If you think about it, it's quite extraordinary that Runescape is still being played and has an active community after more than 16 years since its initial release. Jagex has been supporting its MMORPG with weekly updates, adding a new quest or a new skill here, or maybe a new area there, however, for the first time ever, a full expansion has been released for the game. It's called Menaphos: The Golden City, and it offers a huge space which looks like an ancient city from Egypt. We got a chance to enter its gates before they opened for the public, and we got a quick look at the new content it adds to Runescape.
Outside the city walls we found ourselves in the midst of open sandy deserts filled with creatures, however, inside the shiny walls there's a thriving city including markets, ancient tombs, a haven, pyramids and ancient gods. From our memory we recall that Menaphos was always there, but could never be entered, and we also notice that the game clearly looks better than we remember, especially the lightning effects are much improved and overall Runescape looks more polished. It looks good for such an old game, yet it still has low enough system requirements that it's playable in browser, which a lot of Runescape's players still do.
The expansion, which was a favourite request among fans, introduces some new concepts to the game. Both new and experienced players can wade into Menaphos, although new players have to play through three quests beforehand (these take around five hours) so that they can better understand the narrative context. The main quest lets players take on the pharaoh and the gods, by forming a rebellion against them. This corruption-filled mission comes after completing four quests, and these can be finished in around one hour each, but the expansion has more to offer than just that.
One of these additions is the new dynamic quests, called City Quests, which are procedurally generated and gain you reputation for the different city factions. The missions are your typical fetch quests, just like the ones that all other MMOs use. Players can contribute rewards to these different factions, and depending on which faction the player favours, they will receive different rewards. Far more interesting are the Shifting Tombs. The tombs work like a time trial and are focused more on speed and skill, instead of combat. Players get a five-minute time limit to break a certain number of pots, open chests, solve a sarcophagus puzzle, and get out of the tombs with a rope to collect the items they've found. If you're too late getting out you will lose the items. It's a refreshing add-on to the traditional gameplay of the MMORPG, and it fits Runescape.
Players looking for combat can tackle Slayer Dungeons, which is end game content for high-level adventurers. The Slayer level cap also has been raised, now to 120, as it's a raise that was demanded and one of the more popular skills. The catacombs that players will explore are also procedurally generated, but instead of pots that don't fight back, these ones are filled with deadly monsters. What we saw during our hands-on were dark areas filled to the brim with enemies and deadly puzzles.
Even the gods themselves will oppose you in Menaphos. Crondis, the crocodilian goddess of pleasure, lives in a palace where she demands love and laughter from her people, all while she gorges on their food and drink. She is just one of the many colourful characters you will cross paths with in the city of Menaphos. At the end of the road, players will challenge the greedy pharaoh himself in a boss battle. His guards must be dealt with first; once they're defeated, the pharaoh himself enters, putting out toxic green pools that get harder to avoid as they fill the plaza where the battle takes place.
One final place we got to visit was the Grand Library, and it's the perfect example of the loyal community Runescape has. Here Jagex placed books filled with fan-made stories that add to the lore. At times this expansion almost feels like something out of an Indiana Jones adventure, with streets filled with life. Stray cats stroll around dusty streets and there are magic carpets to ride. Fans who haven't visited Runescape for a while should have enough reason to check back in and discover the secrets of Menaphos. If you've always wanted to try Runescape, but never got around to it, now is the perfect time.
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