Every now and then, new MMORPGs come and go, and over the years, few manage to retain a loyal and sizeable playerbase for an extended period of time. Whether through the power of nostalgia, an addicting gameplay loop, or its frequent updates, Runescape has maintained a very active fanbase even after over a decade since its release. So what makes it so good?


If you’ve never heard of Runescape before, it’s a medieval-themed MMO developed by Jagex that has changed drastically since it was first released in 2001. The game offers a monthly subscription that unlocks access to tons of new features, though free-to-play players can still enjoy copious amounts of content and, with some time and effort, earn a “Bond,” a tradeable item that grants 14 days of membership.

So far, the game has gone through 3 major iterations, with the second, aptly dubbed “Runescape 2”, being the most popular version to this date. Now you’re probably wondering, how would I know it’s the most popular version if the game hasn’t been that way for a long time now?

Well, back in 2012, Jagex released the highly controversial update known as the “Evolution of Combat”, which completely revamped the game’s combat system. It was a very divisive change that the majority hated. One year later, with a declining player count, the company decided to put up a poll asking whether or not they should release a separate version of the game based on a 2007 build that they had lying around.

Released in 2013, Old School Runescape, or “OSRS” for short, brought back a lot of players, and any new changes are mostly decided by the community through polls. Since then, the devs have been releasing loads of new content, such as quests that open up new areas and introduce powerful gear sets. As of writing this, OSRS typically has nearly triple the main game’s active population on a daily basis, and personally, I only really play that version anyway. Despite its dated graphics and admittedly boring gameplay, the Old School version just has a certain charm to it that keeps players coming back for more.

OSRS (Blue) vs Main Game (Yellow) Population in late December 2019
(taken from: http://www.misplaceditems.com/rs_tools/graph/)

A Game of Freedom

(As I don’t really touch the main game, I’ll only be focusing on OSRS.)

Thrust into the magical world of Gielinor, players are free to do whatever they want. Whether you wanna kill monsters or fish all day, the game doesn’t really restrict you past a few level requirements and quests (which, as mentioned earlier, unlock more places to visit). It features a plethora of areas, quests, and leveling methods, so you’ll never really run out of things to do and explore until you’re maxed (which is no easy feat, as it takes several months to years of effort for an average player to achieve that goal).

If you’re like me and prefer to do things on your own pace, I’d recommend you avoid following people’s guides to the “most efficient” ways to do things and just explore the game and do whatever works for you. Trust me, you’ll have much more fun that way.

I’m gonna be completely honest, OSRS is a massive grindfest that has you doing the same things for hours on end, and it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. With that said, what reels me in and keeps me playing is the feeling of progression in almost every aspect of the game. There is no real “end goal” to the game, you just run around, level up, and do quests, creating your own story along the way. It’s all about getting those numbers up, and seeing the level up screen and the fireworks above your character’s head just never gets old.

Speaking of quests, Runescape probably has some of the most memorable and fun quests I’ve ever completed. While in a typical MMO, NPCs will have you running around picking x amount of objects or killing y amount of enemies, this game has quests that range from humorous and short errands to epic adventures that have you traveling across Gielinor and slaying terrifying monsters that threaten the general populace

If I had to choose my favorite activity in the game, it’s gonna be pretty much anything that’s PvE. There are a lot of combat-based activities in the game, ranging from the PvP duel arena to the Pest Control minigame, but in my opinion, none of that is as fun as training the Slayer skill. You train Slayer by going to one of the few masters scattered around the world and asking them for assignments where you kill all sorts of monsters, each with different strengths/weaknesses and quirks that require the use of special items. It’s a simple enough task that also gets your other combat skills up, and you get to explore Gielinor as you search for the places where your targets spawn. Aside from that, killing bosses can also be loads of fun, and OSRS has a lot of them!

Me fighting Hespori, a boss that grants Farming XP and seeds after a successful kill

It’s too repetitive!

As mentioned earlier, the game is all about grinding and RNG. Some may consider this a flaw, but that’s what the entire game is based around, a whole lot of grunt work and luck. Behind every engaging boss encounter or raid (yes, there are endgame raids in Runescape) is a few hours of collecting and crafting supplies or earning the money to buy them.

Every artisan skill in the game, such as fletching and smithing, rely on your gathering skills, such as woodcutting and mining. I’ll admit, training in general is fundamentally boring, and getting these skills up can definitely feel like a chore. At higher levels, you’ll be able to AFK most gathering skills as it’ll take you minutes to chop through a top tier tree, but the journey leading up to that point is tedious and can easily turn away both newcomers and veterans.

OSRS’s Grand Exchange feature remedies this by allowing players to buy and sell any tradeable item in bulk across all servers, which makes training some skills easier at the cost of thousands or even millions of ingame currency. However, even if you’re swimming in gold, this only takes away the gathering part of the grind, and you’ll still find yourself fletching arrows for an hour or two before getting bored and doing something else.

Regardless of these issues, those who choose to suck it up and invest a lot of time into the game (whether by playing a lot in a short period of time or in quick bursts throughout several months) are rewarded with even more content to enjoy and some untradeable goodies to show off their achievements, such as the unique capes you can get for reaching level 99 in a skill

My character wearing the Construction cape for reaching 99 Construction

Should I play Runescape?

As cliche as this sounds, I think the only real way to see if you’ll enjoy it is by trying it out yourself. OSRS is like a cup of coffee. It’s an acquired taste, and while it may leave a bad taste in your mouth at first, if you stick with it for a while, you’ll grow to love it for what it is, which is a pixel-y medieval game where you watch numbers go up.

There are a lot of things to do in this seemingly simple game, and I’ll be stuck here for days if I tried to list them all down. If you don’t mind a lot of repetitive gameplay and are looking for an MMO that you can just kinda pick up for an hour or two at a time and still make some significant progress, then consider checking it out!

By the way, OSRS is also available on mobile with cross-platform support!

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