The lore walls come crashing down with Azzanadra’s Quest. The first in what can only be described as a RuneScape visual novel. We uncover twists and turmoil as we learn about Zarosian impulses, the World Guardian, Elder Halls, and the Temple Knights.
Many games are built to fulfil a fantasy of their players. Whether that be being a pilot, the designer of a theme park, or a slayer of demons. Being the hero of a story is a recurring theme in games, and so games are built around that experience. So too in RuneScape: everything is built to make you feel like the hero of the story. No evil is big enough to beat you!
That entire fantasy would shatter if you realised that not just your story is fabricated, but the entire world has been built around you, to give you that experience. Of course, when we think about it, we know this to be true at all times. To really immerse ourselves in the experience, we need something called suspension of disbelief. This is the act of actively suppressing our critical or logical thinking to immerse ourselves in the content, and enjoy it more. The closer a game (or any world building, whether it be a book, a movie, or even a D&D campaign) is to our expectations of reality, the easier it for us to suspend or disbelief.
If we are to design an immersive experience for our users/players, we want to avoid things that pull them out of the experience. If we give players of our game indication that the world is paper thin, and that the player's experience is the only thing that really exists, it is likely the player will find it hard to believe in the world, and as such they cannot fulfil their fantasies. What's the point in being the hero of the story, if you know it's just a story to make you feel like a hero? You haven't earned it, you haven't worked for it, it's thrown in your lap.
We can make the game hard enough to make the player feel like they earned it, or make a game character driven in such a way that it's not a story about us, but that we are sucked into the story from an outside perspective (like books and films do). Coming back to RuneScape though, RuneScape is an RPG, a role-playing game. It is a big open world in which we get to fill in the blanks of our character. We make a difference in the world, and we choose in what way. Over the past few years, we've seen a lot of quests in which our character was at the forefront of large - sometimes almost apocalyptic - changes. Our actions mattered... or did they?
If the world of Gielinor was bland and empty, filled with NPCs who give you some fetch quests, and nothing more, then you would never feel emotionally attached to it, and the choices you make would feel empty. We come back to the original problem: the world turns into a world created just for you, to play your part and nothing more.
Whenever I run a D&D campaign, I make sure that I think about what happens outside of the world. In one campaign, a war was raging while the players left to a monastery in search of knowledge. When they returned months later, a successful winter campaign had caused a large shift in the balance of power in the war. The refugees the players met before, happy to have fled the war, had gotten caught up right in the middle of it once more. This one group of refugees the players talked with conveyed the story of so many more. While it's unlikely the players could've done anything, they now had a real stake in this conflict through talking to a few unimportant individuals.
While in D&D, I can make any person a player decides to talk to come alive with a made up on the spot backstory, that's much harder in games, where everything needs to be scripted. This is why I like small quests in RuneScape so much. They add a much needed depth to the world. They help making it easier for us to suspend our disbelief, and immerse ourselves into a world that maybe isn't built just for us. A world in which every NPC has their own life, as rich is our own; we just don't know about it.
Finally, small quests allow us to just do our thing. It is much closer to reality that we help people with small tasks around than literally stopping the gods from destroying the world. Again, small quests provide the necessary framework for us to transport ourselves into the world in Gielinor. To willingly forget it's just a game with a made up story, and the have emotions about what happens to the characters in the world.
Done right, games are a powerful and unique storytelling tool, but there are also many mistakes to be made that can pull you out of the narrative immersion. A while ago, I wrote about ludonarrative dissonance in Desperate Times, and in this article I explained how a world without depth can break our suspension of disbelief, and remove any weight our decisions may have. With the new direction of smaller quests and lore dotted around the game, I think RuneScape is moving in a very positive direction. Gielinor is an interesting, large complex world that is becoming more and more alive, one small quest at a time.
We are just days away from Azzanadra's quest and the kick off of the Elder God Wars. What should you expect, what characters are involved, and will your expectations be met? Also what do the Elder God Wars look like and is this an expansion in disguise?
In light of the 20th anniversary of RuneScape, everyone reminisces about their first moments as a player. When I became a RuneScape member for the first time, I went on a questing spree, starting with the Hazeel Cult quest. Back then, of course, Hazeel was not like we know him today. In the old days, Hazeel was just a big bad mage, and the main enemy of Ardougne. This, of course, has been reworked by Jagex to make Hazeel fit in possibly the biggest storyline of the game. So, for this instalment, I present to you: Hazeel the Mahjarrat (?)
Back in the good old Freneskae days, there were a few native tribes. Among these tribes were the Chelon-Mah, Mahjarrat, Mahserrat and the Mahkorat. All of the tribes suffered the curse that is the Rejuvenation ritual. In order for the Freneskae natives to rejuvenate, they had to sacrifice one another. Seeing as none of the tribes wanted to sacrifice their own kind, conflict ensued. Because the Mahserrat refused to participate in this mad ritual, they became priority targets for the other tribes to use as a sacrifice. Among the Mahserrat was someone called Hazeel. Hazeel saw the end of his kind coming and decided to forsake his own tribe and join the Mahjarrat. He even went as far as permanently growing some horns to distinguish himself from the Mahserrat. From this moment on, Hazeel was a Mahjarrat by loyalty and his story intertwines with theirs.
As you all know, the Mahjarrat travelled to Gielinor to aid Icthlarin in his war against Zaros. During this war, it is known that Hazeel and the Menaphite armies successfully fought against the Zarosian armies. However, due to a dispute between Sliske and Icthlarin, the Mahjarrat switched sides and joined Zaros. In the Zarosian army, he obtained the rank of Legatus. One desperate Tumeken explosion and one Azzanadra shield later, many of the Mahjarrat died. Hazeel was among the living and continued fighting in the war. Later, Hazeel made an appearance when a fierce warrior named Torva destroyed the attacking flock of Ripper demons. Even after yelling “when you need something done right, you need to do it yourself”, he failed to kill Torva, causing Nex to be interested in recruiting Torva.
Fast forwarding some time to the great Zamorak betrayal, Hazeel’s job was to keep the Zarosian followers at bay while Zamorak stabbed the Empty Lord. After Zamorak’s ascension and the beginning of the God Wars, Hazeel was known as a loyal and feared Zamorakian warrior. Though not many details of his actions during the God Wars are known. It is known that Hazeel became the new-born Khazard’s tutor. Khazard’s mother Palkeera died soon after Khazard’s birth. After the God Wars ended and all of the gods were banished from the planet, Khazard and Hazeel fought together against the Saradominist armies in Kandarin. Their efforts were very successful, as they conquered almost all of Kandarin.
In the early years of the Fifth Age, a group of Saradominists assaulted Hazeel’s mansion and killed everyone inside. They were unable to kill Hazeel, though, but they managed to disable him and put him into a torpor state. The Carnilleans, leaders of the assault, claimed the mansion and ruled the city of Ardougne which was constructed not long after.
Image Source: RuneScape Wiki
We’ve finally reached the present of this story. Here’s where things get tricky. During the quest Hazeel Cult, the player is given a choice. Will they aid the Carnilleans or will our hero choose Hazeel’s side? If they sided with Hazeel’s cult, Hazeel will return and travel north to join the upcoming ritual of Rejuvenation. If not, Hazeel will remain in his coffin and not be able to attend the ritual. During the ritual, assuming Hazeel was resurrected in time, he joined forces with the other Zamorakian Mahjarrat. It clearly shows Hazeel and Khazard are close to each other as they stand together at all times, whether it being political debate or combat. It’s also shown that Hazeel has little love for his other Zamorakian Mahjarrat friends as he didn’t really care when Lucien was killed by the Dragonkin. Later, in the Sixth age during Sliske’s grand ascension, he again showed this indifference when the Zamorakian Mahjarrat were refused access to the citadel.
Thankfully, the two split branches of story somewhat come together when Zamorak gathers a group of specialists to steal the Stone of Jas from Sliske in Dishonour among Thieves. If Hazeel was freed by the now World Guardian, he is happy to help Zamorak and likes the idea of having his savior on their side. If the World Guardian didn’t free Hazeel, it will show that Hazeel has missed the ritual and still has his skeletal face, unlike the other rejuvenated Mahjarrat. That doesn’t matter, though, as Hazeel has returned without any help but the power of love and friendship when he sensed Zamorak’s return. Before joining the party in Daemonheim, Hazeel requests the World Guardian to free his furry friend Jerrod from the Ardougne prison. During the heist, Hazeel and Khazard show they have some control over the Shadow Realm and are therefore able to spot Sliske’s shadow orbs. In the end, the heist somewhat fails, but Zamorak is able to use the Stone briefly to regain his lost power. Hazeel had shown to be loyal to Zamorak, and the god is pleased with his contribution.
The Mahjarrat’s powers were draining at a fast pace, and a new ritual was required. The only Mahjarrat not to show up to this ritual was Sliske. At the ritual site, Zaros and Zamorak appeared, claiming they had similar issues with their power draining. Zaros devised a plan to do one last ritual to end all rituals. Though Zamorak didn’t like the idea of helping Zaros, he finally agreed to Zaros’ deal thanks to Hazeel persuading him. At the end of the ritual, they sacrificed the elder god Mah and their Rejuvenation issues were over. After the ritual, Hazeel claims he will use his newly obtained power to make his cult great again and reclaim the Shadow World, the latter being quite ambitious as Sliske’s control over the Shadow Realm is unrivalled at that point.
This is where the story ends for now. Hazeel is a powerful Mahjarrat/Mahserrat who always seems to do the dirty work in combat when others like Azzanadra and Sliske are more cunning. He is mostly known to be a father figure to Khazard, and Zamorak sees Hazeel as a brother. This is quite interesting seeing as during the last ritual, it is revealed that Zamorak is Khazard’s actual father. In my opinion, Hazeel is a cool and mostly overlooked Mahjarrat who is more of a side character to the whole Mahjarrat soap drama. Hazeel does show, however, he doesn’t like the drama too much as he’s indifferent to almost anything Mahjarrat related that doesn’t concern himself, Khazard or Zamorak. One final note of trivia: during Dimension of Disaster (non-canon), Zemouregal reveals that Hazeel became king of Ardougne with the help of Phillipe Carnillean, who turned out to be a rebel because he never met the World Guardian.