E3 2009 is almost over, but there's still time to cover games like Runes of Magic, a free-to-play online fantasy game being shown at a booth in the back of West Hall. Runes of Magic is a fantasy-themed game that lets you explore a colorful fantasy world, ride a creature as a mount, engage in player-versus-player arena battles, and craft items.
Who's Making This Game: German studio Frogster Interactive.
What the Game Looks Like: The game bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain world in which war is crafted. It's bright, colorful, and goes easy on the polygon count, presumably to help the game scale across a range of different computers.
What There Is to Do: Fight monsters, fight other players in arena PvP battles, craft items, ride mounts (which you can either get temporarily from the world or purchase permanently from the "cash-op" online store), and invest in player housing in the form of your own personal house at a "capital city" location, or in the form of a pricey guild hall with your guild mates.
How the Game Is Played: You play as one of six basic character classes (warrior, scout, rogue, mage, priest, knight), though at a certain point in the game, you can "dual class" your character to one of the other character classes and gain levels there. You can also use your character's housing as a location to completely change to a different class, so you can fill out other roles in your adventuring party if, for instance, your healer logs out. You'll also gain talents with each experience level to invest into various character skill lines. Currently, the game has a level cap of 50.
What They Say: Runes of Magic has a lot to offer, and its reasonable cash-op store will not let you buy anything that will make you more powerful than another player; rather, it will carry convenience items and vanity stuff, such as housing furniture or costumes.
What We Say: Runes of Magic is free, but it's not clear whether the game will remain competitive with the cancerlike growth of new free-to-play online games that constantly try to outdo each other with customization, combat, and gameplay options. The game was launched in March and will have its next major content update in September.