I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in high school. I still remember my first time watching a game, on a cheese wagon as the band went to its first away game my freshman year. I was hooked. And it all revolved around a lore set that drove the game mechanics: you were a planeswalker, an archmage traveling among dimensions, with eldritch ties to those various lands you had visited that powered your magic and allowed you to summon their inhabitants to your aid. Each new set unveiled new lands, new peoples, new spells for the planeswalker (the player) to collect. It was great!
Throughout college, my interest waned…and then died. You see, with every pack I opened in college, I started noticing a trend. The cards were no longer spells, they were actions of a predetermined set of characters, as Wizards of the Coast turned each set into a story. Before a card that let you draw cards might be named after a famous planeswalker (not unlike Mordenkainen’s line of spells in DnD), now it might be named “Wisdom of Gerrard” after one of the characters in the drama, and the flavor text relating to the story of the Weatherlight airship and its current adventure. Then we got cards that were simply not spells at all – Hand to Hand comes to mind. Eventually we got sets specifically designed to trash rules that had been developed by the lore of the game – big powerful flying *water* creatures. Regenerating trolls…that were part of the nature magic category instead of chaos and destruction.
For me, at that point, specifically when I unwrapped a pack and found a card whose name I don’t remember but that depicted the Weatherlight taking “evasive maneuvers” – I realized I wasn’t playing Magic: The Gathering anymore. I was still playing a similar game mechanically, but so much had changed that was a hallmark of the game and its lore that I just wasn’t interested anymore.
And that is pretty much what I feel when I look at all the information about EQN. I ask the question – how is this Everquest? I mean, its fine for Trion to say “we’re not in Azeroth anymore” – but how would you feel if Blizzard said it? This is Norrath – but not Norrath and nothing will be the same except for names.
And we can already see the edges of that. Where are the Erudin? The Trolls? The Kerran are a staple now? Why not call them Vah Shir again? Which leads into questions about the art style. We’ve decided to go down the road of giant shoulderpads and overly decorated shields. That works for a lot of MMO’s, but that has never been a part of what Everquest is (Where are the incredibly done cloaks, robes and hoods?) We really aren’t in Norrath anymore are we?
And that brings up classes. Classes with unique abilities and a system of checks and balances – another well established feature of the game. Sure rogues are pure DPS – unless you want to trade some of that DPS for some useful group buffs (bard). Do you want a mage with some CC, or one that trades its CC for some extra heals? Deep in a dungeon you probably want a purist tank class – but the casual grouper could use some of the self healing that shadowknight or paladin brings. Everquest 2 went one step further and gave us classes that had trademark abilities revolving around throwing knives and calling a band of thugs, temporary pets from the abyss and a wide variety of healing from warding to reactive healing to HoT’s. Some classes have pets but others can take direct control over them, fulfilling roles the group may not have.
All that is gone. Instead we have gone the route of GW2, but apparently without even the most basic class anchors that they put in place. Now we are playing Pokemon with classes (gotta catch them all!). And if you don’t think that this isn’t a set up to sell you rare and unique classes in a F2P game, your head is either buried too far in the sand or too star struck to catch wind of the obvious incoming danger-close round.
Not to mention the music. Oh god, the music. Everquest’s main theme is epic beyond reason. When you hear it, the reaction it draws is comparable to hearing the theme to Star Wars or Jaws. It rips emotions out of you and throws them on the table for you to look back, and gives you flashbacks the likes of which LSD could never hope to match. And instead of that, we get a new theme that has not even the barest of nods to the original. Instead of calling us to adventure and awesome, it calls us into self-reflective naval gazing.
Add into that some further unknowns. Over at the EQN website, they are asking about ninjas and shotguns. Are we really still that deep in the conceptual stage? Does that mean the game is still 3, 4, 5 or more years off? What is Landmark really? How much of it will take place in the real game and how much will be its own entity? Are we really serious about letting players blow up the landscape? If so…cool I guess, so long as you check & balance it, but again – how is that Everquest?
Will EQN be a great game? Who knows. Will it fulfill all our hopes and dreams? Probably not, because we tend to have lofty expectations. Will we enjoy it and get all hyped and excited? Most likely. But none of that really interests me. Its the same drama that gets played out with every new MMO release. The real question I have right now is – will this really be Everquest? I’ve played all three Everquest MMO’s, both the console based single player RPG’s, and even the PnP RPG. Right now, it doesn’t look or feel like it. None of the things that make Everquest what it is are present in the game. To me, it just looks like another new MMO.
And for the IP that all but gave birth to this genre, that’s about the most damning thing I could say.