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Rondstat

Rondstat

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One Piercing Note hands down for me, which is a bit odd cos I'm absolutely obsessive about lore. However, this quest really succeeds in putting you in the middle of things. You're not some adventurer improbably tasked with saving the world, but an impartial investigator brought in because you're an outsider. The characters, even (ESPECIALLY) the villain are sympathetic and tragic, and the end standoff feels so urgent and intense. The clue finding and final denoument is terribly clever, and the cut scenes really make the quest feel cinematic. Add to this the fact that the Abbey is STILL one of the most beautiful areas in game and the music and voice acting are yet unmatched (I think they had something to prove, it being the first one).

For me a great quest makes you feel like you're not just going through the motions, but that the stakes are high, the clock is ticking, and it's on you to come up with a solution right now. Like in Shadow of the Storm, when Uzer is being assaulted by twisters, or the EPIC showdown in ROTM.

05-Aug-2013 21:57:19

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I've been thinking about this again, with the poll and all (though I already voted here), and I managed to rank my own top 12. They are (in order)

One Piercing Note
Ritual of the Mahjarrat
Branches of Darkmeyer
The World Wakes
Desert Treasure
Death of Chivalry
While Guthix Sleeps
Defender of Varrock
Underground Pass
Shadow of the Storm
The Void Stares Back
Dragon Slayer

I also ranked my bottom 12, which are (from most to least tolerable)

Merlin's Crystal
Clocktower
Monk's Friend
Pirate's Treasure
Fishing Contest
Eadgar's Ruse
Tribal Totem
Murder Mystery
Rocking Out
Missing Presumed Death
Sheep Herder
Making History

However, most of those were actually just forgettable. I only actively disliked the bottom 5.

There are also some quests that, while flawed, are deeply affecting, whether for the writing, the visuals, the music, etc, they can invest us deeply in the story, shock us with their plots, or truly make us feel like adventurers, and I thought they bear mentioning

Tower of Life
The Elder Kiln
Mourning's End II
Mountain Daughter
Haunted Mine
Forgiveness of a Chaos Dwarf
Chosen Commander
Birthright of the Dwarves
Shadow Over Ashdale
Regicide
Elemental Workshop
Tale of the Muspah

And rounding out my top 24 (in no particular order)

Darkness of Hallowvale
Some Like it Cold
Rune Memories
Prisoner of Glouphrie
One of a Kind
Land of the Goblins
Fairy Tale III
Carnillean Rising
Temple at Senntisten
Stolen Hearts
Let Them Eat Pie
The Mighty Fall (I know, I know. I hated Zanik's characterization too, but I can't remember a recent quest that was this much fun to play)

04-Mar-2015 03:42:37 - Last edited on 04-Mar-2015 03:57:50 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Hey! I wasn't expecting anyone to actually reply to my listdump, but I really appreciate you taking an interest (and I'm also glad that you're not cross for me littering your thread with superfluous columns of text).

My general perspective is that any quest is a good quest, and even if there are lorefails, frustrating mechanics, or shoddy writing, I usually feel that the overall benefit of another story in the game outweighs quality issues. However, those bottom 5 are probably the only quests that I think detract overall from the game.

I'll admit, I'm probably more biased than the average player when it comes to Murder Mysery. I write interactive group murder mysteries in my spare time, and have even hosted a few for nonprofit events. So, when I see a so-called 'mystery' that pivots upon easily disproving a barely-concealed lie, I get pretty indignant. No big turns, no web of mysteries, a plot mechanic that renders most of its characters superfluous. I'd gladly see it gone.

I think I must have a very different sense of humour than the average scaper. So often I've seen folks praising One Small Favour and the pirate quests for their jokes, but I never so much as smirked during those quests. I much prefer the penguins' cold war absurdity. Rocking Out is the worst of the bunch, with a long pseudo-puzzle that makes zero sense and a plot that goes nowhere. It's the only quest that's forced me to use a guide all the way through.

Making History contains by far the worst writing in the entire game. Go back and read the displays at the outpost or the Journal for a sample of text on the "friends" and the "great battle." I was cringing throughout the quest.

While I love the whole EW series, I was thinking of the first quest specifically. Especially for me since, when I found the first book, I didn't even know about the quest, and there's a certain magic to seeking out a place and discovering its story all on your own.

05-Mar-2015 16:39:35

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Lord Drakan said:
I like Making History for its nature. A sweet li'l quest that has you save a historical monument by uncovering its history from the strangest of sources. Not a lot of development time and small budget, but still very enjoyable. If this is what Mod Jack meant by bottle quests, then by all means we need more of 'em.


While I still don't care for Making History, you've got a good point there. I miss all these small, low stakes mitzvah type quests. They were a welcome distraction from the 'main' storyline of the game, though quests now are all so dire and high stakes. Though, I suppose that's a necessity when the release schedule is so limited.

I saw several folks on the DAT criticism threads invoking Birthright as one of the worst quests of all time, which made me sad. If I were to rank quests solely on writing, Chosen Commander, One Piercing Note, and Birthright would probably be my top 3. Though, that said, it might just be more efficient to print a list of John A quests...

07-Mar-2015 16:32:20

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Hey, hope you don't mind me littering this with more tallying spam. I played through the April Fools miniquest a little earlier, and it got me thinking about how great and under-appreciated some of the miniquests or questlike content is in this game. So I decided to rank my top ten among miniquests, court cases, sagas, and Ports stories (only including what's currently available in-game).

1. Quin: The first batch of ports contained some of the most well-developed characters in all of Runescape, and in an adventure that never went beyond our office, we saw these figures, superficially broad and cartoonish, develop depth, work through their personal demons, and become fundamentally different people, against the backdrop of an exotic land rich in its own peoples, histories, and conflicts. When Quin finally went down, we really felt the loss of our partner, and the strength of our new comrades. Even including regular quests, this is absolutely one of the greatest stories in the game.

2. Nadir: The saga that introduced one of RS's most memorable characters, and humanized the Mahjarrat lust for power by juxtaposing it with Moia's conflicting hatred of Lucien and desperation for his approval. The lore is fantastic, the gameplay is intriguing and unique, and I love the reliance on our own attentiveness.

3. Trouble and Squeak: I have never laughed so much at a piece of RS content. I love the parodies, the jokes, the unexpected turns, but I also love this as a piece of meta-humour - a comment on (most) MMO quests, and the player's willingness to do pointless tasks**** nauseam, for no apparent reward.

4. Mahjarrat Memories: An absolute lore powerhouse. This set the basis for so much of the story we stand by now, and I loved how it answered so many long-standing lore queries while opening even more avenues of intrigue and future investigation. I also liked its willingness to go into world-building detail on more minor factors like sewage, construction, etc.

02-Apr-2015 00:09:18

Rondstat

Rondstat

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5. Vengeance: Another fantastic saga, Shakesperian in scope, meta in execution, it's a remarkable balance of compelling, unique gameplay mechanics (including the sort of stealth that actually WORKS)****-style humour, and a surprisingly dark story, that rewards multiple play-throughs and adds so much more depth to an aspect of the game that might otherwise be ignored. The multiplying shadows of doubt and rage are haunting. This also gets points for having RS's one portrayal of a *** (near) couple.

6. Curse of Zaros: In a way, this started it all. We'd already heard about Zaros a few times, but this is the content that I think elevated the figure from a vague story element to the point of legend. There was a lot of excitement in navigating the wilderness for clues about this obscure figure, and I'm only sad new players won't have this experience.

7. Wandering Gaal: While I couldn't get this without a guide, this first big tidbit of Elder lore felt lore-shaking at the time, and cemented this as an essential piece of story while also doing much to enrich the TzHaar questline.

8. Hyu-Ji: While not quite as masterful as the Quin plot, Tomlin's struggle and ultimate catharsis is one of the most impressive for any character in this game, and the convict and biologist are so well-realized by their actors, they really make the story come alive, even in its limited confines.

9. Lair of Tarn Razorlor: A standout for the same reason that Underground Pass is so beloved, the player ventures ever deeper into a den of horrors to confront an unknown evil, their supplies running out, their health fading - it's a very classic Runescape adventure, and I think it still holds up against a lot of content.

10. Alfred Grimhand Barcrawl: This was the first piece of content I ever did as a member, and I had a sense of wonder as the quest brought me to all corners of the apparently vast world of Runescape. Nostalgia, yes, but good times.

02-Apr-2015 00:22:12

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Hey. Sorry to keep using your thread as my own sounding board, but it seems as good a place as any for it, and it keeps it bumped up, yeah?

So, the whole controversy and saga with RoP and Seren quest, and the debates over quest releases and update sizes (saw your replies on that thread BTW) got me thinking about quests and just WHY people think certain quests are good, what they consider. From what I've seen, quest reception usually draws from among 12 factors~

NARRATIVE
Story
Dialogue
Lore

SETTING
Environments
Exploration
Length

CONTENT
Puzzles
Combat
Skilling

PROPERTIES
Graphics
Sound
Rewards

For a lot of folks, quests begin and end with the rewards. There's not much drive to play 'em otherwise (I was astounded to learn that more players are eligible for the max cape than the QPC).

For me, and, I would hope, most lorehounds, the biggest factor for any quest is story - without a good story, there's no motivation to adventure, no significance in the lore, no basis for anything else in the quest. Even if the graphics are terrible, the mechanics clunky, or even the continuity messed up, these can be separated (if not necessarily forgiven) in the service of a great story.

Jagex (or at least Runescape) is unique among major game developers as it emphasizes the auteur game designer - individual developers envision and create their own vision from start to finish, at least in terms of quests. While, yes, a whole team of graphic artists, animators**** testers, etc are involved in each new piece of content, there are few other situations outside of indie gaming studios where a single individual can claim real creative ownership over such large chunks of content.

It stands to reason, then, that quest developers, those who create the game's story, should always be the best writers and storytellers at the company - their proficiencies in other areas ought to be secondary.

(cont)

16-Apr-2015 00:15:05

Rondstat

Rondstat

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There are a lot of desires for quests - to have interesting puzzle and combat mechanics, to use one's skills in tangible ways, to have plenty of exploration and self-reliance in up-to-date environments that create an aura of adventure, to interact with well-written characters, to carry the story forward.

When the Seren quest first emerged in the Runelabs top 5, I was sort of outraged. It was entirely rewards-driven (the only factor of those 12 that has absolutely no bearing on my personal appreciation of quests), and incorporated multiple concepts that made no sense. As the ideas were refined - no soul altar, no nomad, no Seren returning - I felt more accepting of it, despite my reservations over the fact that the Elf series had already had such an effective send-off. I even looked forward to what a clever developer might do with the concept.

Then I found out it was Mod Ollie, and pretty much did a 180.

I hate what Ollie has been doing to the RS storyline, and am flabbergasted that he's been given such an important quest chain - the young gods and SoJ - as his own personal series. His command of lore is tenuous, his pacing is all wrong, his characterization is flat, and his plotlines read like a TVtropes madlibs. Yet, I must be in the minority here. Two of his quests made it into the popular top ten, and I can't deny that he gets good marks in the settings, content, and properties categories.

But then I see people specifically defending his lore and his writing - even people who consider themselves lorehounds. What's going on?

Let's take a look at Missing Presumed Death, what I consider among the very worst quests in RS. It is the novice entry quest into the 6th Age, and many new quests build on it as a basis. Yet, storywise, it is not the start of an adventure, but its ****** - the direct sequel to RotM, dealing with the two biggest factors from the close of that quest - the Stone of Jas and the Dragonkin.

(cont)

16-Apr-2015 00:34:25 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 00:48:39 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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When I see people discussing 'bad' quests, two titles seem to come up more than any other - Salt in the Wound and Birthright of the Dwarves. These are both big culmination quests at the end of major questlines. They built up a lot of expectation, and people felt let down. Now, imagine if MPD were given requirements to slot it as the next quest in the WGS-RotM continuity? Would it still be in the top ten? And why should we regard it any differently just because it doesn't have the 'right' prerequisites?

This is an over-invoked literary concept, but its popularity is in its relevance: Chekhov's gun. If you see a rifle in the first act, it must be fired by the third. Every element in a narrative should serve a purpose - it should be integral to telling the story.

How does MPD measure up? The entry of the empyrean citadel, full of GWD generals, mahjarrat, huge figures in the lore. What bearing do they have on the story? What would change if they were removed? Absolutely nothing. Even the Mahjarrat, with their somewhat compelling subplot of breaking with Zamorak, have this element disproven and disregarded by the following Ollie quest in the series. It's fanservice, an onslaught of cameos meant to opiate questers and distract them from a weak story, while cheapening these figures' impact.

I've said this before, but it bears repetition: there's more to lore than a bullet point list of events. WGS and RotM, almost universally beloved. What are they about? Sure, there's a classic adventure, exploring the world, assembling a team, saving the day against a great evil - but that's all just stuff that happens.

These quests are about the adventurer's humanity, their fallibility. The adventurer is far more seasoned and more intelligent than he is in many previous quests, yet he's always a step behind. He is standing against forces too powerful to even comprehend, and he is not strong enough or smart enough to go it alone.

(cont)

16-Apr-2015 00:47:31 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:15:20 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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He uses all his cunning, calls on every contact, convinces his friends to put their lives on the line - and he fails. He watches the people he cares about fall down around him, watches heroes make sacrifices that are ultimately meaningless. Even with the strength of his most powerful allies, his foe is barely injured, and it is only the claws of another, more ancient, more sinister power, that is able to put this horror to rest, in favour of one much more dire.

It's ultimately a more personal analysis of the adventurer than we see anywhere else. Is he driven to adventure, to help people, only for the promise of success and reward? He just ignored Lucien as a loose end years ago - is the world's current peril how own fault? And is all his posturing and heroism futile in the end? There's an undercurrent of nihilism there, and that, I think, is one of the things that makes this quest series so great.

But look at MPD and DAT. What is the theme here? There are hints at the nature of truth, the way of power to define facts, at the beginning of MPD, but these are incidental, and in the context of the whole quest, likely unintentional. Any hint of overarching motif is even less apparent in DAT. The themes of RotM, and the significance of its figures, are not just disregarded, but openly trivialized in MPD - it amounts to desecration of the old as a corpse.

It is just a string of events. Conscious winks and nods to the players that are meant to entice them with the power of recognition, rather than analysis.

I think it's a symptom of our short attention spans. Nobody reads anymore. I was fortunate enough to be brought up with a love of literature, but I know several people who have literally never read a novel for pleasure. The focus is on instant access, instant gratification, and shallow consumption of media that passes without ever being digested.

(cont)

16-Apr-2015 01:38:08 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:38:31 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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To these folks, seeing all the GWD generals in one place or controlling Nomad is enough to define a great quest. Give 'em a shiny coat of paint and a fun boss fight, cos they'll never even remember any of the dialogue. And, unfortunately, this is no longer the exception, but the rule.

We know who these people are. The folks who say that Bot* was the worst quest ever. The folks who want every god to be a permanent npc with 100 dialogue options. The folks who judge quests by a tally of appearances and dialogue rather than the story.

For them, another Ollie quest will be great. There's no need for suspense, subtlety, narrative integrity. There's no beauty in Seren's tragic sacrifice, nor sacrilege in trivializing this. There's no worth in a quest that deals with the repercussions of sacrificing all the values that define oneself in the pursuit of vengeance, or the emptiness in such a singly defined life, if the graphics are recycled and there's no discrete division of good and evil.

And maybe they're not wrong. Perhaps I'm a dinosaur. I have the wrong values for this age.

At any rate, it seems that good storytelling is not what is most valued, by Jagex or the playerbase. If it were, they'd transition Ana into heading the Dukes and Ollie to, idk, block * load or summat. I look at the prospective quests - the major developments of the 6th Age, Seren and the new god (most likely V-), and I feel tired with the lore. It's losing its charm, its magic. I've already transitioned to only playing when a new quest comes out. Given the direction things seem to be going, I may not even do that.

I guess it's wrong of me to type all that when the last quest was amazing. Just the main storyline is starting to suck, you know? Man, this is really a page full of word vomit. We need more bottle quests, more 5th age, and less 6th age.

16-Apr-2015 01:54:39 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:59:17 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Whew, a lot's been said over a long period of time. It's probably too far gone for any sort of rejoinder to land, but I promised I'd reply, so here we go!

Firstly, to Autumn Elite. Your counterargument is mostly a misunderstanding of my points, so I'll try to keep it brief(ish).

-I'm not railing against low quest requirements. As a matter of fact, I fully support quest accessibility, and I'd gladly see all future quests given no requirements if it means a bigger questing budget. I was just pointing out that people judge certain quests unnecessarily harshly because of their high requirements, while a quest like MPD, which contains a confluence of story elements that go back as far as a decade in the game's history, gets a pass, despite its disregard for much of the canon.

-I think you have a very specific concept of what a sequel entails, so let me elucidate my thinking. There are three big issues left open at the end of RotM: the fate of the Stone of Jas, the impending doom of the Dragonkin, and the imminent arrival of Robert the Strong. Two of the three are directly addressed in MPD (you might even say they're the central focus). It may not have been marketed as a sequel. But it is a direct continuation of these story lines, and as such, I think, ought to respect the narrative. That doesn't carry any expectation of size or impact, merely internal consistency.

-I didn't want MPD to retread the thematic elements of RotM - I wouldn't want any quest to do that. However, I do want it to have SOME sort of deeper theme. The best stories always reward multiple readings. They're not just narratives of events - they have a message. Death of Chivalry had that. Fate of the Gods had that. MPD does not. It's weak writing, and poor storytelling.

04-Jun-2015 00:22:40

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Fusswell, it's so gratifying to see someone else who shares these opinions. And who, you know, can actually organize them instead of just verbally expectorating onto a keyboard. All very good points.

I admit, I've been pretty harsh on Ollie, and while I've said it elsewhere, I haven't expressed it here. I do think Mod Ollie is a very talented developer. As you said, the vault sequence was fantastic, the most memorable, enjoyable puzzle sequence in years. Broken Home really expanded players' (and I think Jagex as well) conception of what a Runescape quest could be, and I certainly don't think we'd have had DoD without Broken Home breaking that ground. Shadow Over Ashdale is fantastic, one of the most underrated quests in the game, and, though the lore gets dodgy, The Mighty Fall is one of the most enjoyable RS questing experiences I've had in the past couple years (and I know Ollie contributed to the mechanics there).

The thing is, Ollie just doesn't have a talent for storytelling, and that's not a skill that is easily or swiftly learned. I'm sure he's a huge breath of fresh air for Jagex, and I'm eager to see him do more. It's just, effective writing, character development, nuance, are not among his talents. No one can have it all. Look at Chris L - one of the best developers at Jagex by far, he's played a huge role in keeping the game relevant. AND he recognizes his talents. He's not off writing an extensive backstory for Arraxxor, because he doesn't need to. He's about combat and mechanics, and he does a stellar job.

So, it's more of a puzzle, than anything, that a guy with as much talent as Ollie, is being kept in an area of development where he has such a conspicuous weakness. I hold that story is the most important aspect of quests. As you said, there is little more memorable than 'maybe we can't win, but we can fight.' I'm sure far more players remember that line than anything said in Nomad's Requiem.

04-Jun-2015 00:42:32

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I've been thinking about writing lately.

Playing through the Myreque series, one after the other over the space of about a week and a half, gives me a much different perspective on the series than the first time around. Darkness of Hallowvale in particular plays out as a much more atmospheric, immersive type of quest, with the challenges of navigating the ghetto building the aura of oppression and decay that seeps into our experience of the game world. I think the momentum from the prior two quests, with their multiple allusions to the horrors of the Sanguinesti region, help build up a particular frame of mind, which isn't as strong when they're not done sequentially. Darkness comes across as having the best gameplay of the series.

Branches, by contrast, has much shallower gameplay than I remember, and I realize that a large part of my initial reception was the experience of this new, fantastically rendered (it still puts some 2015 environments to shame), brooding city. But, I still found what made Branches my favourite quest in the series - the writing. The Myreque series as a whole has a big focus on exploration - Branches included - but the Tytn quests were never very big on characterization. It was always much more about the adventurer, our own ingenuity, feeling like the trailblazer who uses their wits to uncover long-buried secrets.

While Branches gives less agency to the adventurer, it also gives us much more of a character-driven story. The vyres all have great chat, and Vanescula is a fantastically-written character; I love the way Branches leaves us guessing about her, Safalaan, the true motives. When it's so much easier to write something broad and transparent, she treads the line between sardonic dismissal, playful chiding, and lurking malice. It's impressive, especially when you realize how little dialogue there actually is. I realize now that the REAL reason Branches has stayed with me, beyond its predecessors, is the writing.

18-Jul-2015 22:49:52

Rondstat

Rondstat

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While penning my obligatory MPD slam in the 2016 quest wishlist thread, I got thinking about why my feelings towards certain quests are predominately negative. Whenever I address DAT, it's as another blunder on the path of missteps that have made up the god series. But when I actually played through it, my primary emotion was pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it - a lot - and I thought it was great fun to play. There were plenty of memorable, well-done features. But what stays in my mind is the shoddy dialogue, the bizarre plot choices, the disregard for continuity.

I contrast this with Birthright of the Dwarves. There was a lot I enjoyed about that quest while playing it - the lava mine run, the discovery of bizarro-Keldagrim - but I remember, on defeating Hreidmar and finishing the quest, my first thought was "well, that's over with." It had an unsatisfying boss fight that relied more on gear than mechanics, outdated graphics, an abrupt and disappointing ending... Yet, when I look back on it now, I think of Veldaban's hauntingly well-realized disillusionment, emotional isolation, his willful sacrifice of justice or empathy in the pursuit of ill-defined vengeance. I think of Hreidmar's sympathetic storyline, his fall into corruption and madness that acts as a photo-negative of Valdaban. I think of Grenda, and the acknowledgement that there is no right or wrong, that we all must face and take responsibility for our own actions, define our own justice. And I realize, it's absolutely one of my top quests in Runescape, it's one of the greatest storylines the game has ever seen, and it transcends any expectation for a cartoony MMO like Runescape.

Great writing is what makes a fantastic quest. I believe RS has had two great writers - John A and Seb D - and while there are some VERY good writers at Jagex currently (Stu), I'm not sure anyone on the team now can reach the heights of a BotD or Ports 1. I'd love to see Runescape focus on writing in future quests.

18-Jul-2015 23:04:39

Rondstat

Rondstat

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You know, right after I posted on here about the dialogue in Branches, I replayed the quest. Vanescula is a fantastic character, and I'm glad that Rowl*y is making special efforts to get her voice just right. But I remember now what really puts it in my top three.

It introduces moral peril to the adventurer. It encourages them to follow a path of darkness and depravity that is much easier than the path of virtue, much more attractive, and can quickly become all consuming. The first replay, I consciously tried to always follow the 'good' option in Darkmeyer, using what I know now about blood trading, Gadderanks freeing, Drakan bashing, etc. But the second one, I followed choices closer to the ones I did on my first play-through, and was morbidly delighted to see how quickly my player's mercenary instincts betray them to evil. A great strength of this quest that I think is very identifiably a Mod Ana creation, and the best instance of 'choice' in game.

I then reset defence on the beta and started playing some old quests. Monkey Madness was the first master quest I ever did, one of my first quests as a member, and I think sort of overwhelmed me the first time around. What struck me most on this latest play through was how wildly effective it is at instilling a sense of adventure, even after the poison/aggression nerf. WE ARE the plucky outsider, peeking around corners, dodging guards, hiding under ledges, infiltrating a hostile society.

There are great moments that happen organically, just within the mechanics of the quest. I made my mad dash to freedom over the broken bridge, only for a troupe of ninjas to materialize before me and knock me unconscious one step away from salvation. Plus, the story and dialogue are surprisingly good for a 2004 quest - and it still has so many loose ends!

We need another quest like this - one that introduces persistent, artificial handicaps that really make us feel like we're running for our lives.

17-Aug-2015 17:50:27

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Yo. I'm posting some random thoughts here, just while they're still fresh.

Just finished the Light Within. It's sort of odd, it feels like two different quests - one fairly okay quest for the first half, a fantastic, adventurous, thought-provoking quest with very high production values in the second half, and then back to mere adequacy at the very end. The scope, tone, depth, and maturity of the narrative undergo a couple of very drastic, sudden shifts, which makes it hard for me to make an overall assessment on this.

That said, it's much better than I expected (even with my opposition to Seren's return). Far larger than I expected, too. This feels even bigger than Plague's End, and used so many new assets, when all I expected was a small-medium gofer type quest, what with all the effort that had to go into the rewards. I thought the graphics department did a particularly excellent job - I liked the strangeness of the crystal root hollow, I loved the well chamber, with the watery reflections, the ground water flowing away in adjacent pockets, the prize framed by intricate lattice sconces - brilliant.

And then Tarddiad! I remember feeling so let down when we finally entered Freneskae to find some disconnected, rocky agility course after Mod Mark had built it up so much. But on Tarddiad, it really felt like we were seeing a piece of a unique, completely alien landscape. The design of the rocks, with their odd swirled cleavage, the crystal flora, the shifting lights and odd mists, the ruins of simple wooden structures with grand foundations of stone and crystal - it all suggested a plane with its own ecology, its own morphology, with a biosphere that's evolved on its own, and given rise to a distinct culture. I was especially impressed they were able to create something so consistent with the many, at times conflicting, accounts of Tarddiad we've had over the years. It had its alien beauty, but infused with melancholy, clearly lesser than 'perfect' Gielinor.

28-Aug-2015 02:25:21 - Last edited on 28-Aug-2015 03:13:30 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I also quite enjoyed the way the whole Tarddiad sequence was done, encouraging us to spend extra time there with some old school skilling, and making our discoveries seem much more by chance.

The lore introduced there was fantastic, too. Angof is an excellent character, and the story of the crystalline shapeshifters is simultaneously wondrous and horrifying. Plus the design is pretty cool, and I defo applaud Raven for introducing RS's first transgender character.

The light puzzle. THE LIGHT PUZZLE! This is what I had been waiting for, and probably the factor most sorely missed from Plague's End. It's been years since we've had a puzzle at this level, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The first moments are overwhelming, you have no idea what's going on. You investigate further, you start to understand how it works. And then, by the end, you've got your strategy and you feel like a boss lighting up them chunks.

But then, there are the shortcomings.

The enchanted key section. Why? Why? Guthix tells us that Seren needs to be put back together - which the Elves already know (Book of the Gods)! There's no reason for it, other than cynical fan service. Guthix was a perfect character, precisely because he appeared so briefly, every line was treated with extreme care, and his ending was treated as final and absolute. Then they include this - so we can tell Guthix about Zaros!? It's so transparent, to whom this is catering, but for me it does nothing but cheapen an otherwise great character with a superfluous digression and some limp dialogue - and I doubt eve John A could make it impactful, as the last time we saw Guthix, the world was at stake.

There are some mechanical issues. Nothing I'd exactly call a lorefail, but a few little hiccups - mostly excusable because of how many narrators we've had with elven history, and how unreliable it all ends up being. More egregious are the typos - bear, not bare; its, not it's.

28-Aug-2015 02:47:15

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Baxtorian. Not horrible, but it just felt sloppy. This was the biggest lore question mark left over from the elf quests, and it felt odd, using information that Arianwyn apparently had the whole time, to just pull this legendary figure into the present like it ain't no thang. Now, there's nothing wrong with him being a statue in the waterfall cave - it was always hinted that he may still be around - but at least let US discover the clue that leads to this revelation, don't make it something Lord Cadarn's just been sitting on because reasons.

I feel it would have been much better if we went back in time to talk to Baxtorian, who would give us the information on Seren's reassembly and the song himself, rather than involve Guthix or bring Baxtorian into the present. Plus, they don't even address the biggest issue - why'd he live so long? Meilyr mentions the mystery specifically in her notes, so you think they'd clear that up. I think Baxtorian is too big a character to play the role that he does. If we'd gone back and only had the opportunity to speak with him for a moment, sure, fine. But having the greatest legend of elven history sitting on the sidelines for most of the story seems like an odd choice, and a bit of a waste.

Once Seren comes back - meh. It all goes very predictably - thanks adventurer, I'll provide guidance but let the elves lead, so on, etc. I did like her mistrust of Zaros, but I felt like her dialogue really didn't match the character that's been so well established in the memoriam crystals. Perhaps this is intentional - it's impossible she would come back as the same Seren she was, but I'd at least have liked to have seen this addressed. A bigger annoyance is all the little inconsistencies, tonal and otherwise, in the flashbacks and histories. We had a pretty boilerplate 'I will rule the world' 'I will stop you' type of thing instead of the weird, desperate ******, mutual psychological abuse vibe that's been hinted at previously.

28-Aug-2015 03:01:01

Rondstat

Rondstat

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There were some aspects about her return I liked, though. Eluned's existential crisis. Giving me the opportunity to firmly state my opposition right from the get-go. Big ups.

And though there were some lore hiccups, I think there was some laudable attention to more forgotten points, like Baxtorian's status as a master of runic magic.

There's another big positive for this quest that's rather more intangible, which is that it was very satisfying. I can't describe why exactly, or how, but I finished the quest, and it really did feel like my character was at the end of an adventure. Which I haven't felt for a good while. It was certainly an epic quest, running around three worlds, playing with the fates of gods (lolz). I don't think that's all there is to it, though. Heck, maybe it's just the feeling you get from finishing a tricky puzzle. But I thought the structure was very good, and it had superb flow - each piece seemed to follow the next in a way that made sense in the context of the story (save for the Guthix bit). When we finally reached the end, it felt right.

EDIT: I-n-c-e-s-t is the word that's starred out in the post above. I clarify because I thought the bizarre, unnaturally defined character of their relationship, with its loathing and desire, was the defining aspect of the Zaros-Seren connection.

28-Aug-2015 03:08:32 - Last edited on 28-Aug-2015 03:28:50 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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SO, I did Forgiveness of a Chaos Dwarf through Birthright in sequence on the beta (prefaced by a reading of 'The Coat Thief'). Wow. This is how these quests were meant to be played. The dwarf quests are probably the most character-driven in RS, and possibly John A's most mature work in the game.

First off, it's bleak. Man, is it bleak. The whole series is about a bunch of hollow people, their best years behind them, confronting their values, dreams, goals, and finding them empty, their lives aimless and without meaning. By the end of the quest, everyone's pretty much been reduced to a nihilist, and I think you miss the clear character progression, the parallels in story arcs and thematic consistency, when you break your experience of the quest up over years.

Some other factors help, too. Though I know we shouldn't be seduced by graphics, I really do feel like the 2001 era dwarves were distractingly clunky and primitive, and engendered a proclivity to dismiss the seriousness of a storyline that was quickly outgrowing the sophistication of its game. Secondly, the postquest dialogue for Bot* isn't just an extra, but a vital epilogue for the whole story, and its an immense narrative boon having it instantly available upon completion (especially for Veldaban and Brae).

I think dwarves never got the respect they deserve, because the quests never had anything shiny, no special graphics, well-known bosses, puzzles, mechanics, areas, etc. It was all set in ugly old Keldagrim, and never dealt with topics that affected the wider world. So, it was an anomaly, lorehounds never got stuck in, and very few people ever got what the story was really about. Redoing them, it's clear that Birthright is an AMAZING and very appropriate finale for the story, elevates the existing themes to their devastating conclusions, and leaves the player with the same ashen taste in their mouths that the heroes have lived with.

04-Sep-2015 03:41:38

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Veldaban is a man (dwarf) driven by a firm moral compass in a society that demands amorality. He's able to toe the line and put in the hard work necessary to become leader of the Black Guard, but at the expense of his personal life, and he finds himself middle aged, full of self loathing, hating what he has come to represent and how it has cost him himself. There's so little that truly defines him, and what there is contrasts directly with his office.

So he becomes a crusader. At times clandestine, at times insubordinate, but he lives by pursuing true justice. Not against the hapless human or starving thief, but those who truly threaten his people. The rising threat of the Red Axe is what gives him the opportunity to live.

But then, it's taken away from him. His love. His respect. His position. He quits the black guard in a rage, but when he makes plans to establish contacts and investigate the Red Axe on his own, he instead ends up spending his days drinking, observed by a lone barmaid, tormented by the fact that the office that he had come to despise was all that defined him. At his lowest point, the only thing he had retained was his principles.

We then meet Meike. Initially enthusiastic and idealistic about the prospect of a king, the monarchists see royalty as a sort of magic bandaid to all society's ills. When Veldaban enlists her help to stop Hreidmar taking the throne, she is shocked to find that all she'd believed, what she'd spent her adult life fighting for, is a lie, and she must be the instrument that compromises it, to ensure her longheld dreams never come to pass. Veldaban is callous when he demands she 'fix' the records, oblivious to her disillusionment, and ironically foreshadowing his own development.

04-Sep-2015 03:54:19

Rondstat

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Finally, our heroes sacrifice truth, sacrifice justice to thwart the King of the Dwarves. Veldaban becomes the most powerful dwarf on Gielinor, and it has only cost him his principles - the one thing he had left.

When we meet Veldaban again, he is bitter, cynical. He has become the symbol of oppression he rallied so hard against, that once made him throw down his badge before the throne on which he now sits. His is the purse that holds tight the strings, keeping the Black Guard from fully patrolling the city. His are the edicts that send citizens to fight and die. And he finds he has become callous. He despises not only himself, not only the greedy consortium, but the common dwarves who pester him with petitions, the people for whom he'd once sacrificed so much.

He believes in nothing. He loves nothing. And so, after listing off a plethora of very real issues to the kingdom, he turns selfishly, to the one thing that gave him purpose so long ago. He turns to the Red Axe. The man with everything has nothing, and he can only lend meaning to his bleak existence in the pursuit of vengeance.

No longer are perps judged on their characters or intentions. In no uncertain words, he instructs us to execute anyone with even a passing connection to the Red Axe, as per the law. He leads a quixotic, unprovoked crusade into their territory, only to discover the one dwarf more empty than himself.

Hreidmar dedicated his life, his fortune, his standing, his morality, even his soul to ascending the throne. And now he stands on the cusp of winter, nothing to show for it, and decides, rather than face his failures, the hell of his own devising, he would rather build a grand facade, a grotesque pantomime that allows him to live the perfect fantasy that staves off real life.

04-Sep-2015 04:05:37

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Self-delusion is the primary them of Birthright, and, in its memory puzzles(?), deals with it in a very literal way. All our villains (and Valdaban) live in a deluded state, wilfully blocking their memories to avoid the bleakness of life. Grimmsson makes a nihilistic last stand - with nothing to live for, he resigns himself to death at the hands of Veldaban, or in a hopeless charge against an entire army. He does not ask for redemption, because there is none to be had. Even the ogre, an entire race that's usually played for laughs, in a tragically childlike cadence begs for death, rather than confront the truth of his atrocities. The dichotomy is jarring and unsettling.

The approach to bizarro Keldagrim is particularly affecting, and the best moment in the series. 'Chaos Theory' swells as we look out across a barren plain, its only adornment the ********* simulacrum of Keldagrim Castle and the grim visage of Hreidmar. It is like we have directly stepped into the manifestation of one individual's madness, and while we may have expected armies, machinery, fortifications, we would never anticipate that, what lay at this villain's dark heart, was a glorified dollhouse.

In both playthroughs I let Veldaban live (once as king and once as commoner), though I think he's likely meant to die on that rampart. The final message of the quest is very different depending on player choice, but I think it's telling that three of four endings result in Veldaban's complete self-destruction, literal or metaphorical.

It's certainly not perfect. None of the dwarf quests have the feeling of adventure that comes with an Underground Pass or Darkness of Hallowvale, and there are moments when the narrative is abruptly truncated in Birthright (damn translation budget). But, for character-driven story, it's surely unmatched. I think I'm going to have to knock off Branches and elevate Birthright to number two on my list.

Also, sorry for word vomit.

04-Sep-2015 04:20:14

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Lord Drakan said:
I'm busy as heck, but I'll catch up with you eventually, Rondstat!

For the record, I can say I enjoyed The Light Within overall. Strong points were the thinking required to find the Seren shards and the story of Tarddiad and the shapeshifters and, of course, the splendiferous light puzzle. That was amazing, although parts 3 and 4 were easier than 1 and 2. Weak points were, indeed, the 'minor' use of someone as major as Baxtorian and the unbelievable amount of errors in spelling and punctuation.


Sorry! You don't need to feel obligated to respond to my every comment (I can be pretty obnoxiously long-winded). I've kind of taken to using this thread as a word dump for various thoughts on quests. But yes, I'm with you on all points for TLW.

I managed to replay One Piercing Note before everything was shut down (but unfortunately not WGS). I was a bit worried it might not seem as good without the novelty factor (which was a bit of an issue with Branches). A large part of the impact of that quest was the shock of the deaths and the final reveal.

My worries were unfounded. It is still, by a HUGE margin, the best quest in Runescape (to me, at least). I mean, really amazing. Not one weak point. I wonder if we'll ever get another one like that...

07-Sep-2015 16:28:41

Rondstat

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So (as has become my wont) Ima post some thoughts on Myreque VI. Finished it - um - in the past 24 hours, so thoughts are still fresh-ish.

Excellent quest. That's the two word review. I was very apprehensive about anyone other than Mod Ana developing this quest (and I made my thoughts known earlier in the year), and was particularly concerned with tone. Taking a closer look at Rowl*y's past work and learning of his cooperation with Tytn eventually set me more at ease, but built up expectations for a lighter, adventurer-driven story, something focused on the solo explorer, with a scope very wide (if a little shallow). I thought perhaps it would be something a little more along the lines of Legacy or Darkness.

Instead, we got the darkest quest in Runescape to date.

I always enjoy having my expectations subverted, and this quest certainly did that, even while hitting most of the beats that many of us were expecting (which is doubly impressive). The classic Rowl*y quest is structured like a pulp novel - while there's an overarching impetus, the story plays as a series of encounters and incidents, memorable (if contrived) hazards facing our heroes at every turn. The Lord of Vampyrium, however, is a tale consumed by dread, a desperate band, having bit off far more than it can chew, being hunted room to room by an unstoppable force. The structure and feel are much closer to that of an Ana quest - Firemaker's Curse or TWW - and I think Rowl*y did a phenomenal job capturing an ethos, populating a narrative voice, that's very different than anything else we've seen from him. It's an impressive feat of storytelling.

Prima facie, the premise/structure of tLoV looks horrible. We're immediately recruited to fight Drakan, and defeat him in a quest that takes place over the course of a few hours. Where's the build up? Where's the sprawling epic? Where are the myriad sections and locations? In practice, however, it all works .

02-Oct-2015 04:13:59

Rondstat

Rondstat

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While there are a few things I'd have changed - have Safalaan on some distant island and not just around the corner, move the setting a little further past the end of Branches (like Chosen Commander to Land of the Goblins) - I think the setup is effective at impressing the urgency of the matter. More importantly, it sets the pace for the rest of the quest - things are moving quickly, there's little time, we need to act RIGHT NOW. Throughout the story, this makes our actions feel more meaningful, and our failures feel more acute.

The party is an interesting diversion, and a nice little fake-out before Lowerniel's arrival. The sudden silence, the charged questions, and his imposing stature build up a palpable tension as Drakan interacts with the adventurer and his sister. When he calls us out, chasing off his fellow vyres and draining our meagre status, you are overcome with dread. This doesn't just seem like another big bad. This is a primal force, out of time unimaginable, unstoppable, uncontestable. Before anyone has even raised a sickle, you feel trapped, foolish for thinking you could take on this ancient power, and your best hope is escape.

Seeing your body dragged away, reappearing in an elaborate, grotesque cell, surrounded by horrifying instruments of torture - it feels like failure, and, in a visual (and visceral) way, promises far worse to come.

There's a raw shock in seeing your vyre allies cased up, bloodlet, half of them dead to their torture. While there have been plenty of torture implements sprucing up random dungeons here and there around Gielinor, nowhere have they seemed so immediate. You're not just seeing some archaic means of intimidation. You're wandering through halls of death, and you are the quarry.

02-Oct-2015 04:37:42

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Which, as I said, ties into the darkness of this story. The team is constantly demoralized, bloodlet, forced to weaken themselves to this fortress, which seems just as much a monster as Drakan. When we finally encounter sustenance, it's not some prepackaged fillet from a wooden chest, its offal scooped out of a carcass in a blood-splattered abattoir. When our companions fall, they're not stabbed before cleanly keeling over; we get to watch in horror as their faces are mauled by ravenous beasts.

I skimmed through the 'director's commentary' after finishing the quests. One of the things I thought was particularly interesting was their worry about pushing the violence for Runescape. They mentioned a few of the scrapped early draft deaths, including Kael having his face eaten off and Radigad being decapitated by his own sickles. While I don't think the game needs gratuitous violence, I sort of wish they had been left in. Not because the game needs gratuitous violence. But because the shock of these deaths is so integral to their impact, and really underscores the brutality of our foe.

More than any of its predecessors, tLoV tries to build each of its characters. With nine major allies, its scope is understandably limited, and often a bit too on-the-nose, but it still lets us build empathy with these figures, many of whom (I'm thinking Kael in particular) we never would have considered before. It might have felt a little cheap to some, but I think it was effective, and necessary in slowly building up our despair, allowing us to understand, or even mirror, Veliaf's breakdown by the story's end. We lose our allies, and our friends, in an ultimately meaningless struggle.

02-Oct-2015 04:59:26

Rondstat

Rondstat

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But I jump a bit ahead of myself.

One of this quest's greatest successes was in putting on the pressure. The barricade sequence puts us in a desperate race against time, and I honestly jumped when the first Venator(?) burst through. We're no longer a fighting force. We're prey, merely trying to survive.

Runescape has always suffered from a lack of complex villains. Even our most iconic bigbads have mostly fallen into the tired archetype of evil megalomaniacs, hellbent on godhood/kingship/revenge/etc. Drakan is not necessarily something totally novel, but he's presented in a very different way - less ****** than Pol Pot. I can't help but think that SRowl*y must have some sort of interest in revolutionary theory (or at least read plenty of news op-eds). It is never the proletariat who call for revolution, never the dispossessed who call for radical traditionalist movements. It is always the aristocrats, the intelligentsia, the landed elite who, in their bored dissatisfaction, call for forceful/violent return to a fictionalized past.

L.V. Drakan is the ultimate aristocrat. Ruler of one world, major monarch on another, he's well-read, well-trained, a diplomat and a bureaucrat with a sophisticated palette. All throughout his castle (and in existing lore we've read) we see hints of the patrician vyre he's been for his whole Gielinorian life. When we finally meet, he is not embracing evil, sadism, needless bloodshed. He's ultimately an idealist, claiming it's right, even virtuous, to be a creature of instinct, a predator of the wilds, an animal. And this is what makes him a terrifying villain. He commits so fully to this, that he no longer needs reason. He needs no justification, and he seeks no goal. Killing our group, hunting us down, is his sole object, and its own reward. He has become the beast, a force of nature - and how can we stand against that?

02-Oct-2015 05:23:53

Rondstat

Rondstat

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So it's especially affecting when we finally ascend to the roof, only to find we're not even on Gielinor. He hasn't brought us here to interrogate us, or torture us, or because we have any worth. He's brought us here for the hunt. He's brought us here for sport.

The sudden view of Vampyrium was an amazing moment, and while I had figured that the pylons and all the odd tanks and machinery must be a means of working the portal, I had no inkling that we had already been on the other side the whole time. The moment is set up masterfully.

I was worried about Drakan. Would it feel wasteful or unsatisfying, to introduce and defeat the ultimate villain in the same quest? But I think it was handled impeccably. The way he slowly advances, unstoppable, relishing both our fear - and our hope! I think this was a clever detail, and kept us from being able to even tell whether any of our fortunes were truly ours or the machinations of our enemy, right up until his death. The way it was set up, Drakan and the hero could not both survive.

The final fight was not as hard as it could have been, or as I would have liked it to be. But it wasn't unsatisfying, because we're not fighting to take Drakan down. We are, as we have been for the entire story, merely trying to survive. I think the adventurer's role in Drakan's death was minimal, and his moments of weakness were all feints - right up until Vanescula dealt him the mortal blow.

Drakan's death works because it highlights that L.V. isn't, and never was, our biggest concern. Near the beginning of the quest, we learn that he was not brooding away in his castle, but marooned on another world. Vanescula has been ruling Morytania without oversight - she is one responsible for the suffering that the Myreque fights against. She has always been the greatest vyre, and while we thought we were working for mutual benefit, all our greatest leaps, from the past 3 quests, fall into her hands by tLoV's end.

02-Oct-2015 05:38:07

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Vanescula was always the biggest question mark for this quest. I think Rowl*y captured her fantastically. She embodies that surface dismissiveness, over a far more vulnerable core, which, while not as subtle as in Branches, humanizes her throughout the quest, and makes her a much more grey figure. Even when she betrays us, it's not the cackling reveal of a double agent, but the earnest plea of someone who believes in her cause. She doesn't present herself as a betrayer, but as the only hope for a solution that will save both our races, something she sincerely believes we should support, that Safalaan would support - lesser *******, and benign dictatorship, rather than freedom. We honestly don't know if we'd have been better off with Drakan.

The end of the quest is devastating. Of the eight that entered Castle Drakan, only two have returned. The Myreque has been destroyed, not by subterfuge, not by assault, but by its own actions, willingly letting itself be led into a hopeless stand, its leaders freely giving up their most treasured secrets. All it's succeeded in doing is installing a dictator who finally has the means to transcend the only barrier keeping the horrors of Morytania from the human world. And as Dirge of Drakan (LOVE this track) moans, we see Veliaf, his sickle buried in the wall, the only rage left to muster as his shoulders sag, and he, broken, leaves behind all he's fought for. Vanescula, alone far above Morytania, untouchable, is juxtaposed against the silent corpses of our friends, whose meaningless deaths put her there. We have failed. It is the most utter failure since WGS. And it's beautiful.

02-Oct-2015 05:49:51 - Last edited on 02-Oct-2015 06:45:40 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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So, let me just preface this by saying that Runescape doesn't need any gratuitous violence. I don't think I made that clear.
(I should really read before posting. Wel*, I prolly won't).


This quest was a joy aesthetically. This is one of the most comprehensive and detailed graphical palettes in the game, and it's even more impressive it was all developed for a single quest. You can tell the graphic team didn't just slap a bunch of stuff together that they thought looked cool. There's a very distinct design philosophy in noble vampyric architecture, from the arabesque metalwork to the surprising, asymmetrical angles of furniture and mouldings, to the grotesque visages, to the everpresent spikes, torture implements, gratings that make the environment itself seem malevolent. The preponderance of tanks, tubes, drainage basins, mechanisms make it abundantly clear that blood is not just the vyres' sustenance, but central to their entire existence. It also makes Vanescula's final turn much more understandable, maybe almost sympathetic.

It feels like efforts have also been made to show the evolution of vyre culture. There are a lot of very deliberate commonalities and departures from existing assets in Meiyerditch, which enrich the older content retrospectively, suggesting how modern mass-vyre culture is both a devolution and a progression of the existing cultural traditions, attempts at the ostentatious intricacy of Vampyrium design, tempered by simpler Gielinorian architecture and their limited means. I also quite liked the efforts to show how different vyres have cultured themselves - the fine silks, the gilted frames - especially when juxtaposed against the stark brutality of an environment like Ranis's room - affecting more from what is left unseen than what is shown.

04-Oct-2015 18:37:45

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I really love detail in an environment, and this quest certainly delivered. I especially loved how the vampyric script was not just used as an off-detail, flavour on a couple of banners, but was so thoroughly incorporated throughout the castle. I also quite enjoyed the easter eggs, the tributes to Tytn and Ana, trinkets, books, etc.

There were some very clever graphical tricks in tLoV, which I hope to see used in future. I adored the skyboxes from the top of Castle Drakan - it's fantastic to see Morytania from a less-scaled perspective, and the Vampyrium reveal was really made shocking by the sudden alien landscape. There were also some great lighting effects, particularly in the prisons and the main hall. Really makes it seem like you're in the deep bowels of a vast tower, the light high above and out of reach.

I was also much impressed with the sound design. Little details - the creaking iron as you walk across the grate, stained with either rust or blood. The constant rattle of chains and unseen machinery in Castle Drakan, giving a feeling of claustrophobia and being watched. The different cries for each member as they give their blood. And the music for this quest! Some of my favourite yet, only exceeded by TWW and Carnillean Rising for quest tracks.

I think the touch-up work really enhanced the experience of the quest, though I know you (Fusswell) probably disagree. I think the Myreque member reworks were well-done, not overly busy like a lot of recent character models, and most, imo, really match and accentuate their characters. Mekritus and Vertida especially. While there were some I might not have personally cared for (does Pol*afi have to be so horse-faced?), I think it's far superior to the generic human models they had before, and individualizes them before their demises. I also loved the Morytania music reworks - mostly subtle, but enough to be sinister and atmospheric; I don't feel like I should be in a biergarten.

04-Oct-2015 18:51:54

Rondstat

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Now, mechanics. That's perhaps where tLoV falls a bit short. There are no environmental features or tasks that require a lot of ingenuity on the part of the player. The puzzles are all pretty simple and straightforward. And the combat is not really where it should be. The most successful sequences, mechanically, are those with a time crunch, not so much for gameplay but more for the pacing and adrenaline in the story.

I will say this for the boss fight, though: I think it's the most successful EOC quest boss we've had so far. Now, we've had EOC optimized bosses, and many that explicitly require particular abilities, in a way that Drakan doesn't. However, with the way Drakan moves, the arena, and how he parcels out his special attacks, I found anticipation, freedom, combust, surge, and debilitate were all indispensable abilities for me, and if only he had some sort of stun mechanic, I'd call it a thoroughly satisfying EOC fight.

What I did really love about it, though, was how the fight was restricted. Only these weapons, only this armour, only this food, safe deaths. Even playing field. I know this is probably a controversial statement, but I think all quest boss fights should be safe. Quests tell the story of Runescape, yes? And in the lore, the 12 times the world guardian died to Hreidmar don't count, only the 13th time when the Red Axe went down. The concern of normal bossing, risk vs reward, doesn't come into play here. And, if players don't have to worry about the expense of death, or, better yet, have everything they are allowed to use provided to them, it frees up the developers to make much more challenging, and satisfying, boss fights. I don't know about something Arraxxor level, but I think a QBD-level quest boss would be perfectly viable if death was not a concern. I'd love to see Jagex do more quest bosses like this, and take advantage of the freedoms they provide.

04-Oct-2015 19:06:31

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I won't claim this quest is perfect. No quest is (except maybe One Piercing Note). The introduction of Drakan was abrupt, the characterizations of minor characters were occasionally trite, and the Safalaan story really didn't deliver on the mystery or intrigue set up by Legacy or Branches.

But the assets, the themes, the overall arc, were exquisite. The ending is possibly my favourite ending from ANY quest, period, and I adored how cinematic it was, how many moments of shock or terror are set up in the quest - being outed by Drakan, the deaths of Kael and Radigad, the discovery of Vampyrium, the final montage. And, this quest does something little seen elsewhere - it develops the adventurer. We're no longer the bumbling fool who led Vanstrom into the secret base. We've become a leader of the Myreque, a rock for the others, and the player's voice manages to convey the wariness and weariness of a soldier whose livved through the events of the past five quests, while never becoming imposing enough to impede on the blank slate that lets each of us paint our own vision of our character.

In the days since I finished, I've found myself often replaying the final moments of the quest in my head, and deeply wishing we had a replay mechanic in the game. If RS ever introduces quest replays, this one should definitely be near the top of the list.

04-Oct-2015 19:20:51

Rondstat

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Hey. So, Halloween event. I was thinking of making a thread about this, but I'm not sure my observations have enough depth/insight to generate discussion. There were a couple of key points I wanted to get out there, though.

So, I'm not actively playing RS at the moment, but I did play through a few rounds of GoS, and caught all the dialogue. The environments, models, and theme are extraordinary - no one can argue against that. And even the gameplay is engaging, in small chunks. The lore is a bit problematic though, and I'm again befuddled as to why someone like Ollie would even want to engage with the lore. You've already made a fine event, why cram it with story?

So, a lot of smallish lorefails. I can understand that they've not generated a tonne of attention - things from Senliten, etc. Though Necrovarus' book and dialogue pretty much destroy the lore and backstory that's already been established for him and the ectofuntus (I know most folks don't care about Necrovarus, but I always thought Necrovarus-Ectoplasm-Haricanto-rituals were an especially fascinating unexplored lore avenue).


But, what's REALLY troubling isn't the lorefail - it's the loredump. Robert the Strong's reincarnation has been one of the massive mysteries of the game for over a decade, and here it's just brushed off as 'yeh, Iccy reincarnates people as cats, no biggie.' In one stroke we have the whole Robert the Strong mystery torn away, and can easily surmise 'yep, guess we'll be going back in time and meeting him at some point.'

Just because we have a lore question doesn't mean that all we want is for it to be answered. We saw the same thing happen on an even larger scale in DAT, where nearly the entire Floor 61 mystery was cleared up in a couple lines of expository dialogue. We want to discover the story, we want to experience it as adventurers, or unearth the ancient tomes for ourselves. This instant gratification storytelling is an unfortunate trend.

09-Nov-2015 17:33:18

Rondstat

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warning: grumpy groats post ahead!



So, among story-focused players, it seems like there's a consensus that Tales of the God Wars is, at least at times, frustrating for its nonsensical narrative choices and lack of consistent plot.

Full disclosure, I haven't played it, so I don't really have any authority to speak on it. I haven't logged into the game since October. Though I do still like popping onto the forums occasionally.

I'm a lorehound. I play exclusively for story content. And I became so - disheartened with the ongoing direction of 'main story' lore development, that I just lost my will to play. The Halloween event was the straw that broke the camel's back. Its transgressions were very minor compared to a lot of other content, but after seeing the blatant disregard for existing story come into play, yet again, I just felt exhausted with the whole thing. How can you get invested in a story when the storyteller keeps changing the plot and the details?

As far as I've seen, the choice to ignore continuity has been a deliberate one. Existing lore can be disregarded if it is inconvenient to a particular story being told. And, if the Runescape story were more episodic, I may even support this kind of decision. But it's not, and it seems the narrative disregard is finally catching up to them.

A lot of work does into character-building, plot driving. And it's often the early development, the introductions, where readers/players become the most invested, form opinions on characters, get a grasp on the story. When the foundational pillars of narrative are switched out midway through, readers are lost, and it can feel duplicitous. We buy into the author's world, and we place a huge amount of trust in him to see it through to the conclusion. When that trust is betrayed, it takes a lot of effort to win it back. It doesn't matter how many authors there are.

08-Mar-2016 17:33:58

Rondstat

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So, River of Blood. Let's do what we do. This might get kinda long.

I almost feel like I can't fairly review the Myreque Finale, because it's not complete. We were not given the whole quest - it is missing its third act.

Note, I am not saying that the quest should have had a third act, or that the denoument was disappointing (though those are both, to a certain extent, true). I am saying that this quest was conceived, laid out, and written with a third, final act, which was sliced out with the edge of a rusty tin can as RoB sunk into development. It is abundantly clear, and so much is set up - the villains, the early conspirator reveal, vamp Seergaze, the vyre alliance, among MANY others - to support a final major sequence that has our Varrock/Myreque forces allied with the vyres against a common foe. Time and budget constraints led to this being cut out, and being replaced with some highly expositional dialogue and some very unsatisfying returns.

A simple look at the structure bears this out. We take the previous three quests. tLoV establishes very early on that the goal is to kill Drakan, and though the quest primarily deals with survival, the ****** is still the final battle. Same with Branches, a quest dealing with infiltrating vyre society holds its initially stated goal - defeating Vanstrom - as ******. Or even Legacy, in a player-driven quest, maintains creation of the flail as its high point.

In River of Blood, its central conceit the showdown between Misthalin and Morytania, the ****** of the action is - a boss fight against a Wyrd. A fight tuned to be far more forgiving than Vanstrom or Drakan. The narrative apex is a long, uninterrupted string of conversation between our allies and Vanescula, where her forces conveniently abandon her and everything is neatly tied up.

A tense, static exchange of dialogue is what the whole series boils down to?

07-May-2016 20:40:24

Rondstat

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Here are the three 'acts' of this story, as I believe they were scripted.

Act I: Preparing for Vanescula's descent on Paterdomus. This act is permeated with dread and anticipation, and establishes us as the underdog against an overwhelming foe. It is meant to introduce the idea that the action necessary to repel evil means assuming some of that evil oneself - hearkening back to the moral peril themes of Branches - and we see this reflected in both our actions (rendering enemy soldiers into mindless beasts), and in the wyrd, one who's gone too far into evil in the hope for good.

The major reveals for this act are the fate of Ivandis (implied to be the Paterdomus coffin), and the reach of the separatists - responsible for werewolves crossing the Salve, the merc protocol, aiding both vyres and Myreque, etc, in their quest for full-out war.

Act II: Efaritay's defense against vyres. This act is themed around hope - not the false hope of tLoV, but true hope borne of ingenuity and hard decisions - hope to recover Safalaan, Sarius's hope for the fate of her father, hope to rescue all of the turned humans, hope for a lasting freedom for Meiyerditch. These are all big concept issues, particularly the last two, but they're introduced in a way that makes sense and respects both the reveals and the holes left in prior quests, filling them together in a way that makes it seem to interlock more like a puzzle than like an obfuscating coat of paint. It is more self-driven and exploration based, meant to evoke some of the feel of the Tytn quests.

The key reveal is the nature of Daeyalt and its role in haemalchemy.

07-May-2016 21:23:30

Rondstat

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Act III: The battle on the Salve. This is what the quest was supposed to boil down to, and was compressed into a few lines of dialogue. In this act, Vanescula and the player prepare to negotiate, before Raispher declares that he will not tolerate a peaceful solution, and reveals his role as leader of the separatists. Turncoats on both sides break with their ranks, together with a large contingent of werewolves, and vow warfare to draw their gods to Gielinor. Vyres and humans must work together to oppose this threat possibly against (or with the aid of) a vamp**ized Ivandis Seergaze. With the separatists neutralized due to cooperation, the vyres and humans realize they work far better as allies than enemies, and agree to rule Morytania cooperatively. In an otherwise bleak quest series, this act is themed around triumph, and the consolidation of both light and darkness - balance.

There is a huge amount of setup in the first act. When I read the separatist book, I was intrigued and impressed by the direction I thought the developers had chosen to go. Rather than reduce Vanescula to a straightforward villain, we would uncover the separatists as manipulative puppetmasters in both sides' conflicts, and face them as our final big bad. A creative and satisfying idea, I thought.

Instead, it's never mentioned again. We ultimately 'win' by being the bad guy, through gross and dishonourable means. When we aren't robbing our enemies of all will and reason, turning them feral, we are stripping them of their vampyrism altogether, a forced voluntary extinction, something which Vanescula might, reasonably, interpret as a form of genocide. We turn her forces against her, humiliate her, back her into a corner, and then, at the moment where she's full of more rage and betrayal than anywhere else in the quest series, offer negotiation. We drive her to hatred, not cooperation, and without some crucible that pushes us together, we've no reason to trust her.

07-May-2016 21:39:05

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I think the visuals support this as well.

Now, the pan over the human and vyre armies is VERY impressive. There have been assembled armies in quests in the past, but this is the first time we've got to see the sort of scale that matches npc descriptions, and I absolutely loved it. However, it's used very strangely, appearing towards the beginning of the quest, immediately disappearing after a rather minor scuffle, then appearing again at the narrative ****** - an event which involves no combat, puzzles, or even player control. This cheapens the effect, and robs a VERY impressive visual of the impact it was supposed to have.

I believe this is because it was intended to be the major set piece that thrusts us into the Third Act. We defeat and restore Safalaan, he aids us in negotiating with Vanescula, the separatists reveal themselves. With the final act cut out, the developers realized that they had no action to accompany the army reveal, so introduced the weird scuffle at the top to make it seem more relevant. It would have been far better realized as the backdrop for a single long, climactic sequence than a couple of short, less relevant sequences.

Just look at the overuse of tableaus. There are a few fixed camera angles that get recycled in this quest, but the worst by far is player, Ivan, and Vanescula on Paterdomus bridge. High, awkward angle, no room for movement, and it comes up four separate times. Again, I think this was probably meant for a single encounter/sequence (which would be perfectly fine), but extended as they had to break up their use of the mega-army.

I believe the missing act is also responsible for Raispher's change in character. He has always been depicted as a very capable agent with his own ineffable agenda. Here he is comic relief, an impotent coward, and no one reacts to him save the player. This change perhaps became necessary when he could no longer be revealed as mastermind.

07-May-2016 21:55:50

Rondstat

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I had been expecting this quest in October, and honestly, I think the devs probably should have waited.

Now, there are some aspects of continuity that are carried over between tLoV and RoB that I absolutely adore, and I don't think could have been accomplished had the players and developers not both been so recently familiar with the material. One that particularly stands out is the refinery/vamp**ization assembly. In tLoV, we saw a tonne of ominous machinery, torture implements, blood-powered devices without a clear function that mainly served to heighten the claustrophobic atmosphere of Castle Drakan.

Here, we see those same implements - iron maidens, tubes and tanks - but in motion, changing their significance from one of aural fear to one of visceral horror, writhing bodies baptized in blood and reborn as monsters. It lends an existing property much different, greater significance, and I always love seeing that done.

The hallucination sequence also heavily relies on our familiarity with Drakan's hunt through the castle, and is probably the most brilliant part of this quest. I loved the camera effects - the pulsing, the high contrast black and white, the colour/light fades - and so many little details - flickering objects, sudden snatches of dialogue, switching portraits - truly put you in a hallucinatory frame of mind. You feel unsettled, paranoid - my heart skipped a beat and I frantically spun my camera around when the window broke, only to find nothing there. The disembodied heads truly highlight our failures, and it feels like you wade through the darkness to reach the light.

But, there was quite a bit that spoke not only of a lack of resources/dev time, but a lack of knowledge of how limited these resources would be. Some reveals are explored in depth, while some are introduced then forgotten. There are instances of placeholder dialogue surviving to live - particularly in the refinery mood puzzle ("I'm remorseful";).

07-May-2016 22:12:22

Rondstat

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I suppose the most disappointing aspect of this is how much was introduced without paying off. The revelation of Mauritys as still-living, key to both vamp**ization and its undoing. The far-reaching actions of the separatists. Seergaze's vampyrism, or the fate of the imprisoned monsters near the Salve. The ultimate fate of Ascertes (were we meant to infer that the Burgh de Rott Crypt and bloody journal were his? Was he Vanstrom?).

That said, I was quite impressed how certain loose ends were tied up very quickly while still feeling organic, unforced. The monks'/separatists role in the Temple, the separation of Seergaze from his brothers. Sure, some of it was a bit contrived, but no more than anyone who's ever played a video game is able to gloss over as willing suspension of disbelief.

There was a bit of lore reframing in this quest. Most of it I'd say was effective.

-7 priestly warriors as purely Saradominist, Temple Knight-affiliated expedition. Nowhere has it been explicitly said any of the warriors were Guthixian, and this provides a good background for their willingness to stretch morals, while removing an unneeded layer of complexity that would require far more effort to explain.

-Efaritay's Castle in the south. This maintains the thematic purity and continuity of vyre architecture, which is designed to show visible evolution, makes the otherwise odd location of the Icyene graveyard more sensible in retrospect, and even alludes to some more obscure lore - the tale of Drakan rising from beneath her castle.

-Daeyalt refinery. The smaller scale works, with previous 'city' descriptions all coming from delirious, malnourished workers motivated by fear. Its ingame incarnation tones down the awe while heightening the horror.

-and other, more minor points, that I think can mostly be glossed over with how tenuous a grasp Morytania's historians have had.

07-May-2016 22:25:47

Rondstat

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But, this quest did have one of those huge, distracting lorefails that puzzles me so utterly, I'm not even sure how to respond.

Seergaze developed Guthix Balance with the help of a nature spirit AFTER the battle on the Salve that claimed the other priestly warriors.

What?

Why? How did msrs. Rowl*y and Stu come to this conclusion, that this would best serve the story, or even that Guthix Balance potions were a thing that needed explaining? When I read this, I thought it perhaps evidence that Drezel was right, it really was a fabrication, and we would later discover the truth. Perhaps that would have happened in the third act.

This quest pays a lot of attention to established lore, even more obscure aspects. Look at the dating used in the library puzzle, Efaritay's dialogue which gives credence to tall tales, priestly warrior appearance, etc.

Seergaze used Guthix Balance potion with his staff all through the priesly warrior's campaigns. This is something stated multiple times in game. The whole reason we even KNOW about the potion is because of how well-documented it was, in books and on the stone tablet. It makes no sense for it to only have been invented AFTER the time that history remembers as Seergaze's death. How could they have missed this?

It would be such a simple fix, too. "I had studied herblaw - a potion of balance was one of many weapons in my arsenal against darkness. But under her tutelage, for the first time I understood the spirituality of the druidic arts, the quest for balance in the world and within myself" One sentence like that would be enough to fix it. Though I know most Lorehounds have already played through, I REALLY hope that they would be willing to change this text, for the benefit of future players (and POH bookcases). We all make mistakes - the problem is when we don't admit and attempt to correct them.

07-May-2016 22:39:33 - Last edited on 07-May-2016 22:55:56 by Rondstat

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Ultimately, I feel I can't rate this quest. Its predecessor was a true tour-de-force of storytelling, atmosphere, graphics, sound, characterization, and likely the strongest entry in the series. It was heavy, it was dark, so of course something relatively light is going to appear weaker as a followup - no matter how strong the quest itself is.

I enjoyed it, certainly. I'd have preferred more puzzles, and if it had to have a boss fight (not entirely convinced it did), might have preferred something that wasn't the same special attack skinned four different ways. But the exploration was a great throwback to older quests (if not as self-guided and reliant on personal ingenuity as the Tytn quests), and I quite loved all the new assets.

There was a lot of potential here. That potential was not realized. The emotional beats didn't hit, the story reveals didn't pay off, and our player actions didn't deliver. It took no risks, a sharp contrast to tLoV, Branches, or Darkness, all of which were possibly the riskiest quests in game at time of release. I think this all would have been rectified had it been released in full. Heck, it may have even become the crowning achievement of the Myreque series.

I would say it was a quest with a lot of very strong elements, sequenced and tied together in a very weak way.

I really hope we eventually get to see a script or summat for the originally drafted story.

07-May-2016 22:53:45 - Last edited on 07-May-2016 22:55:11 by Rondstat

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Giving it a little more thought. Not that this would necessarily interest anyone, but here's what I would change to restore the Third Act and give the finale more relevance and thematic continuity with the rest of the series.

First off, Raispher is back to being a cunning, closed schemer. He eagerly volunteers to lead the scouting forces at Paterdomus, against Roald's protests that he's a mere spiritual advisor. When we outfit the Varrock Guard, it includes bringing them a 'crate' of raw blisterwood, which is filled during a fade to black, rather than with a set amount, allowing us some plausible variation in the amount available to the army.

When Vanescula arrives, Raispher discretely encourages us to assassinate her, emphasizing the bloodshed it would prevent on both sides. Midway through our conversation, Raispher orders the guards to attack, and Vanescula accuses us of setting up an ambush before calling down a powerful Vyrewatch guard.

After they're dispatched, we hear a strange cry, and Vanescula orders us to leave, before the Wyrd lands and destroys our allies, with Vanescula all the while ordering, then begging it to stand down. Efaritay incapacitates the Wyrd, prompting Vanescula to scream 'No, don't kill him!' before teleporting the Wyrd away. She leaves us: 'I came here prepared to talk peace. But if you demand war, I will give you a feast of blood like Misthalin has never seen. Prepare your forces, human. When next we meet, it will be upon the battlefield.'

The following sequences follow as they do in the quest. At the top of Castle Drakan, rather than a boss fight, our hallucinations render us unable to attack the Wyrd, and we complete a puzzle, using the environment to trap the Wyrd while avoiding his attacks. We obtain his blood, but he escapes before we can treat them.

When we return to Paterdomus, we are finally treated to the cutscene of assembled armies.

08-May-2016 03:47:35

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The Wyrd returns to attack us, but we manage to administer the serum. Vanescula is overjoyed to see Safalaan returned, but he is changed, no longer a Myreque idealist. He understands her fears and desires, and that she has relied on ruthlessness to get what she wants up to this point. But they have already lost so many and so much, she can't let these sacrifices go in vain. Now is the time for cooperation. In a tender moment, they finally embrace.

Vanescula agrees to negotiate, while making it clear that she is not surrendering. At this point Raispher reveals his hand. He has worked far too hard to allow this tension to end in peace. The separatists have been behind every major development - channeling supplies to the Myreque, contraband blood to Darkmeyer, establishing the mercenary protocol, bringing werewolves across the Salve. Did the Myreque never question why they moved in such relative safety when the whole of Morytania was so effectively oppressed, or why the vyres never regrouped against them when they knew their identities and locations?

Their greatest pawn had been Vanstrom, a turned vyre who could remember his days as a human ruler, and resented both the Icyene who abandoned him and the vyrelords who pulled his leash. He was supposed to assassinate Lowerniel, sieze the throne, and bring Morytania into full out war. We dashed those plans.

Now, the faithful of Saradomin and Zamorak will spearhead this war, and bring their gods to Gielinor. And he has a special weapon - bane of vyre and human alike, Ivandis Seergaze (he bursts from the chained coffin). Several vyres, humans, and most werewolves turn and begin fighting their allies.

Ivan leaves to prepare the Super Guthix Balance against vyre enemies, while Vanescula prepares a batch of refined daeyalt blood solution to strengthen vyres and turn weak humans.

08-May-2016 04:00:21 - Last edited on 08-May-2016 04:01:16 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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I imagine the battle works somewhat like TWW. While overwhelming conflict/combat forms the backdrop, we have three main offensives to send against the separatist lieutenants.

Efaritay leads the Temple Trekking/Burgh de Rott Ramble npcs (and maybe Dr. Harlow as well) as a small strike force especially well-versed in combating the terrors of Morytania. They are most effective against the separatist vyre force, led by Solomon Lamescus or 'Overwatch' Plaguemans*.

Rovin leads the Varrock guard, numerous and able to contend with clash of sword or claw, but unable to deal with specialized attacks and arcane magics. They are most effective against the werewolf contingent, led by Malak.

Safalaan leads the vyres, who are used to outsmarting and outmaneuvering lesser mortals. They are most effective against the human separatists, led by Raispher.

We finally face Seergaze as the final boss, with Ivan and Vanescula aiding us. If we lure him towards Ivan's cauldron, his standard attacks become weaker and slower, but he gains more control over his herblore, able to incapacitate us with poison and disorienting/stat draining brews. Luring him towards Vanescula's cauldron strengthens his standard attacks and lessens his special attacks. We can also possibly use them on critically injured allies, saving dying vyres by reverting them to humans, saving critical humans by turning them to vyres.

We end the battle with both sides changed, vyres made human, humans made vampyric, and all united against the instigators of warfare. Vanescula acknowledges that our peoples are connected, their bond is intrinsic, and both her brother's pureblood hunters and the humans' golden Hallowland are antiquated dreams with no place in this world. Though it will be difficult, she agrees to work together with Safalaan and Efaritay. Any vyre who desires can reclaim their humanity, but any human who desires may also become vyre. Besides, enough blood has been spent this day to furnish a feast.

08-May-2016 04:16:30

Rondstat

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I read your review, and I'm glad to see that we have not both fallen prey to the same hive mind that writes eerily similar quest critiques.

I think you are probably a bit more optimistic than I am. I look at RoB, the passage at the end of the Covenant of Perpetual Conflict that explicitly states that the Splinter group will be dissolved on the gods' return, and to me it seems to deliberately close the book on this particular story arc. A werewolf spinoff that dealt with the Splinter Group would have to be a new questline, set in the 5th Age, with its premise based on the events of a grandmaster quest. Not happening. Really, the finality of that passage is one of the biggest reasons I was so confident the separatists would turn out to be the bigbad.

I am, as always, impressed by your attention to detail, though I would be a bit more forgiving with some of the reframed lore. Almost all of our historical information on Morytania comes from 3rd or 4th hand accounts. Really, the only problematic revelation concerns Guthix Balance potion.

It's very true that this quest was not where it should have been in terms of difficulty. Combat and puzzles were both tuned far easier than in tLoV, and it only exceeded its predecessor in terms of personal initiative required - while still paling when compared to Darkness or Legacy. I think this robs the quest of 'satisfaction' value on completion. It doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment. Perhaps it WOULD be better if all players could just pay 5m to skip a difficult puzzle or combat encounter, so those of us who love them could get really stuck in.

Thanks for the comment! Admittedly, that last post is more 'hey, wouldn't it be cool if THIS happened,' than anything, but I do think it would have been cool to see Vanstrom-Ascertes-bloody journal more explicitly linked, or have Malak finally reveal his colours as a master manipulator and the only Guardian left to become Zammy's greatest servant.

12-May-2016 18:59:01

Rondstat

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Ima keep harking on River of Blood, because I'm an insufferable *******.

Noticed something that should have been obvious, and I'm hoping is a connection we were meant to infer.

Haemalchemy II is found deep in the mutated bloodveld area, marking that as a core area for Mauritys' research into haemalchemy. The mutated bloodveld appear to have human arms and legs. Vanescula mentions the removal of vyre dependence on human blood, shaking up society.

Mauritys was trying to create a substitute source for human blood - non-sapient livestock that could be harvested without moral repercussion. It could have been a great bit of postquest content - Mauritys emerges from hiding with his docile, bloodrich domestic bloodveld, opens a ranch in Burgh de Rott. Teodor becomes a cow(bloodveld?)boy, rastlin up little dogies to feed the vyres in the big house.

So anyways, I tracked down the RoB Q&A. It was surprising, and a bit disappointing. Neither the developers nor any of the petitioners mentioned a third act with the Splinter group, and Rowl*y spoke of the boring talky ending as divisive because it prioritized adhering to the thematic elements of the quest series.

I was worried that I'd misinterpreted things, so I looked at the ingame books, read over a transcript, and it only strengthened my resolve. There WAS a third act. Stu and Rowl*y have created some of the best story content of the past three years. I wouldn't insult them by trying to school them on narrative structure and foreshadowing, or bore them with a sophomoric lecture on Chekov's gun. They knew what they were doing. Perhaps they did honestly change direction early in development, attempt to structure their plot around a peaceful resolution. But I am confident that this could only have happened AFTER the original story was scripted, and the changes were made as a patchwork of fixes, rather than a full rewrite.

12-May-2016 19:17:32

Rondstat

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So, our first act has three main duties - outfit guards, clear the temple, reinforce the Salve. Two of these have major lore revelations - that the Splinter Group has had a part in nearly every major development and every major player in Morytania, and that Seergaze was vamp**ized and ended up in Paterdomus. Our final narrative development is the initial standoff at the Salve, which reinforces the breakdown of communication and the escalation of conflict. So, we have a manipulative group intent on war, an uberpowerful vyre, and the promise of imminent battle all converging on Paterdomus. To which Raispher, STRONGLY implied to be a separatist leader and prime instigator of cross-faction conflict, now has unfettered access.

Are we really to believe that none of these were supposed to pay off?

The deflationary standoff ending is supposed to be consistent with the 'theme' of the series, and of this quest in particular. Okay, let's break this down. Thematically, this fits with communication, cooperation, humanizing our villains.

We compare this against Branches of Darkmeyer, which introduces moral peril to the adventurer and asks how far we're willing to go, how deep will we sink into darkness in order to accomplish our goals, to achieve a greater good. We look at the Lord of Vampyrium, which similarly asks how much constitutes a worthy sacrifice, whether it is worth giving all to reach a single aim, and whether a revolutionary group can survive in a world where it has done all it sought to (the answer to these questions is 'no').

RoB, then, in reframing our villains and their actions, would also have to deal with reframing morality, and the very 'evil' of acts perpetrated by both allies and opponents. It emphasizes a moral grey area, and suggests that anything can be wicked or virtuous in context. Heroes may win the day with abominable measures, villains may push their schemes through charity.

12-May-2016 19:57:09

Rondstat

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It does accomplish this, to an extent. Revealing the Splinter Group behind the merc protocol or Myreque aid. The role of a blood ritual in protecting Misthalin. But it fails to bring this to bear at the apex of the quest. An apex where we essentially bully Vanescula into submission.

To illustrate the theme they sought, we needed to see more examples that brought the opposing sides closer together. Perhaps a sympathetic portrayal of a human who, like Gadderanks, seeks vamp**ization. Maybe to save an ailing family member. Or a vyre who's lost loved ones to feral starvation.

Above all, we needed the opportunity to be ACTIVE in resolving the final conflict. Rather than seeking solutions that cured the 'disease' of vamp**ization or building a new barrier, we should have been discovering solutions that resolved issues of vyre-human cohabitation, that tore down walls rather than building them. Vanescula's final story of Vampyrium is brilliant, but it is a threat - not a way to end a quest about peaceful resolution.

No, we are pushing towards conflict for the whole of the quest, and that is what we would have got - what I firmly believe was originally envisioned. I do think the Safalaan fight was an afterthought, something to replace a bossfight that was cut, without consideration that a bossfight would inherently clash with the new theme of the quest.

Let's look at other grandmaster bosses. Nomad-crux of story. Pest Queen-crux of story. Even the Balance Elemental is our barrier to the SoJ-whose discovery is the key point. Meanwhile, look at Fate of the Gods - challenging combat, but no boss because the story has nothing to do with defeating a bigbad. A big boss fight refocuses all attention in a quest, and it is poorly used in RoB when defeating Safalaan is a separate event from resolving the central conflict.

12-May-2016 20:15:52

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Sorry. Just ranting and raving because two devs I respect didn't acknowledge something that (I feel) should have been obvious. I don't think the quest was divisive because of the wrong marketing. I think it's divisive because it's suffering an identity crisis.

Maybe I'll fume some more about this later. Maybe not.

In miniquest news, I finally did Tales of the God Wars. It's... weird. I mean, I certainly like the idea of it, and I enjoyed the mechanics - follow this compass, slash and bash, unlock a lorey cutscene. I'd love to see more done in this vein, perhaps for God Sagas.

But the story was just all over the place. I respect the desire to couch the new bosses in existing lore, try to make them relevant to other stories. But I think the way they did this was horribly sloppy, the dates and uneven time periods leave your head spinning, and it has a few of those big, brash retcons that just leave you confused before you realize they've changed the lore. I mean, does Ollie think we're stupid? That we don't pay attention? If you don't mention something, we won't notice it's there?

Seriously, dude. Lampshade that ****. 'We alone made this journey. Now I regret leaving the rest of our clan behind.' There's nothing inherently wrong with reframing lore. But you've got to be honest about it.

I think a better and more immediately relevant story could have been devised with a bit more thought. And maybe different sides. I mean, if you took the extremist Godless and the warloving, megabeast-maneuvering Airut as factions, you'd have a story that wrote itself; there's barely any need for contrived grudges/motivations.

12-May-2016 20:31:45

Rondstat

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Did Beneath Cursed Tides. I liked it. A charming little self-contained quest with some fun elements. I enjoyed all the nostalgia aspects, and I thought a lot of the skewed takes on the original Tutorial Island were pretty clever. I especially loved the environmental work and the character design - it looks like the artists had a lot of fun with it, and the island is especially impressive in NXT. Great use of a lot of existing assets.

They didn't do as thorough a job on environmental consistency as, say, DoD (rainbarrel, anyone?), but that would probably be a bit much to expect. More disappointing were all the clickthrough near-puzzles. I don't understand why they go through the trouble of setting up a puzzle structure if it's going to be implemented with a bunch of left click options and auto-filled dialogue. It's okay to expect players to 'use' items on each other or remember names.

Meme-based humour is never a great idea in a game, especially when you remember that Runescape has existed for 15 years, and most of its earliest quests are still playable. This quest only came out a few months ago, and already a lot of the jokes feel dated. There's a reason most memes originate on messageboards - it's their natural environment.

Overall, however, these criticisms are minor. I thought the mechanics (especially the 'boss' fight) were simple but enjoyable, perfect for a project of this scope, and I grinned at some of the very deliberate tropey dialogue and plot contrivances (though I'd have liked if our character could have commented on their ridiculousness).

20-May-2016 02:15:13

Rondstat

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I don't know, I thought the point was for him to be an absolute joke. Some Snidely Whiplash-level arch who conveniently lays out the exact method to foil his plans, his power perfectly balanced by the fact that it only exists to be undone. Perhaps I give him too much credit, but I originally interpreted it as a self-deprecating meta-commentary on Ollie's own spotty track record when it comes to writing characters, and villains in particular. The contrivance mirrors Sliske at the top of DAT in a way that feels deliberate. I can get on board for that sort of thing.

So, I'm really on a quest kick right now. Just did Nomad's Elegy. I liked it far more than I expected to. What impressed me most about this quest is that it doesn't lose sight of its place as sequel and epilogue to Nomad's Requiem. It is written with a lot of respect for the lore, and it elevates the same tableaus, themes, and sequences seen in its predecessor, but in a way that enriches Requiem's story in retrospect, and makes all those loose fragments tumble together into a complete picture.

The quest very much has its own identity and its own agenda, but it is designed to let us empathize with our villain, understand his motivations, and trace an uninterrupted line (thematically, at least) from our first encounter with Nomad, through all the events that have touched on his arc (like RotM, TWW, etc), to its culmination, while witnessing and understanding just how these events have shaped and changed that arc (more impressive for the fact that we essentially are only there for the beginning and end). That was a long sentence.

I think Raven is the most empathetic quest developer. More than anyone else, he truly cares about his characters, he wants to understand them, and he wants US to understand them. There are no such things as simple motivations - every character is the sum of countless incidents, relationships, stimuli, decisions.

23-May-2016 02:32:26

Rondstat

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Now, this is not always a good thing. Sometimes he can run away with these themes, at the expense of, say, lore and mechanics (HoS), or it will risk veering into the realm of melodrama. However, when well done, he is able to create some of the most poignant moments in the game, and I think this quest, while occasionally heavy handed, is really elevated for its focus on character development. I don't think another developer could have done it the same way.

Speaking of which - this quest takes a VERY unexpected thematic approach, which certainly made the story feel fresher and more surprising. It does not exonerate Nomad, but it acknowledges how he was made, how he was failed, while ultimately concluding that his decisions, and culpability for them, are his own. As are Xenia's. As are the adventurer's. As are all of the dead, lost between their responsibility and their persecution.

It was a compelling choice to present such a non-utopian view of the afterlife, especially for these beloved, heroic characters. Their eternities are plagued by doubt and regret - no rest for the just. I was actually surprised by how dark the backstories became - Korasi's abusive father, Xenia's son lost to gang violence. These aren't the sort of fanciful origins we've encountered in the past, but more troubling circumstances because of how much closer they are to the real world. While I initially felt they might be a bit contrived, especially as they have no bearing on the plot, as the story went on and we delved deeper into Nomad's psyche, I understood their importance as a counterpoint to Nomad. Both heroes and villains are forged in a crucible of strife. The individual invents oneself every day. Whether foundational conflict - Korasi's abuse and Nomad's orphaning - or reactions to injustice and violence - Zanik to Bandos vs Nomad to Lucien. It is in the intersection of circumstance and decision that the individual is born.

23-May-2016 02:49:51

Rondstat

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Xenia is certainly a less popular character than Hazelmere, Korasi, or Zanik. But she was arguably the most important, because of how closely her tale mirrors Nomad's. Having Nomad constantly speaking into our heads was, I think, a great way to draw us further into his character, and weave his motivations through our journey into the fortress, bringing us closer to him mentally and emotionally as we get closer to destroying him physically. I was impressed by how many of the individual snippets of Nomonologue did seem reasonable, did seem to mirror our own character's motivations in the many adventures that have led to this. But, as soon as we pull back and view these pieces collectively, we see just how horrific his aims have become, how corrupted his self-invention.

Speaking of which, damn. And tLoV was worried about pushing the envelope. A twisted giant comprised of the writhing forms of mutilated souls is NOT the kind of thing I thought we'd ever see in Runescape just a few years ago. Great job on connecting character, plot, and design.

There were certainly some cliches in Nomad's dialogue. Some villain tropes we've seen before. But I loved how clearly, even as he paraded his arrogance and hubris and assurances of our demise, he attempted to appeal to us, desperately looked for our approval. I'm usually not a big fan of how 'important' the World Guardian is, but it really works in this quest.

That said, another thing I quite appreciated about this quest is that our allies are not just useless lumps who mostly get in the way. Mechanically, they're indispensable, and storywise, they're more than capable (as they should be), tracking down Nomad, cornering Legio Septimus, and managing much of the planning on their own, while also not making the adventurer feel like a gofer going through a rote series of tasks. While there's a definite fanservice element to the dead characters, they work more often than not.

23-May-2016 03:05:35 - Last edited on 23-May-2016 06:03:46 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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The characterization may not have been 100% spot on (I'm looking at Hazelmere), but I think some characters, like Xenia, have been very understandably changed by their deaths. But, while our allies had the opportunity to face their demons, address their regrets, their shortcomings, and their doubt, I was quite disappointed that the adventurer didn't get to do the same. I feel like my character has a MASSIVE amount of regret for all the characters present. He chose Jessika over Korasi, his recklessness in Arposandra robbed Hazelmere of his last chance, he let Zanik march into the wastes of Yu'Biusk, knowing her constitution was weakening. Yet we didn't even have the chance to apologize. Jessika's/Korasi's, in particular, is a death that I feel haunts the adventurer, and I wish we'd the opportunity to work through some of our own demons.

I think Mod Wilson must have been a massive boon to Raven's story. He probably has the greatest and most intricate command of lore of any quest developer (the lore shortcomings of Hero's Welcome were all handed down from on high), and I felt his hand in all the references and acknowledgements of past adventures (Bandosian views of the afterlife come to mind). Even the quest's decisions on what to emphasize and de-emphasize, structuring it as a more-or-less direct sequel to Requiem, while mostly ignoring DAT, suggested a measured touch.

Mechanically, I think the quest did all we expected and hoped. I enjoyed its emphasis on more text (and context) based puzzles, without so many interfaces. As combat heavy as we expected. Though, while I enjoyed the constant Nomad snippets for their Underground Pass-like suggestion of our descent to madness, they got pretty annoying while trying to dispatch a horde of ascension monsters (Also, I like how the Order was finally brought into the 'main' lore. You'd think it would be forced, but it was handled deftly and absolutely fit the story/lore).

23-May-2016 03:26:09

Rondstat

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Final fight was quite challenging, but the mechanics all made sense, and I enjoyed it quite a bit (though I was a wimp and had to bank between every encounter). That said, I can absolutely see how something with such high base damage could be nightmarish for certain questers. I think I ended up sinking a few 100k into supplies and repairs. This is the kind of boss that makes me want to reiterate my view - all quest bosses should be safe. I think that opens up the possibility for more difficult, truly challenging fights - as this one was - while removing a good deal of dread and frustration that comes with dying and destroying one's bank for those who do need 20+ attempts.

Assets. I quite liked the environments. Noumenon is fantastic, and I'm glad it got another use. I think the way Yu'Biusk and Lumbridge were utilized, existing assets with different skyboxes, particles, etc, made for attractive and efficient repurposing. It looks like the artists REALLY had fun with particles in this quest. All the different types of smoke effects, souls, wisps, special attacks... from Gielinor down to the broken ram. These do a lot to enrich the environment, and I feel the team has finally got a mastery of using particle graphics without overwhelming the scenery or clashing with simple models (though maybe this is also due to NXT - don't know how it originally looked in java).

Speaking of clashing models - oh man. They really couldn't design one generic cave goblin? They could have had a unique model in this quest without the expectation for reworking any other cave goblins in game. I mean****'Biusk looks fantastic, Zanik looks fantastic, all these GWD models look fantastic, then low poly, jerky, decade-old models forming the centrepiece of a sequence - mega distracting. Korasi suffered a bit from this, too, and it honestly puzzled me. She's a female human wearing equipment that's available to players - they didn't even need any art or modeling to update that!

23-May-2016 03:42:47

Rondstat

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Design for Gielinor was, of course, fantastic. Legitimately disturbing. The fortress was fine - not an arresting visual feast, but it would be bad if everything aimed to do that. Though I did quite like how much an impression of elevation it gave, which certainly played into the 'support' sequences of the boss fight.

Audio - workmanlike. Seemed a little below par for the team, who seems to have done consistently impressive work over the past year, but it certainly got the job done. Nothing to fault.

I've addressed some of the shortcomings, but I think the biggest misstep in this quest is the ending. Sliske has become such a boring, predictable character, his dialogue is so uninspired - it seems no matter who writes him. He's certainly fallen far from the intriguing, ineffable figure we all raged against at the close of TWW. He steals a kill, diverts the focus back to his game, lobs off some boilerplate taunts. It turns a moment of triumph into an anticlimax.

But I understand why it was done. Really, I'm mostly impressed by how much effort this quest has put into respecting existing stories and themes - something we haven't seen in a 6th Age quest since One of a Kind. Little things - Zimberfizz's proxy surprise at Nomad's apparent survival, the restoration of his master - seem like they're deliberately trying to foster goodwill with the players who were disappointed by DAT, and I appreciate the gesture.

For that, I have an even deeper respect for Raven and Wilson. This quest was ambitious, most of all in its themes, and it did what I had thought was impossible - it made me care about Nomad. Kudos to the devs.



ALSO, I'm certainly certain that a certain certainty is certain. In case that wasn't clear.

23-May-2016 03:55:52 - Last edited on 23-May-2016 04:04:30 by Rondstat

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Looks like I get to keep monopolizing this thread. Cheers!

Kindred Spirits. I want to like it. I feel like I should have liked it. There are a lot of aspects I really appreciate - expansive but cryptic lore, hints and clues that expect intuition and critical thinking from the player, an expansion of NPC* as individuals instead of game checkpoints (Rancour's anti-World Guardian dialogue has to be one of my favourite speeches in the game).

But it just left a bad taste in my mouth. There are some things I can't get over.

I'll just get this out of the way at the top - Ahrim. He r*ped and murdered an innocent woman. It's just a game, and I know the whole premise of most MMOs would fall apart if we had to sit down and take a sober examination of every murder that took place. But I feel like r*** is different, it's not something to be taken lightly. When in the service of storytelling, I would never mark ANY topic as unconditionally off limits; but if you're going to include something like this as a plot point, you need to make damn sure that you're writing it well, you're treating it with care, and it has a real significance in the context of your narrative - it's not just there cos you need to fill an arbitrary tally of 'tragedies' or 'transgressions'.

None of this happens. Throughout the whole sequence, the emphasis is on Ahrim's 'betrayal of his brother' as if his sin is disloyalty, and not brutally destroying a woman's spirit and life. The dialogue is not strong, and in spots is carried by cliche and exposition. Afterwards, the events of this sequence have no impact - we are forced to ally with a murdering r*pist.

Perhaps I should have overlooked this. Maybe I shouldn't hold certain taboo areas sacrosanct. But it brought me down, man, and kinda distracted me from the rest of the quest.

While that's the issue that resonated most strongly with me, it's far from the only problem in Kindred Spirits.

29-May-2016 00:56:57

Rondstat

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A big part of the quest is humanizing the Barrows Brothers, allowing them to emerge as characters instead of faceless bosses or set dressing. Honestly, though, I don't think this worked.

The dialogue is sloppy. Not lazy, not artless, not even necessarily contrived, but sloppy. Like it only went through one draft. Raven is capable of FAR better than this, and it's a disappointment seeing him settle for lesser quality in his work. We are supposed to be appalled, perhaps even horrified and disturbed, by the Brothers' sins in life, but we are also meant to empathize, understand their human flaws and just how much they've paid for them - even without the whole mindless wight bit. How much we do the latter over the former becomes a major point of the quest.

But it just doesn't land. Dharok is a 'bully'. He's sad because he 'bullied' people. He hates his commander for reminding him of 'bullying'. I get what they were going for, but there's no nuance, and I end up giving approximately zero fudges about the brothers. We get up in Verac's guts and suddenly he's all arch. Fun. Guthan is handled a little better, but the whole maudlin heartbreak angle, especially given the previous sequences, just kills it for me. I ended the quest feeling no investment whatsoever in the fate of the Bros.

Speaking of lack of investment - Linza, Meg, Mary, Samwell. Why? My character barely knows Linza and Samwell, and Rancour is a straight up stranger. The only ally with whom I have any sort of relationship is Meg. And yet these individuals were chosen by Sliske specifically to draw us out with threat of their harm? It makes little sense. We could have still used these characters - make some other contrivance for having them all together, say they were all on the same boat tour before it was hijacked by Sliske, something to make the selection's randomness more plausible in the context of the narrative.

29-May-2016 01:13:14

Rondstat

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At this point, it's been well established that the adventurer is endlessly gullible - it's sort of a major factor for plot progression. So I fully acknowledge that fault for any frustration with this aspect lies with me. Still, it's slightly infuriating for my character to go along with Relomia when I'm screaming 'He obviously kidnapped himself!' It irks me for Rondstat to along with the premise that the Kin covet the Stone, when I know the reverse is true. And I detest looking on incredulously as my character gets all buddy-buddy with Sliske, his single most hated figure on (under?) the surface of Gielinor.

I've made it clear that Wilson's humour and approach to puzzles aren't really for me. So I didn't get anything out of that whole prison sequence. It all just felt so superfluous - what's the point of this ruse? - and even by the ending, can only be linked back to Sliske's scheme in the most tangential way.

Speaking of the ending - did that make sense to people? Did I miss something? Sliske's got us in submission, when he learns that we've uncovered his plan - even though our knowledge of that plan will become irrelevant in the next 30 seconds as his scheme comes to fruition. Instead of carrying on, he drops the Staff and beats us silly - for not being his pawn? I mean, is our discovery just that he wants to steal our World Guardian powers? That he's working with somebody else? Or is there some reverse-dramatic irony going on here, where our characters know something that the players don't?

It just feels like they wanted to show Sliske losing his cool and dropping the mask, but they didn't do a great job laying the groundwork ahead of time, so instead of seeming like a culmination, a long-simmering pot finally boiling over, it feels like a random sanguinary burst, a violent emotional non-sequit*r.

29-May-2016 01:28:40

Rondstat

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Had Vanescula acted this way at the end of RoB, with our utter humiliation of her, and how well her brutality and sudden acts of immense, efficient violence had been established, it would have made perfect sense. This just leaves me scratching my head. I think we were all expecting something like this to happen eventually, but not in this way.

Then the Linza reveal. She betrayed us cos she wanted to learn to smith Orikalkum. Actually, I wasn't clear on this - Sliske claims she can't smith dragon, then that she stole the secrets of dragon smithing. So she's pretending to smith? She's got some charm that smiths for her? At any rate, it feels sort of stupid, very petty, and far too low-stakes for us to have the barest hope of sympathizing with Linza. She didn't steal from the Dragonkin (which a non-warrior smith can totally do, no sweat) to save a loved one, to do anything heroic. She just did it for a haXXorz 120 sm1th!

I mean, for a quest that had so many twists and 'big reveals,' there was nothing even approaching an 'oh crap' moment, a sequence of shock or awe or even surprise. I just felt so - detached from this story. That doesn't stop me enjoying the lore that came with it - the books were excellent. But I feel no closer to interest in the endgame.

29-May-2016 01:40:32

Rondstat

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I done did some tales and quests. Boy howdy. (This'll prolly be especially rambling this go-around).

I liked Gower Quest. Twas fun, though I think my own approach to this sort of humour may be a little closer to Crunchy's. That said, I did enjoy a lit of the references - Sphenischev made me smile, and I liked the entitled cabbages and their wonderfully bizarre syntax. It was also great to see some long-standing favourites addressed - Lloigh-Enn, Black Knight Titan, Life Altar (though I'm slightly sad it permanently quashes one of the more interesting fan theories).

I was actually quite surprised by how big this quest was - new models, environments, music, mechanics, etc. Behind the Scenes really stood out - even the grandest environments in Runescape feel tiny and scaled down. Most of the bosses hanging out at the bar normally dwarf the walls of their arena. Yet here, for the first time, we see grand pillars, cyclopean edifices, distant chandeliers disappearing into the murk of a giant hall's far reaches. I REALLY hope that the designers shake their fear of "big" environments, and introduce more stuff on a massive scale in future. The beauty of a virtual world is that there are no limits.

I wonder if the beta room really does use their editor's placeholders. I've gotta say - I wouldn't mind training sailing. Even as a joke skill, it's far more engaging than firemaking, fletching, cooking, or divination training. I've never felt strongly one way or the other about a sailing skill, but if they introduced something with this as a template - navigate ships around a vast map, firing on enemies, fishing up treasure, occasionally happening across procedurally-generated islands - oh man, I would be back on my monthly membership. Imagine if they used the Arc's procedural generation, but with multiple kits, like from Heist.

07-Oct-2016 15:35:43

Rondstat

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Or introduced minigame mechanics, like say Heist with npc guards you have to evade to loot that island's riches. Or some central, penance-like boss you need to defeat with a weapon assembled from loot around the island. Imagine a more complete naval battle system, balancing speed, defensive, and offensive builds, attempt to aim at an enemy not knowing whether they're fast enough to evade it or strong enough to withstand it.

Anyways, I'm getting carried away. Side effect of quest: sailing excitement.

Tales of the Arc. Really, altogether these make a perfectly serviceable quest, and I saw it more as a oneshot than a series of miniquests. It was fun, though occasionally mechanically frustrating (500 monks and dragons in, RNG was really kicking my ass on Ling's quest). That said, the whole Arc feels like there was some missed potential. It's mainly a lot of grind mechanisms against a very impressive backdrop, which is disappointing when Ports alluded to so much untapped lore in the Wushankos - secret societies, a slave economy, human sacrifice, unknown rituals, complex webs of alliances and rivalries in a tense network of competing clans and khans. Prejudice and changing societies. Advancement vs those stuck in cruel barbarism.

I suppose the team wanted to subvert expectations. But, at a time when a lot of the game has begun to acknowledge the changing demographics and maturity of its playerbase, this feels like very child-oriented content. Dayglow colours, exaggerated, friendly npcs, exceedingly simple gameplay. Not the barest hint of seediness. And certainly no gameplay elements that we would have expected to fit the lore -perhaps raising reputations with rivals, choosing to dismantle or participate in the thriving slave trade, practicing forgotten mysticism.

It's just hard for me to reconcile the Arc with a game that also includes Nomad's Elegy. Is Runescape going to start competing with Lightseekers?

07-Oct-2016 15:51:00

Rondstat

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Runescape is by no means a 'mature' or 'hardcore' MMO, and I wouldn't want it to be. I'm just confused whether this means it'll be pulling back from the story directions it's already established, try to make itself lighter.

Tales of Nomad - by far the most successful experiment with Tales yet, and, I suspect, the most cost-effective. I thought the whole treasure hunt and examine-based tableau was very clever, and surprisingly satisfying. I greatly appreciated its efforts to give new meaning to existing lore - including Lucien's first assault on Varrock and the initially-nonsensical White Knight reveal. And, even in such a limited storytelling medium, Raven managed to introduce the unsettling, with an introspective, first-person account suddenly turning on us by the end, suggesting greater control and awareness than we'd suspected, and the dark suspicion we may have been duped throughout.

Once again, proofreading proves Raven's greatest foe. Visible unicode, unfortunate homonyms, and an apparent lack of understanding of commas. Y'all need to have multiple people read the dialogue before it goes in game. Also, a slower transition in Nomad's appearance may have been nice. More significantly, while I enjoyed the Tale, it didn't feel necessary to me. Nomad's story was concluded, and it didn't leave any loose ends that I felt needed to be answered. Now, it may be the main purpose of this Tale was to hype us up for the Magisters, and that's fine. But I still couldn't help but feel, if we only get X miniquests in a year, why use one up on a story that's already been satisfactorily concluded?

Say, why not a Morytania Tale? With Vanstrom/Ascertes only vaguely alluded to in a wildly oblique hint, I think a Vanstrom tale could feasibly tie up many of the loose ends. Mauritys' disappearance and efforts to slake vampyre blood addiction (including the mutated bloodvelds).

07-Oct-2016 16:05:52

Rondstat

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The ultimate fate of the conspirators, and the aftermath of their plans in the wake of the 6th Age. Resolving the whole voluntary bloodletting issue. The fate of Sialathin and Lantania. The role of the mercenaries and ramblers (especially in the wake of a peaceful Morytania). The presence of the Burgh de Rott tomb. The plague-inducing sludge. Some acknowledgement of Draynor's death or Harlow's legacy. In an ideal world, I'd see the conspirators revealed as a force behind many of the series' conflicts, and a final battle with Raispher (something simple, say, give him Invasion of Falador knight mechanics, and triple the hp).

Or, why not tales to hold us over with all those forgotten questlines? How are the gnomes holding up? How's life for the druids in the wake of Guthix's death? Simple things that can be done mostly with dialogue, mechanically filled in with some skilling or treasure hunting. Or even recycled quest puzzles (so many mechanics are only used once).


EDIT: Meant to bring this up, I was also quite surprised by how many of the memes/references in Gower Quest came out of the lore community. How much you wanna bet Apropos was originally named Balustan?

Also, my Arc criticisms came out far more "Wah, I don't wanna play a game for babies!" than I intended. Sure, it seems to cater to a younger demographic. But I think the larger problem is that lore overall is just so shallow (so far) in the Arc, when the world indicated by the Ports storylines is so deep.

07-Oct-2016 16:13:34 - Last edited on 07-Oct-2016 17:07:56 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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Did anyone notice that, in the 'Making of a Monster' section of Tales of Nomad, the moment that catalyzes his decision to turn to darkness is getting kicked in the nards? One of the greatest threats to Gielinor could have become one of its greatest heroes if only he'd never taken a boot to the plums.

It makes you wonder - how many of the great monsters of history were made that way by genital trauma? Nero? Genghis Khan? Hitler?

18-Oct-2016 16:08:13

Rondstat

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Oh yeah, that's a tough one. If you don't mind an oblique and utterly non-specific hint~
The clues are both far more literal and far more mundane than you'd probably expect. Think of the most boring way those two things could be true.


Now, the REALLY hard clue comes later (I think #6), and that's the one that took me hours to figure out. The location is also slightly stupid. But for another oblique hint (when you get there)~
Trust your first instinct, but exhaust it THOROUGHLY.

19-Oct-2016 16:35:19

Rondstat

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It's that time once again - for a writing of thing! This will probably be particularly atrociously written.

Endgame! Good thing, bad thing!

Good writing! I have never been a fan of the prominence of the gods in the 6th Age, how their accessibility has rendered them petty and mundane, BUT, if you're going to include young gods, THIS is the way to do it. I loved the way they presented themselves within their bases - Zamorak's straghtforward presentation of his views, neither proselytizing nor sympathizing. Saradomin's deliberate remoteness and abandonment of human connections and morals in favour of a greater scheme that only he has the wisdom to enact (and finally presenting a compelling argument for himself as the 'true god'). And Armadyl. Oh my goodness, his story literally made me cry - first time that's happened in RS. More on that at 11.

Bad writing! Well, not bad, necessarily, but disappointing. So many of the god-to-god interactions, outside the Heart and within the Maze, just felt uninspired, and I thought spent far too much effort in reiterating the relationships that have already been well-established, without taking advantage of the opportunity to establish more subtle wrinkles in those connections - or at least something more than a like/hate binary. This said, I think I missed A LOT of cutscenes in the maze - most of the revelations folks are talking about I never encountered.

AMAZE-ING! I loved the general concept of the maze, the existence of an environment that appeared vast and daunting and endless, truly feeling small and overwhelmed in this world. I'm excited to see the mechanics explored here extended elsewhere in the game, see procedural puzzles on this order, or perhaps the 'skill/lore raids' Raven was floating. There is vast potential here.

04-Jan-2017 10:15:50

Rondstat

Rondstat

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LABYRINTHINE! But, I'm not so enthused about the execution. A huge maze like this, with its portals and puzzles that change random, unknown sections, does not really leave a lot of room for strategy. The biggest factors to solving the maze are not player ingenuity, our ability to recognize patterns or think critically. They're game mechanics - draw distance and minimap size. I'm a very immersive player, when questing. I find a low populated world, I walk everywhere, I close my chats, minimize every interface window, and try to lose myself in the game. A puzzle that relies on the client interface, particularly in the middle of an 'epic' story, is questionable at best.

Scope! This quest was ambitious. I can't imagine any other MMO would ever even dream of trying to pull off something like this. That in itself is commendable. I think it's fair to say the results were somewhat mixed. I was astounded by how much this quest took our choices into account, how vastly different other players' story beats have been. I'm a little uncertain how they'll be able to deal with that moving forward, but that's a concern for another time.

There's a part of me that adores this, who sees moments that were truly orchestrated by my decisions as a player, my actions as World Guardian, and finally feels like my character has shaped the world. Then there's a part that detests how, even after completing the quests, I'm encountering spoilers, how major lore was randomly and arbitrarily kept from me, or how on-rails it ultimately feels, despite the choices. That said, most of these concerns will probably be moot once it goes replayable.

04-Jan-2017 10:32:33

Rondstat

Rondstat

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One of the oddest things about this quest is its utter lack of resolution. Sliske's secret plan from Kindred? Nope, still don't know. The Kin and their curse? Kerapac manages to do something far beyond the capability of any of the young gods - destroying the most powerful object in existence - indicating some MASSIVE advancements have occurred off screen. Yet this is only addressed in one well-hidden piece of postquest dialogue. Eliminate Sliske, our major villain, once and for all? Nope! Everything is pretty much status quo at quest completion (even the waking Elders, which had already been established in Heart of Stone), and none of the lore mysteries raised in the 6th Age are answered.

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The quest takes no interest in answering questions, makes no asides that would deviate or distract from its plot, and at points seems to delight in being cryptic (which I can get on board for). There is one thing happening here, and no time to distract ourselfes with the world's minutiae. Still, for a finale, there's nothing particularly final about it.

The boss fight. I have issues with it. As I said, I try to maintain the same inventory throughout a quest - in my case warpriest, sharks, and a bunch of utility items. So, every time I died, I refilled my inventory to exactly what it was at the start of the quest (the canon I'd chosen for myself), and attempted to do better. Three times I took on the second phase, never even bringing a single one of the three bosses below 80% health before dying. The fourth time I wore full seasinger, a shield, and a yak of rocktails and portents. I did the rest of the fight (including Sliske) altogether in one go, with plenty of supplies to spare.

04-Jan-2017 10:45:50

Rondstat

Rondstat

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This is a problem. Quest bosses should be all about the mechanics. They should not be a gear check. They should not encourage us to prepare the same way we would for a standard boss. The metagame of prayerpoint and inventory management should never be a big thing. I feel like Elegy's Nomad is a fantastic recent quest boss. Sure, higher level gear and potions will make it easier. But standard attacks are a miniscule threat - the fight revolves around VERY high damage attacks that give visible warning, and the fight is all about knowing how to avoid or nullify them, positioning ourselves so we don't get caught vulnerable, and the difficulty quotient is not massively different with respect to our gear setup.

I also thought it was problematic how the boss fight (Sliske's in particular), instead of unique but highly visible mechanics, encouraged us to count the game tick, use the delay in our character's movement as a central part of survivability. While this is trivial to anyone comfortable with bosses of QBD or higher complexity, it's very much a combat boss mechanic, a meta mechanic, and not like the indicators that reward foresight and better suit questers that we see in Elegy, TMF, or DAT. This boss fight is simultaneously far too difficult and far too easy.

Jas! I adores her design. So completely alien, its animations unsettling in an undefinable way, its bizarre modes of communication. It's suitably grandiose, but I can't help ask myself - should we have spoken to Jas at all? Does it make any sense for an Elder to even have the capacity to notice, much less communicate with an entity that isn't transcendent? Does it make sense for her to use Sliske, or set us a quest? I'm not sure how to feel about the reveal - though, I choose to believe Sliske was not the 'agent' she meant.

04-Jan-2017 11:02:00

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Now, I liked this quest. I liked it a lot. But, I think I also like it for its scope, for what it was trying to do, the lofty goals it aspired to (in advancing the story, enriching characters, raising stakes, and developing a plot without an easy resolution or cut and dry outcome), moreso than for what it actually achieved. I absolutely think it was a fitting conclusion to the young gods storyline that's dominated the 6th Age. It reached a heart-pumping climax that paid off beautifully, but was also frustrating in how little was resolved. Not the best quest of 2016 (that goes to Elegy), but still very, very good.

Random disappointment: no SoJ stone-touching flashback.:( This is what I was most looking forward to.


But for me, the best part of the quest was Armadyl in his tower. My god, what a beautiful character. The story of his family is profound in its banality and beauty. The acceptance of loss, and the tragedy of his estrangement from the mortal cycle brought tears to my eyes as I read about the death of his daughter, or the feline race. The fate of his second husband gives much more significance to some of his behavior, and makes his errors more understandable, without feeling emotionally manipulative.

Armadyl's greatest weakness, as a character, has been his indistinctness, his status as a boring, milquetoast Saradomin. This quest turns it into the character's greatest strength. While Saradomin has outright rejected his mortality, and the morals and vulnerability that go with it, Armadyl is earlier along on the same path. He speaks of a greater good, using Saradomin's MO, but also acknowledges the danger of vengeance vs justice. There is a conflict of ideals, when one has the ability to so mundanely violate them. He is self aware, and despairs as he tells us how he must remind himself - 'we are part of the tribe, one of the people.'

He's a god struggling to hold onto his humanity, and this, I think, is a unique strength and opportunity in RS's mythos.

04-Jan-2017 11:22:28

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Hmm, I skipped over a lot of major thing in that review. Feeling pretty loopy when I wrote it. Meh.

Anyways, for better or for worse, Endgame is now RS's big culmination quest (like RFD, WGS, and RotM before it), so it seems apt to update my top ten.

1. One Piercing Note
2. Birthright of the Dwarves
3. Lord of Vampyrium
4. Ritual of the Mahjarrat
5. Dimension of Disaster
6. Branches of Darkmeyer
7. While Guthix Sleeps
8. Underground Pass
9. Death of Chivalry
10. The World Wakes

Still, nothing even comes close to approaching the storytelling, production values, assets and execution of One Piercing Note. Well, Birthright surpasses it in terms of storytelling but, you know, more than its fair share of flaws elsewhere.

Just for fun, I decided to mark out my favourite quests by year. It's surprising to see just how rich certain years were for questing, and not always the years we think of. 2009, 2011, and 2013 in particular (which is especially weird in how simultaneously awful a year it was for quests).

2001 Dragon Slayer
2002 Biohazard
2003 Underground Pass
2004 Monkey Madness
2005 Desert Treasure
2006 Darkness of Hallowvale
2007 Land of the Goblins
2008 While Guthix Sleeps
2009 Temple at Senntisten
2010 The Void Stares Back
2011 One Piercing Note
2012 The Elder Kiln
2013 Birthright of the Dwarves
2014 One of a Kind
2015 Lord of Vampyrium
2016 Nomad's Elegy

07-Jan-2017 06:24:44

Rondstat

Rondstat

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A week past writing that review and a couple weeks past playing, I'm a little surprised by how, well, forgettable Children of Mah and Endgame actually were. Elegy, Lord of Vampyrium, even the Light Within all had moments that stuck with me long after I'd completed the quest. I think of the last two quests released, and I mainly think of the plot points that were advanced - but there's nothing there to actually grip you, despite the vast scope of both. I don't know, it's kind of an intangible thing.

I absolutely enjoyed Endgame. But I'm also sort of realizing the one moment I really loved (Armadyl in his tower) may not actually reflect on the rest of the quest.

Anyways, at the same time as making that top ten, I also figured out my bottom ten, which have changed a bit more than the top. From least to most tolerable~

Making History
Mourning's Ends Part I
Sheep Herder
Missing, Presumed Death
Rocking Out
Murder Mystery
Demon Slayer
Tribal Totem
Monk's Friend
All Fired Up

Demon Slayer is the Grufeld Bach version (I know it's changed since, but I've not played the newest). The last time the list was mostly quests I found forgettable, but on closer examination I found more that I actively disliked - with the exception of Monk's Friend and All Fired Up, which are just too small a scope to make any impact.

13-Jan-2017 22:49:48

Rondstat

Rondstat

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It's time to talk about Menaphos quests. Hoo boy. This is a long one.

I feel this requires a preface, because I'm about to get pretty critical. My thought are in no way a condemnation of Menaphos as a whole. In fact, I think most of the aspersions leveled against it have been pretty ridiculous, and are almost exclusively the purview of myopic endgame players.

Menaphos is perhaps the most fully realized single content release Jagex has ever done. It is fantastic in its variety, the number of different activities and distractions, both high and low impact, AFK and focused, appealing to nearly all goal orientations and interests. Between the soul obelisks, scarabs, winkingly meta city quests, surprisingly engaging shifting tombs, scavenger hunts, and all the different skilling methods, I rarely found myself doing the same thing more than a few minutes, and was never bored. The number and layout of amenities is perfect – this is exactly the midlevel hub Jagex needs to help retain newer players longterm, and the “grind” so many people gripe about will surely be perfectly manageable, and probably organically completed, by players spending their 40-70 with the city as a home base.

More than that, I appreciate all the detail that goes into it. The shameless punnery. The unique dialogues (even if they're a single line). The touches that make it a living city – the stevedores transporting goods from the ports to the shops and storehouses, the merchants hawking their wares, the guards on patrol, the loafers having casual conversations, the beggars, the street performers, and countless others. I'm also impressed by how the graphics tell a story – the sunken buildings and broken walkways indicating some natural disaster, the abandoned Sophanem buildings and quarters, the lush, ornate imperial terraces against the more utilitarian port or decrepit slums. And so many surprises discovered naturally through play – the bard songs, the slayer pyramid, the library sundial, etc.

27-Jun-2017 13:48:22

Rondstat

Rondstat

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But, graphics and skilling aren't what keep drawing me back to the game. It's story and quests. And this is where Menaphos drops the ball.

There was a point during Our Man in the North where I stopped in a sort of shock at Jagex's changing quest priorities. This quest reuses a few sequences from Stolen Hearts – the agility course and some voiced dialogue. This is fine – these mechanical callbacks can actually be pretty fun. But, in this case, it just highlighted how stark a contrast exists in the resources and effort allocated to the questing experience. In addition to its (excellently) voiced dialogue, the Ozan double bill reworked Al Kharid and the northern desert. Not just to make them pretty, but in a way that was immediately relevant to the story.

There are a dozen unique animations as we Assassin our way across the rooftops. And we're not just running through generically appointed rooms. We run past unique tableaus – the clothing scattered about a washroom, the giant spit of half-cooked shawerma, the smoky bedroom with its ornate screens. Busting through what are, essentially, mundane scenes from nameless NPCs' lives makes it more than a random agility sequence – it makes it cinematic, pieces of an adventure flick where the contrast thumps a comedic beat (just look at the lady screaming for us to get out of her house).

And here's the core of it: Stolen Hearts came out at a time when there was an impetus to design quests as a player's primary means for discovering the gameworld. Gielinor was a place with a rich story, and its environment was a backdrop for our experience of that story. Al Kharid didn't become any more or less functional after its rework. But it went from being the place for sorceress garden or KQ prep, to the seat of the Emir, the Northern capital, a place defined by its story rather than its function. At its heart, the rework to the city, and the assets – mechanical and graphical – that went with it, were done to support this new identity.

27-Jun-2017 13:48:53

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Not so the Menaphos quartet. These quests don't just feel rushed. They're not merely underbudgeted. They're an afterthought. They feel like the final detail, tacked onto the city out of obligation more than a drive for an expanded narrative or an intriguing experience. I look at some of my least favourite quests – Missing Presumed Death, Salt in the Wound. For all their flaws, I am certain that the developers were excited about what they were doing. I do believe they thought they were making something interesting, something they believed in. I don't believe that's the case here. To return to Our Man in the North, where the gameplay and immersion of content cribbed from a 5-year-old quest far exceeds anything created for its beneficiary, it begins to look less like a callback and more like cashing in on the older design's legitimacy.

There's a carelessness to the development of these quests. They're certainly far below the standard of anything released post-2010, and of a lesser scope than many of last year's tales/miniquests. Which, could maybe be excused if these were part of some less narratively-anticipated piece of content – say, the Skull Archipelago or the Undiscovered Continent. But not when they're the continuation of a story whose next chapter we've been waiting to see since Dealing With Scabaras in 2008. It's even more troubling when you factor in how much story/characters were used to promote the Menaphos expansion (look at that header image and tell me how relevant Ozan, Het, or the corrupted workers actually were).

27-Jun-2017 13:49:25

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I'm almost tempted to dismiss Jack of Spades and Crocodile Tears altogether. These felt less like quests and more like showcases of all the new content the rest of the team had made. The carpet ride (which I like in principle, but is so ridiculously clunky it must have been coded in the quickest, least user-oriented way available) exists as a preview for the graphically updated desert, then the main body of the quest utilizes no mechanics – simply sending you to the four different quarters of the city (now we know where they are, yay!) for a meaningless conversation with the faction leaders before generic outfit recolour appears and disappears. The Jack character/plot itself ultimately has no bearing on the desert story (and resolves itself in the least compelling way) – it's an excuse to tour the city.

Crocodile tears does a little better, with its recycled clue scroll mechanics and sudden boss fight, but the meat of the quest is, again, just a tour of the city – this time sending us to discover all the fabulous new skilling methods introduced with Menaphos. You mean you can train hunter and woodcutting? Whodathunk!

But, even as the story finally picks up in Our Man in the North, the plethora of broken dialogue trees, sloppy mechanics, and the absence of unique sequences creates the impression that these quests were made to a checklist, rather than any sort of vision. Where in any other quest we would solve some sort of puzzle to uncover the secret book hidden in a library, here it's simply handed to us. With no fanfare, persuasion, or trickery, the loyal head of the imperial guard lets us escort an exile into the tightly closed city, for the express purpose of undermining the pharaoh.

27-Jun-2017 13:50:27

Rondstat

Rondstat

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When we retrieve Aristarchus, rather than make the effort to instance the NPC, or even give him one extra line of dialogue, Pollnivneach's Ari is stuck in a perpetual twilight, about to visit Menaphos and getting his things ready for all time, even as some Bizarro version makes himself at home in the Library. After the quest, we have Emir Ali referring to himself as Osman, and Senliten indicating an imminent meeting with Osman that never materializes.

And this sort of sloppiness is par for the Menaphos quests. Touches we've come to expect from Runescape's rich and unique questing experience. We interact with a number of different books. We can read none of them. When we're breaking a strike, while an older quest like King of the Dwarves would have a handful of instanced protesters, here the large-scale unrest exists only in dialogue (not to mention the riots that were supposedly rocking the Ports and Slums as mentioned in Contact). We have that farcical moment of Ehsan covering her ears and humming in Phite Club, because they could not even be arsed to create an instanced version for her being asked to leave the room. Even when the pharaoh is deposed – the figure whose shadow of fear and repression is cast over the entire city – the only acknowledgment is Hassan's insipid admission that he's “unsure” about the new ruler.

I do believe someone on the team realized this, and attempted to compensate in the dialogue. However, their efforts were, to be mild, misguided. I'm not sure who primarily developed these quests. But I cannot believe it was Rowley. The Ozan double bill was a brisk, witty, pulp-inspired adventure that could have been ripped from the pages of a vintage boy's magazine. Not to mention the rest of his portfolio – from RotM to tLoV, the guy can tell a story.

27-Jun-2017 13:50:51

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Characters in Menaphos have some of the most absurdly overwritten purple prose I've seen (and this from a guy whose text rarely leaves the domain of deep violet). When we confront Wadud in Phite Club, I kept waiting for the comedy beat, for our character to snidely summarize his prattling in one pithy statement. But when that shoe never dropped, I realized – this dude was serious. And the stiff dialogue is all over the place, perhaps nowhere moreso than in the pharaoh's final revelation. I don't claim to be a particularly good writer, but I do know a couple of basics. One of which – if you write dialogue, read it out loud. Not in your head. Hear what it sounds like in a human being's voice, and ask yourself if any human being would ever possibly string together words in that order. This script was desperately in need of an editor. It didn't have one – and judging from rampant typos in some other past quests, I'd guess that's the standard state of affairs.

I don't have very strong feelings on the overall story trajectory. I do feel the most compelling story content in the city is the Sunken Pyramid miniquest, if you can call it that (make of it what you will). And I quite enjoy all the Magister hints. But there are many instances where the main questline's execution is not up to snuff.

To start, let's look at where this sits in the larger desert quest series. We're ushered into the lock-tight city with a handwave and an ambassadorship. Disappointing, certainly, and uninspired, but not unexpected. Was it wrong for me to hope we might operate in the city under a unique assumed identity, like in Darkmeyer?

27-Jun-2017 13:51:36

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Emir Ali seems to do a 180 on his view of Menaphos from Diamond in the Rough, and a few Kharidians parrot some inaccurate wikia lore. Still, I suppose it's inevitable when different writers handle characters. No justice for Maisa, but at least she gets a mention. Some contradictions in Senliten's dialogue, but those can be explained away – more memories are returning all the time.

In comparison, some of the key beats are less favorable. Dealing with Scabaras and Do No Evil both make Amascut's corruption of the lesser deities/their followers a core part of the narrative, driving the story with the tragedies of their characters, their roles in the desert and their falls from grace. In the former we're treated to a tale of a beauteous red beetle who twists the Scabarites' introspective pursuits into vicious xenophobia, transforming them into monsters. In the latter we encounter the fragments of a broken god throughout the quest, turned against their once-great purpose, and their sole survivors.

By contrast, the Devourer isn't even mentioned until the end of Crocodile Tears, after Crondis just randomly coughs up an evil gator loogie and our character draws the connection themselves, with no moment of revelation or resolution. Our Man in the North is even worse, with Het suddenly appearing at quest's end, apropos of nothing, saying he was corrupted but stuff is totes great now, guys! No adventurer aid necessary.

And, where do these quests take us? With the pharaoh deposed, one of the most important desert plots is concluded. By quests' end, both the pharaoh and the head of the Imperial Guard are fully aware that the Sophanem Plague poses no threat. No acknowledgment. No resolution. Osman won't even deign to speak to us. The soul altar appears. Why? No reason. No story significance, unlike the blood or death or astral or chaos or even cosmic altars.

27-Jun-2017 13:52:20

Rondstat

Rondstat

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We've raised our city reputation to get to this point, but it doesn't even come into play until Phite Club – and even then, it doesn't even match the story, as the req is based on overall reputation, and not the individual esteem with each leader that the dialogue indicates (I was still at a solid 2 with the Imperial District).

I'm not actually opposed to using reputation unlocks for quests, though I do think it would have been better to have them on a staggered weekly release. But, I do think they should be story-relevant – and that was not the case here. And this illustrates part of the design philosophy for the Menaphos quest series.

Quests have been reimagined as aspirational content. They're filling up slots on a reward tree. They're asides you unlock as part of engaging with the “main” content. Sure, the story was advanced. Because that's part of the playerbase they have to appease, so it's appropriate to budget an amount proportionate to the impact those players have on subscriptions and churn it out.

But there was no passion behind it. And I know that's not necessarily the fault of the developers. Perhaps they didn't have the luxury of passion this time around. But, if this is what they had to do to get quests out, to get some story content released with the city (because a vocal minority would have thrown a fit if there wasn't any), then I'd have preferred that they not release a quest at all. For how long we've waited, how much we've anticipated, I think this may be the most disappointing quest continuation we've seen. This is below the standards of Runescape, it is below the quality we know them for, that they deserve to be known for. Part of me wonders if this is, in part, a reaction to the incredibly bold and ambitious, but undeniably flawed Endgame.

27-Jun-2017 13:52:42

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I know that, for how much gameplay they provide and how many engage with them, quests are likely one of the most expensive resource-to-output ratio things the team can invest in. And maybe it's unfair for me to keep expecting another One Piercing Note. But I believe there are certain things worth spending time and money on for the sake of esteem, to make something that's an achievement and not just a completion. I think it's that sort of ambition that has contributed to RS's longevity, has allowed it to branch into uncharted waters, like designing quests for Alexa.

The point of all these rambling expectorations is – don't let this become the new paradigm. I don't want to see the team pull off feats like Menaphos at the expense of what has, until now, been RS's greatest and most distinctive strength. I know the devs are capable of far better. Don't let RS stop being “your greatest adventure.”

Also, there really should have been a chocolate seller. And, of course, papyrus sedge.

27-Jun-2017 13:53:17

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Death of Chivalry is one of RS's finest quests, I'd say second only to One Piercing Note in the F2P game. I'm surprised more folks didn't select it as their fave.

Eren Lapucet said:
Every time I read a review by Rondstat, I wear my fancy sleep robes and drink vintage french wine from a wine glass.


Hah! I'm hardly worthy. You should be shotgunning Mad Dog out of a Dixie cup. Nevertheless, great thanks to you.



I was having a little bit of a dumb think on how I'd have preferred the Menaphos quests to go. Maybe I do too many of these. But I may as well jot down some of my fan-quest ideas here.

The Jack of Spades

At rise, we walk in on Emir and Osman having an argument

You're a fool to ignore my spy network, boy! When will we have another opportunity like this?


Emir takes us aside. Menaphos is accepting a commercial delegation, spearheaded by Ali Morrisane's men, to establish trade for staple items they cannot otherwise obtain, most notably runes. Emir knows they have Kharid Ib, wants answers, but Osman's behaviour has been increasingly erratic of late - Emir fears he cannot trust him. We will pose as head of delegation, Alexander/Alexandra Morrisane, while making search for Kharid Ib, reporting directly to Emir - but not a word to Osman or anyone else!

A situation that more plausibly resolves the possible continuity error with Contact, and preserves Emir's stance on Menaphos from Diamond in the Rough.

Talk to Morrisane, makes us open rune crate first to prove we have math skills to be salesman, then provides us with crate of supplies, magic carpet, two of his men.

Another puzzle opportunity, and remembers Morrisane's carpet monopoly.

Fly down to Menaphos, but ambushed just outside gate by masked figure. Takes our runes and disappears as guards find us.

30-Jun-2017 12:15:50

Rondstat

Rondstat

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What is this? These are not the runes promised. Did you intend to swindle us? You take the Pharaoh for a fool? He warned us of your northern treachery. Take them to the dungeon!


Some minor changes to Menaphos - there is now a jail located in the gated-off area beneath the main steps. There are protesters on one of the main docks in the Port - demonstrating because the self-imposed embargo has put them out of work. And Crondite tithers wander the Slums, including some who openly clash with workers. This preserves the uprisings as mentioned in Contact!

We're tossed in jail, easily lockpick cell to escape. The hooded thief has left trail of rune stones, seemingly spilling from his bag. We follow these, all while avoiding patrolling guards, who re-imprison us on sight. Trail takes us to four leaders, where we see thief appear, steal something, vanish.

Finally led to a Shifting Tomb entry (all of which have been sealed until now), thief conducts some sort of ritual - door flashes open. Confrontation - it's Ozan. Explains - doing some spying and research, has reason to believe Kharid Ib somewhere below city. But, pharaoh had tombs closed off with enchanted seal. Needed all four pieces - held by leaders - and enough magic (our runestones) to undo it. Descend to tombs, new door covered in odd calcification is impenetrable. He advises us to take back rune cache, regain legitimacy while he works on tomb. And please, don't share with Emir until he has results.

What about the missing runes?


Aww, I didn't use that many.


He picks up a large, green gem from the floor.


Why don't you give this to Ehsan? I'm sure it'll be enough for that greedy hag to let you off the hook.


Return cache and gem to Ehsan, as token of apology for hardship caused. She accepts, advises full pardon, welcomes Alex Morrisane to Menaphos.

Removes Ozan thieving for the lulz, which just makes him seem like a jerk.

30-Jun-2017 12:33:01 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 13:19:46 by Rondstat

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Crocodile Tears

Back to the Freezer is a req, for Crocspeak Amulet

First half largely the same. Elid Spirits make us complete some sort of puzzle to attune rod.

Cos seriously, where were the puzzles?

Rod eventually leads us to slums. Batal reveals some history, since we're so well known to workers - historically, hard labour always their bailiwick, but also always had enough. Waters were plentiful for fish, grew rice and barley, a roof over everyone's head. Then change - drought ruins crops, fish scarce. Pray to Crondis for bounty, but instead she's incensed, demands greater tribute. When they refuse, she raises waters, floods most of worker district, destroys fields. Since then, live in starving subsistence, barely surviving, and corrupt priests (Crondite Tithers) have demanded much of their meagre earnings, to appease goddess. Doubts they truly speak for her - only her chosen can guess thoughts of a god.

Makes the ironic subversion of god's beliefs (as seen in Do No Evil, Dealing With Scabaras)
more explicit, invents backstory for unexplained ruins.


Talk to blessed crocs (unattackable) sunning on Slum shore. Crocs are sacred, and only they, the priests, and the priests' boatman know true location of Crondis Temple (and boatman won't ferry anyone without proof of priesthood). Will share with us - in exchange for some tribute. Each croc demands something different - Plover Birds, beltfish, special 'blessed' gift offerings (obtained by pickpocketing while on quest) to take to their goddess. While hunting or fishing, 'famished' crocs periodically attempt to steal catch, must be subdued with backhand. However, each croc ignores us once satiated.

Accessing Crondis Temple should be a challenge in itself. Moving gofer quests to crocs allows Crondis reveal to be more meaningful, more joke opportunities. 'Famished crocs' adds extra mechanic/attention, feels less like midquest skill grind. Forego 'annoyance mechanic' of croc ice.

30-Jun-2017 12:55:51 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 16:11:58 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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Each time we fulfill request, though, croc tells a piece of story in first person, different colour text. How she only wanted to provide for followers, who deserved far more than merchants/imperials who lived life of leisure. Followed a beautiful red gator to discover glittering oasis of endless fish, ever-replenishing grain, gem-studded sands at mouth of Elid. With this, her followers need never work again. But the more she sampled fish, hunger only grew, until could think of nothing else. Crocs have no memory of saying this.

A croc eventually asks why we don't just pickpocket Tither for their holy insignia. We try, pickpocket fails, Tither attacks. Uses overhead prayer, eats unlimited supply of food - low damage, but can't be beat. Lure him to shoreline, where sacred croc attacks, eats him in a fade to black.

Oh woe is me! How could such a terrible fate befall one of Crondis' beloved priests?


You - you ate him!


Why, I did no such *BRRRAAAP* thing!


A Crondite insignia flies out of the crocodile's mouth as it belches.


Cos where were the actual crocodile tears?

Take insignia to Kags (cowed by Tithers) to access Temple. Crondis dazed, rheumy, wails that she is starving, despite being surrounded by heaps of food. Her attendants (corrupted worker model) attack, we will not gain access to goddess. Each drops a symbol of Amascut on death.

Finally confront Crondis, something inside her is driving this hunger, must be purged. Think of her people, not her greed. Belches Ukunduka, boss fight.

Cos an appeal to her values makes more sense to me than just getting so pissed off at her that she throws up.

She vows to provide for followers from afar, dissolve priesthood. Return to Senliten, quest concludes as normal. Postquest, Tithers gone from worker district, Batal dialogue reflect thay can better provide for selves, no more crocodile attacks.

30-Jun-2017 13:13:53 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 16:37:22 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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Our Man in the North

Begins with Osman, hiding in Sophanem alleyway. He knows we're spying for Emir, doesn't begrudge us, but asks a favour. We're respected in Imperial District, can get into library. He wants a specific book.

At library, Khonen talks of book burnings, mentions predecessor hid something, but he could never find it. Solve puzzle to open secret compartment, obtain book. Return to Senliten (as normal), make notes in book corroborating her account.

Cos where were the puzzles?

Return to Osman, asks us to meet him in Al Kharid, better to arrive separately. A veiled Sophanite beckons us - it's Maisa! Rather than return to Al Kharid, the disillusioned spy has laid low in Sophanem, tracked some of Osman's actions. Kaleef is far from first to die from his schemes. Osman helped orchestrate Prince's kidnapping, all espionage actually serving Osman's aspirations, not Emirate, and now planning something borderline treasonous. She will accompany us to Al Kharid, speak to Emir directly.

On arrival, disaster has struck. Generic NPCs replaced with shuffling 'Plagued Citizens' and all shopkeepers have an additional dialogue, either worry of plague spreading, or confidence it will blow over. Barred from entry to palace - guards claim there's a quarantine until source of plague determined, dealt with, no entry to possible carriers.

Speak to Plagued Citizens, what they last remember before contracted illness. All have different accounts, but one thing in common - kebab from Karim. Karim shares, thought he just got sick from too much sun after a day spent watching duels at arena.

Speak to (coughing) Tafani at arena. While most have contracted disease, Daerkin and Estocada are perfectly fine - almost as if it only affects Kharidians. We ask if she can examine, write us clean bill of health. She's willing, but currently swamped with a rush of patients, ask her in a few minutes.

30-Jun-2017 13:46:41

Rondstat

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In the mean time, a random Menaphite Imperial Guard challenges us to a duel

You're the strongest-looking cretin around here.


During fight, his standard attacks hit very low, but he has powerful poison and stat-draining abilities. Constantly yells about being the strongest, the most powerful, better than all these decrepit weaklings. When finally dies, drops inverted ankh, and leaves us feeling slightly queasy (no actual effect on stats).

Tafani examines us, but has bad news - the untrained eye can't see it, but we clearly have early signs of plague - she can't vouch for us. We return and are intercepted by Maisa. She's seen this sort of plague before, in Sophanem, and she thinks it has spiritual, more than physical, origins. They attributed it to an improper burial, but she saw that problem dealt with several times over - it must go deeper. She advises we return to the source.

Return to Sophanem, High Priest of Icthlarin. We ask about plague, if it's really Klenter's legacy. Sheepishly admits unlikely, but it must be more than natural. Normally people pray to Het for strength, but he seems to have gone silent. Het worship all but vanished. Show him ankh, he recoils - this is object of pure corruption. Like a waterskin gives us the strength to deal with the harshness of the desert, this might give something borne of death and unnatural magic to survive in the natural world. If we have a deathwish, there is something similar festering below temple. But, with that symbol on us, it may appear far different.

Descend into instanced version of slayer dungeon - empty, but in each room, we're attacked by (lower damage, no slayer level) squads of slayer critters - first scarabs, then gorillas, then crocodiles, and finally imperials, who shout that they are stronger than all, have domain of the desert, and any beneath them are worthy of contempt. They can take on the world alone without breaking a sweat!

30-Jun-2017 14:05:32 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 14:12:45 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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Cutscene as we reach bottom. Het in Atlas pose, struggling under some immense weight. Jabari mocks him, that the power of his lady is greater than his paltry strength, that he is weak and has abandoned his people, that soon the northern ruler will know the same true strength given to his pharaoh. Teleports out without noticing us.

We approach Het, who can barely string words together under the strain.

...Holy...feather...

...Jabari...has...it...

...Take...my...blessing...


We instantly feel healthier, strength returned to our limbs. Return to Tafani, who's amazed at our recovery, gives us clean bill of health. Enter palace alongside Maisa, who got similar bill herself

I'm actually originally from Misthalin. There aren't a lot of natural blondes in the desert.


Jabari is offering revolutionary cure to Emir, who is tempted to accept, we shout that he's actually offering the Curse of the Devourer. Brief, but easy fight - this is the strength of Het against an old man. He drops a Blessed Feather. Maisa erupts, reveals Osman's schemes, and Emir exiles the Spymaster.

Osman seemed to volunteer the info of his betrayal way too quickly. Better coming from a disgruntled agent.

Return to Het. Place feather on rock, he quickly casts off the weight. Tells us that Amascut fed on his pride, his arrogance, people became sick in his absence. He will work on removing the plague, which should be near instantaneous in areas where it is fairly recent and near his places of power. However, the effects may linger in places that have lived under the plague longer.

Puts an emphasis on Het-relevant themes, resolves a frustrating older plot point, and removes the literal Deus ex Machina from quest's end. Makes us instrumental in his salvation, rather than something that happens completely offscreen, has no relevance to main quest plot.

30-Jun-2017 14:10:36 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 14:24:09 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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'Phite Club

The most disappointing quest of the bunch. Could have used more emphasis on the preceding quests, and some sort of story significance for the soul altar. I'd see the scenario flipped: rather than having us instigate an uprising that happens offscreen, we experience an uprising instigated offscreen.

Start with Ozan, who's made a few discoveries. First - sarcophagi in tombs completely empty. By itself, not too strange - burials often used decoys. But to not encounter a single body in hundreds of plundered tombs indicates something greater. Second - calcification on door matches crystallized corruption below. While easy enough to handle with while he himself is dealing with corruption, impermeable outside of tomb. Almost as if he'd need some creature utterly infused with corruption that could expertly burrow through.

Use box trap, capture corrupted scarab (either in dungeon or on surface), bring to Ozan, open door. Long, stone walled corridor complex with misshapen altar at one end. Instantly drains run energy, gradually decreases our constitution, screen darkens as we progress until Ozan says, in strange voice

You! You are the one who took me from my home.

You must help me. You must take me back.


Ozan, in his own voice, says he can take no more, and we quickly retreat. Outside, he notes that tunnels seem old - far older than rest of tombs, maybe older than Menaphos itself. But who would know about such ancient history?

Return to Senliten. She sadly shares that Osman just left, seeking her blessing, but he refused to heed her advice on operating honourably.

That is the wisdom of an antique age. Perhaps, when you had gods to fall back on, you could enjoy the privilege of honour. But modern Kharidians do not have that luxury. Every niche we can gain in this blazing desert, we must carve with our own fingers. There is no one watching out for us. We must take every advantage, every opportunity, or suffer.

30-Jun-2017 15:04:22

Rondstat

Rondstat

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We ask about the corridor behind the door. Senliten is not sure it is the same, but she's reminded of a darker chapter of her rule. Icthlarin and Amascut discovered a rift of pure, overwhelming magical energy deep beneath the sands in the far south. Her magi employed it in a particularly testing battle with the Zarosians, but its power was so raw and vast, it overpowered the mortals' magical potential, crushing their souls. If this is the same, she advises we stay away.

Return to tomb, find Ozan missing, signs of a scuffle - torn fabric, scuff marks, and a dropped Imperial teleport.

Ozan has been imprisoned for entering area forbidden by pharaoh. He's shackled - can't break out as easily as we did. But - he suggests - we're respected in Imperial District, maybe they'll let us join guard, can break him out from within system.

Ahkomet tells us guard is overwhelmed - between longstanding protests by laid-off stevedores in Port, workers' strike in slums, and Sophanite demonstrators gathering at east gate, her men spread too thin. Reluctantly allows us to help as volunteer guard, gives us badge. Prison warden won't let us on guard duty - we're not even dressed as real guard! Must serve duties at three sites of unrest, gain armour piece from commanding officer at each for job well done.

Slums head guard says there's nothing to be done, need quarry shipment that striking workers would otherwise deliver. We mine, give it to him, he asks us to try to find out what's behind strike. Batal states, now that they're not constantly struggling to survive, workers have more opportunity to examine own conditions, realize entire city pivots on their labour. At the behest of a newcomer named Ansom, decided to strike for higher pay and the right to freely travel and settle around Menaphos and the desert.

30-Jun-2017 15:19:33 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 15:25:45 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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Ports head guard says, as longest conflict in city, many protesters have become rowdy, violent. Asks us to 'deal with' those attacking guards (combat encounter). Talk to Wadud to understand protests - unpaid stevedores have been out of work since city closed, jail already overcrowded with protesters. Menaphos is jewel of desert, centre of world culture, isolationism wrong.

Coenus, at gate, is unsure how to dispatch so many 'insurgents' at once, asks us to build additional barricades to stave them off, keep them from rushing gate (construction). After, talk to Jex and High Priest on bridge. Their plague has finally lifted completely, and there is no reason for them to be kept out. One brave former slave, unknown to them before, named Sam No, convinced them - guard arrows may stop individual rebels, but they cannot stop the entire community standing together.

We're finally allowed access to jail just as a prison riot breaks out, instigated by a 'hooded figure' he hadn't seen before, so Ozan tells us. We escort him slowly (feet still shackled) through jail, avoiding flying debris, violence.

Outside, we share info from Senliten, brainstorm. What could absorb intense magic energy, negate its effect? Essence! Ozan asks us to obtain some from our Morrisane accomplices (who've set up a small magic shop), and get them to accompany us as emergency backup (we were barely able to escape from the corridor the last time). (If we go to Emir at this point or postquest, he expresses regret that he can't get more forces into Menaphos to aid us.)

Morrisane's men tell us that Ehsan has forbidden them to leave. She confronts us, reveals that she knows our real name, and that we are a spy for the Emir. This is highly valuable information, and she will protect it - if we can give her something of greater value. She dismisses our paltry bribes and laughs at threats of violence, but is intrigued when we offer to help re-open the city to trade.

30-Jun-2017 15:25:19 - Last edited on 30-Jun-2017 15:33:33 by Rondstat

Rondstat

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But sadly, you offer something unobtainable. We will never chip through the Pharaoh's paranoia, at least as long as that plague is active across the river.


We tell her the plague is no more. As a physician, she can verify it for herself. She asks us to get Ahkomet on board. As his chief advisor, she will speak to Pharaoh - Menaphos' gates may soon open again.

We convince Ahkomet that liberalising the movement of people and goods in and through Menaphos is the key to ending the unrest in the city. She agrees to make a formal recommendation to lift the quarantine/embargo if Ehsan can verify the plague is no more - she will accompany us to the bridge this evening.

We arrive at night. Most of our barricades have been destroyed, remainder set ablaze, casting orange glow. Ehsan proclaims the Sophanites are clean, Ahkomet calls for gate to be opened, but is stopped as the Pharaoh appears. She is shocked - he's not been seen outside the palace in years. He dismisses Ahkomet, promotes Coenus to her position, tells him to slaughter all the insurgents. Ahkomet protests - it's a peaceful demonstration!

Because it's crazy that they don't make use of their own great filters (I'm thinking bonfire here) and the throne room has got to be the blandest environment in the city.

At that moment, Osman appears from the shadows, stabs Pharaoh. He displays documents, proof of his right to the throne, dominion over all the desert, and promises that the city will be opened, all leaders can keep their positions.

Pharaoh suddenly rises, boss fight ensues in main courtyard. At end, he has moment of lucidity, horror at what he has become, but cryptically states, just before he succumbs to his wounds

I understand. She has found another.

30-Jun-2017 15:45:22

Rondstat

Rondstat

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Ehsan proclaims that she never had the opportunity to finish her earlier assessment. Most of the Sophanites are fine, but

The priests! There is something foul within them! Some corruption that might claim us all if left unchecked. Could it be something from the temples themselves, some affliction that has wafted up and claimed them?


She states, with briefly green-glowing eyes.

Osman morosely admits, from his own investigation as spy master and the explorations of the adventurer, this is true - corruption ferments just below the surface of both temples. He orders the priests exiled, and the Sophanem Temples shuttered.

With Ozan, we later confront Osman in his throne room. He claims there's no evidence of the Kharid Ib in Menaphos - he would know - and orders us out of his quarters - he has a kingdom to run, and little time for adventurers.

We realize it is just as Senliten feared, and return to Mastaba only to find temple desecrated, sarcophagus empty, Leela missing. But who could have got through Temple's protections? See final Amascut cutscene, minus Jabari.

Postquest, Ozan informs us that the strange energy is gone from the ancient corridor, almost as if someone is diverting it somehow. Ehsan tells us she found an interesting Talisman at the bottom of one of Morrisane's rune crates, which she will give us in exchange for a large donation of gift offerings. Wooden boards cover Sophanem temples, priests (and Jex) gone. Protesters disappear from Ports. All dialogue mentioning plague or old pharaoh changed.

Creates some rationale for how the weird invention rig on the soul altar works. Creates more of a tense, cliffhanger type end point. Resolves Contact!/Icthlarin's Little Helper plot points. Brings some of Menaphos' skill activities into lore.

30-Jun-2017 16:00:41

Rondstat

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Hey, Runefest news got me to peek at the forums again. Got me thinking about story.

I leave reviews on this thread. It's always interesting how longterm views change so much.

Anyways, some more postmortem thoughts on the quests of 2016, now I'm far enough removed from it.

Nomad's Elegy - a great quest. My thoughts on it are largely unchanged; it is admirable for its risk-taking, its explorations of circumstance, responsibility, and agency, its plot, writing, mechanics, and the tremendous assets. The one lingering regret is that it didn't go more introspective for the adventurer.

Kindred Spirits - my review was definitely coloured by the implied sexual violence of Ahrim, which cast a pallor over the whole experience. I still think that was a bad move, and the bros were not handled as well as they could have been, but I think the quest structure was intriguing, and there were some excellent mechanics. A lot of stuff that didn't resonate - the choice of victims, our character's staggering idiocy, the first 1/3 of the quest - come down to personal preference. Rancour's speech - still very memorable.

Children of Mah - sort of the Michael Bay of Runescape. Big and insubstantial. For how many giant events/figures/plot points it covered, it ultimately had no bearing on the story, and was eminently forgettable. On a technical basis, though, it was supremely well done.

Endgame - I had also called this forgettable. I think maybe I was swayed by the consensus there. I deeply admire this quest for its scope, for its risk taking, for its attempts at mechanical and narrative innovation, and for eschewing so many story conventions, deliberately avoiding a lot of the resolutions many of us had been anticipating. The execution - undeniably uneven. But I don't think any other MMO would ever dare attempt anything like this. Plus, it features one of my favourite moments of any quest, in the Armadyl Tower dialogue. Huge props for its ambition - quest itself is somewhat secondary.

21-Sep-2017 00:39:34

Rondstat

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Endgame, as a quest, took massive risks. And the thing about risktaking is that, sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn't. In this case, it didn't. But the last thing I want is for Runescape to stop taking risks, to stop pushing the envelope for an MMO story experience. You need the occasional misstep, in order to get the risks that do pay off (like tLoV).

21-Sep-2017 00:52:50

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I liked it!

While I don't disagree with your points, my overall view on Endgame is undeniably positive, and while there were a lot of weaknesses, I think it also had individual moments that were among the strongest of anything we've ever seen in RS.

I definitely place Endgame above any of the 2017 quests.

26-Oct-2017 22:01:50

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