Enough to compete with most Subscription Based MMORPGs
Back in 2004, Blizzard left a dent on the MMORPG market with its release of World of Warcraft. WoW pulled the genre into the mainstream completely, and at the same time inspired the Taiwan Based Developers of Runes of Magic, Runewaker, into developing an MMORPG that follows suite with feature that WoW uses, and a select few other Subscription Based MMORPGs. The development of Radiant Arcadia(the Asian Version's title) began. Frogster Interactive later picked up the license to publish/distribute the game for the Western Hemisphere, and changed it's name to "Runes of Magic" or RoM for short. Runes of Magic delivers a solid MMORPG experience that can compete with most Subscription Based MMORPGs with its Free to Play price tag.
In search of a replacement for the now defuncted Flagship Studios Seattle's title Mythos, I found Runes of Magic, at first I was hesitant because I had done almost all WoW could deliver and didn't want to play another game that follows much after the way WoW plays. Eventually I changed my mind and signed up for the Closed Beta, and got invited to test, I was happy with what they had in the game at that time.
The game is presented to you as a Free to Play with a Micro-transaction System, a Cash Shop(Item Mall), as most would call it. One difference in the system compared to the Standard F2P MMORPG is the ability to trade the "Cash Shop Currency", which from this point on will be referred to as Diamonds. The System may look fair from first glance, but it has its flaws. One Flaw is completely server dependent, where diamonds have become the "Main Currency" for the server. Gold, the in-game currency, in regards to the Auction House is primarily limited to the exchange section where players control the gold to diamond and vice versa exchange rates. With such a system it in effect creates a "Pay to Win" System which we control where every rare item in effect becomes a Paid Item. Such a system is usually not welcome in a F2P MMORPG. Although players could in essence "Earn" the Diamonds, by finding and selling rare items for Diamonds, it still creates an unfair paying advantage. Some players do not enjoy such advantages because they affect game balance. The system was taken down for a while because of a credit card fraud incident, and we were able to see how the game was like without the ability to trade Diamonds. IMO the economy and game balance was better during that period.
If you played WoW, and feel like you need a F2P substitute you'll feel somewhat at home in RoM. The gameplay in RoM tries to follow a new trend in the standard MMORPG genre by implementing full WASD Controls and the ability to jump. But, the WASD Scheme IMO felt latched on and by default everything felt designed around the Click to Move Scheme, which is on by default. Controls are great and works well, but I would have liked to see more in terms of "Keybinding", they allowed us to Rebind most of the stuff, but you can not bind your extra mouse button without the help of a profiler for your mouse.
The default interface is simple and customizable without the need for addons, but from my experiences with it, it was a memory hog, and playing the game with it off granted a 10-20 FPS gain. Aside from the built in customizations, you have XML/LUA based Scripting to create addons to enhance your gameplay.
Character Creation is limited to Gender, Class, a limited selection of faces, 3 size builds, height, and breast Size(female only). An Upcoming expansion will introduce the Elven People as a race, and two additional classes, but for now you are limited to human Warriors, Knights, Scouts, Priests, Mages, and Rogues. The Warrior is you standard Weapons Master that concentrates on Offense. The Knight is your tank class, that concentrates on Argo holding and defense. The Scout is your standard ranged damaged dealer. The Priest is your run of the mill healer. The Mage is your magical ranged Damage Dealer, and the rogue is your Melee Damage Dealer, although the warrior falls under here in some cases. At level 10 you get to choose your secondary class. The Dual Class System basically allows you to have two classes which you can switch between the two through an NPC. Also you can use the secondary Skills of the Secondary Class on your primary class. For example, you can choose Warrior/Priest, and on the warrior you will be able to cast the secondary Heal spell. Not a unique system, but it offers a change of pace from the standard one class system.
The Gameplay is straight forward, you start as a "Adventurer" as sorts and complete basically a series of Tutorial Quests and finally move on to the meat of the quests in the city of Varanas. Like I stated in the Paragraph above at that time you should have reached Level 10 which is the time for you to choose your Second Class which you can switch between the two from going to your house maid or class master. Because of the requirement to level two classes, Runewaker created multiple locations for each level range with ample quests to level them both. Unlike most F2P MMORPGs where you are asked to go kill 200 wolves because they are annoying Mr. Yang. RoM has good little stories in each quest, that only ask you to kill upto 15 per quest. Although in actuality the two concepts are one in the same, RoM offers more quests and short stories to keep you entertained if you read the quest text. RoM is a quest based MMORPG where the fastest way to level up is to complete quests rather than grinding.
The Art Direction, I found to be a mix between WoW and Guild Wars which is a pretty good mix and works out well. However the art direction for me was ignored because of the poorly optimized in-house graphic engine they created. Naturally there are going to be compatibility issues, but higher spec PCs having Framerate issues isn't good for business, and can pull players away.
The overall world design IMO was one of the better designs available, but they contain a somewhat "Generated" feel to them. Every part of the world is hilly as if the map designer overused the Plateau tool while crafting the world. However, as you progress through the game you'll see improvements in the Mapping, showing promise that the world as a full will be fairly high quality.
Although Im only giving it a 3.5 star, it quite possible is probably one of the best F2P MMORPGs out in the Market today. A must download. Its free, so you're not wasting any time downloading it.