Friday, February 5, 2010

EQ2: Sentinel's Fate Beta Report

The NDA on the EQ2 expansion (launching in less than two weeks) has finally dropped. Here's what I've learned from some rooting around in the beta.

Base stats have changed to ensure that each class is primarily interested in two stats; stamina for HP and a primary stat (STR for fighters, AGI for scouts, INT for mages, and WIS for priests). ALL of your abilities scale to your primary stat, regardless of whether they are physical or spells. AGI and WIS are still nominally used for physical avoidance and spell resistance respectively, while STR still determines carrying capacity.

The good news is that it will be much easier for classes with both physical and spell-based attacks to gear up, as you will no longer be chasing both STR and INT, and all of your crit chances etc have now been unified. The bad news is that this means all the gear in the game needed to be re-itemized (and SOE will almost certainly miss a few spots in the launch rush). It also means that lots of crafted gear is now only good for a single archetype, and the one they picked may not be the class you happen to be.

If you are a priest or a scout, you are especially likely to be wearing a stat (STR, INT, or both) that you no longer need. Regardless, check all of your gear carefully when the patch happens, to make sure that it still does what you want it to.

More Gear Progression
Of course, all of this gear will eventually become irrelevant as part of a gear reset anyway. For reference, here are the DPS ratings of some weapons:
  • Level 72 Mastercrafted weapon: 75.4 Rating
  • Level 79 Legendary (looted from the Crypt of Agony): 84.5 Rating
  • Level 87 TSF Treasured Quest Reward: 94.5 Rating
  • Lyriana's Shiny new Fabled Epic Weapon: 95.8 Rating

Why, you might ask, did I bother to complete the quest knowing that? Well, there's a new quest that will allow players to trade in their epic weapon (either Fabled or the raid-quality Mythical) for a permanent self-buff that provides the unique benefits of the Mythical Weapon (which had become class-defining for many classes). It's worth doing the quest if you can get a group for it, even if it will only get easier as you level.

The Delay of New Halas
In case you have yet to hear, New Halas didn't get done in time for the expansion launch (which means we also are not getting the Thundering Steppes revamp). Both are slated for the next GU. Given that SOE is forcing players to go to a physical retail store if they want the expansion during its first week of release in an attempt to get stores to stock more copies and attract new players, I'm not clear on why it makes sense to fail to finish the new player content before the expansion arrives.

On the plus side, there are apparently some much-needed new quests in the KOS zones, which are currently pretty sparse on solo content. I literally canceled my account and went off play other things for a few months because that stretch of levels was so painful. In one zone, a row of buckets with notes tacked to them that say "collect hides from nearby mobs and deposit here" are what passes for solo quest content - they couldn't even be bothered to write two lines of dialog for an NPC to request the hides in person. I'd been half resigned to stopping any future alts at level 60 rather than deal with KOS again, so this is a very welcome change.

Revamping AA's
The game's AA trees have gotten the traditional revamp, complete with a new "branch" of sorts at the bottom of your class and subclass trees. These AA's, which become available at level 81 with 70 AA's spent in the tree, tend to enhance existing AA abilities, and there's a new endline for each.

The other huge change in this department is that they removed the entire row of nigh useless stat boost AA's from the class trees. After spending the first point, as you do currently, you are free to spend your next five picking up all five combat arts if you're so inclined. This is a pretty big deal for fighters and melee priests, who don't have a ton of attacks in their spellbooks, and can also help if one of your attacks has a useful secondary effect. For example, the Dirge STR line attack can block the next AOE attack aimed at your group from hitting you - this may not have been worth five AA's with the old prerequisite, but it's certainly worth one.

Welcome to Odus
Given my extremely limited time these days, it didn't make a lot of sense for me to sink large amounts of time into leveling on a temporary beta server. (I did, however, take advantage of the level 80 pre-mades to test drive some potential alts, carefully not mentioning that I had done so on beta servers when I wrote it up for the blog. ;)) Based on the time I did spend exploring, the expansion is very pretty (see EQ Traders, EQ2 Wire, and EQ2 Zam for official previews).

Structurally, it's very similar to Kunark - the two overland zones of Odus are about the same as any two zones from ROK, both in terms of landmass (there are auto-flightpoints) and number of quest hubs. Each of these areas seem to have their own local rep grinds to go with the new content. It also looks like there are a bunch of tradeskill quests and factions to go around, which could mean less reliance on grinding city rush order writs for craft exp.

Actually Playing the Expansion
In terms of how it actually plays, I copied Lyriana over and found that she fared about as well against level 82 expansion mobs as she does against level 82 non-expansion mobs, so the power curve looks relatively consistent (compared to the atrocious jump between KOS and ROK when you hit the 68-70 range). The exp per kill and per quest completion seem about consistent with what the current level 80 quests give out, and I also snagged around 2 AA's just running around as fast as my little Fae wings would carry me, picking up discovery exp all the while.

The catch is that these two zones are all that solo players have to work with. I don't fault SOE for that decision, because full-sized group play is comparatively more important in EQ2 than WoW or LOTRO, but it does mean that you go from having about six zones to level in during the 70-80 range and only a third as many for the next ten levels.

This is not necessarily a crisis for new level 80's like Lyriana, since there was a lot of content that I did not use en route to 80. My plan is to go to the Moors, a zone from the TSO expansion that I barely touched en route to 80, when the level cap increases. I can then self-mentor back down to level 80 when I'm ready to hit Odus. Solo players who have already cleared out all of the solo quests in the current game might have a harder time of it, but I suppose that problem will get better as more content is added over time.

Bottom Line
It does not look like there's any reason for players who are not yet level 80 to run out and buy the expansion for full price on launch day. This is NOT because SOE has been neglecting lowbies, but rather because they appear to have decided to give away all of the low level features as part of the game update when the expansion launches. (If you have yet to purchase the game, I'd strongly advise you to wait until the revised all-in-one pack arrives so that you don't have to pay more if you eventually move on to higher levels.)

For everyone else, this expansion seems to deliver the traditional additions at the traditional price. If you're happy with the current game, you're probably going to be happy with the expansion, and that seems to mean that SOE has done their job.

1 comment:

Magson said...

Dang. I want to buy the expansions and re-up, but..... not until I find a new job :-(

Thanks for the most excellent writeup!