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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Desert of Flames: Continued Impressions

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Yep, I'm back with more impressions of the expansion. Let's get right down to business.

Alright, I know why SOE defaulted the tooltips to full view. With the combat changes they wanted to help everyone easily see what each spell or combat art could do. But let's face it, with the gigantic tooltip pop-up box each time you hover over a spell, the game is basically unplayable. The most asked question I've seen in my time in time playing is "How do you turn off tooltips?" And then someone has to give the stock answer. It's in the options, by the way.

Speaking of the options, that's not where you change the voice-over for your emotes. You do that in the Persona window. Frankly, people don't seem to enjoy the voice-emotes as much as I thought they would. This may be because they had a set idea of what their character's voice would sound like and the voice-emotes sound different. To SOE's credit, there is an insane amount of choices for what you want your character to sound like, although some are honestly absurd.

What about some of the other features of the expansion? The truth is people are too concerned with leveling and exploring right now to really focus on two of the major aspects of the expansion, the faction system and the Arena. It seems to me, just from talking to guildmates, that the faction system looks to be a lot of fun in the long run. Guilds will have a strong desire to take over as much of Maj'Dul as they can. In a way, it's kind of a light version of the geographically based PvP that is so popular in games such as DaoC. Only in this case, the combat takes place in a PvE style. I look forward to the battle.

Just be aware that gaining status with a faction will make getting around Maj'Dul a bit difficult. People still seem to be under the impression that it's a city zone akin to Qeynos or Freeport. It's really more of an adventure zone with a city setting like Rivervale. If you want to explore Maj'Dul at your leisure, you might want to hold off for a bit on the faction stuff. I've played around with it enough to see that it is very well done.

As for the Arena, well, if you don't like PvP you might feel that it is a waste of resources. I think it is a pretty good way of providing some alternative end-game content. Let's say you are level 60. What can you do? In pre-DoF your choices were basically to either play an alt or raid. Now you can do that, but in addition you can work on your faction or fight in the Arena. I will say that I strongly believe that the implementation of some type of reward or at least ranking system will have a great deal of impact on the success of the Arena. In an MMORPG, you can have the most beautifully balanced PvP system in the world, but, if there is no motivation for players to succeed in it, the majority will not be interested. People seem to think the Arena is fun so that's a good start.

It does trouble me a bit that all these additional features, which are pretty significant, along with all the solo content, may have taken resources away a bit from what the core gameplay of EQII is: group-based content and raids. I just hope there is enough content for, say, levels 56-60. For now, I'm pleased with the content I have encountered.

Okay, I'm not really going to get into the combat changes here. It's too large a topic and frankly, I've had so much conflicting information that I don't know what to think anymore. Without actually playing each class, I don't feel I can give a fair analysis at this time. All I can tell you for sure is that as a wizard, I can solo mobs that are a higher level than me fairly effectively. In group, my dps is usually at or near the top. Now, you wizards out there might say, but Aggro, aren't we supposed to be number one with a bullet? Well, yes and more often than not I am. Some scouts do out-dps me occasionally on single target mobs. Yes, wizards are supposed to be the top dps, but not on every mob and in every situation.

Let me give you an example. My level 51 spell is a nuke. A ranger's level 51 spell is a slow/debuff. I haven't parsed group combat since I hit 51, but I'm willing to bet that might put me over the top against rangers in group. It also depends on the type of mob, what spells I have up, and how much my comet hits for.

The complaints in-game have been legion. Some may have validity. But I will not for a second listen to anyone who tells me that the game sucks because they can no longer solo group mobs. Do people not even stop to think about that statement?

All I will say is that the combat changes seem fine for my class and group combat is exciting and fun. I do believe there may be issues with the combat changes for certain classes but I really don't have enough hard evidence to make those arguments yet. Another thing I'd like to remind people is that it's hard to tell just how well you are doing because of the changes to the con system.

Which brings us to the con system. I thought the con system was perfectly fine the way it was at release, but it was changed and has now changed again. I find in unintuitive and overly complicated. I realize that in an MMO many things have to change over time and I have kept an open mind about the combat and other changes. But to me, a con system should stay consistent.

Speaking of consistency, I was a bit disappointed that the orange heroics were made harder not once but twice. Yes, I think they should have been harder but this seems to me an obvious change that could have been made before the expansion went live. After the combat changes, people really need a little stability.

As always, I'm fairly clueless about tradeskilling. It does sound like there are some bugs. More importantly, it seems like little or no progress has been made in improving the fun of tradeskilling. What happened to the batch refines that were promised, lo these many moons ago?

I still haven't touched on everything I'd like to. I'll hit you with some more next week. I'm off to the Living Tombs for some more fun.

The deadline for the contest is today at 11:59 EST so get your entries in now. Thanks to both Krones and EQ2 Stratics for putting the word out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My assassin has been a real pleasure to play. I really like the combat changes. It took me about 3days to get used to the new system. I can take out certain yellow mobs ^ and ^^ pretty easy. Just stay away from the heroics and solo play is quite easy IMHO.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

The arena is really fun if it is you and a group of friends just taking a break from the normal gameplay. I'm afraid to try to play with random people because either 1) the teammates won't talk at all, or 2) "OMG I WTF PWNDED YOU NOOB!" ... need I say more?

8:35 AM  
Blogger jaipehg said...

The best thing I've experienced so far is that harvesting is sooo much easier in other zones, now. Sells fairly well, too, bahaha.

I need to do more with the expansion. I've only been in the city once and I've only watched Anskiere play in the arena.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Combat changes are really mixed feelings.

My 50 guardian is about the same, but fights are usually more intense and last less (which is generally a good thing). In duo with my wife's warden, it pretty much the same.

On the other hand, my 29 fury got hit hard. I used to do Splitpaw at the highest difficulty. Last night, I tried the Upper Tunnels at the easiest level. These are 100% solo mobs, and I could not even make it past a group of 3 gnolls. How sad...

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Tovin said...

Great review, and you're very welcome. Thanks for hosting a great contest like this!!


1:36 PM  

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