Tag Archives: EverQuest Next

Landmark Is Surprisingly Good

Landmark is a game with a strange and somewhat sad history. It was originally a spin-off of EverQuest: Next, but when Next’s development was cancelled, Landmark was all that was left.

A player-made castle in the building MMO Landmark

But now it’s finally been officially launched. After all the drama surrounding EQ:N and Landmark’s seemingly endless journey through early access, my expectations for Landmarks were set pretty low, but I maintained a vague curiosity, so I decided to give it a shot.

What I found was not the empty afterthought I expected, but a surprisingly charming and enjoyable little game.

Getting your bearings:

The first thing you’ll notice upon joining Landmark is that the game is gorgeous. Stunningly, breath-takingly gorgeous. It hits a perfect balance between style and realism to create a world that is detailed and vibrantly colorful. So much of my time has been spent just wandering around and gawking at the beauty of it all.

The only stumble for the visuals of the game is its character models, which plunge headlong into the darkest depths of the uncanny valley. Faces are more than a little terrifying.

Character customization is also woefully inadequate — I’m particularly amused by a “facial hair” option for female characters, which does nothing. Though I suppose the point is to show your personality through your build, not your character. Still, surely they could have included a few more options.

On the plus side, character animations are incredibly good. Far more fluid and natural than in most MMOs. Seeing your character adjust their stance to account for a slope or slide down the side of a hill is a real joy.

Sliding down a hill in the building MMO Landmark

Movement in general in Landmark is fantastic. Every player is issued a grappling hook to allow them to traverse caverns and mountains with ease, and depending on what boots you have equipped, you can unlock various movement powers to help you get around. Few other MMOs make simply getting around such an enjoyable experience.

The core gameplay of Landmark is very basic, but it works. A lot of your time will be spent gathering resources — chopping down trees, mining ore, and so forth. This is quite easy to do, and even the rarer resources aren’t too hard to track down.

It does take a lot of grinding to get enough resources to build anything substantial. In any other game, this would be intolerable, but the beautiful graphics and stellar soundtrack are incredibly soothing, and that makes the grind bearable, if not necessarily enjoyable.

Combat is simple, though more challenging than you might expect. You get just two skills based on whatever weapon you have equipped, and you have a few different choices of armor, but there’s no real vertical progression here.

Landmark’s combat would get old fast if fighting was as crucial here as it is in the average MMO, but it’s a pretty small part of this game. Generally the only place you’ll find significant numbers of enemies is within the chaos caverns, cave systems where the rarest resources are found.

The caverns are an interesting experience. They capture the feeling of exploring the unknown a lot better than your average MMO dungeon crawl, but they’re also pretty repetitive. The only real variety comes from the ruins found at the end of each cavern, which were player-designed. Even then it’s mostly a visual change, as there’s just not that much variety in the combat encounters.

A character wielding a bow in Landmark

But combat and adventuring aren’t the main attraction in Landmark, so let’s talk about what really matters: building.

Making your mark:

The building tools in Landmark can seem a little overwhelming at first. There’s no shortage of options right from the start, and there are dozens more prop recipes to be unlocked over time.

But the game has a very good (if somewhat lengthy) tutorial that does a good job of showing you basics, and once you find your footing, it’s surprisingly easy to build what you want. I haven’t been too ambitious with my creations, but so far I’ve yet to encounter anything I couldn’t figure out how to make.

It also helps that Landmark thus far seems to have an unusually welcoming community for an MMO. General chat is lively and usually seems happy to answer any questions newbies might have.

The relative ease of building and the warmth of the community lead me to believe Landmark would be a very good MMO for children to play, either alone or (ideally) with their parents. I know I would have loved this game when I was a kid.

At the higher end, the potential for what can be created seems pretty impressive. I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring other people’s builds, but so far I’ve found a functioning stargate, a Tim Horton’s, a large and detailed medieval castle, and the starship Enterprise.

Chevrons encoded and locked

What I haven’t found a lot of yet is builds with combat or stories, both of which are theoretically options. But it’s early in the game’s life, so maybe that will come later.

My one major complaint with building right now would be that you don’t get a whole lot of real estate for it.

Before you can build, you have to stake your claim somewhere in the world. Finding a good spot can take some doing, though it doesn’t seem like all the land has been taken quite yet.

Claims themselves are not that big, though, and by default you can only have one. It costs real money to unlock more. Given how inexpensive Landmark is, that isn’t too unreasonable, but personally I would have preferred to have at least two claims off the bat.

It’s also worth noting you need to maintain your claim. They did a pretty good job of making this as painless as they could; you don’t need to pay anything — simply log in to extend the life of your claim. But you do need to be diligent about it, or you will lose your claim. The design will be recorded, so what you’ve built won’t be lost forever, but finding a new claim to rebuild on could be a hassle.

Lingering issues:

Landmark has far exceeded my expectations, but it’s definitely got some problems.

Building a house in Landmark

It is lacking in polish, which is pretty baffling considering how long it spent in early access. There are bugs and some stability issues. I haven’t found any of this to be too game-breaking — I’ve found workarounds for all the issues fairly quickly — but it’s sloppy, and it’s just not acceptable in a game that spent so long in beta.

My biggest concern, though, is longevity. I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to do with yourself once you’ve finished building your claim. I suppose you could start building new claims, but that costs cash, and even then, you’ll eventually run out of claim slots.

You can explore what other people have built, but I can’t imagine that holding my — or most other players’ — attention for too long.

There’s also a lot of lingering negativity directed toward the game because of EverQuest: Next’s cancellation, but I would encourage people to let go of that.

The sad truth is that game development doesn’t always work out, especially when trying new things, and Next was trying a lot of new things. In the end it’s probably for the best that Daybreak cancelled the game rather than release something that fails to meet our expectations. I understand the frustration — I’m upset about losing Next, too — but don’t be blinded by it, and don’t think that Daybreak are the villains because of it.

It is unfortunate for the people who bought into Landmark in the hopes of having their creations ported to Next, but early access is always a gamble. I’m not entirely without sympathy, but if you paid for Landmark in the hopes of helping to build Next, the fact is you’re the one who took the chance of paying for something that didn’t exist.

A view of a distant claim in the building MMO Landmark

It also needs to be said that Landmark was never the beta for EverQuest: Next, as I’ve seen a lot of people claim. It was always intended to be a separate game. Landmark isn’t an abandoned, unfinished version of Next; it is its own finished game.

Oh, Landmark could — probably should — offer more than it does. I want more character customization options, myself. But it was always intended to be a building tool, not a full-fledged MMORPG.

And as a building tool, it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but good.

Conclusion:

Much to my own surprise, I’m going to recommend Landmark. It’s not necessarily worth making your new main game, but it’s got enough going for it to be worth checking out. Even if you only end up running around and exploring for a few days, the game should still justify its paltry ten dollar cost.

For my part, I need to dig out a cellar for my cottage.


Six MMOs to Watch in 2016

A new year — and a shiny new site — are upon us, and now is the perfect time to take a look at what 2016 will offer for MMO gamers everywhere. Today, we’ll be covering the titles most worthy of your attention in the coming year, from exciting new entries in the genre to old favorites with interesting new developments coming down the pipe.

Blade and Soul:

Blade and Soul fight

North American MMO players have had a long wait to get their hands on this title, which has been live in Korea for some time, but after years of waiting, Blade and Soul is finally on its way to the West.

This free to play wuxia-themed MMO promises combo-focused action combat inspired by fighting games, stylized graphics, and competitve one-on-one PvP .

It looks like a pretty exciting title, but Korean games do have a somewhat mixed history in the West, and Blade and Soul’s North American release was delayed long enough that some of the initial hype has died down. We’ll have to wait and see how it does when it launches on January 19th.

If nothing else, the martial arts theme does offer a welcome break from the Tolkien-inspired fantasy settings that have long dominated the Western market.

World of Warcraft:

WoW Legion Suramar previewWorld of Warcraft has had a pretty rough go of things lately. The Warlords of Draenor expansion has been harshly criticized for a lack of content, a bizarre storyline, and several questionable design decisions, such as attempting to disable flying mounts in all new content.

As a result, WoW lost nearly half its players in six months, and subscriber counts are now lower than they have been since before the launch of the first expansion nearly ten years ago.

But even vastly diminished from its once dizzying heights, WoW remains the largest pay to play MMO on the market by a significant margin, and Blizzard isn’t taking its decline lying down.

Later this year, WoW is set to launch its Legion expansion, bringing a return of the Warcraft universe’s most iconic threat, the Burning Legion, and at last adding the oft-requested demon hunter class.

Even if it’s not the titan it once was, WoW remains a pillar of the MMO genre, and if Legion does well, we could perhaps see it reclaim some of its former glory.

Star Citizen:

star-citizenThe MMO community loves controversy, and at this point, Star Citizen may have taken the crown for most controversial title in the industry.

Depending on who you ask, the sci-fi MMO is either a promising new space sim, a messianic savior coming to deliver the MMO genre from publisher-mandated mediocrity, the poster child for feature creep and unrealistic ambition, or a shameless scam to harvest cash from gullible gamers without ever delivering a finished product.

No matter what perspective you take, Star Citizen is a fascinating game to watch, and even if it doesn’t launch this year — or at all — it’s already providing endless entertainment. Some of the best PvP around can be found in discussions over the crowdfunded title.

Black Desert:

Black_Desert_SceneBlack Desert is an ambitious new buy to play sandbox from Korean developer Pearl Abyss. Already launched in Asia, Black Desert is hoping to launch in North America sometime this year.

Some of Black Desert’s selling features include frenetic action combat, a dynamic weather system that impacts gameplay, gorgeous graphics, extensive support for player housing, a conversation mini-game with NPCs, and deep crafting and trading systems.

Black Desert is another Eastern game that has long been anticipated in the West, and in a lot of ways, its story echoes that of ArcheAge. Both ambitious, visually spectacular Korean sandboxes hoping to find a following in North America.

ArcheAge has suffered more than a few setbacks and controversies — from server instability to questionable cash shop practices — so a lot of the hopes that once rested on it have now been placed squarely on Black Desert’s shoulders. Will it live up to the hype, or fizzle as did ArcheAge? Only time will tell.

Star Wars: The Old Republic:

SWTOR agent 5Star Wars: The Old Republic went through some big changes in 2015. With the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, Bioware radically changed the game’s leveling path, along with a number of other systems, to put the focus squarely on the main storyline, rather than the side quests and other filler content that garnered the game much criticism.

Meanwhile, Knights of the Fallen Empire’s new content has thus far focused almost entirely on single-player story content, and that doesn’t look like it’s about to change anytime soon.

This change in direction is very gutsy, and it puts the focus squarely on Bioware’s strengths — namely personal story — but these changes also amount to an attempt to excise much of the MMO elements from SW:TOR, and that has garnered criticism from some players.

2016 is the year where we’ll learn whether Bioware’s gamble has paid off. It will be very interesting to see if SW:TOR continues this focus on solo story, or backtracks towards a more traditional MMO content model.

EverQuest Next:

EverQuest-Next-Screens-Player-CharacterThe third entry in the EverQuest franchise made a big splash when it was first announced a few years ago with its promises of adaptive NPC AI, unlimited multi-classing, a reboot of EverQuest lore, and a voxel-based world to shape or destroy as you see fit. But since then, there hasn’t been much news. EQN’s spin-off/test bed, Landmark, has languished in early access for some time, while news on EQN itself has been scarce.

A lot of fans have grown concerned, fearing that EverQuest Next will never see the light of day. But Daybreak Games insists work on the title is ongoing, and with Landmark theoretically nearing completion, their focus should now shift to EQN.

2016 is the year we’ll see what Daybreak has been cooking up all this time, and whether EverQuest Next is the transformative game it was thought to be when it was first announced.