We recently published an article talking about the differences between Old School Runescape (OSRS) and Runescape 3 (RS3). There we talked about the major engine/graphical and monetization differences between the two games. In this article, we're going to explain the major combat differences between the games. Plus, even if you're a fan of Runescape, Runescape 3 has changed a lot since its original release, and it may not work exactly how you think it does anymore.
There are major skilling other general gameplay differences between the games as well, which we will get into with a later article. Once published, the link will appear here.
The Evolution of Combat
In late 2012, Runescape 3 was updated with the Evolution of Combat (EoC) update which completely reworked the game's combat system. Abilities for melee, ranged, and magic combat were added, hotbars were introduced, and combat in general across the game's world was reworked.
Combat in Old School Runescape works very differently. Enemies attack in turns and there are only a few different attack styles alongside a variety of different weapons that work better against certain types of enemies. Positioning, tactically activating and deactivating your prayers (called prayer flicking) to maximize your offensive and defensive bonuses, and gearing your character appropriately alongside bringing the right supplies for the situation was what combat was all about.
After the EoC update, Runescape 3 played a lot more like World of Warcraft. You had a bunch of keybinds and abilities you had to rotate through during combat. Damage numbers skyrocketed, and player characters became a lot stronger. With a variety of stuns and effects, PvP changed forever, and once the change went through, most PvPers at the time called the PvP side of Runescape dead.
What was once a simple combat system with a high skill-ceiling that anybody could pick up but few could master became a complicated beast of a game that played like WoW but not as well with the slower pacing of Runescape. Ultimately, the change modernized Runescape, which players wanted, but changed well-liked core game systems, which players didn't want.
These changes decimated the player population of Runescape at the time. Graphically, the game had changed a lot, and suddenly the game's core gameplay systems were very different, too. In many ways, Runescape 3 was an entirely different game from what Runescape was before the EoC update. All of this led Jagex to introduce Old School Runescape the following year in February of 2013 after the EoC update's November 2012 release.
The release of Old School Runescape brought Runescape firmly back to a pre-EoC state, but in the 9 years since Old School Runescape launched and many players left Runescape 3 for Old School, Runescape 3 has continued to be updated, and many, many things have changed.
How Runescape 3 Combat Changed Over Time
Since the EoC update in Runescape 3, the game has changed a lot. First and foremost, balancing has been overhauled in the many years since the update originally launched. As a result, the core systems introduced by the update work a lot better now than they once did.
PvP, though not particularly popular even in RS3 today, became a lot less cheesy and exploitable, too, bringing players interested in PvPing back to RS3 to an extent. More so than it attracted people when the EoC update first dropped.
But beyond the changes to the systems introduced in the EoC, new ways to play Runescape 3 were also added to the game. Legacy Mode, a combat mode that removes all abilities, the hotbars, and most of what was introduced in the EoC, is a way you can play through the entirety of RS3 now.
Plus, years of updates have fine-tuned the Legacy Mode. Originally, it was hugely inferior to the game's mainline combat system. At the high-end, i.e. end game bossing and raids, Legacy is still generally considered to be weaker than other combat modes in the game, but it's far less of a disadvantage than it once was.
However, Legacy Mode does not play exactly like Old School Runescape. Damage numbers are generally higher, there aren't combat styles in the same way there once were, and many tweaks to general balance in the game do exist. Ultimately, Legacy Mode plays very similarly to Old School but like a modern version of it. Generally, early game content on Legacy Mode is easier than in Old School while later content is more challenging.
Legacy Mode or the normal game aren't the only ways to play Runescape 3, though. There's also another combat mode called Evolution. Evolution takes the normal EoC combat of Runescape 3 and gives you the ability to automatically fire abilities. You set up your abilities in your chosen order on your hotbar, and when you enter combat, your abilities will automatically fire.
There's a ton of customization you can do to this system as well from how many abilities you fire and which types of abilities you'd like to automatically fire. Effectively, this system takes advantage of the EoC changes while making the gameplay much more like the back-and-forth turn-based combat of Old School Runescape.
So, you can play the main game with manual ability activation, where you'll have a ton of keybinds like in World of Warcraft, in Legacy Mode that's more like Old School, or with automatic ability activation by way of Revolution Mode. None of these ways to play feel like Runescape from 15 years ago, but the game does give players immense choice in how they want to play.