Last week, with a quite unexpected second update in the week, Jagex updated the members-only activity - Castle Wars.
Castle Wars has been out since December 2004 and can be considered to be the iconic image of what activities in RuneScape are all about. Two teams pitted against each other in a classic ‘Capture the flag’ scenario; this is, at least to me, the archetypal RuneScape activity.
I think that one of its endearing qualities is that nobody really played Castle Wars just for the rewards. The rewards were only decorative, which meant that unless you really wanted the (slightly garish) decorative armours, or perhaps the more palatable Saradomin or Zamorak capes and hoods, you would only really play it for fun. I’m a big advocate of playing RuneScape for fun over profit, so to speak.
While I haven’t been playing Castle Wars since it first came out, and miss out on the supposed nostalgia factor that the game can bring sometimes, I do enjoy it a lot. It’s a fun game, and that’s all that matters to me. So when I came online to find a Castle Wars update, I was rather excited.
The part that I find most exciting is the new rewards. Castle Wars now has some possible useful rewards, although the real usefulness of these still needs to be questioned. The new decorative armours are much better looking, albeit less nostalgic for those who liked the old style. They also come with quite useful set effects when playing in Castle Wars. The top tier set gives +25% damage against the enemy team, +10% damage against barricades/ballistas, and immunity from catapult/ballista damage.
This set effect is rather useful when we look at the updates to the game. The catapult is now actually useful. You can aim it without taking several minutes to do so, and teammates can activate flares which will let your catapult operators know where to target if they want to smash some enemy faces with large, flying rocks. The ballistas are an entirely new feature in Castle Wars, which I think increases the need for strategy when playing. The ballista parts need to be purchased as rewards with Castle Wars tickets and then set up at one of the eight spots in-game. It will then fire at enemies automatically, which means that rushing through the centre island to the enemy side might be quite a dangerous thing if they have a ballista set up which can quite easily wipe out an unprepared player.
We mustn’t forget the other rewards that this rework of Castle Wars has brought. The three God halos (Saradomin, Guthix and Zamorak) seem really useful at first, headgear that reduces prayer drain quite significantly! However, nobody is quite sure yet where we can actually use these effectively. They can’t be used inside Castle Wars since headgear cannot be taken in, the slayer helm is still better for higher level slayers doing tasks that require prayer, and it’s still unsure how much use it has in general combat. Perhaps for lower level players, such as myself, they will prove to be assets. The only thing that we can do is to wait and see, since they have only been out for a very short time.
The Faithful shield is perhaps one of the more interesting rewards that has come out of this rework. The shield has a +6 prayer bonus along with defence bonuses on par with a Rune Kiteshield. A prayer boosting shield along with the halos seems like quite a good idea, but there is one major flaw with this shield: where have all the mage bonuses gone? Surely you would expect a shield that glows to have some sort of mage bonus, rather than the -8 magic attack that it has.
This is one of the big issues of Castle Wars that they still haven’t addressed, actually even made worse, with the rework. Castle Wars is horribly biased towards melee. In the game, battles are dominated by melee players, though this is to be expected since Runescape in general is still horribly melee biased. The utter disregard for mage and range in the rewards rework is something I find alarming. There’s no mage or range decorative armours, even the glowing Faithful shield that would have made an excellent shield for a mage is melee based! Even though they say that they really want to make the combat triangle work, Jagex haven’t done a very good job of doing so in Castle Wars.
Whether this rework will see an increase in the playing of Castle Wars (after the immediate update rush for the next week or two) is a question that still needs to be answered. Castle Wars was seen as a bit of a ‘dying’ activity and this rework is an attempt to breathe life back into it. I certainly think that the rewards have improved greatly (even though the lack of mage/range is a great disappointment), and the catapult system is much better. I’m not sure this will be enough, though, for the players that play efficiently. The rewards don’t seem like enough for really high level players, but high-level content isn’t everything. Perhaps the rework will help a bit to encourage the average player to have a crack at playing for the first time, and maybe they’ll find that they enjoy it. It’s safe to say, however, that this rework has been a long time coming. I’ll still be there, maging from the castle walls for quite some time to come.