Jagex’s Old School Runescape (2007) is ported to Android mobile. Here’s a guide to one of the best (by default) free games on Android.

Old School Runescape, affectionately abbreviated “OSRS,” is a game we likely would never bring up in the modern age except for a few reasons:

That’s about the only reasons. OSRS is both one of the oldest (and boy howdy does it show it!) MMORPGs and pretty much the rock-bottom minimum for RPGs out there. And yet, by mercy of a seamless port, it becomes better than most free Android games available!

  • It has a huge 3D world to explore

  • It’s free to download and play

  • It gives you hours upon hours of gameplay without spending a dime

  • It has the world’s largest (even record-breaking) MMORPG player base

  • It runs on any crappy potato you own

  • Almost entirely ad-free

  • Endless mountains of documentation

  • Teeming, active user community

  • More support than you can chuck a stylus at

WOW-OSRS

Those are some strong benefits, because compared to the average garbage clogging the digital spam ghetto known as the Google Play Store, OSRS could have been made today and would be winning awards on Android. Now that we have that out of the way…

Lower your expectations for OSRS

Just look at it:

OSRS_logo

Boy howdy, that logo tried so hard to be advanced for its time and it’s turned into rust now. What ancient combination of software and hardware even rendered it? POVRay on Windows 98? Wings3D on a Pentium 496? Bannermania on a Radio Shack Tandy? Painted on a wall by Leonardo da Vinci?

The game itself launched in 2001, so it’s just shy of its 21st birthday as of this writing and has indeed gained a second generation of fans. It was originally conceived as a text-based MUD (Multi-User Dimension), running off a BBS housed in some Cambridge student’s basement. The graphics came later when they realized they had a hit on their hands. For all that, it still manages to look older than any random DOS game from the mid-’90s.

osrs-mobile-overview

The version we see today is sometimes called “2007Scape” because that is the last released version of the original Runescape before Jagex Software started working on the sequel. However, since the game continues to be profitable thanks to Jagex’s business model, even the oldest game continues to receive new updates, features, and content.

Yet for all its clunkiness, the game does have its charm. The game’s universe has a gentle, sardonic, self-mocking tone that only the UK can pull off. It’s like Monty Python went to work for Blizzard. It sucks, but it knows it sucks and never takes itself too seriously. In-game NPC dialog alone accounts for weeks of reading, some of it clearly inspired by LucasFilm and Sierra adventure games.

Old School Runescape is never what we would call “difficult.” It’s set to a leisurely, plodding pace, thanks to its single-walking-speed scale. When you’re grinding combat levels, it plays like an idle game, because you can just move to one good spot and let spawning monsters attack you on auto-retaliate, then go AFK and check back in every couple minutes if you have to heal.

The biggest attraction people have to OSRS, as far as we can figure, is its massive depth. You can play for weeks on some side mission like building up your cooking skills at the cooks’ guild. Go ahead, master the hundred or so recipes, you always wanted to be able to whip up a dragonfruit pie with a refreshing dwarven stout on the side! Or maybe you can make yourself useful to the archers and master fletching – there’s only around fifty different kinds of ammo in the game, you got this in a couple months. Even some of the early quests have a walkthrough that’s longer than most other Android games’ whole play time.

This is not a game for speed-play. This is the game for people who think other RPGs just aren’t grindy enough. As likely as not, OSRS is the game that inspired the very term “grind” (it’s the first example listed!). Look at this line of fires:

firemaking_grind

That’s somebody trying to level up firemaking. You can get level 99 and then you get a red cloak. That’s the only benefit, besides things like being able to set higher-grade logs on fire. What you see in that picture is about 5% of the experience needed to gain one level. The guy had to quit and go chop down more logs, because your inventory only carries so many.

You don’t know the meaning of “grindy” until you’ve played Old School Runescape as a free player.

Diving into OSRS

This YouTube tutorial is a very concise and comprehensive run-down on Runescape basics, at just around half an hour:

Everything said here applies to the Android post of OSRS, with the sole differences that you tap instead of clicking and the menus, icons, etc. are in a different configuration.

OSRS_Mobile_controls

The OSRS wiki has a section on Android controls. Where possible, keyboard and mouse moves have been replaced by practical touchscreen controls, such as the classic finger-pinch zoom effect. In addition, here’s a mobile-specific beginner’s video, another half-hour long:

As you’re starting to notice by now, this mature game benefits from a metric ton of documentation online. Literally every question you can ask has been asked before somewhere.

To pay or F2P?

We’re not here to discourage you from supporting a game developer you deem worthy. If the cash doesn’t matter to you, paying for membership does indeed unlock like 90% of the game’s content. It lets you do super-cool stuff like learn the thieving skill or buy and improve your own house in-game. You’ll find no end of proponents on the Internet who passionately implore you to fork over the cabbage.

But honestly, membership in Old School Runescape costs roughly $10-$12 USD per month. The actual price is a matter of fluctuating market demand and complicated formulas based on your past status, zodiac sign, and insurance actuarial tables. Jagex keeps actual membership price as closely guarded information against even the most powerful Google spells. There’s even rumors about raising the price because of Brexit, which is just Jagex’s way of saying “we do as we damn well please.” But take my word for it: OSRS costs $10 to $12 a month for membership as of March 2020.

What else can that money get you? For a month’s Runescape ticket, there’s a lot of games you can buy on Android mobile which you will then own for life, nothing more to buy. Whole soup-to-nuts ports of top game titles to Android is becoming a standard; we’ll be covering more later.

But if you’re shrugging and saying “I spend that much on a double-grande pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, noob!” Be our guest.

need_money_4_OSRS

The best proposition is to get the game for free and play as F2P (free to Play) as far as you care to make it on skill-grinding. It’s not like membership makes the grind go away; you’ll still need to chop down 300K+ trees to make level 99 woodcutting and you might as well do that on F2P time. It is also theoretically possible to buy bonds with in-game gold as an F2P and just keep going indefinitely, a system supported by Jagex’s bond transaction economy.

For F2P gold grinding, here’s ten gold-grubbing methods:

The OSRS Wiki also has a money-making guide section. According to that, the most profitable activity available to F2P is smithing rune items.

It’s arguable that once you’ve bought a few bonds or payed for a few months’ membership, you will have access to several much faster methods of earning gold, at which point you can go infinite for free. For instance, training agility as a member stays with you even when your membership expires, so the increased running stamina and access to shortcuts will make all your travel faster.

Basic Beginner F2P Old School Runescape Tips

  • For the love of God, please customize your avatar when you start a new account so the rest of us don’t have to look at Buford the Hipster any more than we have to.

  • Stay the heck out of the wilderness and PvP servers!

  • The best way to avoid scams, spammers, and general dolts is to just shut the chat window and ignore everybody.

  • You’re not missing much by ignoring chat. The player community makes 4chan’s /b/ look like the Algonquin Round Table anyway.

  • The most common place newbies get killed is near the dark wizards’ circle outside the south Varrock gates. Run past here until you level high enough that they don’t attack you unprovoked. Later this makes a great farming area for rune drops.

  • Anything you find on the ground is yours to pick up. Since dropped items are invisible to other players for a few minutes, then if you find it on the ground, that means the original owner didn’t want it.

  • Using the above, you can gain quite a bit of resources just by following other players who are power-leveling combat and who don’t care about picking up the drops.

  • The Grand Exchange has a wait period before new players can use it. Bank valuable items to sell there later.

  • You should usually set combat options to add experience to the most skills per hit. There’s barely any difference between spiking and pounding an enemy with the mace, but a huge difference in gaining points for attack, strength, and defense all in one (using spike).

  • Remember that any resource valuable to you for skill training is valuable to somebody else after you’re trained that skill. Even ashes sell on the Grand Exchange for those who want to power-level herblore.

  • Almost everything sells on the Grand Exchange eventually, just give it a couple days.

  • Before you grind a skill from scratch, check the F2P quests list to see if there’s a quest that levels the skill. Some quests even award a genie lamp which is redeemed for experience in the skill of your choice.

  • You’re better off leveling up combat a few levels first, no matter your later plans, because the gains to your hitpoints will help you survive dicey situations down the road.

  • Conventional wisdom holds that training prayer isn’t worth it in F2P. Bah! Bury those bones, I say, they drop everywhere. It adds up over time, and protection prayers make mid-level combat training ever so much easier.

And here’s another video guide, things to do in F2P before going full member:

Final Summation

In the category of free Android games, Old School Runescape is definitely one of the best. The graphics are so ugly they’re cute, but on Android where we’ve been happy to play Minecraft and Pixel Dungeon, we don’t have much room to nitpick. The game’s aesthetic is hands-down the least original fantasy RPG in gaming history, but that seems to enhance its charm by being the lowest common denominator of the genre and hence equally appreciated by everybody. Cute holiday events like helping an Easter Bunny on a quest so you’re rewarded by a giant egg costume show some sparkle of imagination. The game has its charming moments.

Nobody praises McDonalds for their gourmet cuisine; they eat there because it’s cheap, consistent, and everywhere. Likewise, if you need to kill a daily quota of zombies and giants to get your fix, the Runescape experience is a handy, if homogenized, venue.

 

About the author

Penguin Pete

Penguin Pete

Geek tribal bard for the Internet, before "geek" was cool. Linux power user, MTG collector, light saber owner, cult movie fanatic, comic book memer, video gamer, Unix beard currently measures six inches.