The Low Level Revolution!
Vive Le Low End Game!
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
Most MMO's have, at most, a month to convince their customers to stay on and continue playing. This makes the low end game vital to the continuance of the subscriber base. What happens, however, when the MMO ages, and a majority of the player base is in the mid to high end game? You guessed it. It gets neglected, like that copy of the Sims 2, that you burned out on 6 months ago. Lost in a flurry of new content, or tweaks to make the hungry subscibers happy it becomes inadequate at best. This is why I was shocked when I heard the SOE Developers were reviewing the Isle of Refuge and other low end content back in September. I was more than excited to see the changes this past week the Test server for Live Update #19.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
One of the most unusual aspects of Everquest 2 was its subclass system. You started off as a fighter or a mage, moved into something like a crusader or summoner, then on to your final classes such as Paladin or Conjurer. It had its benefits by not committing you right away to a certain class and allowing a certain feeling of controlling your destiny. Its downfall was in the redundant replayability and confusion of which direction to take for what class. SOE has taken notice of the lack of interest and is taking action. As of LU#19 you should be starting out as the class of your choice.
Starting over is always a unique and exciting opportunity (except when your wife finds your painting of the bedroom unsatisfactory). As a Templar, I thought it would be interesting to go in another direction. What's the polar opposite of someone who heals and brings life? Someone who causes pain and death. Necromancer it was! Fortunately the tutorial has been removed because my time is...well worthless but I have to hurry or I'm going to miss Family Guy.
Now I'll spoil as little as possible for quest speicfics and also remind you that this is still in what they are calling "alpha." A great example of this, is they just scaled back mob difficulty. Apparently too many players were getting dropped in only a few hits, resulting in Blackguard calling us "n00bs" (see his update notes here).
Arriving on the island, you'll meet Tayil N'Velex who will be your guide through this journey on what is now referred to as the "Outpost of the Overlord." The overall layout of this island is the same, but you'll notice that it shares very little in common content wise. First and foremost, the tower on the island looks a little more menacing (not to mention has a much lower poly count from my understanding) At the time of this writing the Tradeskill Instance wasn't in place but I can't imagine there will be too many complaints about that.
When you decide to begin your adventure, Tayil will of course tell you of your purpose here on the lovely island. She'll then send you off on your first quest. As you leave the starting area, you'll notice immediately that the islands inhabitants have changed. No more 6 quagillion goblins are roaming around waiting to be slapped. In fact, one of your biggest enemies early on is....bees. Wait! Don't panic yet because you'll have to kill some of these to finish your first quest. No, your not working for Winnie the Pooh, but you will be hard pressed not to poke at one of their hives as you walk by. Once you are done, back to Tayil you go, for your reward which is a piece of armor! Quest rewards you can use?! Very cool.
After patting yourself on the back for the quest that took you veterans 2.5 minutes to do, Tayil sends you off to another camp further into the island. In the spirit of all MMO's, you will of course meet another NPC too lazy to do his dirty work. They are very willing however, to pay you to do it. My next wonderful adventure, I had to drop down some bait to lure birds, then whack them when they weren't looking (you reading this PETA? I loved it!).
In the interest of not spoiling anything for you, I won't get too detalied on the quests, but suffice to say there is plenty to do. As you delve further into the island, your attention will immediately be grabbed by the goblin replacements. Thats right. Elves. Some on horseback and some not. While screaming "I'm stealing Frostfell!" I quickly dispatched one after another wishing I had snowballs. Don't underestimate these Elves though. They have trained bears, hawks, and ninjas to assist them in fighting against you. Thats right I did say ninja. You'll notice elven scouts occasionally croched behind a tree, lurking like Jack Thompson at Penny Arcade's website.
All your quests will end up with Tayil but the very last quest will once again send you into that instance that you always had to group up for. Good news though! It is now soloable. It does work similar to the last, where everything attacks on a timer, but with diligence and patience (not to mention being the right level) victory will be yours! This final quest completes your requirement on the island. You'll be sent to someone at the docks and suprisingly rewarded your Call of the Overlord. Your time here is done, so utilizing your call you will be sent to your section of town.
Welcome Home you Scallywag
The circle is now complete! Soon you will feel the power of the darkside! Ok well maybe instead, you'll just show up on the dock in the neighborhood your race lives in. I was expecting there to be someone at the dock greeting me in the usual arrogant, casual, "you suck" fashion that they normally do in Freeport. As I smelled the rancid air of Longshadow Alley, something felt different. Yes, I did have to go to the bathroom, but it was something else. I approached a Dark Elf on the docks who told me of the Tier'Dal and asked for my help. A series of quests had me involved in a sinister assassination.
To my elation, taking care of this individual granted me my citizenship. I found this quest much more enjoyable than randomly killing creatures for "tokens" and then walking in an instance testing me with a few seemingly unrelated tasks. It seemed to flow much smoother, and have a lot more story involved. So with citizenship wrapped up, its time to move on to randomly killing or meaningless "Fed Ex" quests right? Wrong. I was then told to find someone in the Graveyard zone and given directions to find it.
I was unprepared as I entered the Graveyard to receive an extensive history of the Overlord and his defeat of the Knights of Truth. It was refreshing to learn a little bit about what actually goes on in Freeport. Whoever did the quest writing did a pretty incredible job in my opinion. As I went from the Graveyard, to the Sunken City, to the Ruins it had all been revamped with entirely different inhabitants and a whole series of quests to do in each zone.
One strange thing in particular I noticed in the Ruins. was how submissive the Overlords troops were. It's interesting to note how much power he holds over these men now. I stopped long enough to get a nice screenshot of them. Ok, I ridiculed them by naming them "Wayne" and "Garth." Happy?
New Spells for All!
I hinted at it earlier. Did you really think I was going to talk about all this cool stuff without mentioning the massive spell revamp they have going? As I mentioned earlier every single class will have its level 1-20 spells completely revamped. If you played a Conjurer/Necromancer you remember not getting your pet until level 10. As a Necromancer I had a pet bat to assist me at level 1. As I progressed through the first 10 levels, I noticed instead of the generic nukes that a mage receives, I got the typical Necromancer Damage Over Time spells.
I verified with a few others, and the consensus is that the lower end abilities are just toned down versions of the higher end ones. I see this as a mixed blessing. While it doesn't really provide the variance of abilties many people are looking for, it does teach the player how to use those abilties. As they grow in strength, they will already have methods and tactics established.
Overall, the work on Test looks really good. I went in with skepticism, scrutinizing things, looking for shortcomings but finding near nothing to complain about. Prepare yourself for some interesting changes. Tuck away that level 60, reroll a new character and enjoy all that Live Update #19 will have to offer you. Be sure to check out Savanja's article which covers the Qeynos changes.
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