Runes of Magic has been vaguely on my watch list for a while now, partially because the game sounds interesting and partially because you need an account to even see what the game's prices are, which I'd like to be able to do for commentary purposes. A Massively item code giveaway this weekend convinced me to go ahead and sign up. What have I learned so far?
Apparently, they're not out to take all of my money... or any of it
Strangely, even after making an account, downloading, installing, and updating the client, and rolling up a character, I still can't prove what the item shop Diamond currency actually costs in real money. When I attempt to access the payment page, I get an error that is supposed to go away when you actually create a character. According to the support forums, there are multiple people having the same issue with new accounts, though the first form email support ticket response I got claims that there is a completely undocumented level 10 minimum for actually spending money on the game.
(It's worth nothing that Diamonds are on sale this weekend - albeit not an especially uncommon occurrence. I doubt that they'll honor the sale prices later if they don't get around to fixing my account before the sale ends, not that I can be sure I'd want to buy any since I don't know what the sale prices are.)
Content Fees No, Power Fees Yes
ROM is notable amongst "free to play" games I've looked at (like Free Realms, W101, DDO) in that there are no fees in the shop to unlock content or higher level caps. Instead, those who are actually able to pay for the game pay for convenience and outright power.
Yes, ROM unabashedly allows players to spend exponential and unlimited amounts of cash on gear upgrades for higher stats. If you want to play the game competitively, whether in PVP or group PVE, this may very well be a deal-breaker. Personally, I'm interested in the game to explore the solo content and the dual class system, so I'm not too concerned about being forced to pay the theoretially insane prices to continue advancing.
Travel For Sale Or Grind
Most notoriously, ROM sells travel perks including the famous $10 horse and a variety of teleportation options. Players can "mark" locations using a cash store "marking ink" (relatively cheap) and can then use cash store runes (a bit more expensive) to teleport to those locations (up to 49 of them if you are willing to mark that many locations) at will. There's an additional item used to teleport to player housing (where you can swap out your primary/secondary class and access your bank and house storage chests).
My impression is that playing this game without any kind of mount will not be a lot of fun due to the sizes of zones. Beyond turning in quests, many smaller hubs do not have any vendors for selling your stuff, you get a lot of junk (especially crafting ingredients), and you will want to switch between your two classes every so often in order to keep their levels similar.
However, there are in-game options for obtaining mounts. Short term rentals (15 mins and 2 hours) are available in towns for in-game gold. A 30-day rental is available for a special currency from completing daily quests. You can do up to 10 dailies per day (more if you purchase a cash shop item to reset the turnin cap) earning a total of 100 tokens, and it takes 1400 tokens to purchase the 30 day rental.
That said, these tokens can also be used to purchase other cash store items, including teleport runes (30 tokens per marking ink, 80 per teleport rune, 40 per rune to port to your house), gear upgrade items, respec tokens, and exp/TP boosts. I might be more inclined to spend the money on the big ticket item up front and save the smaller change for these more convenience-oriented items that I would be less willing to purchase a larger diamond bundle for.
There is actual gameplay, though I'm hesitant to get too far into the game until support can verify that my account is not FUBAR. I've got a character to level 12 Warden/11 Scout. Generally, the game seems polished, with reasonable graphics and combat. So far, I'm reasonably happy with the game's dual class system, in which you pick two classes, swapping between them at your house, and gain some of the secondary class abilities. For example, the Warden is a melee pet class who can use Scout skills to shoot arrows, while the Scout is a pure archer who gains melee attacks from the Warden. It's certainly a fun change.
I do think that there are limitations that are designed to make players bump up against things that cost real money. For example, you start with 60 inventory slots, which sounds like a lot until you see how many different types of crafting items drop from mobs and how many quest items take up inventory spaces. (Many games, including LOTRO, Warhammer, and EQ2, now send your 10 rat tails directly to the quest log.) Added to the lack of vendors, and the long distance between you and the nearest vendor if you do not have cash store boosts, and you've got a minor irritant that might not have been as severe if the developers weren't charging to make it less annoying. (There is a separate backpack for your item shop purchases, so these do not eat inventory space.)
That said, so far I haven't hit any real deal breakers. Probably my biggest complaint so far is that it appears that most purchases, including mounts and even currency balances, are bind to character, so I'll want to make up my mind what classes to play before I start spending. However, with this in mind, the game appears to offer a ton of character slots (where other games that don't work this way charge for them), so I guess that all balances out in the end too.
As long as the base game remains fun to play, I'm prepared to tolerate - and maybe even pay a bit for - the actual business model.