Playing EVE Online, EQ2, and Sword of the New World all at the same time gives you a very interesting view of where MMOs are today. Two of the games (EVE, EQ2) were released a few years back, but both had rough starts and are now finally hitting their stride, in very different ways. The third, SotNW, is a new game from Korea that is having its launch issues now, mainly translation and formatting issues. The three could not be any more different, with EVE having its massive scope, EQ2 having its deep and refined game systems, and SotNW being an ‘instant gratification’ type of game with plenty of flash.
If I was to make a prediction now, I would have to say I’ll be done with SotNW within a month, EQ2 within a year, and I’ll still be logging into EVE, although how often and for how long I can’t say. This all depends on the games coming out soon, particularly Warhammer. If Warhammer delivers on even half its hype, especially the PvP hype, I could easily see myself devoting a large amount of my gaming time to that. However, if it falls flat, or indeed proves to be WoW+1, then that free time will easily go towards EVE in large amounts.
The reason I can’t see myself playing EQ2 for a great amount of time is partly to blame on WoW. Having played that game to death, and with EQ2 being similar enough in many ways to it, it just feels like I’m going down a familiar path with EQ2 that I was on when I played WoW. Granted, EQ2 does enough things different to keep it interesting for now, and I could easily see it continue to do this as I continue to level, perhaps enough so to make it a great fallback game should WAR not work out, but that’s a big ‘if’.
Finally, I just don’t see SotNW holding my attention for very long. While it does a lot of things well, or at least different enough to be interesting, it’s overall gameplay feels dated. MMO’s have evolved from the ‘grind grind grind’ gameplay, where it is no longer entertaining to repeatedly kill mobs from level 1 to 100 with no purpose other than leveling itself. Even the multi-character system and the fast pace of combat can’t hold off the boredom of the grind for too long. The flash and style are great at first, but those only go so far as to make a good first impression, which SotNW certainly does. If it was a single player game, with an estimated time of say, 20 hours of gameplay, it would be a great game to pick up and play for a month or so, but as an MMO that hopes to keep players for months on end, I just don’t see how it’s going to succeed. It’s very shallow now, and I don’t think it has the underpinnings to expand the basic gameplay. Still curious to see how PvP works, but I’m guessing it comes down to who out grinds who for gear rather than any real PvP skills, but I could be way off base on that one.
I will say this, the enhancing system, putting a +1 on an item for a certain cost, and once you hit +4 anything beyond that has a chance to blow the item up, is brilliant. I know Lineage had this system, so SotNW is not breaking new ground, but props for having the system in the game. It’s a great money sink, as well as giving players the chance to create something of real value if they take a risk. Say you have a rare weapon that you intend to sell, but first you gamble and enhance it to +6. If you blow it up, you take a huge hit by losing a rare weapon along with any money you put in to getting it to +6. However, if the risk pays off, and you get it to +6, it could be worth a fortune on the auction house. This also makes money always relevant in the game, as at no point will you reach the ‘I have nothing to buy’ status you do in many other MMOs. It also makes getting the same drop not as useless as it is in other games. Let’s take WoW as an example, anyone who has done any raiding has killed Onyxia, and very likely you have killed her more than once. Onyxia has a fairly limited loot table, dropping all tier 2 helms along with a few rare weapons. Once you have your tier 2 helm, that drop is no longer interesting to you in WoW. Imagine if WoW had the enhancing system, and you could gamble with your tier 2 helm, pushing it to +5 or +6. If it blows up, it makes going after Onyxia the next week a little more interesting. If you succed in enhancing it, you gain a small advantage over other players wearing the same item with only +4 on it. Why more games don’t feature a system similar to this I don’t understand. Am I missing something here, am I not seeing some major downfall to the system?