Slayer launched January 26, 2005; it was the first skill to launch after RuneScape 2 brought us Runecrafting. Prior to the Slayer skill, most of RuneScape’s player base frequented a limited pool of monsters for combat training. The biggest of these included Giants (now Hill Giants), Fire Giants, and Shadow Warriors, just to name a few. Slayer set out to fix this problem and bring exciting new gear into the game.
For the earliest parts of its history, Slayer accomplished its goals. Mystic armour, the Granite Maul, the Abyssal Whip and later the Dark Bow were highly coveted Slayer weapons. The Abyssal Whip sold for millions (20m+) and took years to come down to below the 1 million gp mark. This drive combined with the diversity of Slayer tasks made Slayer work and kept players distributed.
Fast forward to 2022 and Slayer is largely the same as it was on release 17 years ago. Slayer now goes to 120, it has a collection log for each Slayer monster, and you can play as a Pokémon master and catch all the souls while filling out your Slayer codex. The skill is mature, full, and is how combat should be trained. But at its heart, it’s the same skill from 2005.
The Slayer core loop (the repetitive source of play for a game or game mechanic) is as follows: get a task and then kill Slayer creatures. This is a simple loop that is a core bedrock that any MMORPG player will know as the fetch quest, and this is the major problem. For a game that has skills and content with more interesting core loops (Archaeology, Farming, and many hybrids), this lacks severely.
Slayer has the in-built progression system of Slayer points and various upgrades that can be purchased, but at its core the skill remains the same. Much like alchemy nets gold and fish can be sold on the Grand Exchange, Slayer’s currency is Slayer points. It’s a core feature that doesn’t make the core loop more interesting, it only provides a reward at the end of the day.
Rewards used to be enough when looking at items like the Abyssal Whip or Dark Bow or a myriad of herbs. But today someone can take the introductory steps to PvM and move through the first two God Wars Dungeons into the Elder God Wars Dungeon and get all the rewards they could want through PvM with more interesting mechanics. It’s for this reason that I latched on to PvM easier than I ever latched on to Slayer.
The knee jerk reaction to this is that Slayer should go the way of mini-bosses like Wyverns, Ripper Demons, Mammoths, and Camels. Or perhaps in the template of the Senntisten Asylum released earlier this year that saw Slayer release a tier 92 weapon, a modern whip. The logical endpoint of this is that Slayer is not lucrative enough but if you ask anyone who does Slayer, they’ll show you that tasks are indeed lucrative.
It’s important to highlight that Slayer can be lucrative because the first reaction to changing Slayer from feeling “boring” or left behind might be to buff its loot. This would not fix the core problem, because a good drop table does not make a piece of content good! The problem is just that after 17 years the skill is the same as it was on day one requiring the player to kill X amount of certain creatures.
Archaeology, Invention, Divination, Dungeoneering, Hunter, Summoning, Construction, and Farming all have their niches in terms of what they provide to the game. They also all have multiple methods in which they can be trained. From day 1 until today, Slayer just requires the player to kill, kill, kill.
When RuneScape offers the opportunity to kill with Slayer compared to the rich core gameplay of any other skill, the age of the Slayer skill starts to appear. RuneScape has evolved from the point and click combat game which is still very viable with Legacy Mode or even in Old School. But with the advent of the Evolution of Combat, rich skills, and a PvM ecosystem; it’s hard to see what Slayer offers in 2022 aside from a laid back way of making money.
Parts of the game like Slayer that haven’t largely changed in decades will not be attractive to either longtime players who might be bored with the old style of the skill, or new players who may not choose RuneScape over other newer games like Dark Souls or Elden Ring that have innovated different and more challenging ways of killing or defeating monsters.
This may present a microcosm of the state of play in RuneScape currently, where the new management has to balance between appeasing current players who may look for more endgame content, and new players, who will be attracted by unique and innovative updates. These two types of updates may be different and may not accomplish both goals at the same time, but one thing is clear and that is that updating the venerable Slayer skill presents an opportunity to reconcile the type of update that both new and existing players will enjoy.