When you’re an MMO fan, it’s really hard not to jump on board every train that’s carrying passionate fans excited about some new thing. So when Landmark’s alpha abruptly started on Friday night, I thought what the heck and got a pass into it.
Before I get to my very initial (1-2 hours) thoughts, I want to say I’m a blend of amused and exasperated by the conversation around this game. It seems that according to many, Landmark is immune to criticism. Oh, you may well indeed praise it and its dev team for anything you like, but any complaints must instantly be filed under the “it’s an alpha! of course it’s [buggy/incomplete/dull]! your opinion is invalid and you smell!” So wait, if complaining about it is invalid, then why aren’t praises invalid as well? After all, it’s alpha.
I don’t buy that. Why? Well, it’s hard to analyze anything if you can’t look at both sides of the coin honestly. I think we all know that it’s at the alpha stage, but if SOE is confident in it enough to lift the NDA, then we have the right to say anything good OR bad about it. I think the devs are probably the ones that are welcoming any valid feedback, far more than just the “ermigahd this is aweeeesome” squees from fans (although those are important too!).
Anyway, that’s a preface to say that I’m pretty underwhelmed by what I saw. I wanted to see the game engine that will eventually drive EverQuest Next, and for that it’s pretty nice. The character models are fun, the movement and travel is really well done (small thing: I like how my character’s waist would twist when she swung her axe), and the landscape is pretty if non-descript. It’s also kind of fun running straight up high peaks at 40 mph.
I guess I’m just genuinely puzzled what people are seeing in this game that I’m not. I go around and check out the landscape. I see what people have created with their homes. I get hopelessly lost because the map is garbage and there’s no on-screen radar. I mine holes in the ground and chop down trees to vaccuum up tons of resources. Eventually, I assume I’ll have enough to start crafting and can build a little home.
But… that’s it? I mean, I know more is coming: combat, crafting progression, um… water. It’s a nice wide canvas for people to make what they want out of it, but once their houses are made, what else is there to do? What interactivity will there be between players? I guess a lot of this is coming later and by waiting we’ll see a more fleshed-out game. We’re just testing systems at this point. Those systems are really exciting because they’re new and it’s heady to be a part of all of this right from the start. But what happens on week three? If SOE doesn’t start fleshing out this game soon, will they come to regret that early NDA lift?
Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things. Took me a long time to figure out why I couldn’t stake a claim even if it wasn’t in someone else’s claim (apparently there’s your current claim and your potential future expansions of claim, both of which the game keeps sacred for you). I had to travel all the way to the edge of a map to find perhaps the last little spot of green anything to claim it. Those two palm trees are mine, darn it!
I also predict the term “claim clutter” will quickly sweep the world.
I haven’t seen anyone say anything in chat, which is definitely different than what I’m hearing about general chat spam overload. Eventually someone pointed me to using the crystal above the hub to teleport between islands in order to find tier 1 resources. I honestly have no idea how to get back to the island with my claim on it now. I might be a nomad forever.
Oh, so back to a compliment. I really loved the lengthy intro video by Dave Georgeson. This sort of widespread alpha needed that, and there was a lot of good expectation-setting and tutorial-giving.
I don’t know what to make of these wide-open sandbox canvases, I really don’t. On one hand, I do love to create and build homes, but on the other hand when you don’t know all of the ins and outs, it can be frustrating, boring, and seemingly pointless. Once my pretty house is made, what can I do with it? What will I be able to do with it? I already have Trove, and that has combat, pets, mounts, and all the crafting I could want right now. I’m still trying to get a handle on that, too. And WildStar’s housing has just the right blend of design, function, and freedom that I enjoy. What’s Landmark going to be offering that I’m not getting or going to get elsewhere?
I’m on the fence whether to be patient and just fiddle with Landmark every now and then, or to go ahead and get my $60 back. EQN is the SOE game that I really want to play and so far this is an extremely poor substitute. Fans of Landmark probably don’t want to see me grousing about it anyway in the feeds, and I have no desire to be the sourpuss at their parade. I’m not even grumpy about it; more just ambivalent and puzzled.
So what I’ll probably do is acknowledge the highly volatile, transitory nature of alphas and leave it alone for a week, and then come back to see what’s going on once it’s all a bit more stable. With the money-back guarantee, the onus is on Landmark to prove itself as being worth my cash. I’m not seeing it yet, but this is only the first couple of days, and that “aha!” moment may still come.