Why Menaphos is the most important Runescape update in four years

menaphos update

Runescape is so old now that it’s easier to talk about it in terms of eras than to treat it as one continuous entity. From the days of DeviousMUD to the launch of Old School Runescape, Runescape continues to grow and morph around minor and major updates alike. Menaphos, the latest expansion-style update to the MMO since 2014, marks the start of a new era for this beloved MMO, one of huge add-ons released every few months rather than piecemeal weekly updates.

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But Menaphos is also a statement of intent from Jagex about what they want to create with Runescape. After the division between Runescape and Old School Runescape in 2013, the current game has floundered for its identity amid a whirling torrent of competitors that all claim to be offering something ‘unique’ to fans of the game. 

Fans of Runescape know what they are getting from Old School Runescape with its simple - yet reliable - combat system. Fervent fans of PvP refuse to leave the 2007 version of Runescape behind no matter how much new content today’s Runescape has to offer. Menaphos is a confident and assured answer to the question of what Runescape brings to the table: characterful story, heaps of PvE content, and an unconventional approach to the MMORPG grind. Here’s why Menaphos is the most important update in the last four years of Runescape.

Size

menaphos update

When Jagex released Prifddinas, The Lost City of the Elves, three years ago, it was one of the biggest content updates the game had ever received. Menaphos is even bigger. That’s not a facile comparison. Menaphos is a proper urban sprawl on par with Varrock: you can enter almost every building, have a distinct conversation with nearly every NPC, and explore a couple of secret locations further afield if you’ve experienced everything the Golden City has to offer. To call the expansion Menaphos is even doing it a minor injustice, as there are actually two cities to explore beyond the imposing walls - Menaphos and Sophanem, it’s anagrammed opposite.

While you’ll need to be a mid-level Runescape member to enter Menaphos, once inside you’ll find a remarkably open city, with only a couple of areas sealed off until you’re further into the expansion’s quest series. Below the city there’s a procedurally-generated skilling dungeon and an enormous Slayer dungeon, the former offering a new and limitless space for non-combat skill boosting, while the latter serves as a high-level Slayer dungeon with monsters starting at combat level 101.

Box set mentality

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Jagex estimate that it’ll take you a minimum of 40 hours to get through Menaphos. Of course, that depends on what level you are as you go into the expansion and how fully you want to explore beyond the four main quests and 21 level increase to the Slayer skill. This is an unparalleled amount of content for a single Runescape update, and Jagex’s intention to release another expansion of this size in September and December shows this isn’t a one-off gesture; it’s a new way of playing Runescape.

“It’s a massive change for us and our existing player base in terms of how we deliver content,” says lead designer David Osborne. “We’re used to drip-feeding good, additive pieces of content weekly, but this is about bringing all of that together to give players something they can really immerse themselves in - a long-form story, a lot of skilling and combat content, an expansion to a level cap - all the things you’d want or expect from an expansion.”

Runescape menaphos

Jagex have paid careful attention to changing ways in which people consume content, the popularity of binge-watching Netflix series appears to have inspired the MMO’s switch from regular updates to sprawling expansions. “It’s us moving to the box set mentality,” explains product owner Joseph Redstall, “we did all these surveys last year and we talked about the cadence of updates and it was working fine for us. We could do sizeable chunks of content every two months, but we can’t do as much as this.”

Menaphos is also a chance to bring prospective players into the fold with a more packaged chunk of content. A new map, new quests, new loot, new systems, and an extended skill cap - all under a single release date. Menaphos is about creating a critical mass of stuff for existing, lapsed, and new players to gravitate towards, which could make the decision easier for those who are on the fence about whether or when to dive in.

Setting

Runescape menaphos

Jagex have stamped a peculiar niche onto Runescape's grim fairy tale setting over the course of its 16 years. It’s a medieval fantasy realm that spans a huge number of cultures and environments, but it also drags in steampunk and modern-day influences. In large part, that’s because it’s a world that’s grown by way of hundreds of small content updates, most of which were alterations to existing locales.

Jagex rarely get to flex their artistic muscle with a blank space. What we knew of Menaphos was confined within the low-res stone walls at its borders - nothing else existed beyond the trollish gates, which players could walk up to, but not travel beyond. For the first time, Jagex was working with some of that empty space, creating content for the Menaphos update from scratch rather than building it on top of a town that already existed. 

“We had this literal blank canvas,” says Redstall, “the city has to be there but at the moment it's just sand. So we got to choose how it was going to look and that was a lot of fun during the pre-production phase.” The look and tone they settled on is certainly very Runescape, a blend of ancient Egyptian architecture and lush, cartoonish blobs of colour and life more reminiscent of modern-day Marrakesh. A glimpse of the key art tells you everything you need to know: you’re getting a desert area; you’re getting that Indiana Jones, matinee show vibe; you know there’s going to be exploration, adventure, romance, and political intrigue.

Visually, it’s one of the most striking settings in the game, a total breath of fresh air that’s distinct from even the major desert settings like Al Kharid, Nardah, and Pollnivneach.

It’s also one of the biggest updates since Jagex switched Runescape from a browser-based game to NXT, the downloadable client that launched in 2016. Menaphos is something of a reveal in terms of what’s possible with the new client: the Golden City is gorgeous. Volumetric lighting and new water effects lend Menaphos a utopian feel. The city is light and open, you feel the heat of the sun overhead, columns of light piercing through palm leaves. But this isn’t Al Kharid. The city streets are paved, houses and shops are brightly patterned and adorned with hanging plants, the water is blue and crystal-clear, offsetting the heat of the desert sun. As much as NXT has helped beautify existing game areas, it’s nothing compared to the splendour and opulence Jagex have managed to eke out of Menaphos.

There’s a real focus on single-player content

Runescape menaphos

Since the advent of Old School Runescape, Runescape has increasingly focussed on delivering a single-player RPG experience towards rivalling those offered by Bioware or Bethesda, with an emphasis on questing and solo progression. Menaphos embraces that mentality wholeheartedly, with skilling built into every street and district in the city, as well the Shifting Tombs mini-game and Sophanem Slayer dungeon for non-combat and combat skilling respectively.

Outside of these areas, opportunities for boosting XP are scattered throughout the city itself. Thieves can train in the Merchant district, stealing from stalls and NPCs alike. The Worker district is home to level 50 mining opportunities. There’s a new type of tree for level 47 woodcutting in the Imperial district. Head over to the Port district and you’ll find three new types of fish to catch and cook: a level 50, 62, and 70. Finally, there’s a new Hunter animal at level 60 across the river in Sophanem.

The Shifting Tombs mini-game is the main focus of Menaphos. It’s a randomised area you can enter either alone or in a group. Before entering you select the type of non-combat XP you want to gain, and once inside, you have five minutes to complete as many activities as possible. Fail to find the exit and escape before the timer runs out and you’ll lose everything you gained inside. For the most part, Shifting Tombs asks you to run through a maze, clicking on objects to rack up as much XP as possible - there are some simple puzzles that net bigger rewards, if you’ve got the time to crack them of course. Sophanem Slayer dungeon, on the other hand, is an ideal spot for gaining combat skills, rising to the new Slayer level cap, and earning loot.

menaphos update

Menaphos isn’t just a good space for character progression though. Advancements in every type of skill while in the Golden City are essential to discovering more of its story. That’s because of a new Reputation system, which effectively encourages players to see more of the city by gating key events behind a factional and citywide Reputation system. Skilling is one of the many ways you can increase your Reputation with a given faction and the city overall. It means you can progress your character as you explore the city and advance through the main story. It’s an organic approach to tackling well over 40 hours of content that should cater to that various types of playstyles the game supports, from those that want to efficiently surge through the expansion’s highlights, to more casual players who want a more immersive experience.

Any one of those features would make Menaphos an important update for the Runescape community, but Menaphos is a comprehensive checklist of RPG goodness. It’s an expansion that respects and cherishes the grind, one that shows Jagex know its community and are listening to them. Above all else, it’s a sign that the 16-year-old MMORPG is rediscovering its identity. It’ll never be the same as the game millions played back in the mid-2000s, but there’s a lot to love about the direction Jagex are taking this treasured IP in.

Menaphos is live now and free to enter for Runescape members, although there are a couple of quests you’ll need to have finished before you can enter the Golden City.

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Zulisian avatarGoobersmoocher avatarJakob von Feldmann avatar
Zulisian Avatar
1
3 Months ago

As a Runescaper since 2006, with a consistant membership never lapsing, I'd like to say this update is awful and gets less than 1 star.

Players are forced to play repetitive games and or skill for 40+ hours if they wish to complete the new story line quests.

It's not an expansion to be proud of, there is little to do here that other cities in Runescape don't already have.

Huge let down.

In game name: Zulisian (currently Grindyphos)

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Jakob von Feldmann Avatar
3
3 Months ago

Not the best update ever, but not the worst. I was expecting more, but hey, this is the first official expansion to RS. They have room to improve. I loved the story content, the graphical update of the desert (they widened the River Elid finally; we need that for all rivers in the game) and the city itself, as well as the fact that it's a nice skilling hub for mid-range players (Prifddinas is still the better hub for higher-level players), but the faction system restricts players from playing the content they want. Instead of pacing the player as I think they were trying to do, it merely limits the player in a frustrating way.

I've seen a lot of updates in my 13 years of playing RS, and there have been worse ones. However, they can do better and I hope they take player feedback into account for the next expansion in September.

6/10 from me.

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Goobersmoocher Avatar
1
3 Months ago

I was slightly interested in this "new" area... after catching a headline hinting at it on the world wide web thus I was drawn to the article above.

After reading it however, it seems to me that few hard core specifics are really given other than it's visually stunning. Well whoop-dee-dooo! If that's the case, those running the show at Jagex have undoubtedly whiffed at yet another pitch for yet another strike. We've seen visually impressive or even stunning before... over a decade ago... but with content that's not really fun, WHAT'S THE POINT?!?

The article itself made me think of the past when Dungeoneering came out. Was it new? Yup. Was it exciting? A little bit. Was it cool? That all depended on who you were talking to at any given time but most folks were NOT impressed with it at all after a short time when the reality of the skill sunk in. And you've got to be freakin' kidding me! Level 120? Dungeoneering itself? It turned out to be nothing more than a pain in the ass method of getting a few new items and oh yes, it took a lot of hours to do it!

What it really amounted to when I looked at it, played it and saw what was involved... was that skill was nothing more than a "skill" put into place in order to give all the obsessive/compulsives something to do after they'd completed everything else to do under the RS sun. Can you say... level 120 anyone?!? I knew you could! The fear at the time was that level 120 was going to become the new standard for all skills but for those of us that were still sane and exercised common sense logic, we saw nothing more than an empty shell with a great paint job.

Let's face it... mindless clicking to level up some skills to 99 was already bad enough but if you wanted it all then that's what you did. Besides gaining some items to show off such as capes and the like... titles... yada-yada-yada... being on the top page of the hi-scores table... or on the individual skills tables meant you were "the best" and should be worshipped. Or at least be highly thought of. BY THE NOOBS THAT IS. Adults knew it was just hours of your real life invested in a game clicking away ad nauseam. Anyone remember Zezima worship? I sure as hell do and I still hate that guy's name after all these years! I saw him in a bank ONE SINGLE TIME back around 2006 and it was pathetic! A small army of followers a fall-fall-following him everywhere. OMG times three!! Get a life nooblets!

The point is that in many ways some of the skills became worthless after you reached a certain level though I will concede Jagex made some kind of effort to change that over the years with new content. The idea was to make them fun again or at least for there to be some point. Observation: a lot of that content was also pointless or downright stupid! Oops! So much for change. In any case, just because there's new content doesn't mean it'll be fun or worthwhile in even a small measure. It also may just be installed for uber quick leveling up so that all the crybabies will be pacified. Think Divination skill here... and the main mini-game created for fast leveling. All it was there to do was to allow people to reach a 99 ASAP. Again I must ask the question... what was the point? Was there ever a point? Not really... and folks wonder why so many players hang onto and wish for the day when Jagex would knock off the shenanigans and go back to RS before the quacked era began... which was right around the time of Construction. The game was really FUN back then aside from cheaters using bots.

To finish up, I'll admit I haven't been on RS since 2012 when my account was hacked. I lost about 1.5 billion in cash and items... never got anything back nor was my account restored. I told Jagex give me back what I earned or you lost my money for more members play forever... they never said a peep via e-mail so that was that. I finished out my membership time, converted to F2P for a short period then found another game to spend my cash on. I eventually did find out what happened to my account though... it was the great Yahoo hack of a couple years ago - that's how the hackers gained my info. To this day I wonder how many players lost it all due to that same thing happening to them... I bet it was a lot. None of us knew for a long time - and some of us went overboard checking our systems for malware to never find any. Of course there wasn't... the hackers had gained over a billion Yahoo account passwords. They didn't need to hack any further. All they had to do is log on to any given Yahoo account and check for evidence of an RS account and take advantage of it if something useful was found. That's EXACTLY how I lost almost everything I'd taken years to earn... and it's why Jagex lost a loyal customer. Was that their fault? NO. It wasn't... but the least they could have done was restore my account since it wasn't my fault either. All they had to do was restore my account... that's all I asked for. Hell, I even assisted in turning in the account of one of the jackasses that did it - the little bastard had the gall to brag about it in front of me at the Grand Exchange the next day (undoubtedly using a throw away account) but I did my part by reporting the whole conversation a page at a time. End result? They couldn't even return an e-mail.

That does sound about right though... doesn't it? They seem to be conducting bad business yet again years later in more ways than one and the player benefits nothing either way.

End thought? The more things change the more they stay the same! So get a life folks... and do something in the REAL world. Go to school. Read some books. Practice some REAL skills... like playing an instrument. Work with wood or metals... learn to code. Grow food. Do SOMETHING in the REAL world and change your world! Best wishes!

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