It has been about six weeks into the introduction of War's Retreat, often referred to as the "PvM Hub" and I can confidently say at this point that no update in years has changed my day to day interaction with the game more. When the developers first announced that they would be releasing boss portals to an area that was easily accessible with a one click teleport, available out of the magic spellbook or on an ability bar, I could hardly believe it. It felt like it must be some kind of April fools like prank - there was just no way that after years of restricting efficient PvM only to those who spent hundreds of hours grinding away at Flotsam Prawnbrokers, running endless laps around the Prif Agility course, or spending a week sitting at harps because training production skills efficiently is unaffordable for most players who haven't taken a crack at high-end bossing.
The PvM hub has everything any player could ever want out of a PvM basing area. It contains a bank chest right next to a one click bonfire, an altar which restores both prayer and summoning, FOUR DIFFERENT PORTALS all a surge away from the entrance, and adrenaline crystals which get you to 100 adrenaline in just a few seconds, making starting kills at 100%, going for records, and playing more efficiently that much more accessible. I never kept track, but I'm confident I spent hundreds of millions of gold purchasing dragonhide leather shields to dissemble to make combat dummies and dozens of hours building adrenaline on them. While some of these rewards - such as the adrenaline crystals and higher tiers of bonfire are locked behind boss kills and marks of war, the requirements are low enough that even the most modest aspiring PvMer can easily unlock them within a few days.
Another huge advance in the accessibility of PvM was the advent of the marks of war and the reward shop that goes along with our new currency. Nothing extra is required to accumulate this new currency - simply bossing anywhere will automatically grant them. These unlock the higher tiers of bonfire, aura refreshers (a godsend), life refreshers (fantastic for learning telos!), and the pièce de résistance - zerk (Berserker) aura unlocks! For anybody who frequently reads my articles, you'll know that a constant subject is the vital and irreplaceable importance of using a zerk aura for nearly any high end, or even medium level, boss encounter. Previously, access to maniacal (magic), reckless (ranged), and berserker (melee) was locked behind the loyalty rewards shop. This was a disastrous system because it created an artificial time gate for newer players to accumulate enough loyalty points which meant that players would frequently have to wait to do some bosses efficiently, and to do some group bosses at all. Perhaps even worse, this system actively discouraged skillers on the verge of wanting to PvM from trying it out because there was a forced trade-off between acquiring useful skilling auras and needed PvM auras. For ironmen it also posed issues. Around the same time most accounts might want to unlock zerk auras, they're also mid vyres grind, creating a forced choice between better kills at say god wars dungeon 2 and the desperately needed "wings" prayer restoration auras like for vyres.
The best part about the new hub is the improved social element of PvM. For years, ever since the advent of the max guild in 2014, group PvM between maxed and non-maxed players has been difficult to organize. For many bosses, there is a massive difference in travel time between the max guild portal and the normal means of getting to them. For Nex, and to a lesser extent Araxxor, the difference could mean several lost kills per hour. This meant that many maxed players had no interest in bossing with players without the guild unlocked. While it's a fair point to criticize this attitude for its elitism, the fact remains that it was an engrained and locked-in mentality. Plus, many non-maxed players didn't feel comfortable asking anyone maxed to PvM with them because they knew that they were asking the other player to make a significant sacrifice of speed and efficiency to do so, which created a difficult atmosphere. The max guild also served as the one and only place for any high level to ever be, which contributed further to elitism. The PvM hub is accessible to everyone, and the mix of low, medium, and high-level players feels like a return to what many players feel were the glory days of RuneScape.
Some people have criticized the PvM hub for being "too good." Can't please everybody! I understand the concerns about lossless power creep - I'm the first to demonstrate concerns about archeology for example giving us biting 4 basically for free. However, to me this is totally separate. This update is about improving the everyday experience for all players. Yes, it is better than the max guild in nearly every way, but no, I don't think that's a problem, even a player who begrudgingly maxed in late 2015 exclusively for portal access. I think that the Max Guild being so uniquely overpowered has encouraged a rush for gains mentality among much of the player base, and while I can't speak for everyone, I can certainly say that it contributed to a seriously unhealthy playstyle for me back when I was going for my cape. This update takes that urgency away and helps contribute towards an approach to the game grounded in exactly what it should be: fun.
Comped June 2017/Vitalis Owner Before Threshold [hiscores][/hiscores]