Tuesday, 27 July 2010

EQ2: Belated First Impressions

Post soundtrack: “Pretty Girl” by Hogsnort Rupert

I was going to do this post first, but after starting to write about my experiences with my ratonga’s betrayal questing I decided to postpone this until…  well, now.   Enjoy!  (Or for those who refuse to enjoy it on principle, “Be bored quietly please, so as not to annoy everyone else in the room!”)

The only good frog is...  Well, actually they all are.

My original idea was to give this a try after I finished off with my underwhelming dalliance with SWG, before moving onto something else (probably Fallen Earth).  That plan, after a week spent thoroughly enjoying the experience of levelling a froglok past 20, turned into me buying it online, and I’m now getting my teeth into levelling a ratonga on a new server (with the plan further down the track of levelling another froglok – I’ve rolled the monk in the image above in preparation).

Anyway, here’s some of what I’ve noticed so far (no doubt biased by four years of WoW):

The initial character selection screen is a little intimidating (especially as someone new to the game, who is used to the min-maxing expected for raiding).  19 races to choose from?  And then one of two starting zones?  (Or four zones, if you’re a neutral race, which is how you decide your alignment)  And then you have to decide between 16 of the total of 24 classes?  Consider me lost.

Aesthetically, the beast races come somewhere between awesome (Frogloks and the Ratonga), kind of appealing (the feline Kerra) and not bad (the reptilian Iksar and the Sarnak, whatever they are).  The monstrous Ogres look like big, chunky humanoid bullies, and the Trolls look suitably Troll-ish – both appropriate for their purpose.  The other humanoid races, however are…  generally meh – think of them as beginner Poser models from a decade ago.  Except for the dwarven females, who have sideburns and beards.  wt…heck?  Seriously, if I’d not been so distracted by amphibians and rodents that I’d noticed that when I rolled my starting characters, it might have put me off the game completely.  (Yes, I take my dwarven female aesthetics that seriously)

Still – frogs, rats, cats, lizards…  No playable dog-people?  (Ah well, I guess WoW has that covered)

Everyone needs someone to look up to - unless you're a short froglok, in which case you look up to *everyone*

It’s really nice the way player and npc models’ heads move (including looking up and down) in reaction to their surroundings.  You walk up to someone and they look towards your character, meeting their eyes.  That is very immersive, let me tell you.

There’s quite a difference between New Halaa and older zones.  Admittedly, the high(er)-polygon terrain (while better than the older terrain) still doesn’t look that great up close, but it’s an improvement.  The questing flow, however, (from the two zones I’ve done so far) is a lot better in the new zone – Halaa has better defined questing hubs, but the Timorous Deep isn’t quite as centralised and has a lot more back-and-forth missions.

Mmmm, 3D non-heightmap terrain...

And on the subject of noticeable, compare New Halaa’s 3-dimensional terrain to the height-map terrain in WoW.  This is one area where WoW clearly looks inferior by comparison.

It’s amazing how steep a slope you can walk up – sometimes.

I miss my WoW gryphons - they look awesome.

Griffons look funny.  Seriously.  They’re mount equivalent of the humanoid player models.

Maybe EQ did it first, but Aion does player character wings sooooo much better.

The stealth animation and effects are nice.  The initial ‘blue’ effect before your character becomes transparent did take some getting used to, however, but now it’s grown on me.  And there’s nothing quite like an (almost) invisible rat!

And speaking of stealth:  You can activate it while moving, and it isn’t broken by out-of-combat periodic damage!  Speaking as a long-time WoW rogue, this as all kinds of awesome.  (Exactly why this is so awesome would probably escape non-rogues, and non-cat-form-druids)

Mr skeleton even has a tail!

And look – non-human skeletons!

Revenge of Command-Line.  Seriously, I’ve not seen the command line referred to so much in a game.  Even claiming special pre-order items requires /claim.  (Edit: I later discovered that you can actually access them from the menu bar, but I had to find it myself)

Being able to change your home city is a nice touch.  Being able to change your faction is an awesome one.  (WTB dwarves for Horde, btw)

Crafting is curiously interactive, but not that intuitive.  I need to work on it, I think.  And if you want to level your Transmuting, it would appear you need to do so in the starting zone – unfortunately no-one tells you this.  (Hopefully I can get Ringle back there to do some starter quests for the item rewards – there is absolutely zero items in the auction house that are, a) low enough level that she can transmute them, and b) cheap enough that she can afford them.)

Bag space is also taking some getting used to – especially the way each bag window can be moved independently and remembers it’s location on screen, but you have to open them independently as well.  I need to see if there’s an open-all command I can keybind.  Cloth bags up to 8 slots in size can be bought pretty cheap from a vendor.  After that it appears they come from questing (I’ve managed to get a 10-slot bag from a tourism quest of Antonica, the level 10-20 zone outside Qeynos) or crafting.

Tailors make cloth bags, which have no weight but limited size.  Woodworkers make boxes, which weight 10 units but have a larger capacity – I bought a crafted 24-slot box for Ringle, which cost a third of her funds at the time but oooooh, the space.

Storage in general is kind of odd, actually.  You have your character’s bags.  Then bank space, and you can fill it with bags that you then fill with items, or just fill with items.  Plus the bank has an additional 8 or so slots that are shared between all your characters on that server.  Then there is player housing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you can add some more storage there (although I haven’t explored that part as much just yet).

Something WoW lacks - gelatinous cubes.

Collections!  A nice way to give players another time sink, looking for random items around the game-world.  These look like an effective way to keep players busy – if not to complete them for themselves, then at least to sell the items at the broker.  (Spotted butterflies seem particularly profitable so far – I think Ringle has made about 4g from them)

Monster masteries – you can learn their language, and eventually (after grinding on them for long enough) earn a bonus attack against their race.  (Fortunately each race gets the same attack on the same button, so you don’t have to worry about your action bar filling up)

Aquatic pets - doing it wrong.

The game looks pretty good on a modern pc, and it’s actually possible to run it on the absolute highest of settings without too much slowdown – admittedly I did have problems with areas of high ground foliage, which I reduced in density, and reflections in water (and water in general) can be problematic.  But aside from those, the game runs remarkably well – just don’t look too hard at the humanoid player models.

All in all, EQ is turning out to be a fun experience.  Not only is it remarkably open-ended so far, I’m enjoying my characters more than any other MMO I’ve tried since WoW.  Even LotRO, which is probably more technically and artistically appealing than EQ, hasn’t gotten me emotionally invested in my characters this much.

Will it last?  I’ve no idea.  But for now, it’s good, clean, anthropomorphic fun.  Also, cosmetic armour – trés awesome, or what?

Who'se an awesome-looking rodent?