A few weeks into its tenth year, RuneScape has already seen the same amount of drama as it did when the Wilderness and Free Trade were removed in December 2007. Right before the start of the year, the Wilderness and Free Trade petition and referendum awakened a dormant community of players, and raised cries of support and outrage all around. On their tenth birthday, the fourth installment of the "Rise of the Red Axe" quest series, "King of the Dwarves" was released. And after much speculation, we finally found out what's behind the frozen door in the God Wars Dungeon: the Ancient Prison, home to the Zarosian army and its general Nex.
When the petition for the Wilderness and Free Trade was first released, it was immediately clear that there was a huge flaw in the system. While Jagex stated that those did not want to see the Wilderness and Free Trade return should boycott the petition (also called a "vote" because supposedly it was the same thing), they seemed to have fail to recognize that there was no validation system. Amid justifiable cries of fraud, the petition received over 1.2 million names in a matter of days. It wasn't long before a referendum was put out, with the explanation that the petition was simply a test to see just how much interest the topic would generate. This was a rather poor excuse, considering it seemed the petition was worded in such a way that it was supposed to be the initial "vote" after all. When the referendum finally came out, along with a validation system, it took players three weeks to attain the magical one million plus votes needed to make the opinions expressed statistically considerable.
Still, it seemed Jagex was running around with their shoelaces tied together on the whole situation. Simple things to promote the referendum, such as banners in the sidebars and lobby, were not added until two weeks after it was posted; after players suggested the ideas. While the general subject certainly generated a lot of interest, it didn't generate as many votes as initially perceived with the petition. We could say that a small, vocal part of the community was abusing the petition by putting in as many names as they can pull out from the high scores and imaginations. Not only did these actions show how passionate they were about the subject, but also what means they were willing to take (fraud being the biggest one) in order to bring the Wilderness and Free Trade back. Perhaps it's thanks to the multiple accounts players have, or thanks to the community that contacted all their old friends to come back and vote "again" that we barely managed to hit above the 1.2 million mark. Now that the poll is closed, it's a waiting game to see just how Jagex will handle the return of the Wilderness and Free Trade.
Over a year after the third installment of the Rise of the Red Axe quest series, "Forgiveness of a Chaos Dwarf," Jagex released "King of the Dwarves." For those of us who do not follow the storylines, we were last left off with Veldaban resigning from the Black Guard after the Consortium told him there was no need to launch a full-on assault onto the Red Axe base against the Chaos Dwarves because "no one important" went missing. When we returned to Keldagrim, we "decided" to go on a tour of the lava-flow mine, only to witness a cloaked figure cause an explosion, trapping the miners underneath the rubble. Many players thought that the cloaked figure resembled a suicide bomber sent by the Red Axe, not exactly the first of its kind seen in RuneScape (Splatters from Pest Control being the other kind). We end up going though the politics of Keldagrim and going through one puzzle to open up the records chamber of the kingdom, eventually teaming up with Veldaban to defeat Colonel Grimsson (level 160, and pretty much a joke for many players) and recruiting help from the trolls to stop the Chaos Dwarves attack. Veldaban is made king thanks to Meike, who altered the records to avoid having Hreidmar (leader of the Red Axe) from taking the throne.
While the quest contributes to the storyline, there doesn't seem to be much added to it, other than slowing down the Red Axe's rise to power. The quest difficulty to set to Master based on the requirements, but felt more like Intermediate, at most Experienced difficulty because it lacked the build-up of suspense like in "Forgiveness of a Chaos Dwarf." The only question that remained in the end was where did Hreidmar run off to Hopefully the Grand Master quest that is to be released as the series' finale will live up to its rank.
After ages of pondering and arguing over what could be behind the great frozen door, players found themselves perhaps in one of the most grueling fights they will experience. The Zarosian army and its general Nex made their debut on 10 January 2011, with the introduction of all new armor for those with stats 80+ in melee, magic, and ranged combat, as well as new cosmetic robes and a very powerful bow with a range attack bonus of +120 and ranged strength of +115.
From the start, players found that obtaining the various pieces of armor would not be easy. In order to access the Ancient Prison behind the now unfrozen door, players needed to kill enough followers of all four factions—Armadyl, Bandos, Saradomin, and Zamorak—to reform the frozen key. This required players to equip themselves accordingly to protect themselves against unwanted attacks, and, without a Beast of Burden, it can be tricky to do this for the less experienced players. Once inside the Ancient Prison, players also found that any items that they brought under the assumption it'd protect them from the Zarosian army were completely useless, and were attacked from all sides of the combat triangle.
Thankfully, this draining battle unlocked a chamber where the prison's warden, a nature spirit named Ashuelot Reis, resided, guarding to atone for a past sin. Here, players could access their bank and restock for the final battle. Even so, the most experienced of players found themselves much closer to death than they were used to as they entered Nex's chamber to face her and her servants Fumus, Umbra, Cruor, and Glacies. Their Latin-based names told of their powers, i.e. smoke, shadow, blood, and ice. Even the new armor names hinted of their power ("Torva" meaning savage, "Pernix" meaning nimble or swift, and "Virtus" meaning strength, courage, excellence, and goodness). These were some of the rare instances players can read something in a different language that isn't a translation of the game itself and is not a game-based language.
It didn't take long for players to strategize a successful assault on Nex, and it certainly didn't take long for players to see just how much the new items were worth, in all cases well over the cost other God Wars armor and even Third-Age items. However, because of their degrading effect, it brings about the question whether the armor is really worth over 100 million for each item, especially since cheaper armor with less attack and defense bonuses are more easily re-obtained than going through five dungeons.
So Jagex didn't start the year off perfect, and we need to give them a chance since there are eleven more months to go. But you have to admit, they certainly stirred up the community.