Disclaimer: Feel free to disagree with things I write, but I'm going to cover as much as I possibly can so posting about a small error or something you marginally disagree with does not add to the discussion. Try to view this post as a whole, and don't pick on small pieces, thank you.
I'll open by telling a story from a long time ago. When The Wrath was the best weapon in the game, it also came with a reputation for being bugged. The weapon did not give you an extra attack, despite it's description clearly stating it did. This is the Realm Online in a nutshell, because The Wrath wasn't actually bugged, however 99% of the playerbase and even the staff were happy to state that it was bugged and not giving the extra attack. The problem was that The Wrath simply had the same effect Amulets of Combat did, so much like having two poison resist enchantments only one took effect, they didn't stack nor were they meant to. Using a Wrath let you freely use an AoDMP or AoFW and maintain that extra attack, which was a very nice boost for PvP players that understood the mechanic properly. This is the Realm Online in a nutshell, an incredibly deep and generally well made game that has a playerbase with little understanding of those mechanics and a development team is also in the dark when it comes to them. This leads to huge changes to the game to fix things, that aren't broken just misunderstood. With that short story over, lets dive into the game.
1) The Classes
Toons are either Hitters, Throwers or Casters. The actual class they pick shouldn't reflect that at all, I've never understood this concept that just because Warriors hit and Wizards cast in other games, they have to do that here too. Race/Class should just be a toons base stats, and nothing else. The only thing locking abilities behind prestige for classes does is lock away builds, not increase variety. Just so that adventurers feel special, Giant Thieves, Giant Wizards, Elf Wizards that throw etc become much, much worse despite their base stats being really good still? There's still some fantastic adventurer stats out there, like 17/7/7/17 Giants and all intel Elf adv they're just not super obvious. The prestige system is a huge problem when I'm thinking of new stats for a toon that might be fun to play, at least for me.
Hitters right now are brutally misunderstood and can honestly be very powerful. I cleared a 6man (140%) DP with 6 hitters without mass heal, or EB fairly easily using bare bones gear, enchanted mythril, boc's, roe's etc at level 550. The idea that they don't have much damage is laughable, the problem isn't damage it's staying alive and dungeon design (more on that later.) The other problem is that everybody makes asgw/asow etc and completely ignores endurance. The rise in popularity of the asgw only happened because of NG's introduction of the BC, removal of dex +attacks and their general NPC enemy design/balance preventing other toons from performing well. The dex +attack removal crushed humans and elves damage and the BC meant you needed to be an asgw to have an encumbrance below 40% (roughly where defense penalties start) The BC is now much lighter than it originally was, but the dex issue is still there. To further explain why the encumbrance is so important any non asgw using a bonecrusher would take much, much, much more incoming damage than an asgw would simply because of the encumbrance penalties AND have less/worse attacks. So by default asgw's became both the best damage from hitters and they took the least damage, despite a lower health pool than even 20/7/2/19 toons. Obviously things like aegt/aegw with dauch thorn/sot/shield were much more tanky, but they also had very little damage output relative to asgw's. The aegt was more of a DP specialist than anything else (dp targets Wizard, Thief, Adv War in that order so an aegt and 2 asgw's were fantastic there.)
The primary issue hitters have right now, aside from the dex not giving bonus attacks anymore (want elf hitters back, add this back in.) is the general encounter design as well as self stunning, especially in dungeons. The easiest way to see this in action is to take any hitter and guard first round vs. any kind of snake, the snake will move the entire screen and stop moving effectively ending it's turn. The hitter will then not miss any attacks, crit more often AND get more max damage rolls. This means as much as 2 or 3 times more damage is able to be dealt to the snake in that first round. This is exactly what's happening to hitters in most caves, and what absolutely cripples solo players. As soon as a toon runs out of attacks they self stun, stop dodging and get crushed in return. Caves need to be designed with this mechanic in mind, keeping the NPC's that can or will melee/throw attack to a max of 2 per expected hitter in a cave. Their ai also needs to be predictable and not random, so that the weaker hitters don't just get slapped down in a single round which is all too common in caves now (hc springs to mind.) You can have 2 attack the group leader, the next 2 hit the 2nd in the group etc just don't have them all bang one hitter into dust please.
Finally, replace Charge with attacking the same way throwers find their target. Playing hitters, clicking attack then click something to hit is way more annoying than hitting guard or casting cold snap. Some situations you'll want to manually pick your target, but that applies to Wizards as well. This is the quality of life improvement that would take hitters from REALLY annoying to play to being very enjoyable toons again.
Suggested fixes: Revert HoZ's back to their old status (Soloers need that, straight up). Buff plate armor's damage reduction to 50% from 40%, check and make sure high end armor is plate and not chain (especially chests/legs/wrists.) Scrap cleave (it's simply not needed and too difficult to make work on the Realm's engine without some very funny side effects.) Allow dex to increase +Attacks once again to bring some more variety to hitter classes. Allow infinite blocks/dodges in a round and try to remove the self stunning effect OR design all encounters around this specific mechanic. REMOVE scaling MDM by level to make things much more transparent to the player.
Shift and magic resist make Wizards incredibly tanky in PvE content. Way back in the day before NG took over, Wizards were something you wanted 1 or maybe 2 of in your group for utility like healing/buffing and myst. Their damage was actually very lackluster, which was honestly totally okay. The problem we have now is it feels like 70% of the toons in the game are AiEW (I have 5 2k ones myself) because they do the most damage without the drawback of having low hp being much of an issue thanks to the gear we have now. I'd be very open to seeing more of a throwback here, and focusing the AiEW almost entirely on enchanting, but making them a bit more lackluster at PvE. You can do this by scaling back how much damage base SDM gives and increasing the power of the bonus SDM, encouraging more variety. The other part is a lot of the MR on items needs to be toned down big time, especially on shields to encourage more human Wizards or Wizards that have more HP in their build rather than pure intel.
Shift needs to go, straight up. By making ai more predictable in caves, the meta of 4 wizards blasting through things would be gone straight away if shift was also removed. Any world that still has shift isn't a good one. Nobody enjoys having shift dispelled and getting their face torn off because of it, and yes the game would require some very serious tuning to balance out it's removal but shift is not a positive ability. Losing Shift from dispel, or a bad ping pong getting you killed is incredibly frustrating and the flip side of it is shift is what makes Wizards gods right now. The only argument that's in shifts favour is that it allows all intel toons to be very hard to kill while it's up, but good balance, better designed fights, better tuning etc can all overcome this.
Suggested fixes: Flatten base sdm damage a bit. Remove shift. Offer all players a chance to reroll their Wizards stats, possibly even race. Make myst more reliable to increase Wizards utility. Crush MR on shields, and lower it on other items. Combine the wizard gear into just mage gear, only complicates things to have 3 different sets (and the gap at expert level between them isn't huge either, but everybody hates finding thaum stuff instead of elem gear.)
The main selling point of a thrower is you put it on a 5 second guard timer as a 5th/6th account. That's pretty weak game design, and should be a huge red flag. I'm fine with leaving them as they are now, more as pvp specialists and toons that can cast important spells quickly. They've never really had a great place in the realm from a game design perspective, other than being absolute specialists.
Hero Dungeons and ones that spawn randomly are lazy and garbage design, especially for the realm. FD is awful to run for a variety of reasons, but one of them is you can get 1 low level cow or a pile of arch lich's that ruin your day. This happens with all of them, and it's something that needs to go. Encounters need to be carefully thought out and balanced/play tested, very few dungeons right now are both fun and rewarding. The random spawn system/loot distribution involved with it (and the devs attitude about it) are a huge part of why I quit.
Get rid of group size scaling, it doesn't help. Some dungeons should be good to solo, some should be good for groups and thats fine. Grouping up should be something that allows you to do higher level content, but cripples things like exp gains in more solo geared dungeons like it used to. Right now grouping up with people that have worse gear than you (hint for me, that's everybody) only serves to make the dungeon VERY hard/not enjoyable at all, especially for those coming along. Running something with a friend for me only results in them getting killed over and over/making the cave far harder than it would be otherwise. There is already a penalty for running more than one account, it's called having to get the gear for the extra toons. Somebody with one toon vs. somebody with four toons that all have the same gear shouldn't be running the same content for the same reward. Even if you DO manage to get that to work, I'll just run four instances of the cave solo and the effect will be the same. IT DOES NOT WORK on the Realm.
Anvil B+> Please get rid of the alignment restrictions, this was fine when anvil was the only good endgame cave but now that it's not it just means people don't run it at all when they otherwise would. Overall though, though anvils a fairly solid cave. It does need a much, much tougher fight at the start so people don't get to the halfway point before they realize how hard the cave actually is though. It's a great cave for exp/trash loot, with some very nice helms potentially at the end. Absolutely needs removal of fumble, dispel and mass myst spells from the monsters though. Single target myst would be fine, but mass shouldn't be there with the current systems in place.
Barracks A+> Remove the Paladins from the cave, they don't need to be there. Same with the Elementals (they were only added there to test them in the first place, they intentionally put them way out of the way.) Getting rid of the seraph fights would also be a step in the right direction, but overall it's a cave that offers some nice loot and very good experience with a good power ramp and overall layout.
Church of Damnation F> It has bats and Daemon Kings in it, needs a complete rework because it's complete trash atm.
Daemon Home FFFFF> 2 good fights, giant maze, absolute trash (hdh is baller exp though.) The wing concept is great, but just flatten each wing out a lot for the love of god. There's a reason I pay 50k for HDH keys, and there's a reason I still can't get them for that.
Dragon Pit A> Probably the cave with the best overall design honestly. Incredibly challenging to beat, without leaning on unfair tactics. The green dragons myst needs to go though, or at least be turned single target only with the current systems in place. Even with F12 still requires a decent chunk of time to complete. The one thing that would be nice to see here is a heavy increase in death penalties in the cave, because far too many people are suicide running it. If I can do it with Wizards or Hitters without deaths, you can too and the rewards in the cave should reflect that better.
End's Safe Haven D> Garbage, light dart blasts low levels so the only reason to run it is for claymores (which is why there aren't any for sale usually.)
Faery Caverns F> What?
Fenris Cave D-> Crap exp, couple of decent fights. Way too mazelike for a newbie cave, would be much better off as a mostly straight line newbie type cave with progressively harder fights for the HH at the end. Needs a rework, but the concept is fine.
FHP S+ Classic> There's a million problems with this cave but…. it's a classic. Just leave it alone, other than maybe buffing the exp a bit. It's not a good cave for 2018 standards, but it's an absolute classic so it gets a free pass from me.
Forgotten Dungeon C> Would be fine if cellblock A and C were removed and the random spawn logic removed. The loot also needs to be increased here BIG time, it barely drops even if you run it 50 times. Has lots of potential as a cave if reworked properly. The concept of walking into jailcells is fine, but the practice of unlocking them and going in for a single fight is super annoying. Removing the extra cell blocks might kill the theme a bit, but increase the quality experience of running the damn thing. Could potentially be a fantastic stepping stone from the Barracks (also cut the bosses health down, it's too high for solo players.)
Fuloran's Abode S+ Classic> Same as FHP honestly, could be cleaned up a bit but it's a Realm classic. Absolutely should stay the way it is imo.
Greater Hive D-> Remove the death buttons, get rid of all the confusing sitting on stumps to get to the different area's. Tune the fights properly, so there's less healer wasps killing your entire group with a WoG crit or light darting your tank into dust. Remove summons from the fire wasps, remove healing from them as well. All around honestly, make the Queen not heal and the Healers meanies or something, those fights completely ruin the cave for solo players for what could otherwise be a very solid cave. Cleaned and straightened up, this could be a great entry cave to the endgame for players, in it's current state though only the true pain lovers farm it.
Holy Caves F> If it didn't drop the best loot in the game, I wouldn't run this pile of trash. Parm needs to go, his weapon shouldn't have eb that just makes no sense at all. The caves frustrating because Parm doesn't really do any damage or present any threat once you've killed his friends, even to wizards with no shift or invul up. So you're just sat there dving him / holding / crush bolder (and ABSOLUTELY not hitting him with a warrior) hoping he wont shrug and heal, fun right? I'll be convinced the spawn logic doesn't influence loot when I can't manipulate it by wearing different items, ie. baldies, rings, swords etc. This cave is why I quit, I can't find mage sigs for my toons and it just spits out soldier's brooch's and pro bands for me. I've heard of 11 EB's dropping for different people while I'm in the game, but never seen one drop myself (bought my own.) Call me salty over this one, because I very much am.
Imp City F> Old maze design, needs a full rework
Imp Haven D> Needs more fights that are actually enjoyable, but has potential as a cave. There is a reason though that boots are in shortage right now.
Lab ?> Just leave it, it's got Marvin and I'd hate to see it go or get changed.
Lesser Hive B> Newbie cave, it's fine for the most part.
Naktos Morgue D-> Good thing nobody wants a Vulcan Edge, or this cave would be a major problem for low level toons looking for one. Has some potential, but needs a lot of reworking in terms of the fights in it. Just make Naktos drop a key as well, the double lever hit doesn't make sense anymore.
Ogre Caverns D-> Another mazelike cave that requires unlock or lockpicks, could have some real potential as a lower level cave if straighten out with smooth fight progression though.
Snake Pit C> Stuff this thing with big snake fights and it'll be great. Right now though, you have 3 or 4 good fights and 30 crap ones. Just groups of hellsnakes and wyms in here and you'll have a really, really nice leveling cave on your hands. As it stands right now, feels like a huge waste of time to really put the effort in to clear.
Targoth's Tomb F> It's in the game, it's confusing, it's got lot of bats and zombies then CRYPT KEEPER HAHAHA, why?
Test of the Soul ENID> If you read this far, congrats, now you know where Enids baldric drops ;)
The Underground B> The loot table here needs a big improvement. It's a catch 22, the only reason you run this is to get an Aegis because that's the only good loot there (or if you're a prest leveling toon for a bit.) Aegis are incredibly expensive because nobody runs this cave for any other reason than a personal Aegis, so just add in more variety of loot. Yes that'll make Aegis come down in price, buuuuut it'll also mean you can actually buy one as people are running it on a more regular basis.
The Foundry F> This cave blows. You have random protector's in the middle of it that smash anybody not neutral. The fights are all too small to be worth much exp for AoE wizards, and no hitter with a brain cell alive is going to run a cave that starts with 3 fury based fights. The end boss is a pain to kill, even for 4 2k Wizards so who is supposed to run this trash? Either fix the boss or get rid of the fury fights at the start if you want people to actually go here. Fatten the fights up with more mobs as well, and remember variety (looking at you elemental, harl and prot) isn't always a good thing. Fix those things and it'll be a decent mid level cave.
The Dark Gauntlet ?> POISON HAIR
Thieve's Hole A> Great cave for people just starting out their realm adventures, no real complaints other than maybe up the BoC and stringer drop rates. Maybe put some already identified cure poison potions strategically on the ground before the boss fights to help the new players out though.
Tor's Crypt C> Doesn't really need to exist tbh, although if it is going to just straighten it out so a new player in that area can see the cave and enter it/finish it without getting really, really confused. Fine otherwise though.
Troll's Haven F> Just throw it away, pretend the Troll's moved in with the Ogre's when you redo Ogre Caverns. Fun piece of trivia too, this used to be a high level cave as an alternative to fhp/fufu for finding wraths.
Troll Hideaway F> We've got this particular level of cave covered already boys, toss it.
Tulor's Caverns B> Get rid of tulor's myst for the love of god if you want people to solo this thing. Take the fury's and throw them outside so hitters can come here too and we've got ourselves another realm CLASSIC on our hands. Oh and just have the chests unlocked from the start, thanks from the people answering how to open them on channel 4 all day.
Undead Stronghold B-> People might disagree with me, but I think clipping off the top right side loop, and middle sections would be a huge improvement to this cave. The first 3/4's with the devil fights is fine, but then it becomes a huge slog trying to finish. The fury's also need to be thrown out as well, if you want hitters to do this cave. Finally the monster weapons should absolutely NOT cast dispel as a proc, get that garbage out of there. Nobody enjoys that as a mechanic, it's either be way too buff and smash the cave into dust or get rng killed a few times, not fun.
Warriors Abode C+> Some good fights there, just Paladins probably are a bit of place for a newbie cave. Just saying.
That's all I have time to write for now, I might add a second part sometime but fix what's broken first before you worry about the prestige systems/crafting (which shouldn't be there, it kills the economy even more that's already dead from binding.) We don't need world bosses, we need solo content that's fun/rewarding and the dungeons need to be retooled to be enjoyable for people or you're going to see more and more people quit like they have been. It's not enjoyable to tune dungeons encounter by encounter and properly test them, but it's a lot more important than the stuff being worked on now. Tune what's already here, the Realm's an amazing game it just needs a bit of a touch up not an overhaul. If I wanted class based skills and crafting, I'd play a different game.