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Dimension of Disaster

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Rondstat

Rondstat

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Runescape's 200th quest had the lofty duty of celebrating and doing justice to 14 years of quests, hundreds of hours of content, and dozens of stories in a way that would mark it as a landmark of the game. Mod Stu and his team rose to the challenge, and I think, far exceeded their goals.

This quest was, in a word, amazing, and the best quest I've played since the Death of Chivalry (is there a pattern here?). It managed to touch on so many different topics, offered so many little easter eggs, and gave us an experience so unlike anything else we've ever had in game. This quest is a milestone for Runescape, and not just because it hits the bicentennial mark.

A Special Quest

This quest truly is special. Its predecessor, Recipe for Disaster, has the same marked difficulty, however 'special' is understood more to mean that it's ten different quests, created by different developers, that were just treated as one for the purpose of rendering it exceptional. Dimension of Disaster is truly unique, giving us not just a laundry list of quests under one heading, but an entirely different world that plays and feels much different than our own.

New Varrock is so rich in content, it's more of a sandbox than anything. Sure, there are quests we can do while we're there, but every aspect of the game - be it skilling, combat, exploration, or even completing tasks - become an integral part of the experience in this world that is a direct twisted reflection of our own 'history' as adventurers.

I particularly like how we're thrust into this world ***** and unprepared. It reminded me of when I first played RS back in 2005. No GE, no easy skilling, no shortcuts. I remember spending so much time, endlessly acquiring items of questionable worth, just so I could sell them to general stores and finally acquire enough gold to buy - a steel kiteshield. We really are noobs again, and being placed at such a disadvantage truly heightens the experience.

25-Mar-2015 21:16:06

Rondstat

Rondstat

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The tasks do a lot to cement DoD as an immersive, one of a kind experience, and are surprisingly varied. They have you thieving, crafting, killing, taking advantage of all the hidden mechanics throughout New Varrock. I was especially impressed by the Fluffs task - which, let's be honest, is a whole subquest in and of itself. And I got a big kick out of the references to the quest cup winners, which were so naturally integrated into the story and well-developed as parts of New Varrock (though, as a scryer, I'm probably a bit biased).

Replayability does a lot to set this quest apart. While this has been explored before, in the Fremennik sagas and Broken Home, those quests involve replaying the exact same limited story with the same actions in their limited environments, and quickly become about how quickly, rather than thoroughly, they can be done.

In a world as rich as DoD, where we're not constrained into a particular order or optimal path, replaying feels much more organic, and there's much more freedom to take different tactics, prepare all that we need with the gift of hindsight, or in one case, take a different story path entirely! Beyond that, the optional replay dialogue is fantastic (though I've not yet finished a full replay myself), very funny, and, along with the cosmetic and shortcut rewards from Aris's shop, give many options to those who do simply want to replay quickly, for rewards, as well as those who simply want to take on New Varrock from a different angle.

Speaking of which...


New Varrock

At first, I was somewhat skeptical about Varrock as a location. Would such a familiar city be able to hold our interest? Would it feel cheap or boring? However, all these doubts were shattered within minutes of stepping foot into New Varrock. The city is astonishingly detailed - I spent two hours just exploring the city, talking to various npcs, looking through the task diary, before I even started my first subquest.

25-Mar-2015 21:33:01

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Perhaps the biggest strength of DoD is how thorough it is. There is no stone unturned, no graphic untouched, no npc forgotten, no dialogue unaccounted for. It seems like it would take an army to pore over Varrock and recreate it as a new city, and it's even more impressive when you realize it was all the work of Mod Stu and a small scrum team. And a new city it is. New Varrock feels more alien than the peaks of Freneskae, and the fact that it's built on one of the oldest and most familiar locations in game actually makes it more uncanny, more eerie. Every single Varrock crest has been replaced with Zemouregal's symbol, everywhere are prop**anda posters and banners, braziers of necromantic energy.

One of my favourite features was the return of 'examines', the little flavour texts you get when right clicking environmental features. Over the past couple of years, as environments have become more graphically complex, they've also come to comprise fewer discrete elements, to the point where nothing can be examined in certain locations. But New Varrock is full of hidden info and text that gives a clue to how a city of zombies really operates.

And how! The completely zombified Varrock is stunning. Every dialogue, even the most arbitrary exchanges with faceless shopkeepers, has been given a twisted spin. I especially enjoyed Xuan's soapbox pitch for vegetables and the eastern secret of 'fullness'. The team also used texts around the world, whether in gravestones, stalls, or even the newspaper, to build not just New Varrock, but the whole alternate timeline, into a (un)living world with its own history and events outside its walls.

Even from a gameplay perspective. It's become par for the course to wait on tweaks and bug fixes for an update even half as large as this, but everything, even from release, looks and works perfectly. Much kudos to the qa team for that, especially with the limited schedule.

25-Mar-2015 21:54:42

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Old F(r)iends

Of course, the biggest goal for a 200th quest is to build on and pay tribute to the existing characters and stories, and DoD did this magnificently.

The biggest figure in DoD is Zemouregal. I initially thought it odd and out of place that his image forms our primary point of contact, but on further reflection, it actually makes sense. Though a powerhouse in the game's lore, Zemouregal's always been one of Runescape's least complex villains, an unremarkable egomaniac with a lust for power. Once he's finally gained power, attained the goal he's coveted for millenia, what is left for a character so defined by his desires? He's become petty and restless, forcing Arrav to dance for his amusement, creating a mini-me just to do a list of busy chores, signing off on a gratuitous garden. His life is empty, and though he comes off as charmingly snide and dismissive, he's clearly eager, maybe even desperate, for the adventurer to bring some excitement into his existence. Even though it's played for laughs, I think the characterization we see in DoD brings a lot of depth to Zemmy's character.

Beyond that, I just loved the deep lore and the references to some of the game's most obscure characters, both past and present. I was happy to see some figures I haven't even thought about in years mentioned in the graveyard. And it was fantastic to see Ping and Pong (someone record that Bohemian Rhapsody parody!). And of course, Romeo and Juliet. That was one of the very first quests I did in RS, and I'm happy they've been brought back into the main game, even if it is in the form of severed heads!

One of my favourite moments in the entire quest was searching the castle study and coming across Zemouregal's Notes M-Z. I could not help getting a big grin on my face, and I absolutely adored the updated index of Mahjarrat.

25-Mar-2015 22:14:12

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Another thing I quite enjoyed was how bots were brought into the game's story. While I've never been particularly bothered by it, a lot of lorehounds have expressed their concern about in-game acknowledgement of bots, how we should treat Botany Bay and the trial announcers. The idea of mechanized battle royales being fought between steam/clockwork powered automatons is delightfully demented, and I especially loved how the disembodied bot heads, an environmental feature for a couple years now, was reimagined as a key component of the quest. I am always impressed when a developer goes back over existing game properties and gives new significance to something that's never been explored. Also, water mountain FTW!

DoD finally gives Arrav the closure that I think he didn't really get with RotM. No longer is he a passive damsel/hulking warrior-in-distress. He is an active participant in his own fate, and I'm glad that it is Arrav, not the adventurer, who finally faces down Zemouregal and frees New Varrock, a freedom that comes at the cost of the city and its residents' un-lives. That is a brave story choice to make, and one for which I applaud Mod Stu.

Finally, I just appreciate that the quest was not afraid to go dark. Severed heads on chains? Mangled bodies pierced through the chest with meathooks? Children disembowled by demons? That's what happens when the bad guys win. As such, the tone was not as lighthearted as RFD. Though I still laughed out loud when Katrine told us about Zemouregal ripping off her arm and beating her to death with it. Yay black humour!


Graphical Achievement

Of course, New Varrock would not have half the impact it does without the remarkable achievements of the graphics team. While there are plenty of graphically impressive areas in the game, it's even more striking when such a distinct identity can be created out of such familiar surroundings.

25-Mar-2015 22:29:35

Rondstat

Rondstat

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The most obvious difference between new and old Varrock is the light. Varrock square is one of the brightest, most open areas in the game. So it's quite a shock to see it rendered dark, an unnatural glow cast on everything from the ubiquitous braziers, the air itself dark or sooty. I don't think there are lighting effects quite like this anywhere else in the game, and it makes the city instantly appear oppressive, claustrophobic, dirty and run-down.

A lot of smaller details go a long way towards enriching the 'feel' of the world. The cinders rising up from lanterns as you make your approach. The foaming of pools as fountains of blood empty into them. The glowing blade of Silverlight shining through the darkness. The odd bloom, like a fogged lens, in Del*ith's prison, giving the feel of a clammy mist. Or the Ashdale rain and Freneskae lightning that perfectly embody the wrath of Agrith Naar!

The size of the map was a real stand-out. In the past, we've had to put a lot of effort into suspending our disbelief when quest areas abruptly break off into the void. But we can stand on the walls of New Varrock and see the desolate, dead outskirts stretching out into the distance before dissipating into the fog, suggesting a whole world of misery beyond us.

Varrock Castle was an impressive piece of design. While BKF was a threatening presence for its environmental features (pit of skeletons, hanging corpses, etc), the castle itself was a bit cartoonishly chunky. The graphic artists took a lot of those same properties and built something that really looms. When you first approach the castle from the town square, it rises up at you like some hulking monolith. From out of the fog it fills the screen end to end, all heavy stone, massive butresses, and grey shadows. The castle itself feels like the primary villain for the first half of the quest, a standing sentinel over our meagre efforts.

25-Mar-2015 22:53:28

Rondstat

Rondstat

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This is only ramp** up in the castle's interior. The implements of torture, the mess of a library, the garden of hostility, and all the macabre recreations of heroes and treasures from a decade and a half of Runescape history. All very well-modeled, all very fun.

And models were indeed a particular strength in DoD. For a little while, we've had new texturing technology in Runescape that's popped up in some of the more recent content, but it's not always worked perfectly. It can appear blurry, or else it can contrast so much with its surroundings as to look like a transplant from some other game (Dishonour Among Thieves, especially, suffered from this). With DoD, they've finally nailed it. The models are fantastic. Arrav in particular is an absolute beast. And, even standing among features from one of the oldest areas in the game, the Zemouregal features don't look out of place, but enhance their environment. Perhaps the gloomy lighting helps take the edge off. But either way, any skepticism about the new modeling/texturing techniques has been lifted, and I think this quest showcases what the new graphics technology can do.

There are a few other things that stick out as exceptional - the swirling aura effects when gazing through the scrying pool, the zombified models for every single character, the wonderfully expressive animations throughout (especially for the tin man), ZOMG THAT FOUNTAIN! It would be impossible to list everything, but I think I don't need to. The content speaks for itself.


So Anyways

My expectations for this quest were sky-high, and those expectations were exceeded. While different than what I was expecting, I think a single more directed story broken up into parts works far better than nine stories loosely linked together, and the relatively simplistic gameplay recalls our earliest days of questing. This quest is an accomplishment, and I plan to play it many times more.

25-Mar-2015 23:08:04

Eridyn
Dec Gold Premier Club Member 2010

Eridyn

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Original message details are unavailable.

6) This Quest was amazing, have I said this often enough?
@Eriddyn
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Lorehound
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Role-Player
| "A flame can never be a star, no matter how bright it burns." -
Jas
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26-Mar-2015 22:28:02

Mod Stu

Mod Stu

Jagex Moderator Forum Profile Posts by user
I don't read the Compliments forum very often, so only just found this. :)

Thanks very much for your detailed and glowing synopsis of Dimension of Disaster. I'm delighted it's resonated with you. It makes all the hard work and long nights worth it.

What you've written is a wonderful morale booster, and I've passed your thread onto the rest of the Guardians team.

09-Apr-2015 09:30:17

Mod Joe

Mod Joe

Jagex Moderator Forum Profile Posts by user
Wow. Thanks so much for the feedback.

When we're working on projects like this we often talk about the work we do and if players will actually notice all the small details we are thinking of including. I'm really happy to hear that you explored and appreciated the work we put into the quest.

This thread has made my day!

09-Apr-2015 09:45:44

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