Previous posts in this series: Enter the strange world of F2P: Runes of Magic, Runes of Magic: what I liked
Following on from my earlier post about what I liked about Runes of Magic, here are my thoughts about what I didn't like so much.
Crafting - the grind, it burns
Crafting is something that I'm always quick to check out in any game, but I'm still waiting for one to truly blow me away. RoM got an initial nod of approval from me for the fact that they let you start off by learning all ten of their tradeskills. However, you can only learn the second tier of six of them, the third tier of only three, and the fourth and final tier of just one. Reminded me of EverQuest 2 in the concept of learning the basics of everything, and not having to decide what to focus on until you've had a fair chance to see what you like.
However, the actual crafting appears rather mediocre. Like most fantasy MMOs (unfortunately), it's a basic fixed-recipe system - two zinc sand and one ash timber makes a studded wooden club, etc. - with your skill rising as you gather or craft, in an experience point system like LOTRO or EQ2, as opposed to a "chance of skillup" system like WoW.
Gathering nodes (ore, wood, herbs) are ever-present. Rather than being a matter of hunting for nodes, gathering is more about running from node to node, with there almost always being another one on your minimap. However, the actual gathering is slooooow.. 5 seconds to gather one piece, and a node can have up to six pieces in it, I believe. That's 30 seconds of just sitting there watching your character fiddling with a node.
I can't say I've been inspired to push very far with crafting, but the word on the forums is that as you get up towards the higher levels the grind is excruciating, and the crafted items uninspiring.
Free to play, expensive to win
I've often heard the free-to-play model described as "play for free, pay for convenience." And RoM certainly offers a number of conveniences that can be bought from the cash shop. Extra bag space. Extra bank space. Mounts of various speeds. Teleportation runes to take you back home. And of course there are many cosmetic items for sale too: costumes, pets, fireworks, etc.
But, as I mentioned in my "What I liked" post, there are also a lot of things you can buy for diamonds (RoM's standard currency for cash shop purchases) that will materially increase the power of your character quite a lot. And frankly, they're not cheap.
The main thing that frightens me is the number of ways in which you can upgrade gear, with cash shop purchases, to make it considerably more powerful than it could be without spending diamonds. A few bucks on refining jewels to increase the pluses on an item: apparently getting to +2 is feasible with jewels purchased from vendors for in-game gold, but the cash shop will get you up to +5 or +6. A few bucks more to drill rune slots into items - and each one is more expensive than the last. And even more money for purified fusion stones if you want to transmute the perfect set of six stats of your choice onto an items. And then you end up with some uber-item like this:
Now, it can certainly be pointed out that there is a brisk trade in diamonds for in-game gold on the auction house. Theoretically, there's no reason why you couldn't grind a pile of gold in-game, buy diamonds at the AH, and buy all these upgrades without spending a dime of real money. And I'd be lying if I said I had any idea how great a grind that would be - my character is level 16/16, and while the price of diamonds (something like 18,000 gold per diamond) looks enormous to me now, I have no idea how much gold a max level character can generate.
But it's ominous when you read on the forums that without well-upgraded gear, you shouldn't expect to be welcome in endgame group content. Especially if you want to tank (and did I mention that my character, which I like, is a Knight/Priest?). That doesn't really encourage me to keep playing and hope that it becomes possible to participate without either hundreds of hours of grinding or spending rather more than a standard MMORPG subscription on cash shop purchases.
Look, this is not a bad game. It definitely has some charm, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of quest content, and combat is quite fast-paced and as fun as any MMO at my current low level. I can't see myself getting excited about getting to endgame given the situation I described above, but I have no doubt that I'll dip in and out of it now and then, when I'm in the mood for something different - because, hey, it's free! No reason not to!