So let me tell you a little about Runes of Magic.
Runes is yet another fantasy hack and slash online game, with a few interesting quirks. Friend Winter calls it the game I'm cheating on Second Life for, and I won't say she's wrong, but at the same time, it lacks a great many things that still draw me to SL.
There are a few things I really like about it, so let me go through those quickly. I should also add that by agreement, I can't show you any of the current screenshots I may--or may not--have taken (which, for any level of photographer? Quite frustrating, yes!). So I'm turning to the big guns, the gaming blogs, for my content mentions.
First, dual-classing. You can really change your character depending on how you pair things. There are six official classes: Scout (long-distance shots a specialty); Rogue (can loot anything); Priest (empowered by the gods with healing magics); Knight (using the power of the gods and light itself to protect and defend); Warrior (your average tank); and Mage (your average spellcaster). No class in the secondary position can use its primary-class skills; essentially, this means that really cool thing you do with your Knight in the chain armor won't work with your Rogue when your Rogue's primary (not the least of why because your Rogue can't wear anything above Leather).
Second, crafting. It's not perfect, and it's not creating user content, but it's a lot more fun than you might think to track down the wild deposits of brass in the mountains, the mountain poplar growing in the woods, and take them all to the alchemist's and make your own healing potions that will restore 220 HP at one swallow. Tell me that's not damned cool.
In every colony or city, there are groups of people devoted to whatever craft they're masters in. This picture depicts Alice the Herbalist, who resides in Pioneer's Colony, the first town you come across. There are herbalists, alchemists, blacksmiths and armorsmiths, tailors, cooks, and carpenters--and you can choose to apprentice to all of them until you figure out if one pulls you more than any of the others. It's a wonderful addition to the base game.
Third, it's a restricted-race world. Don't ask me why this is a plus, but it is. You can be any of (a limited set of) heights, weights, you can be muscled or whipcord-thin; male or female, and your hair can be any shade of the rainbow you desire. But all human. Six, seven skin tones, from pale-pale (which looks yellow) to dark almost red-brown (which looks tan), but all human. No one is on any one 'side' or the other; no one speaks a language other people don't understand. It's all us against them, and all the people who play in world are us.
Fourth, it's a surprisingly pretty world. I don't know if that will have an impact to those more used to virtual fantasy worlds than I am; but believe me, for me it's a selling point. I love that it has changing light, changing seasons; that the soundtrack music changes depending on where I am, that I can hear birds, see sunlight shafts through o'erhanging trees, watch water flow over stones. Each cave, each mine, is distinct and different, and I'm surprisingly in love with the terrain already.
They have very pretty magic effects for their monster battles.
They also have weird theme days. Their version of Saint Valentine's Day, f'rinstance, is bizarre to say the least--you must talk to the people on the unicorns, who give you a rose seed, which you then have to find growth medium for, and water, until it sprouts a rose...and did we mention you'll be fighting giant snails, slugs and beetles who want to eat the "flower of your love"?
A young wolf pet in Varanas City.
A group ready to head out in Logar, showing the variety of weaponry and characters.
An average progression from beginner to advanced in Knight for men; a similar progression from beginner to advanced in Mage (or Priest; most likely Mage) for females.
Another mix, this time of typical NPCs seen in cities (the little blonde girl has shown up in Logar and Varanas City so far).
And this is sketchwork, but it's been glowingly realized in 3D, with some of the most beautiful red-purple tattered-wing bats I've ever seen; just gorgeous.
It's in open beta now; this means it's free to sign up (they want as many people as possible play-testing and passing reviews back and forth), but it may not be free later. Already, some things are pay-only--larger backpacks, larger storage spaces, permanent horses to ride, certain house furnishings. You can still get by without paying, but yes, those for-pay items will eventually be what funds the game. They're talking about adding specialty races and weaponry for pay clients only. It's not the worst concept.
So far, there's only two negatives to playing:
First, the cast of characters. Even though the agreement to enter game is eighteen or over, I think there are a surprising number of fourteen-to-sixteen-year-old teenage boys. There's also a larger than average number of "Roleplay? What roleplay?" stickjocks and tanks. My blacklist (similar to muting people in world) is growing by leaps and bounds.
Second, while they may have added more US-based download clients, when I downloaded the game some few weeks back, my fastest option was through Denmark, and it still took five hours. It is an insanely huge game; I think nearly everything is client-side. But because of that, maybe that's why everything else looks so good--the odd it-doesn't-look-flexi-but-it-is manes and tails on horses, hems on garments, the spider-scrabble on all those legs, the flexi hair.
And the breast physics. I've been told some gamers log in and open their female characters just to watch them walk around. Sexist? Maybe. But the breast physics are there.
Thankfully for the rest of us, so is everything else.