It’s odder still considering that I’m not trying this game out due to the usual reasons, such as apathy and boredom and burnout with my old MMOs. On the contrary, gaming in WoW with my wife and going solo in Fallen Earth easily takes up 110% of my available playing time. I’m trying EQ2 because I’ve had a long-standing curiosity regarding the title, especially in light of bloggers who are mad for the game, and Steam’s offer of the game plus a month of playtime for $4.99 was too good to pass up.
I don’t think I’ll subscribe past this month, but I’m willing to experience the game with an open mind, and if it convinces me… well, we’ll cross that bridge if it comes.
I also wanted to dive into this 5-year-old title as a complete newbie (or a “EQewbie”, as I’m calling it), letting the game stand or fall on its own without any prior instruction. I was happy to see how quickly Steam downloaded it, and the EQ2 installer patched it up (something like three hours, start to finish), so on the day I purchased it, I was able to log on and play.
Coming from some other titles, EQ2’s character creator is kind of overwhelming. I’m not just talking about the facial/body customizations (which are plentiful enough), but starting with races and classes. Without very much explanation, I’m asked to pick between 19 races (of which there are too many elves for my taste) and 24 classes (!). I wasn’t really sure if playing a “good” or “neutral” or “evil” race had any impact on the game, other than class selection, and this general lack of information carried itself through into the class picks. Hey, there are three types of rogues and skimpy flavor text accompying each! Which is better? How do they play? I have no idea! Whee!
So with a willful lack of abandon, I went with what my heart told me was true. I made Sypster (EQ2 won’t let you make a character with less than 4 letters, for some unknown reason), a Ratonga Coercer. I thought the rat-people kind of cool looking, especially when you gave them an eyepatch, and Coercers, with their ability to temporarily charm mobs into allies, sounded interesting.
Getting My “Game Legs”
Game Legs is another term I’m going to introduce here — a spin on “sea legs”, I’m using it to refer to the time it takes for a player (new or experienced in other MMOs) to figure enough out about how the game works and plays to feel as though they have enough of a grip to do something useful. EQ2 is not a brand-new title, and as such, carries half a decade worth of improvements and additions with it. Logging in, I was assaulted with a daunting welcome screen (which is pretty nice, except for beginners), an unfamiliar UI (which was thankfully movable and resizable), tooltips, and tutorial popups.
Some of this was pretty familiar to anyone who’s played a MMO, but there’s enough unique quirks (such as having to hit “~” to initiate auto-attack) that it kept me off-balance for a little while. I spent some time moving around, exploring the starter town, claiming my dozen or so rewards (as part of the different expansion purchases), and beating up a few random mobs to figure out the combat.
I didn’t like the UI at all — it’s functional, but dithers around DDO’s UI level of unattractiveness. Combat also felt a bit more mushy and abstract in a way that was hard to define. And I suspect that the visuals (especially the “uncanny valley” characters) are an acquired taste, although they certainly aren’t bad, and the performance quite speedy.
Sound and Fluffery
If anything, EQ2’s audio popped out at me from the start. I really liked the music, particularly when you got into combat and it went a little more up-tempo. But it was the much-vaunted full voiceovers that really got me. I’ve gotten so used to reading boxes of text from questgivers that to have a guy actually talk to me and give me dialogue buttons to maneuver around the conversation was a small delight. This is exactly why I’m excited about the same feature in TOR — quests seem like more than a chore list when you have someone actually talking to you about why they want you to do something.
Stuff like the voiceovers and the collections (I found a few sparklies to start my collections, which was fun) are why I wanted to see EQ2 for myself. They might be fairly fluffy elements compared to more modern MMOs, but they also add a lot of flavor and texture to the world in a way that other MMOs have stripped out in favor of a more streamlined process.
I don’t think I’ll be diving into crafting — I have Fallen Earth for that, thank you — but I am looking forward to finding my apartment and seeing how EQ2’s housing system fares, especially with the many decoration items I’ve acquired thus far.
A Couple Surprises
Questing was pretty standard fare, apart from the voiceovers, but I got a bit of a shock when sometimes the critters would drop treasure chests (which contain better loot) in addition to whatever bit of fur or fang they had on their corpse.
The loading screen told me to try /cutemode for a laugh, and when I did so, it blew everyone’s heads up to three times their normal size. This illustrates EQ2’s approach to the game world — it’s not nearly as “in character” as other MMOs I’ve seen, but it has fun with it even so.
I briefly tried out an assassin character (bleh), but was impressed when the game asked me if I wanted to import my UI settings from Sypster to match — certainly a nice feature, when you’ve been tinkering with the UI for a while to get it just right.
Again, this is all just very beginning impressions — I plan to spend more time with this title over the next couple weeks and see how it shakes out.