Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pros and Cons of Soloing In EQ2

Today's installment of my year-end survey of my solo MMORPG's will cover EQ2. As with yesterday's rundown of LOTRO, this entry will cover three things I like, one thing that detracts from the experience, and a bottom line. (I'll edit in the link to the WoW installment.)

Three Things That EQ2 Does Best
Best Crafting and Housing

EQ2's crafting makes the WoW and LOTRO versions look like afterthoughts. Unlike either system, EQ2's crafting actually requires player interaction during the crafting process (instead of pushing "craft all" and walking away from the keyboard for a few minutes), and permits crafters to advance without also going out into the world to slaughter things.

As to housing, WoW doesn't even offer the feature, and the LOTRO version is very limited in both functionality and appearance compared to EQ2. If you like these features, EQ2 is far and away the best option.

World Events

WoW's world events have the game's trademark production values, but Blizzard insists on introducing random number generator elements to strictly time-limited events. By contrast, SOE's recurring holidays and one-time world events are designed to tell a story, perhaps hand out some unique cosmetic reward, and wrap up. They don't necessarily keep you occupied for weeks on end, but they're always worth doing, and even worth looking forward to.

Character Options

EQ2 has a total of nineteen playable races. Even if you dock them three for having not one (LOTRO), not two (WoW), but FOUR playable elf-races, the game has more racial options than WoW will have after its next expansion. EQ2 has two dozen character sub-classes covering such unusual roles as evasion tank, melee healer, mind-controlling caster, and singer of sad songs that make your party members hit harder. Characters can even betray their cities and switch to the other alignment version of their class. Overall, it's a ton of very unique options.

One Thing That Detracts From the EQ2 Experience: Unreasonably Low Character Limit

The downside of having all those options is that the game makes it unreasonably difficult to actually try all of them. WoW offers ten character slots per server with which to try its ten classes. LOTRO's monthly fee includes seven slots per server, with only nine classes to try, and you can permanently obtain two more slots per server for a ONE-TIME $20 purchase.

By contrast, EQ2's character slot limit with 24 classes (12 pairs of subclasses if you're willing to betray later) is seven slots SHARED across ALL retail servers. The only option to obtain more slots on the same account is to nearly double the monthly fee by purchasing the all-inclusive Station Pass. Or you could also start a second account, paying a second full monthly fee for additional characters who will not have access to your account's shared bank (a crucial feature which can be used to transfer just about every bind-on-pickup currency or loot drop in the game). Players are also entitled to seven slots on the game's persistent test server, but those characters are stuck on that server.

In short, unless you're able to rule out classes with perfect accuracy, your choices are to pay SOE more money or spend time leveling characters that you will have to delete (or possibly re-create, if you use the test server to audition characters). I realize that EQ2 character records probably take up a large amount of data space compared to other games due to insanely large storage inventories (and potentially hundreds of items per character in player housing), but this limit is inexcusably low.

The Bottom Line:

EQ2 offers probably the most specialized game amongst the games I play. If you want to be a Wood Elf Ranger/Woodworker who fletches his own bows and arrows, you can. If you'd like to be a pacifist giant lizard who shapeshifts into animals and makes furniture in his spare time, that's on the table. Winged fairies come in cheerful, homicidal, and sometimes both at once. Somewhere in all those options, there's a character that's right for you.


Anonymous said...

Not to be a heretic, but exactly why do people get excited about EQ2 crafting? It's really dull. It's not an interesting minigame, and although it is more interesting than the null game of crafting in most other MMOs, that still doesn't make it good.

No, the best thing about EQ2 crafting is that you have the option to specialise as a crafter if you want without having to level your character as an adventurer. Unless you want to gather, I guess.

Plus it's the exact same minigame for every single different craft, just with different icons and icon names (SOE really pushing the boat out with that one.)

I didn't really find it fun and I thought it was particularly dull when you wanted to make several items.

Green Armadillo said...

Several points:
- The crafting minigame gets old if you sit down in front of the guild harvest box and grind away at it for an hour at a time. I'll still take that over "click and wait".

- Talk to Ysh about harvesting with an under-leveled character. EQ2 mobs don't have an extended aggro radius on lowbies, and higher level zones tend to have at least some harvesting nodes that can be reached safely by low level characters. (The money in EQ2 harvesting is in the rare drops, not the everyday stuff, so it doesn't break the economy if someone's level 4 adventurer/80 crafter can cherry pick nodes near towns.)

- Probably the biggest thing that EQ2 adds for crafters is content. "Go and craft the item the NPC needs" is a nice change of pace from the traditional "kill something and loot the item the NPC needs" quest. Also, the quests in question are often amusing for those who read the text.

Ysharros said...

The crafting minigame is nothing special -- but that's the case for all MMOs, and those that have tried to make it "fun" have ended up turning it into an even bigger or more irritating grindfest (see Vanguard, at least in its early days).

The crafting itself is just a process. However, what's great about EQ2 crafting is, as GA said:

-- you don't have to level adventuring to level crafting
-- you can make a zillion and one different things, almost all of which are useful to someone
-- there's content *specifically created* for people who like the crafting/harvesting side of the game.

I'm sure the reaction from most people who only craft when they have to would be "So what?" but for those players who -- like me -- prefer to craft/harvest as a primary activity, the three points above make a big difference.

Fortunately, the tedious actual make-stuff minigame gets faster and faster. By the time you're higher level, stuff can get churned out at speed. EQ2's biggest mistake is probably that the way crafting and skills are set up, it's hardest when you're lowest level, which has put more people off it than I can count.

Green Armadillo said...

Comments locked due to necropost spam, sorry guys.