The game Runescape has been around for longer than I have been playing games. Created by Jagex the game has seen regular updates propelling the game forward through story and time. But the issue of reviewing a game this old and this big is that it offers way too much to talk about so instead I’m going to compare it with a game that I think is just as big. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
What?! Skyrim Vs Runescape? How would that work? Why would you do this? These are questions you may (Or more likely…) or may not be asking. I’m going to explain why I’m going to put these two games up against each other. I’m going to focus this on a few different things that make an RPG what it is. Including, The size of the game. In this case, I’m going to be looking at the physical size of the map, the items it contains and the way that the landscape changes. Second, I will be looking at the way that stories are told, followed by the way they players level through the games. The Economy of the games and trading. And finally, il look at the way that the way that the style of gameplay changes based on the style of the game.
But before all of that, I want to explain why I chose these two games. I originally wanted to write a review of Runescape but I kept looking at the sheer size of the game and the number of things that can be done, to the point that I don’t think I would ever manage to complete everything possible in the game. The other issue with trying to write a review of RuneScape is that the game is always evolving, because of this anything that I write could become obsolete within just a few weeks. But anyway, RuneScape was chosen because it was my original focus for a piece.
Now Skyrim. Why would I Choose this game? Just like RuneScape, the game has been out a fair amount of time, not quite as long as RuneScape, but still over 7 years ago. The game has a similar Style, there are three major fighting styles, just like RuneScape. There are multiple storylines, just like Runescape, I wanted something that would enable myself to find just as many similarities as differences, that’s why I didn’t choose another RPG like Fallout4. You’re now probably also wondering why I didn’t choose Oblivion. It’s older than Skyrim that means its closer in age to RuneScape. The reason why I didn’t choose Oblivion is that I don’t know the game half as well as I know Skyrim. In fact, If you look at my steam library, you’ll see that I’ve only got 2 hours in the game compared to over a thousand within Skyrim across PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, and I haven’t even started Morrowind (oh the shame… I will eventually, I promise).
There are a few different ways that the size of these games can be quantified. First, we can look at the physical size of the map, I’m going to base this on the length of time that it takes to travel from one side of the map to the other at a walking pace. Skyrim, as we know, has one the largest maps available and it took just over 2 hours and 10 minutes to walk from Northwatch Keep to Stendarr’s Shame. if we assume that the game walking speed was the same as the average walking speed of one of us, we would be walking 6.5 miles. I did the same experiment within RuneScape walking from Menaphos in the Kharidian Desert, up to Varrock and across to Prifddinas, the only shortcut that was used was to jump the base of White Wolf Mountain. This walk to just over 22 minutes. So why is it that the RuneScape map feels just as big as when playing Skyrim?
The answer to this lies in the way that the scenery of the land changes quickly. There’s a theory called Scale Theory on the RuneScape Wiki which suggests an answer to this. This has not been corroborated by Jagex so this should be noted that this is most definitely a theory. “Scale theory is the idea that RuneScape is a fictional world being viewed on a scale. The world is, in its fictional universe, logically designed, as the storyline suggests. The version presented in-game is much smaller than the actual fictional world of Gielinor and has been scaled down to make gameplay possible. Essentially, the world of Gielinor is being viewed through a filter that removes most of the details from the world that are not necessary for gameplay, and condenses all of the world’s features into a reasonable size for playing.” This sounds like a pretty good answer for why the map is small and pretty quick to get across. The map just feels big because of the amount of content available within the area. For more information about the Scale Theory, click Here. But the physical Size of a map isn’t the only way of quantifying the size of a game. Another way is to look at the content of the game, the things to do and the story.
In a good RPG, having a storyline that is engaging to the player is one of the most important things to get right. in fact, having more than one quest line is even better. In Skyrim, it’s well known that there are at least 7 storylines in the base game, going up to 10 including DLC and even more with the ability to mod more into the game. In RuneScape, from what I am able to work out, there are at least 38 different series of quests, each series ranges in length from just a few missions to at least 13 in one of them. But this is to be expected, Runescape has been developing quests for the game since it was released in 2001. Skyrim was stuck with a restricted development timeline and when it was done, that was it.
In either case, both games actually tell stories in a very similar way. To start a quest, you go and talk to a specific person, have a conversation with them to find out what their problem is and then head off to solve the problem. The story is told through the actions that you take and when an objective is complete, another is given too you. Even the way that you talk to NPC’s to get the quests is similar. In both games, you have multiple talking points, one may be to start talking about the quest, another may be to talk about something else and another may be to leave the conversation. There are options to have sarcastic responses, options to make jokes and options to just respond normally, it gives you the freedom to control your character and get deep into the mind of your character. This method is obviously used within RPGs because it works, really well.
This is something that the games do slightly differently, in Runescape, to be able to start various quests, perform various actions, go to various places, you’re needed to have the correct levels.this involves grinding, and I’m not saying standing in place for 20 minutes letting a dwarven sphere hit you over and over to train your blocking skill (I may have done this a few times in Skyrim…), I mean days of repeating the same task over and over, running laps around an assault course to level agility, running back and forth between banks to store your goodies from mining.
This is one of the ways that gameplay is lengthened in Runescape, and it does it very well. it’s almost addictive the way that you just want to go one more level before you go to bed, and then one more, and then one more… In order to progress through the game, you are forced to level up your skills. Skyrim, on the other hand, uses levels to make your life easier, you can be level five and still be able to fully use all the abilities of Deadric Armour. The levelling doesn’t ever restrict you, it just is a stepping stone to be able to make an item or unlock a skill.
This is something that the two games do very differently, In RuneScape, the whole idea of an Economy is far more important than when looking at a game like Skyrim. This is because RuneScape is an MMO. It’s online. It’s thousands of different players on over 150 servers around the world. Supporting this economy is important because just like IRL, everything can fall apart. Items can be made by various players and then, used, bought and sold, or dropped. When selling items you can either sell directly peer to peer setting your own price for whatever your buying or you can sell on the Grand Exchange, a market where the price of items varies based on the supply of items and the number of people wanting items. This keeps things in check and enables people to get pretty much everything wanted, even if it takes a long time for things to buy and sell.
In Skyrim, its pretty much the complete opposite. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of Economy at all, yes you can buy things from vendors and sell items back, eventually for a profit after levelling the right skills enough. but by the time you have that you’ve ended up holding everything to the point where it would just take way too long to sell everything and even then, the shopkeepers don’t have anywhere near enough money available to be able to buy everything off you. This is a mechanic that I think has been missed in singleplayer RPGs for a long time and could easily be recreated, there are lots of NPCs that could be able to travel the map and shuffle stock and money around. If (and when) Bethesda decide to start working on ES6, its a feature I would love to see in the game.
And finally, Gameplay Style. this is one of the major differences between the two games. Runescape is purely a PC game, this means that it features a control scheme that is more like something that I would see within a MOBA like League or Dota. While within combat, your character will perform a single standard attack over and over again, the variation and the damage done is based on selecting different actions do cause different types of attacks. These actions can be placed onto a hotbar which in turn is controlled by the keyboard or set keybind in settings. This method is more designed towards making you think about how best to defeat your enemy. This style is by far the best way to deal with combat in this game because of the third person camera, having to individually click in place to make an attack happen with a mouse is far more intense than setting up a string of attacks that will be performed after a cooldown.
In Skyrim on the otherhand, the game can be played with the third person camera but personally, I’ve always played in first person to get the full immersion of the game. I have also always played with a controller, even on PC. I know that using a keyboard and mouse offers a far superior experience when aiming and moving, but the game was designed with consoles in mind and this meant that the control scheme was optimised for use of a controller. It is also far more comfortable for me to pull a trigger to swing a sword over clicking on a mouse. This means that I am far more likely to go running into a room swinging swords like nobody’s business not caring who gets hurt and answering questions like “are they going to be hostile to me” after.
Both of these games are Huge, far bigger and more complex than the few areas that I have touched on today. That’s why a traditional review of each of these games just didn’t sit right with me. If I was going to choose to play these games, I would do so because of completely different reasons. While Skyrim (If I hadn’t completed it seven times already) would be my goto game for a great RPG Story, I would always go to RuneScape just for a relaxed time playing a game, the fact that it is online and has a huge community of people playing makes it feel so much more inviting as there are other real people in the world. You don’t need to talk to them, you don’t even need to interact with them. but having people roam around the world with you just makes the game far more of an experience than one like Skyrim.