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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Runescape: The Branches of Darkmeyer Review

Warning: Some Spoilers- Proceed at your own risk!
Branches of Darkmeyer came out this week.  Monique and I did the quest last night, and I had a lot of mixed feelings about it.  Story-wise, it was enjoyable, with plenty of intrigue, betrayal, action and adventure.  As expected for a theme involving vampires.  It's the newest chapter of an ongoing storyline, and leaves you with an appropriate foreshadowing of more to come.  I enjoy most new quests without reservation.  This one, while excellent in overall depth and scope, had some problems.  

Speaking from a plot progression point of view, I got stuck in Myerdark trying to sneak past the vampires in a smoke cloud.  Monique flew right on by them, they never noticed her.  Me?  Probably spent 15 minutes getting constantly caught by the last vampire and sent back to the start.  Got a little tired of it.  But maybe that was just me, and a bit of bad luck.  I had more of an issue with the baby bloodvelds.  Apparently they appear randomly at pre-set locations.  I found 3, easy.  4, no problem.  5 was tough.  But that darn 6th bloodveld just wasn't anywhere.  I finally ran to one spot where they were known to appear, and as I paused, he suddenly showed up right next to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to find all 6, and apparently you don't have to collect them all, but we didn't know that.
Each thing taken alone wouldn't cause a problem.  But all 3 together was a serious run of stumbling blocks that took me out of the story, and added frustration.

On a much more serious direction, another problem was the tone of the story.  As the fantastical hero in a magical game, I've noticed Jagex sometimes puts me, the good guy, in a situation where I must do something I'm morally uncomfortable with.  Considering it's a fantasy, and I like being the good guy, I find it disturbing when I'm required to drink human blood, torment victims in prison, or kill captured humans for vampire entertainment.  Even if you don't worry about the message sent to our youth, at least give players a choice.  To give Jagex credit, they did offer a choice for killing humans.  It wasn't a palatable choice, and involved breaking away from the quest to collect a dagger I threw away years ago...  but they offered a choice.  For many of the other plot elements, there was no alternative.  Don't do the action, don't finish the quest.  As simple as that.

That being said, it IS just a game, and just elements in a story.  I understand it's not real life, and don't expect anybody to run amuck in real life because of Runescape.  So while I'm uncomfortable with it, I'm not TOO wound up about it.  It didn't destroy the quest for me, and I just went with the flow.  It's just something I've noticed with Runescape.  They don't have a problem taking an amoral stance, and sometimes I'm a bit uncomfortable with it.  No big deal.  Moving on, now...

I liked the complexity of the characters.  When your leader might turn into a bad guy, and your enemy has become your friend…  and they both seem to have a secret understanding...  Plus, as I mentioned, my own character seems to feel that the end justifies any means… then you just don't know what to expect at any moment. 

We finally get to see the actual vampire city, and explore it (In depth!)  We earn vampire high society rank, learn to make weapons deadly to vampires.  The city even has a useable bank and altar.  I haven't gone back after the fact and explored, but I've heard that you can use the new weapons, and access to Darkmeyer to kill vampires easily for slayer tasks.  I use Kuradel, and she's never assigned vampires yet to me… time will tell.

As far as the boss fight, Jagex struck a great balance this time.  I'm not very good at any kind of real-time combat.  My favorite fighting is pray-hit-eat.  That's why I had so much trouble with Jad and Nomad.  Vanstrom has elements of that.  You can't just go in and tank him.  But it wasn't beyond me.  To be honest, I got killed about 5 times.  2 times, my Ring of Life saved me.  Recovering your stuff from death is not too bad, it's all in a neat stack with your gravestone just outside the door to Vanstrom's home.  Losing my Yak and all the Rocktail he's carrying was a bigger pain.  But bearable.

Once the fight was over, and the final cutscene played out, I got my rewards.  Wow, talk about a great quest for rewards!  You get a ton of specific exp rewards, 3 50k chapters in the tome of knowledge.  (I put all three in Slayer.)  New weapons to be made, a cool new costume to wear. 

And… Drakan's Medallion, that can teleport you to Burgh de Rott, Meiyerditch Dungeon Lab, Meiyerditch Myreque hideout, the Barrows, and Darkmeyer.  This unlocks an area that's always been tedious to get to.  Easy access to Burgh de Rott now, with it's bank.  Quick trip to Barrows.  Between those two teleports, you can constantly be doing Barrows trips until you have ALL the Barrows Armor you want!  Plus, the dungeon laboratory?  Bloodveld assignments just got super-easy.  Take a cannon to the Mutated Bloodvelds, and blast through for fast exp in Slayer.

The Medallion has 10 charges, but only uses a charge if you're teleporting in from the rest of Runescape.  So long as you stay in that general area, there's 'No Charge' for the trip!  If you do need to recharge it, just dip it in the Pool, in the cave where you found the medallion.  (Very easy access from the Burgh de Rott teleport.)

I loved all the rewards, but that medallion has to be my favorite, even above the 150k the Tome of Knowledge gives.

So, put briefly- some things I didn't like, more that I did like, and the rewards are incredible.  This is a quest well worth doing.

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