From its humble beginnings as a graphical MUD in the late 90’s, Runescape has transformed into the world’s most popular free MMORPG. Despite a sharp decline in the early 2010s, the medieval fantasy game has maintained its cultural relevance with a full-blown renaissance. Today, Runescape features weekly updates, a growing playerbase, and a community more vibrant and active than ever before. But how is this possible?
Intrigued by Runescape’s spectacular journey, we ventured deep into the lands of Gielinor to find out more.
In the Trenches: Runescape Gameplay
When you navigate to the game’s homepage, you may be surprised to find that there are 2 distinctly separate versions of Runescape. There is Runescape 3, which is the original game that’s been running continuously for the past 2 decades. And there is Old School Runescape, which was released in 2013. But what’s the difference?
After a number of major changes to the game’s meta, the developers released Old School Runescape, which gave players the option to play the game as it existed in 2007. The main game was redubbed Runescape 3, while the 2007 version was titled Old School Runescape.
Aside from a shared login and similar in-game mechanics, these games are completely separate. Both have their own pros and cons, and we’ve included a rating for each version. That said, the following account of the game goes over the Old School version, which is nearly 5 times more popular than Runescape 3. With us so far? Let’s continue.
Enter a Land of Intrigue & Magic
After receiving word of the mighty dragon’s return, I knew I had to stop him. So I traveled to the far regions of the North, and climbed to the peak of Ice Mountain. There I discovered The Oracle, who helped me uncover a secret map to the dragon’s hidden lair.
From there, I geared up and gathered a crew to set voyage across the high seas. But as our ship neared Crandor Island, the dragon attacked. Fireballs rained down from the sky, as the ship capsized and the crew was lost to the sea. I managed to grab hold of a plank and washed ashore two days later. I had made it to the island. But at what cost?
Determined to see the quest through, I gathered the last of my courage and snuck my way into the dragon’s chambers, far below the island’s volcano. We fought an epic battle, but I bested him in the end. I emerged from the chamber with my quest log complete. I was a Dragon Slayer.
In Search of the Holy Grail
From the moment your character leaves Tutorial Island and docks in the town of Lumbridge, you are in complete control of your destiny. Venture across the map, from the Kingdom of Kandarin in the West, to the wastelands of Morytania in the East. The world is your sandbox, and you have but one objective: to immerse yourself in the game and sculpt your own legacy.
Naturally, there are countless different routes to take when you first enter the game, and nobody to guide you on your way. For this reason, it’s important to jump right in and explore the game’s mechanics to get a feel for what’s in store. And there’s no better way to learn how to play than to go on your first quest.
Quests are one of the coolest parts of Runescape. In fact, they’re a big part of what makes the game truly special. How so? For starters, the game includes an incredible amount of thought and detail in each and every one. Nowhere in Runescape will you find a quest that forces you to simply collect this many items or kill ten of these creatures. Instead, quests offer immersive storylines with real challenges that reward players with unlockable content, powerful gear, and game-changing metas.
There are all types of different quests, each with its own premise, style, and difficulty level. One beginners quest might take you 30 minutes, as you help Romeo reacquaint with his star-crossed lover, Juliet. Your mission? Hatch a plan to help them escape to a life happily ever after.
Or you might strike up a conversation with the band of heroes wandering near the Wizard’s Tower. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, you’re helping them uncover the hidden secrets of an ancient fairy civilization!
Due to Runescape’s sandbox nature, there is no main storyline for you to follow. Yes, there are several overarching themes – but no cohesive arc. And that’s okay. Because quests step in to weave a story of lore that gives players an understanding of Gielinor and its mysteries.
23 Skills & Counting
Maybe you’d rather jump right into leveling up your skills. They are, after all, one of Runescape’s most iconic mechanics. Not a problem! Runescape features over 20 different skills (15 for non-members), ranging from farming and crafting, to slayer and strength. That means whether you’re a peaceful player, or a combat pro, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Let’s say you want to be a close-quarters fighter. Simply equip your strongest melee gear and head over to an area like the Goblin’s Lair. Raise your sword high and bring it crashing down on the little green devils! With each hit, you gain combat XP in skills like attack, strength, and defense. Finish the job and you’re rewarded with a small pile of loot, as well as bones that you can bury in honor of your favorite Runescape God.
Or maybe your fancy yourself a mage? Unlock the powers of rune essence in the Rune Mysteries quest, and use the game’s namesake arcane glyphs to access new spells in your Wizard’s Spellbook. You can use your abilities against any number of creatures throughout Gielinor to collect XP and loot.
Perhaps you want to go a different route altogether. Many players opt for building up their crafting skills and don’t engage in combat at all. Instead, they level up their fishing, mining, herblore, and other support-related skills.
The ultimate goal of every Runescape player? To reach the elusive level 99, which acts as a badge of honor and garners respect from fellow adventurers. It tells the world: I’ve got what it takes.
The Grind Stone Age
Runescape’s grind is notoriously difficult, and there are periods of grueling repetition that await you. In fact, reaching level 99 in certain skills literally takes hundreds of hours of playtime. Yes, you read that right. And it’s not always particularly enjoyable.
Take the agility skill for example. In addition to the 300 hour grind it takes to reach level 99, it’s also one of the most laborious skills. The premise? You must run around obstacle courses, which are very click intensive, for hours at a time.
If you’re waiting for step 2, there isn’t one. That’s the skill in a nutshell.
You may be wondering what the hell’s the point? Well, a high agility level is necessary for accessing certain areas and completing endgame content. There is simply no way around it if you want to be competitive.
While this can seem silly at first glance, there’s a method to the madness. Just like real life, players must work hard to move forward and raise their standings in the game. A difficult skill system mimics our natural reward system and encourages players to challenge themselves. And though not everyone loves this mechanic, it’s a popular one across the video game industry. Runescape simply takes grinding to a whole different level.
But that’s also a part of what makes Runescape so enjoyable. It’s a chance to slow down, relax, and immerse yourself in a new world without the limitations of our modern one. It all comes down to playing the game the way you want to play it. And with such a vast amount of content to explore, there’s never a shortage of activities to engage in.
Distractions & Diversions
Whether you’re a total noob or a seasoned veteran, Runescape offers plenty of distractions and diversions.
Take PvP, for instance. The game boasts a thriving competitive scene that takes advantage of Runescape’s incredibly complex battling system. Oh, you thought the simple graphics and hack ‘n slash combat was easy to learn? Think again.
PvP combat is one of the most difficult aspects of the game to master. It requires a well-rounded knowledge of the combat triangle, items & equipment, and all the nuances of different fighting styles. Matches can go on for minutes, and they often come down to split-second decisions and pure tactical prowess.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that two players enter combat, and they trade barbs until both are around half health. Then, Player 1 switches on a strength-enhancing prayer and activates his weapon’s special ability. It’s a critical hit! Player 2 immediately chugs a health elixir and activates a defensive prayer. But Player 1 is ready. Quick as a whip, he switches to another combat style and fires another attack in rapid succession. Player 2 drops to his knees, defeated.
Intrigued? Simply head over to the Wilderness region on any server to duke it out against the competition. But be prepared. The Wilderness is unforgiving, and it’s winner takes all.
Maybe PvP isn’t your style, and you fancy yourself more of a merchant. Well, Runescape boasts a bustling economy with a full-blown auction house called the Grand Exchange. There you’ll find all the weapons, armor, and other goodies that players find throughout their adventures. Check out the game’s official stock charts to track the ebbs and flows of the market. Make the right calls and you can earn yourself a tidy profit.
Runescape also features mini-games, raids, clans, and so much more. Moreover, the community is incredibly inviting and always eager to welcome new players to the party.
Sculpting a Legacy
Runescape features surprising complexity that so vividly contrasts the simplistic graphics. That’s because Jagex Games Studio develops Runescape with a philosophy they call Living Games. As part of this philosophy, they poll the community on a regular basis with new ideas for content. This empowers players and creates a system of trust and cooperation – the perfect environment for innovative and groundbreaking game developments.
At the same time, it never takes itself too seriously. Take, for instance, the game’s British humor that always manages to provide comedic relief, even in the most dangerous of situations. Or the charming yet whimsical vibe that invites you in and welcomes you home, like an old friend.
The fact that a retro-style 20 year old game is thriving in a world of virtual reality is almost surreal. But that’s just it. At its core, Runescape offers players everything they could possibly want in an alternate reality.
You must set goals, grow your knowledge and skillbase, and work to accumulate riches by investing in yourself and the economy. But you get to do it all in a virtual world that invites you to escape the stresses of everyday life and live out your medieval fantasies. If you’re a fan of the grind, Runescape is an exciting sandbox experience that empowers you to sculpt your own legacy.
Runescape 3 Review (6/10)
Runescape 3 is the original version of the game that’s been running for the past two decades. Naturally, it’s been refined, balanced, and updated to include an endless amount of content to explore.
As such, you’ll find 4 additional skills that never made it into Old School Runescape. You’ll also get to enjoy beautiful graphics that have been meticulously refined to work alongside such an accessible game client. There are new questlines, mini-games, and tons of quality of life improvements to boot. Perhaps the most noticeable difference? The Evolution of Combat meta change, which added hotkeys and your traditional MMO-style combat mechanics.
But you’ll also find a game rife with microtransactions. And a community that mostly consists of veteran players who have stuck to the game through its long lifecycle. Whereas Old School Runescape’s community is welcoming and inviting, Runescape 3 is much more closed off.
It seems like somewhere along the way, Jagex and the RS3 community forgot about what made Runescape so popular in the first place. Yes, the game is still charming and full of adventure. But for all the new changes and updates, something still feels like it’s missing.
Old School Runescape Review (8/10)
In 2013, Jagex released a poll asking players if they wanted a version of the game’s servers, as they existed in 2007, brought back online. With over 500,000 votes in the affirmative, the servers were released with a small but dedicated support team.
Nobody could have predicted what happened next.
Old School Runescape blew up and quickly overtook the main game, Runescape 3, in player count and popularity. At the same time, Jagex returned to its player-first roots and began to poll the community on every major update. The result? A version of Runescape that’s developed by Jagex but shaped by its players.
Old School has not only revived Runescape, it’s breathed fresh life into this exceptional game. As a result, OSRS has become one of the most-watched games on Twitch, where PvPers and adventurers alike stream their in-game experiences to fans around the globe. And while many gamers won’t enjoy OSRS’ intense grind, those that do are in for a treat.
Runescape Mobile Review (9/10)
After an extensive beta period, Old School Runescape launched on iOS and Android in late 2018, with Runescape 3 not far behind. The verdict? Runescape is the perfect mobile game port, largely due to its simple graphics and point ‘n click nature.
The mobile version is not only an excellent companion for the desktop variant, it works perfectly well as a standalone game. It’s so easy to partake in skills like fishing and woodcutting, as these only require partial attention and occasional clicks. But even combat and questing work incredibly well thanks to the app’s pinpoint click accuracy. Huge kudos to Jagex for their excellent programming.
The only caveat? You’ll want to use a larger screen or risk some intense eye strain. That said, most modern phones and tablets with 5” or bigger screens should work just fine.
Zoom In: A Closer Look
Let’s take a closer look at Runescape’s specs:
- Game Modes: Runescape 3, Old School Runescape, Runescape Mobile
- Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
- Genre: Fantasy MMORPG
- Developer: Jagex Games Studios
- Release: 2001
- Price: Free to Play or $10.99/month
- Business Model: Subscriptions; Microtransactions
- PC System Requirements: Dual Cores, 2GB RAM, Intel HD 2500 Graphics, Windows 7+
Zoom Out: Summary & Score
For players willing to invest time in exploring Runescape’s massive sandbox world, this MMO offers a delightful RPG experience.
High Ground View: Runescape + Runescape Mobile Review Verdict
Game title: Runescape
Game description: Runescape is a charming MMO that features simple graphics, hack ‘n slash combat, and point ‘n click gameplay. If you’re a fan of the grind, it remains one of the most immersive and exciting RPGs in the genre. With the addition of the new mobile version, grinding out skills is easier then ever. The land of Gielinor is the ideal cross-platform fantasy escape.
Runescape 3 - 6/10
Runescape Oldschool - 8/10
Runescape Mobile - 9/10
There are many ways to experience Runescape, but if we had to pick one we’d go with Old School Runescape on mobile or desktop right now.