Okay, so Runes of Magic bears a passing resemblance to World of Warcraft. The original Taiwanese creators of the game were big fans of Blizzard's MMO, so it makes sense that there would be some similar elements. Yes, the graphics, fonts, and interface all channel the wildly successful MMO, and sure, some of the character classes and abilities are very much like those you'd find on Azeroth. And yes, perhaps the first monster I saw taken down in the demo I attended this morning was a minotaur creature called a Tauren Patrolman. While at times it stretches the very limit of the word homage, Runes of Magic isn't a WoW clone. If anything, it's a game that seeks to harness the best elements of all MMORPG games into one, adding a few innovative new elements in the hopes of becoming one of the most compelling free-to-play online RPGs in existence.
Rather than focus on what's similar to WoW, let's take a look at where the game differs instead.
Character Advancement: Covered this about a week ago, but we'll cover it again. Characters choose one class. At level 10 they choose another. Both classes have primary and secondary abilities. You can switch freely between the two classes, but you can only use primary abilities from your primary class, along with secondary abilities from your secondary class. Want a warrior that casts a little healing who can transform into a priest that can take a beating? You can do that. Want a mage who can backstab and stealth when the mood strikes him? No problem. Whether inspired by Final Fantasy XI or D&D multi-classing, the system allows for many different combinations of classes, letting you create a character custom tailored to your play style.
The Update Schedule: The Runes of Magic team want this game to buck standard RPG conventions by offerring not only free updates every few months, but free updates that include big changes. New classes and new races, generally relegated to retail expansions for the big-name MMO games, free additions such as these should be plentiful on Runes of Magic.
The Rune System: Now this bit is very, very nifty. Say you've finally found the perfect matching set of armour, but then come across a more powerful piece of equipment that looks plain ugly. Instead of ruining your outfit, strip the powers from the new object into a rune and then attach it to your old hat. You can even combine two runes together to form a more powerful one, though the higher the powers the more chance you have to fail. Think of it as equipment gambling - do you destroy this high level piece when you could possibly fail, losing it all in the process?
Player Housing: Player housing as been done before, but the Runes of Magic team is doing some interesting things with the player-made space. You have all of the standards - places to hang trophies, display your weapons, or store your extra items. Your house starts of small, growing with you as you level to reflect your increasing power and status. You can even invite friends into your home to
engage in steamy cyber discuss upcoming battles.
By far the neatest function of player housing in Runes of Magic is the dress dummy. Place it in your home, equip it with a set of armour, and then with the click of a button you can swap out your equipment with what the dummy is wearing. Perfect for those who consistently change primary classes, as well as anyone who has ever played a WoW druid. You can set up as many dummies as you need, and the same functionality works with wall-mounted weapon sets.
Dynamic Dungeons: Certain dungeons in Runes of Magic will be dynamically generated, meaning that you will go inside and gain treasures, come out, and the next time you enter the dungeon layout and treasures have completely changed.
Guild Wars: Guilds will be able to declare war on other guilds in Runes of Magic, allowing for conflict ranging from one-on-one fights in the city streets all the way up to massive instanced stronghold wars, where the rival guilds battle against each other for rank points and the treasures of each other's guild castles.
Server Wars: The developers are actively working on incorporating server PVP, where multiple servers fight over a neutral territory for the honour of their particular group of people who randomly chose that particular game world to call home.
Free-To-Play: It's free, so the price point is somewhat better than WoW's.
So yes, the game takes elements of World of Warcraft, but it also steals ideas from everyone else - Dark Age of Camelot, Final Fantasy Online, Everquest, Guild Wars, etc. It's the product of a couple of guys who just wanted to put everything the loved into one package. The strategy doesn't always work, but sometimes throwing everything you think tastes good into one pot can result in something that tastes even better.