In preparation to getting the full available rewards for The World Wakes , I've gone and done a different grandmaster quest, The Void Stares Back. My only barrier now is getting the skill requirements to take part in the Ritual of the Majharrat. This entry contains my thoughts on the final void knights quest. It should be obvious that this will contain some spoilers, but I'm not certain this matters: unlike The World Wakes, spoilers will not (in my opinion) 'spoil' the quest.
First off, let's look at the story concept. It's a very strong idea: the void knights finally track down the source of the mainland void invasion, confront the perpetrator, destroy his weapon, and go home. On the way, they recruit the player to help them reach their final destination and also team up with the various knightly orders of runescape, including the mysterious and foreboding Kinshra. The final battle should be a tough boss fight involving all these orders teaming up to slay the Big Bad Monster. It's also got great potential for future quests, which may or may not be used: the idea of an elite council of the four knight orders for when particularly bad things happen (see: fallout of The World Wakes) is a really interesting one.
However, this isn't perhaps implemented very well. The void storyline is one I never felt a strong emotional connection with: Korasi is a distant and often forgettable character, while Jessika is a naive and irritating scientist. The villain, who turns out to be wizard Grayzag, is also revealed to be deeply mentally unstable, and almost accidentally trips over the potential to summon the Pest Queen. He himself is not threatening in the slightest, and appears in newbie's wizard garb halfway through the quest to make strange statements hinting he had a master plan while proving that he doesn't. So the emotional connection, somethng that can make or break a quest (see WGS for a brilliant example of an emotional 'hit'), was somewhat missed. The protagonists are not lovable, the villains are not scary, and the knights behave somewhat oddly. Lord Daquarius makes some humorous and even sensible remarks ("yeah yeah, I get it, we're all the balance...how lovely"), but seems to have little objection to working with his arch enemies.
The quest also suffers slightly from legacy issues, and I'll explain what I mean. One particularly jarring point is that in the first half of the quest, you are given rigged black knight armour to disguise yourself. You go to the fortress, only to discover they all wear the old armour, so you stick out like a sore thumb. However, despite looking completely different, everything is fine. All the traditional knights wear old armour, while void knights have a mixture of old and new. Finally, the boss fight suffers from some real confusion, as you have to kick or bash the queen while wielding a sword to activate the special attack, but this is not made particularly clear, especially since one 'stun' ability (barge) is disabled in the area. Pest's old, old graphics are once again highlighted.
Having said that, where this quest is fully up to date it looks great. The under-Taverley Black Knight's Fortress looks superb, while the Pest Queen herself looks fantastic and thoroughly dangerous (though rather more like a slug queen than I had perhaps realised from pictures). The security systems and puzzles also seemed graphically competent.
However, the graphics don't really make much of a difference to the overall feel of the quest. Runescape's graphics are constantly evolving and this won't be an issue long term. What was an issue, I felt, was the pacing. My big problem was that going through the Kinshra's security system felt like it wouldn't take long, but then seemed to be the meat of the quest retrospectively. The quest takes quite a structured order, so let me explain:
- Talk at Falador, walk to Black Knight's Fortress
- Solve a weights puzzle to go through security check 1
- Fight pests, and solve a crafting puzzle to go through security check 2
- Solve a 'tetris' like puzzle to go through security check 3
- Chat to some knights, grab a sword, go through the portal
- Fight a game of 'conquest', which is rather strange
- Choose for Jessika or Korasi to die
- Fight and kill Pest Queen
My chief problem is that while the puzzles seemed like they were just security checks (something I expected to be over quickly) they were very tough indeed (contrary to expectations of the average black knight goon) and rather formed most of the quest. If the knights had teamed up before the puzzle section and we'd all been working through them together, it would have made more sense and built up the capabilities of Grayzag. The game of conquest, while interesting, also felt very strangely placed: its inclusion feels incredibly forced and it doesn't make much sense for you to use a chess-like system...or for the pests to abide by the rules. A second and tougher pest fight with Sir Tiffy, Lord Daquarius, and Korasi all fighting together would have made more sense.
The choice of who dies was interesting, and a strong inclusion throughout the series. It felt like a choice that had some weight, though I had no difficulty whatsoever in choosing to save Korasi, a strong and productive void knight, and kill Jessika, a naive and foolish scientist who got us into the whole mess and had barely been useful once in the series.
The boss fight itself was strange. Initially I was slightly confused, but the Valluta did explain things very well. I felt it was slightly buggy, but I think that was just my poor technique. It was something of a challenge, though largely because of its length rather than because of any actual fear of death. As such, it was a little more of a grind than I anticipated: I stood there and hacked away at the queen, stunning when appropriate, until she died. A lot more could have been made of the 'reinforcements' idea: given that we had already summoned a conquest squad (those are extremely powerful) and we were a few rooms away from a literal army of black knights, it was bizarre that they came piecemeal in equal numbers and barely contributed at all. If I'd had 20 black knights to take care of the pests the queen summoned and 2 conquest squads to remove the void drones and help me shoot the queen from a distance, we would have eliminated the threat in no time. It was almost a bit strange that the portal the queen used didn't stay open longer: you could have had a pitched battle with the queen and I locked in a deadly duel while the void, black, temple and white knights all struggled on around me to repel invading monsters, much in the way that The World Wakes involved a pitched battle with one particular army (goons) against another (elites) while I defended an objective. This struck me as a missed opportunity.
The aftermath left me with mixed opinions. While I was pleased to meet the Valluta, see Grayzag brought to justice, meet all the leaders of the knightly orders, and so on, it felt frustrating that they were forced to say that while Grayzag had caused the pest invasion everywhere, the void knights could not stop fighting pests (because the minigame had to continue to exist). This could probably have been handled better: you could give the void knights new employments, you could turn Pest Control into a training activity, you could say the scale of the pest invasion is vastly reduced, whatever. If I was commander Tyr and the pest invasion had been ceased, I would have a number of new duties for knights to fulfil guarding ancient guthixian sites, for example, lending assistance to the Burthorpe guard that fights the trolls invading Taverley, building a proper fortress, and setting up multiple ways for the void knights to be summoned from alarms. But that's just my personal fanfiction.
Finally, the rewards weren't bad. Korasi's sword, while I'm not certain of its use yet (stats of a level 68 weapon but requirements of level 78), looks badass. They've updated it for EOC, and it looks great. The elite void armour, while slightly less exciting, was nonetheless welcome as an alternative to the strain of purple that taints the original one, although in stats it's very disappointing: they have +2 prayer for each piece...and that's it. So it's essentially paper armour with the changes EOC has brought, and useless unless you're against a very weak slayer task. Having said that, the deflector is rendered more valuable than ever by it. The xp was welcome and felt suitably balanced (har har). I suppose it didn't have quite the 'oomph' I've come to expect from Grandmaster, something that could have been rectified by making the elite armour and sword much more powerful: certainly the sword used to be exceedingly dangerous, something that could be rectified by giving it a passive effect like the godswords, of healing, prayer renewal, or even magical damage.
So, my verdict? The Void Stares Back is a quest with decent rewards, challenging puzzles, an interesting fight, and a great plot idea. However, it suffers from poor pacing, an inability to make you emotionally connect with heroes and villains, a few legacy issues, and a lot of missed potential. As such, I'd rank it the least interesting of the grandmaster quests; however it is still a very worthwhile addition to runescape's quests as a whole.