The co-creator of long-running free-to-play fantasy MMO RuneScape has revealed the project his new studio has been working on for the last ten years. Surprise! It’s a new free-to-play fantasy MMO. But Andrew Gower and developers Fen Research insist that Brighter Shores will balance its nostalgic feel with a fresh approach to the well-worn genre that Gower himself helped wear in over two decades ago.

Andrew, alongside brothers Paul and Ian, created RuneScape back in 2001, along with co-founding British studio Jagex to keep it running. Gower would stay at Jagex until 2010, working on the eventual successor to the original RuneScape he did much of the development for – since rechristened as RuneScape Classic – before heading off to found new studio Fen Research.

After more than a decade largely off the radar, Gower and Fen have unveiled Brighter Shores, a free-to-play online multiplayer game that at a glance easily bears the hallmarks of Gower’s past work on RuneScape.

It has a similar top-down isometric perspective, reminiscent of old-school nineties CRPGs, with a familiar blend of fantasy questing as twists on classic fantasy classes – players can choose to be a Cryoknight, Hammermage or Guardian in starting region Hopeport’s town guard – and crafting through blacksmithing, fishing, alchemy and similar professions. There’s a signature British whimsy in the game’s announcement trailer too, with Fen saying the new fantasy world of Adothria will likewise be populated by “an abundance of quirky characters”.

Image credit: Fen Research

While the studio openly leans into the ‘nostalgic’ feel of Brighter Shores in their announcement, though, they also promise that the MMO will look forward as much as back. One of the MMO “flaws” Fen are looking to cut down on in their new offering is the grinding associated with classics of the genre, saying that “innovative game design” (without specifying exactly how that’ll work in practice) will reduce the slog.

The game will be a showcase for Fen’s original engine Fenforge, which does indeed look like a very polished RuneScape in its stylised character models and grid-based environments, which have the vibe of a tabletop Dungeons & Dragons map floating in a void.

Cover image for YouTube videoBrighter Shores Trailer

Brighter Shores will also apparently resist pairing its free-to-play offering with microtransactions, instead providing “hours upon hours of content” without needing to pay a penny, with the option to buy an “all-inclusive premium pass” to unlock additional quests and areas released as part of the game’s ongoing episodic narrative. The ability to trade items between players – a major part of RuneScape – will also be locked behind the paid pass, along with other features such as the option to change your character’s name.

After a decade in the works, Brighter Shores is due to land on PC and Mac via Steam later in 2024, with “regular” updates to follow after its Q3 arrival.

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