems like the reaction to this update plan is a mixed bag. Most people feel that the idea of weapon diversity is cool in theory, but question the implementation, that potential for it to be another batch update, and the need for such an update in the first place. Additionally, the beta being riddled with bugs and the initial article explaining the weapons being incredibly confusing didn’t help matters (it has since been revised).

While I think these concerns are all valid and should be addressed, as I said on the June 7th episode (727) of RSBANDBUpdate! – Critical Diversity of Thought – it is important to analyze the need for this update from multiple perspectives.

For me, this update is likely to have a relatively small effect on the way I play the game. I will continue to use whatever the best in slot weapons are for each style and bring as many switches as possible to maximize damage. Unfortunately, I am concerned this update will contribute even further to switch scape, particularly for the melee style. It’s already common to bring 5-6 weapons in a standard melee preset, 7 if using a scythe for distance at a place like Vorago (Zamorak God Sword, Khopeshes, flanking, lunging, statius hammer/Dragon b-axe for spec). Including weapons such as the spear which will only serve the purpose of being a weapon switch could make the highest levels of PvM feel more inaccessible than ever for players who are still struggling to juggle 2-3 switches. Additionally, the last few years has represented a substantial increase in lossless power creep. Invention gave us free DPS in the form of perks like Biting and Precise, the berserk aura “fix” greatly increased the power of those auras, and colored rune pouches gave us the largest functional inventory size in game history. These free/lossless buffs aren’t even accounting for things like 4TAA, flanking, and mutated barge which required some degree of increased effort to use. While on one hand lossless power creep means a lot of bosses are generally more accessible to the player base, it has the unfortunate side effects of taking much of the challenge away from more experienced players and lowering prices across the board of rare boss loot.

However, this update has the potential for a lot of upside too. I think the place where it could be most welcome if done properly is among more casual players who spend most of their time doing mid-tier content. Despite my belief the full manual and switching gives a feeling of control that makes combat more engaging, many players still feel hesitant to make the leap from revolution. My hope is that weapon diversity will be balanced in a way that makes it reasonable for players to select one kind of weapon over another for its potential benefits. For example, players who feel like they want a bit more sustainability might go with a 2H sword to feel more confidence even if something like maces would be more damage. Additionally, I think this gives players a window into switching that doesn’t come with the potential confusion and precision that comes from invention related switching. I hope giving players a greater sense that their decisions about gear can truly determine their experience will move the game away from its current direction of simply number crunching for the best loud out/rotations and using those.

In terms of the individual changes themselves, I want to wait to pass judgment on them. On release maces were the only weapons that jumped off the page as totally broken, but have since been fixed. The changes to magic aren’t terribly interesting – fire spells are a straight increase in damage with no tradeoff, earth spells could become a sweaty switch and will likely become another popularly used macro. (Remember this is currently against game rules and can result in a ban.) The changes to range all feel pretty balanced – I have some concerns about the 1H crossbow special making the weapons that are already the best even better, but it seems like they aren’t very concerned with power creep in this update. Melee is the most interesting. While some of the abilities are straight upgrades to already commonly used items (2H sword for example) none seem terribly overpowered. I’m not a huge fan of weapons like the spear which seem like they’ll just be another switch, but thematically all of the abilities make some sense.

In general, I’m very excited about the potential for this update to be one of the biggest for combat since the Evolution of Combat itself, particularly for mid-tier and casual players. I hope the mods will be bold with this one and not bend too much from their concept in response to social media hot takes and memes. It’s been a very solid year of updates so far and I hope they’ll continue with another win with this one.

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