As of this past weekend, the entire MMO community is abuzz about the announcement of EverQuest Next, the sandbox reboot of the EQ franchise. It’s been crowned as the next Great Hope of the MMO genre. Anticipation is already at Guild Wars 2 levels of intensity, and many feel this game could completely revolutionize the MMO universe.
(Also, as an aside, is it just me, or is the MMO community much more prone to over-hype things than the rest of society? Why can’t it just be “This game looks cool” instead of “ZOMG THIS GAME WILL CHANGE THE WORLD 4 EVAR1!!1!!”?)
I won’t deny EQN has some interesting ideas. For one, the entire world is made up of voxels — a programming term for a three dimensional object; think Minecraft cubes — that will allow fully destructible/constructable terrain.
Now, there will be limits to prevent total anarchy. Certain areas, like major cities, can’t be destroyed, and the land will “heal” over time to prevent people from just demolishing the entire planet. I think there also limits on where you can build things.
Supposedly, the entire world of Norrath has been designed in three dimensions, as well, right down to its molten core. Players will be able to dig through the earth to find procedurally generated underground content.
Otherwise, most of what we’ve heard about EQN so far sounds suspiciously like Guild Wars 2.
For example, all their talk of a living and evolving world. It seems as though the questing system and much of the open world content will be quite similar to GW2’s dynamic events. Then there are limited-time global events called Rallying Calls that permanently change the world based on player actions — these sound much like GW2’s “Living Story.”
I don’t really know how to feel about this. It all sounds cool, and certainly I enjoyed the dynamic content in GW2 — for a while. But it became just another grind once I realized most events were really more or less the same. Will EQN provide a more enjoyable experience?
I’m not a big fan of temporary content, either. It’s cool when it only happens once in a while, but when you make it the focus of a game, it is again just another grind, with the added “fun” of missing out if you’re not playing constantly.
One twist is that EQN has supposedly developed a much more advanced AI for NPCs that will allow them to learn and adapt to new situations. If players are constantly killing the goblins in one region, the goblins will relocate to someplace safer. Or maybe retaliate against the local player settlements.
Again, this sounds very cool, but I’ll have to see it in action to judge whether it makes a real difference. Perhaps I’ve just become too cynical, but I can’t bring myself to fall for the hype at face value.
Another similarity to GW2 is that EverQuest Next will lack the holy trinity of group roles. This could be good or bad. I’ll go on record as saying I think GW2’s attempts at this were a somewhat failed experiment. It’s okay for the open world, but dungeons are just awful. They made the mistake of designing the same kind of MMO content without the trinity system it’s based on, creating a chaotic mess.
However, just because Guild Wars 2 didn’t get it right doesn’t mean the idea is flawed. I’m still not a fan of the trinity, and I’d still like to see games break from it. If EQN can pull it off more effectively than GW2 did, it could make for a really fun experience.
Also, EverQuest Next? Really? That’s the best title you could come up with?
I’m not all skepticism:
With all that out of the way, there are a few aspects of EverQuest Next that I’m unabashedly in favour of.
For instance, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous. They’ve got a lovely vibrant style that reminds me of World of Warcraft, but much more modern and advanced. They’re bright and cartoony and lively and OH GOD WHY CAN’T EVERY GAME LOOK THIS GOOD?
The character progression system sounds pretty interesting, too. There are no levels (though I suspect there will be “levels lite” like in The Secret World), and you have massive options for build customization.
Yes, plural. EGN will feature over forty classes, and you can multi-class infinitely.
I’ve said before that I don’t like being forced into narrow boxes of class, so this is incredibly exciting to me. Can I be a rogue that throws fireballs? An arcane archer? If so, sign me up.
Granted, I suspect each “class” will probably only be a handful of skills, but even so, that sounds like a damn cool system.
Gaining a new class isn’t just a matter of clicking a few buttons, either. You need to acquire them by exploring a world — finding a trainer or a tome of arcane lore. Your options can be based on your actions, as well. Good luck getting paladin trainers to give you the time of day if you’ve been going around murdering innocent peasants.
Again, that sounds awesome.
I’m also a bit intrigued by this parkour-inspired movement systems they’ve implemented. As long as it doesn’t become an excuse for a lot of obnoxious platformer gameplay, this could be a lot of fun.
I’d like to be able to be excited about EverQuest Next. But I’ve just never been much of a fan of sandboxes or EverQuest games, and I’ve not yet been convinced that this will be the exception to either rule. There are some good ideas here, but it’s hard to cut through the hype and marketing speak to get an idea of what the game will actually be like.
On the one hand, this could be the game that improves on the innovations of Guild Wars 2 and makes something really amazing. While it may not have held my interest long-term, there are still many aspects of GW2 that I love, and I really do want to see the formula perfected.
However, EQN could just have all the same problems as GW2.
In particular, I’m concerned about story and lore. I don’t see how any interesting storytelling can take place in a sandbox like EQN, and I’ve learned I can’t maintain my interest in an MMO over the long haul if I don’t care about the world and its stories. I like the gameplay of GW2 much more than the gameplay of World of Warcraft, but I’m still playing the latter and not the former. What’s that tell you?
On the plus side, the game will be free to play, so it should be easy enough for me to give it a shot.
Oh, yeah, and EverQuest Next is actually two games. But this post is long enough already.
My latest article over at WhatMMO is on Underused Race Archetypes.
Seriously, why is it so much harder to find giant races than tiny races?