Tuesday, June 24, 2008

EQ2 - Continuing Adventures

I’ve been creating different alts in EQ2 since the opening of their Legacy campaign to get returning players. I’ve tried all three variants of the rogue class. Each has different but similar skills to use in combat (stuns, poisons, strikes from stealth, etc). While I have liked things about each of them, they all strike me as being a tad too much like the rogue in WoW and I lost interest. I tried an illusionist and a wizard and while the skills and play style of those classes seemed neat, I lost interest in those as well.

Then I created a halfling ranger. I had fun the other night peppering baddies full of arrows or stabbing the bejesus out of them. Seems like a class with a lot of solo power and would be somewhat useful in groups (though I imagine there’s a lot of rangers floating around). And, of course, his summon pie ability is awesome. (I kid you not: his racial trait is to summon pie, lol).

Playing EQ2 again lends itself to the inevitable comparisons to the other games I have played. One thing I like is the graphics style of the game. Yes, it is cartoony, however the characters and landscapes and objects are all well-integrated. In that world, everything that’s there feels like it belongs there. The more realistic game makers try to make their graphics, the harder it is to create items in games which allow for the suspension of disbelief. In the cartoony graphics of EQ2 or WoW, it doesn’t take much to create an item which fits. In a more photo-realistic game like LotRO, the slightest imperfection in a face, clothing item, or weapon can break the immersion factor. In addition to the graphics integration, there are little things that help the immersion along. When my hobbit burglar (LotRO) is speaking to a quest-giver, he’s basically talking to the NPC’s knees. My halfling ranger, on the other hand, cranes his neck and looks the NPC right in the face and the NPC looks down at him. NPCs / PCs actually looking at each other adds a lot to the animations and makes it feel more like they are really conversing. I’m liking the voice-acted NPC dialog as well; it adds to the feel of the place when I’m actually hearing what I’m being told instead of just reading it off a screen.

The only thing I don’t care for in EQ2 at this point is the boats. I love their travel system overall with the character sprint ability and so forth - just not the boats. In fact, there aren’t really even boats – just bells on the docks that you click on and insta-port to the next dock. There’s something to be said about the game tempo in WoW when you have to wait for the boat (or Zeppelin or Tram). You stand and wait for it and then it finally comes into view. You hop on board and eventually it will take off again. You can watch the place where you were float off into the distance as your ship leaves shore. Sometimes then you’ll get a loading screen though other routes happen in real time. It actually feels like you’re embarking on a voyage. You’re off to a new place to have great adventures. Same thing with riding the wyvrns / hippogryphs in WoW. Most fantasy books and stories tend to have passages savoring the place where the heroes are heading to. The feeling of place is served in games via the travel options. In EQ2, there’s no savoring the experience of travel. It’s just *poof* you’re here *poof* you’re there. It’s kind of like the train in City of Heroes (which I also didn’t care for).

Getting there is neat but the journey is important too.

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