Recently, I have been testing out the Evolution of Combat Beta and naturally, I have much to say on the Beta. Rather than say what has already been said, however, I decided to focus on a little "peculiarity" of the new combat system: the experience rates.
Obviously, it is merely in the testing phase, so experience rates are far from finalized. I have seen some ridiculous experience rates made possible with the new Beta, and these would certainly devalue achievements and cause public uproar, not to mention destroy the very basis of RuneScape. But is that latter statement actually true?
RuneScape has historically been a game centered on the grind. An exponential experience system, experience rates that simply cannot keep up, and tangible goals to strive towards (notably the capes of accomplishment, but this can also include high score fame and bragging rights), it seems like the most natural course for RuneScape to take. If you had asked me two months ago whether I feel like RuneScape was capable of moving past a grinding game, I would surely have answered, "No!"
Two months later, and I am beginning to have my doubts. The major change which can be cited is the Evolution of Combat. Here is an update that tries to incorporate fun and excitement into the old combat system. As a point and click game, RuneScape's combat system has left much to be desired. Over time, players have figured out how to create "APM intensive strategies" which involve rapidly filling up Cannons, prayer flashing, special attacks, Familiar scrolls, and more. Still, this new combat system is certainly more interactive than ever before, and it has the potential to make combat far more interesting than its current state.
Another important addition to the game is Dungeoneering. Essentially, this is the party raid mechanic of World of Warcraft. Many do not enjoy the comparisons between the games, and they dislike the fact that RuneScape is becoming more like its competitor. On the other hand, there is a reason why the party raid mechanic is popular: it is fun (especially with a party consisting of your closest friends) and engaging. Just the fact that Dungeoneering was added to the game shows that party mechanics are, indeed, possible in RuneScape and might offer a whole new level of gaming. Yes, it has been overdone, but many people, including myself, would love to enter a party and enter an immersive dungeon or quest.
Or, for a different but related idea, how about more interactive boss fights? There is a recent trend of more difficult and engaging boss fights. From Nex, with her multiple stages, to the various Dungeoneering bosses, to the Queen Black Dragon, the highest level boss to date, boss mechanics have been trending towards more usage of real life skill. It is not unlikely that future boss fights might take advantage of the party mechanic and produce boss fights of epic proportions.
Another aspect which can be improved through the Evolution of Combat system is good old PvP. Yes, many player killers are understandably upset at the new changes. After all, why fix something that is broken? The answer is to improve it further. Right now, the Evolution of Combat is far from perfect, and it will never be perfect or pleasing to every single player. Regardless, the Evolution of Combat offers options to player killers and gives them more opportunities to use their skill. Hopefully, this update can evolve beyond button mashing into true battles of skill and wit.
What about warfare? What if RuneScape players could kill or skill for a reason other than their own shiny achievements? Imagine if a large-scale war broke out between Saradomin and Zamorak. Players choose their side in a war which may last for days or even weeks. Wars are a common event in other games and I would not mind seeing such interactive events with the players.
The point which this article has been alluding to is that RuneScape does not have to be focused on the grind. With the Evolution of Combat in play, it is a very real possibility for RuneScape to have a deliberate endgame. The focus of the game can shift away from grinding to the top and towards a game where level 99 is reached more quickly, but there lies more content afterwards. If endgame content is released, then experience rates can go up and an entirely new game may be born.
Of course, there are obstacles. We would hate to see our achievements fade away into obscurity, and others would not enjoy the change. Many players prefer the relaxing atmosphere of RuneScape, and still others find World of Warcraft boring. A change like this might be considered the single biggest change in all of RuneScape history.
Then again, the Evolution of Combat is quite a big change too. Now, when someone asks me that same question, I might answer: "Hmm… it's certainly possible." Just as animals evolve in the Darwinian world, so too can games evolve. Perhaps the next step after the Evolution of Combat is the Evolution of RuneScape itself, the death of RuneScape as we know it, and the birth of a new world if you are willing to try.