It would be very nice if Jagex could arrange pre-release "guided tours" of its major upgrades and new skills introductions for the "Press", such as Your Mysterious Editor and other major fan site representatives. That way, when a new skill comes out, we could write about it straight away. As it is, between the crowds in the hunting preserves and the pressures of Real Life™, it's taken YME a good two weeks to get enough time on the skill to feel able to give it a fair review. Of course we'd have to sign non-disclosure agreements, and not publish until after the release, but that would fine – we'd still be able to get the news to you while it's still fresh.
OK, gripe over. On to Hunting…
The first few days after the Hunter skill was released were utter chaos, with serious competition for available resources, especially the deadfall and pit traps. Now it's calmed down considerably, and it's really quite pleasant to be off in a quiet corner of Gielinor, trapping various beasties. It's very much a stand-alone skill. Sure the capes and gloves have bonuses in other skills, but they're not huge bonuses. You don't need combat skills, you don't need food. You don't even need a lot of money. The special clothes are easy to obtain and to be honest, you don't actually need the clothes to succeed at Hunting. But some of them do look cool.
There are a lot of good things about this new skill: for one thing it's cheap. After the huge black hole of Construction, and the scarcity of some higher level seeds for Farming, it's nice to have a skill that doesn't require huge amounts of time or money to get set up. It's also very fast XP, especially now that the crowds have thinned out and there's less competition for the good spots to trap. I was running three box traps for ferrets the other night and they were being set off so fast that by time I'd set up the third, the first and sometimes the second had been tripped. No time to bother with the extra right clicking to smoke the traps – and no need to either - I was getting well over 90% of my traps filled. The ferrets are very cute, almost as much as the real life ones. It would be fun to be able to get trainable ferrets – perhaps by buying them from the Ardougne Zoo keepers, or the Eagles Peak quest dude – which you could have follow you, feed, train to do tricks and so on. Rather like cats.
It's also a nice "safe" skill. The only thing that's likely to kill you is an Evil Chicken which you ignore. This is a good thing. While most adventurers thrive on danger, there are some days when you just want to relax.
It's a skill with a lot of potential. The rewards top out rather low – in the 70s. One hopes that's because Jagex is planning updates, new quests, and other ways of getting some nice juicy high level rewards into the skill. While it would be nice to have it all laid out on day one, it's also nice to get upgrades as time goes by.
There are also a few things about Hunting that are not so good. This is only to be expected. TB@JT do a great job, but they are only human. They make mistakes, they miscalculate, etc. The obvious ones are the lack of interface with other skills and the lack of high level "stuff" to aim for. These I'm sure will be dealt with in future updates. I'll hazard a guess that some of this is already in the works and much of the rest is being handled on an "Oh @#$% why didn't we do *this*?" basis.
The hunting locations are, as one would expect, quite remote. Without access to the Fairy Ring Network (which is received after completing the Fairy Tale Part II, Cure a Queen quest), it can be quite a long walk. Fortunately, there's not much stuff one needs to keep until you get to chinchompas and salamanders, so the long trek to and from the bank is not a huge problem. Completing the Eagle's Peak quest gets you access to three of the hunting areas via Eagle Airways, and the Jungle Hunting area, south of the Feldip Hills, is reasonably accessible from Castlewars. Flying Eagle Airways is great fun; the cut scene when you leave Eagle's Peak is very cute.
The lack of money making potential is a bit of a downside, but let's get serious here – it's not exactly difficult to make money in RuneScape, no matter what your level. So a skill that is pretty much a net zero – it doesn't make much money, but at the same time it doesn't cost much either – isn't really a problem.
The only thing that I've found really annoying about the skill is the loss of traps during a long random event. I've had more long randoms (Prison Pete, Evil Bob, Molly and her Evil Twin, and so on) whilst Hunting than I've had anywhere else in game. It's very frustrating to be rushing around popping balloon animals or unfishing for Evil Bob, only to see the message that your bird snare has fallen over or your box trap has collapsed. I'm hoping that TB@JT will find away to pick up our traps and put them back in inventory for us.
Some of the high level rewards look quite promising. The "hamster hand grenade" effect of the chinchompas looks as though it will be quite useful in Pest Control against those spinners that you can't quite reach. They, butterflies and salamanders will also come in handy when PK'ing. Nothing like using a butterfly or two as a super set on your team before you go visit the Kalphite Queen or King Black Dragon either.
Imps also ought to be very useful. They're easy to find in several accessible areas, around the Karamja volcano and south of Ardougne for starters. In fact, there seem to be even more of them around than usual. Think about how useful it would be if, when on a level 3 treasure trail way out in the wildy, you could send your freshly retrieved casket off to the bank before the PK'ers get you. Of course, they only work at the lower levels of the wilderness, but that's better than nothing. If you're mining at a remote location or chopping magic logs, an inventory of imp boxes lets you send two inventories full of ore or logs back to the bank. Even if you took 20 imp boxes, you could send 40 items to the bank, then drop the boxes and collect another 20 items. This could be a huge time saver. Also useful for safely banking those oh so very valuable whips, dragon chains, and other very high-level monster drops.
Apart from flying Eagle Airlines, the best thing about Hunting is falconry. Again, it's a sub-skill that could use some expansion and enhancement, but as it stands it's pretty brilliant. I happen to be rather fond of birds of prey, and had the opportunity to go falconing a few times some years ago. Jagex has done a great job with the animation of falconry – it's as close to real as you're going to get in a Java-based game. I'd like to see the option of using different types of falcon based on your hunting level and being able to go after flying prey as well as kebbits. Maybe via a quest to unlock access to the different birds?
Overall I like Hunting. It's a very pleasant way to spend some game time. I get the feeling that it's either been rushed out before all the rough edges are off it, or else Jagex is going to be using it as the basis for a lot more quests and upgrades. I'm hoping the latter. It will be a minor skill though; RuneScape is nothing if not a combat-based game. However, even the toughest of the tough need to take time off from the heat of battle from time to time, and Hunting is a very good way to do that.
I'm just left with on huge question though: does anybody know what kebbit tastes like? I suspect it tastes just like chicken.
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