Wednesday, 4 August 2010

EQ2 – Moving On

Post soundtrack: Everquest 2 Main Title (Long Version)

Well, despite the appeal of my Ratonga and Froglok, my vague dissatisfaction with the game (and general disgruntlement about the direction that SOE is taking both the free-to-play version where about 2/3 of the classes are only available by subscription, and the increasingly obtrusive RMT store in the live version) have led me to unsubscribe and start looking for whatever will be my next MMO.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

There was a lot that EQ2 did right, but I was just getting lost (and frustrated) with a lot of the game.  A lot of this came from the lack of explanation for some of the mechanics (heroic opportunities, for example).  The rest of it come from the fact that I just couldn’t find context for a lot of it – the lore proved to be pretty impenetrable in-game, and out-of-game resources were either ridiculously light-weight or up to 5 years out-of-date.

I'd give the game an MMO-Spider-Rating of 7.  Effective, believeable, but not especially disturbing.

Still, despite the frustration (yes I could have asked for directions, but I’m a pretty antisocial player, especially in a game that’s new to me, especially one with such an established and experienced player base) I almost didn’t quit.  Watching the Ratonga idle animations, and the realistic way Ringle blinked while I was taking my last screenshots before I logged out and uninstalled (I had a pet rat when I was younger, so yes, I know how a rat blinks) was one of those moments when a game can do something so simply immersive that it makes you take a mental step back for a moment, and go “Wow!”

Nothing quite like exploring the world.  Admittedly it's more fun when you have some idea about where you're going.

Unfortunately the rest of the game just wasn’t working for me.  Tradeskills are a one-trick-pony (admittedly I got the feeling I could have gotten a handle on them, but the press-one-of-six-buttons mechanic just wasn’t fun), combat is your bog-standard button-bar system (apart from heroic opportunities, which I think are supposed to have some greater depth in groups – or at least I think they did, remember what I said about a frustrating lack of information?), and why do mount items tooltips say they have a 1-day duration when they’re apparently (maybe? possibly?) permanent items?

Crabby?  You betcha!

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag.  Some of the character models (mmmmm, Ratongas) are awesome.  But a lot are dated, and generally “Meh” (all of the humanoid races spring to mind there).  Many of the monster models are also surprisingly detailed and colourful.  Which is great, until you see them standing around low-polygon terrain, looking as out-of-place as gold-foil edging on disposable paper plates.  Still, the newer terrain for places such as the starting zone of New Halaas (where the low-poly count isn’t as bad) can actually look pretty good, especially compared to the boring height-map nature of WoW landscapes – there’s only so much you can do to disguise that, although Blizz did it’s darnedest to try with Wrath, and will be giving it the old college try with Cataclysm.

If I could embed Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" in this picture, it'd be quite appropriate.

The game had some pretty good music as well – the Antonica theme was particularly enjoyable (a good thing, considering how much I heard it while Ringle spent there, doing low-level quests).  There wasn’t quite the same immersiveness as the WoW music, but five years of listening to it may have something to do with that.

Bye bye, Ringle Ratonga

Ah well, back to Defense Grid (and Slay on my ipod) for the time-being, while I consider what game to try next.  Considering City of Heroes and Champions Online have trials, maybe it’s superhero time?

Decisions, decisions...