RuneScape was one hell of a game back in the day. Not only does it hold the Guinness World Record as the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game of all time, but its expansiveness is almost unheard of, from its massive game map to the quests and skills that rack up thousands of hours of gameplay. Unfortunately, the game was forgotten in time after a bout of updates that, to most, ruined the game. This included the removal of Wilderness PVP, restrictions on trading between players, and, years later, a complete revamp to the combat system that made the game more like a knockoff World of Warcraft than the browser MMO we grew up with.
This killed off most of the game’s loyal player base, but luckily, the team at Jagex gave us a revival in 2013 with the release of Old School RuneScape, a complete backup of the game’s beloved circa-2007 servers. Ever since, the nearly double-decade-old MMO has spiked in popularity, vastly overtaking the player base for the original game with nearly 100,000 concurrent users every day. It’s now one of the most popular games on Twitch, thanks to new hardcore game modes and esports-sized tournaments! They’ve ensured it’s what the fans want, too, thanks to a polling system that doesn’t simply update the game but also asks players their opinions before adding any new content updates or balancing. One of these polls has led us to a mobile version of the game on both iOS and Android, including cross-platform play with PC users, and boy oh boy, does it ever work smoothly!
If you’re like me, you aren’t the typical MMO player, but you stumbled across RuneScape as a child. It was one of the only games that could be played on any computer, and you’d spend countless hours playing during computer class or a trip to the library. I know I put more time into messing around with the community than I ever spent leveling my character and completing quests. But coming back to the game, I realized the depth and quality of this game still exceeds that of your average video game.
That said, if you’re really like me, then you’re skeptical about playing games on your phone due to the platform’s history of poor ports and cash grabs. Maybe you have a gachapon game, one of Nintendo’s mobile titles, or the battle royale flavor of the month installed—but never a game you’d invest time into like this. Thankfully, Old School RuneScape feels right at home with idle games when it comes to leveling up skills, and the combat aspect of the game plays out perfectly on mobile. Well, unless you’re a higher level and you require click intensive methods to get the job done efficiently.
For the uninitiated, Old School RuneScape isn’t your typical MMO. It is a full-fledged, ever-expanding world with 23 skills to learn, over 200 quests to complete, hundreds of music tracks to unlock, dozens of tasks to complete in Achievement Diaries in each city, and countless mighty foes to face off against—all of this with varying levels of skill requirements. You may train combat skills such as Attack, Strength, Defense, Ranged, and Magic, but you can also test your endurance with non-combat skills like Mining, Fishing, Cooking, and many more.
The leveling curve is one of the biggest appeals: it takes 13 million experience points to reach the level cap of 99, half of which you earn on your journey to level 91. It all pays off, though, when you reach level 99 and unlock a special cape for your achievement that not only offers stat boosts but acts as a status symbol in the game’s community. It can take hundreds of hours to get your first 99, but as you unlock more and start to earn more in-game currency, you’ll find the game opens up for nearly limitless opportunity, challenge, and satisfying rewards. If you’re a fan of grinding your brain to mush, or you’re a completionist, this is the game for you.
When it comes to quests, the difficulty level varies in the same way as skills do. Quests work a lot differently in RuneScape than in most games, too. As opposed to the watered down missions we see in video games today that force you down a path of monotony, this game’s quests actually feel like adventures. You’ll meet hilarious NPCs who send you on journeys that stretch all over the land. You’ll complete tasks that seem impossible, and you’ll find yourself in a lore so deep that any player would need a wiki. The rewards for some of the higher level quests are huge, including massive XP boosts, untradeable items, and abilities that make training your skills a more fruitful endeavor. These quests can take anywhere between a couple of minutes to a couple of weeks, and the payoff is almost always worth it.
However, the amount of content in this game can be hard to keep track of, and sometimes you just don’t want to go into a quest without research. Thankfully, Jagex offers its own community-run Old School RuneScape Wiki, which shows you the best training methods, walkthroughs for all of the quests, and details on every last aspect of the game. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, you’ll notice that RuneScape has had a huge YouTube community since the video platform’s inception, with users like Seerz, Theoatrix, and FlippingOldSchool hosting tons of guides on their channels. There are also a number of streamers with huge fanbases. The community as a whole is super helpful as well, with players and Jagex both heavily involved in the r/2007scape subreddit, hundreds of different player-owned clans to join, and all of the random people you’ll meet in-game who will typically answer any questions you may have while playing.
The in-game economy is also quite unique. In Varrock, a free-to-play city, you can find the Grand Exchange, a game-wide network that allows you to trade items with other players in a Wall Street fashion, with prices fluctuating due to supply and demand exactly like in the real world. You can find out which items are rising and falling in price on the game’s official website. This places value on the in-game currency in a special way, as this makes training your skills and flipping items for profit a worthwhile but dynamic endeavor.
Keep in mind, though, that since this game is populated with other players, there are some sneaky people out there who will offer to double your coins, give your armor a gold trim, or use other devious falsehoods to manipulate you and the game’s economy to their favor. It would be impossible for Jagex to keep track of every scam, but you can report anything suspicious to them with the press of a button. Always use common sense, and discuss with other players whether a deal is too good to be true. Two tips for newer players would be to avoid the wilderness until you understand it, as some other players may try to lure you there in an attempt to kill you and take your items, and to not enter Varrock from the south, as there are Dark Wizards lurking that can kill a starting player in just a single hit.
With all of this content though, there’s gotta be a catch, right? Well, if you want to experience the majority of what Old School RuneScape has to offer, you’ll have to pay about $10 USD for a monthly membership. There are no microtransactions or loot boxes; this game is all about your experience as a player. If you have the means to pay your membership dues with in-game currency, you can buy a membership bond for roughly 4 million GP, which earns you 14 days of membership at no physical cost. But what if you don’t have the money to start off your membership? What if you just want to try the game out? The free-to-play version offers the most popular areas in the game, 15 skills to level up using free-to-play methods, and 20 quests to complete before you make the decision to move forward or not.
If I’ve already sold you on the game, but you don’t want to play on mobile, third-party developers have created applets for PC, such as RuneLite that allow you to play the game with added interfaces that improve your experience even further. I heavily recommend this app, as it makes additions to the gameplay that don’t simply give you an advantage but actually offer up extra features such as item prices and skill levels that you don’t want to keep switching windows to check up on. If you don’t want any hand-holding at all, Jagex or third-party alike, play the game without the applet, and if you’re a fan of hardcore gameplay, try one of the game’s Ironman modes, which provide barebones abilities and limited trading that ensure everything you do is a fruit of your efforts. I’m here to talk about the game’s port to mobile, though, so without further ado, let’s get into what makes the game work in handheld mode.
Since Old School offers huge rewards at the cost of heavy effort, mastering the game has led a lot of people to believe in a system of “zero XP waste,” meaning that devoted players will stop at nothing to earn experience in-game. Thanks to mobile, this has never been easier, and RuneScape players are finally able to leave the house. After weeks of deliberation, I caved and purchased a membership for the first time in years to access the members-only mobile beta. In the past two months, I’ve managed to increase my total skill level from a meager 700 to a mid-sized 1150. I leveled up wherever I could find a decent Wi-Fi connection, from playing at work to waiting in line at the grocery store, and it was the same, if not better than simply playing on PC when I was training non-intensive skills such as Fletching.
However, I found minor difficulties in using higher-end combat methods that require a lot of precise clicking. Using game-tick based methods when skilling can be daunting on mobile, too, as it’s no secret how difficult precision can be on a mobile device. A Bluetooth mouse would likely alleviate these issues. I’m not keen on carrying one everywhere I go, but if you’re more dedicated to the game than me, you might not have an issue with it. Keep in mind, the customer-first approach might make certain gameplay elements easier for mobile users in the future, but as it stands on launch, you won’t have many problems unless you’re a higher level player. They have already improved magic training, enlarging the icons in your spellbook to show exactly what you can cast (rather than a big dashboard of tiny icons you might accidentally press). You can also zoom in with your fingers, and a button on the top left of the sidebar is re-programmable for a couple of different uses, including an option to drop inventory items simply by tapping on them. This can make training inventory-heavy skills just as efficient as the PC version.
When it comes to the audio and visual portions of the mobile port, you can choose to hear the iconic tunes and sound effects, even using the game as a sort of iPod for the game’s beloved soundtrack, or you can mute it all and open an app like Spotify in the background to listen to your favorite music. This kind of all-in-one entertainment on a small device is quite a marvel, and now that your computer screen has more space, playing at home now means you can play other video games, watch movies, or whatever else you want to do while logging hours in RuneScape. Graphically, the game looks like it’s a Java game from 2007, and that’s because it is. The simplistic graphics and animations have molded the game into its own wonderful, enticing atmosphere that many have failed to replicate.
During my mobile play, I’ve noticed some aliasing problems when devoting time to my Agility skill, as rooftop textures can flicker as you move and other tiny visual goofs may occur. I can chalk this up to a very old game being completely rebuilt for a different platform, and I hope these issues are fixed in the future. As it stands, though, you won’t notice these problems that often, and for most, it doesn’t even matter to the game as a whole. You should not come into this game expecting to be blown away by the graphics, but you definitely will be by every other aspect of it.
Old School RuneScape holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts, as one of the oldest MMOs still running, and it continues to be one of the biggest names in the online community through its player count, its massive following on Twitch and YouTube, and its countless memes. For seasoned players, the move to mobile might be enough to go back, and for new players, this is the perfect time to start. The love Jagex shares with its community isn’t simply heartwarming, but it stands as a fully realized pillar of the video game industry’s vision of gamers and developers working together to create a truly unforgettable experience. This game isn’t going anywhere, and I’m sure you’ll find the mobile version to be everything you’re expecting and more. Starting the game is free of charge, so don’t hesitate to try it! This is the ultimate mobile port.
Old School RuneScape: Mobile
The closest relationship you’ll find between developer and player, thousands of hours of gameplay, and a fitting mobile port that feels right.
A few non-mobile friendly button placements, and a few graphical issues, but expect these kinks to be worked out in the future.