Alex’s Analysis – Still Waking Up

posted by on 1st August 2020, at 7:21pm

NOTE: Naturally there will be quest spoilers, so go do the quest first, then read. Think of this as incentive. And if you do, you’re doing something wrong if you’re thinking that my random improvised gibberish could possibly meet the hype of a fully-developed RuneScape quest.

It’s been a year, and we’ve finally progressed in RuneScape’s most dire, most epic quest series to date: the Elder God story-line. At long last, all the build-up from Desperate Times, all the type with Anachronia. The setting. The situation. The unknowns. Is Kerapac really a danger to the Elder Gods? Should we really be trusting a memory of him from so long ago? All of this and more are answered in the newest RuneScape quest: Desperate Measures!

… and it lasted me about 3 hours.

I won’t tell you exactly how it’s done or where to go, it’s pretty cut and dry as the quests usually are. You go to a bunch of places, talk to some NPCs, there’s a bit of searching and puzzle solving, some new game-play mechanic, and of course, a fun boss fight at the end. Classic standard questing formula.

So, as an avid quester since RuneScape circa 2001, what are my thoughts of it?

Truth be told, they’re kind of mixed. There were some really epic moments in the quest, but then there were some ‘eh’ moments. And one moment in particular that, I felt, really REALLY could’ve been done better. The big take-away, though, from this is:

It lasted me about 3 hours.

I mean, Mourning’s End Part 2, which remains my third most favorite quest behind One of a Kind and One Small Favor, was entirely one big puzzle that lasted me an entire day of struggling, deciphering, and figuring things out, and it was developed in probably a month. There wasn’t much story to it; it was basically you accessing the death altar and sealing the temple up. That was it.

This quest… lasted me… about 3 hours. I waited a YEAR… and it lasted me three hours…

Oh, but what an awesome three hours it was. Thok, Charos, and even Hannibus. all joining forces with you to fight against one of the most powerful Dragonkin on Gielinor! Flashbacks to the Mahjarrat Ritual right here where you team up with some well-developed key figures.

I mean, forget the prior two for a sec here; Hannibus has been on a whole journey all on his own. As a character, he’s been developed so wonderfully that he easily stands as one of my favorites right now in-game. Like, he’s been through a lot. Originally a humble shepherd, he was enlisted to fight in Zaros’ army on dragon-back (Shakorexis, the King Black Dragon’s back, to be precise [freaking awesome!]), having been petrified for decades, struggling to keep his entire race alive, and coming into the world to find out he has a daughter who’s been raised as a soldier and can barely respect him. And despite all that, he still sees the world as something beautiful and plans to do the most with his life as he can. Jagex Developers, for crying out loud, put this guy in a nice little place on the map somewhere! Stop making him disappear after each quest!

Sorry, needed to get that out of my system. Hannibus is a great character. OK. Enough about him (for now).

Let’s walk through the quest a bit!

It started off with a Thok story, which is always a delight. The guy is always so delusional, putting hilarious spins on the Examine option and creature names and telling over-the-top stories… I loved every moment of that one. Having the wise Charos continuously interrupt was funny too, but… dang it, Charos, I KNOW that’s not how it really went; shut up and let me hear the Thok story in peace! Then you can tell me your version of the event in a nice quick wall of text. Or in the form of a riddle. Really, your call.

Then, we got to implement a little Archaeology into the mix, finding a dragonkin keystone and tablet. Charos tells you what they might be (cryptic as always), but of course it’s up to you.

We are asked to seek out Hannibus to decipher the tablet (yay!), and we find him at the Ranch Out of Time, of all places. Again, true character development right here, I wish he stayed post-quest. Would’ve taken all the selfies.

From there, you and Hannibus go on a classic adventure, the two of you, to probe the minds of lizards. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s an age old formula. The puzzle itself is pretty simple and it introduces you to dragonkin-letter combination locks. This is important for later. Going into a dragonkin’s dreamworld is not, however; this only happens once. This is also important for later.

Then, lorehounds rejoice, we get to learn a lot of cool stuff about the dragonkin! Cutscene, tension, epic fight scene where everyone teams on Kerapac who’s invincible, and then back to questing.

You actually leave Anachronia for a while to learn more about the Needle. You learn it has some sort of intelligence of its own; the need to defend itself from an unknown weakness. Now this is interesting. Maybe there’s a way to appeal to the needle itself and it takes research into some other Elder Artifact, or even introduce a new one, to figure out how.

But screw that! We’re gonna fix everything by talking to JAS, baby!

I was super-hyped at this part. This was a great mechanic. You had to choose what you said super carefully, and knowing Jas’s character from Endgame, it became a game of ‘how do I show respect to an Elder God’? Brilliantly played!

And then… came the battle.

Ho boy, where to begin…

I’ll start off by saying it wasn’t bad as a minigame. You control yourself and 4 other NPCs in a sort of tower-defense sort of minigame where you all auto-attack enemies with pre-selected weapons, and you defend the base lodestone from 5 waves of progressively more difficult dinos. That’s the synopsis of it, and really, it was fun at the end of the day.

But the execution of it was just absolutely terrible! You are not AT ALL introduced to the mechanics prior to it. You are instead shoved into a lengthy wall of text with some somewhat poor demos, and then thrust into the actual battle without even really knowing what you were getting into. It was on wave 2 did I actually figure out how my own character worked in the encounter (just have him stand next to a dino to smash). From there, only Hannibus had a means of slowing the enemy down; the others basically just powered through whoever was defending, ignoring the obvious threat, and instead wailed on the middle. I ended up shifting my careful strategy and placement to just piling everyone close to the middle and letting the ranged attacks take them down. Basically, I felt I had to take the strategy out of the game and attribute it to brute forced luck. And that’s just not good.

If I were to fix this encounter, there are three things I would do:

1: Have my character use their normal combat abilities. I’m talking being able to use Ensnare and Weaken, or AOE attacks, or even just Surge to get around faster. I mean, what else is the point of a custom hero if you can’t use them to their full extent in a situation that desperately calls for it. RuneScape doesn’t have much of a Tower Defense game in it, and it would’ve definitely made the Ensnare spell much more valuable.

2: A preceding precursor battle to help the player learn the mechanics. And believe me, there was ample opportunity for this. Remember the excavation part at the start where we get the crystal and tablet? That should’ve been the precursor; Thok and Charos defending the excavating player from… I dunno, distracting Jadinkos. This would’ve given the player a sort-of warm up to this mini-game where they only control two basic characters (melee and ranged), and they get to position them accordingly and get used to letting them stand around and defend. This way, not only does the player get accustomed to the mechanic in a less dire, less stressful situation (distracting jadinkos as opposed to saving the lives of innocents), but there’s much less of a wall of text to contend with, as all you’d need is Hannibus and Laneaka talking about their specialties.

3: I believe Charos mentioned that he was going to highlight the dinosaur’s path or something so I would know in advance what needed more defense. That never happened. Might’ve been a bug, but considering how slowly the characters move, that’s a doozy of a bug. There was almost no preparation time when they waves stacked up, and often my heroes were still walking around trying to get to their places as the dinos rushed by them.

I know, I can’t really fault anyone for this. I imagine it was meant to be something that someone tried over and over until they got it right.

Of course, I beat it on the first try like a boss. Neener.

Then you meet up again, run around the volcano hunting for Charos, and you learn something pretty darn scary about… yourself. The player is infused with shadow anima as part of Guthix’s gift to us. It didn’t have as much of an impact as I imagined it was supposed to because there wasn’t much to really convince me that it was actually bad (no real examples, just hypotheticals), but it sounds like it’s definitely something that warrants investigation in future quests.

Then you get into Kerapac’s base, where you are alone. Alone to explore. Alone to solve a puzzle.

And what a puzzle it was! See, THIS is how you do things! No immediate explanation, no big wall of text. Just rudimentary exploration and pattern deciphering. I had to grab a pencil and paper for this one, and I’m proud that the game made me commit to it in that fashion. It was wonderful! Expertly done.

Heck, I’m not even mad that they reused a boss for the end fight. Black Stone Dragon’s an epic fight!

But then came the final cut-scene.

Long story short, after one final attempt to negotiate with Kerapac (wishing my character would’ve mentioned that it wasn’t a plea, it was a threat), we dish out Jas’s gift, and…

… now, see, I’m used to this by now. At least a third of the quests involve the player getting tricked in some ridiculous fashion. Priest of Peril, you’re tricked by Zamorakian cultists to kill a guardian stopping Morytanians from storming Varrock. Devious Minds, you’re tricked by a monk who gets you to make a sword-bow that despite promises, never gets implemented in the game (this was pre-EOC, so it would’ve been epic). In Search of the Myreque, you’re tricked by Vanstrom into leading him to the rebel group and nearly wiping them out, resulting in deaths that you even commit to creating a whole circle of memorabilia for. Even in Sliske’s Endgame you’re tricked by Sliske.

But here… here, you get tricked by the Elder God Jas. She doesn’t take control of the Needle and remove it, she takes control of Kerapac by reapplying her binding curse. Not just Kerapac, but a bunch of presumably unrelated and innocent dragonkin as well.

Let that sink in a bit; you’ve been tricked by Jas.

… oh, and Ful blows the entire volcano up. You have to run and escape! Made it out with 1 second to spare.

… oh, uh, just ignore that picture. Kerapac doesn’t actually escape with us. He sort of stayed behind or something, I dunno. It was unclear. No idea where he went after either; I reckoned he would’ve had at least some last words for us in the group if he did escape with us. But he didn’t. Artist rendition. Pretend it’s actually Hannibus. He was there. He helped! Everyone likes Hannibus!

We escaped! We won! Threat averted! Situation remedied!

But yeah, we talk with Seren again, and… well, once again, the situation’s been made more dire than it started. Sure, we stopped Kerapac, but now he’s back to being Jas’s servant, Ful’s cheesed off, and to top it off it seems that Guthix did something to the player that threatens their very life that needs addressing. In a few years, at least. Wanna bet they follow through with that promise?

Quest complete! Back to Archaeology grinding!

… so yeah. Three hours. There was good stuff, there was bad stuff, there was fun stuff, and there was boring stuff. All in all, a good quest, but not one that should’ve taken this long to build. And, I mean, I get it, what with the quarantine and all, it’s difficult to build these whole new areas and game mechanics. But folks at Jagex, you don’t really have to. Just throw the hero characters out into the over-world, wandering around doing their own things, give them a few new dialog options every couple of weeks or so, and that’s all you need to do to keep the story fresh and progressing. Destiny 2 does that; keeps us playing the game weekly. Don’t just jam it into one big clump; spread it out a bit. I liked those teasers you sometimes made that hyped us up with upcoming quests. Hidden miniquests, wandering shadow-realm characters, secret lore, etc.

Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!

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