Sony Online Entertainment have unveiled two new and very ambitious products: EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark. Yes, two different games. We took all the nuggets of information and compiled them right here for you, and as it turns out, things are looking really promising. After some hands on time with EQ Next Landmark, we can easily say it's way more than just a simple block building tool. And good news, you can play it right now! Confused? We'll clear that up.
Both Next and Landmark are advancing the MMO genre in wildly innovative ways, be it through Minecraft-esque destructible environments or truly expressive facial animations. Weve got everything you need to know about the massively ambitious new installment in the seminal online gaming franchise.
The world is highly destructible
When you think fully destructible environments, games like Red Faction and Battlefield come to mind--get ready to add EverQuest Next to that list. The entire world of Norrath has been rebuilt from the ground up with a voxel based system--which is to say, everything is now made up of tiny little chunks. Much like Minecraft you can now burrow your way downward and end up in a subterranean cave lit by bio-luminance crystals. Delve deeper and you could uncover a magma chamber filled with baddies.
Taking this new system into combat with you now opens up all sorts of strategies. Want to stop a wave of orcs from crossing a bridge? Just blow it the hell up! Having a hard time getting through a castle's front gates because of all the guards? Go around the side and mole your way into the wine cellar for a sneak flank attack. Having this level of destructive freedom opens up new possibilities never found in an MMO before.
...but not fully destructible
Giving a child the destructive power of the Hammer of Thor would be a rude awakening for everyone involved. Now while the world is fully made up in the voxel system, not every building or piece of earth will be combustible. SOE hasn't fully explained yet what won't be breakable but they have stated that major set pieces and central hubs will not be destroyed by power hungry players. They also mentioned that the land will not remain a pot-holed, battle worn deathscape--new earth will "grow" back in after a certain amount of time.
The ability for griefers does seem ripe in some areas. SOE showcased an instance where two heros faced off against a giant stone monster. During the fight, the monster used a powerful slam attack and accidentally broke a hole in the ground, sending the players into a lava filled-chamber below. They landed safely and continued to fight a new batch of enemies. When asked if players will always land on a soft patch of ground, the designers just laughed and said there was a high possibility of landing in a boiling lake of lava and catching a bad case of instadeath.
Norrath is new again...sort of
EverQuest Next will take place back in the high-fantasy continent of Norrath. Players who are familiar with the world will find most of the major set pieces exactly where they left them. There was a strong emphasis on making players feel at home but tell new and exciting stories from their favorite cities.
Areas like Everfrost and Lavastorm will still be there, but thanks to the destructible environments you can now dig down into the cities' foundations and explore whole new nooks and crannies of these iconic locations. And back by popular demand, the land of Oasis makes a return from the original EverQuest.
Many familiar faces and races
As it stands in EQ2, there are 20 different playable races. It remains to be seen how many of those will find their way into EQN, but the current cast includes Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Dark Elves, Ogres, and Kerra. All have gone through a certain amount of design changes to fully utilize the powerful new engine and to make sure we see all the dings and dents in their armor.
The Kerra have been given the most substantive facelift. Instead of having the shorter stub nose of a panther face, they now resemble their larger cousin the lion. Ogres have gone through a redesign of their own, but more in attitude then looks. They are now a more intelligent and organized race of brutes.
It looks absolutely beautiful
The first thing you will notice about EverQuest Next is the stunning visuals. This aint your grandma's Norrath. SOE has brought EQ to the sleek and shiny modern age of video games with the Forgelight engine. Planetside 2 showcased the power of the new engine and it looks like EQN is gonna make it dance for you. Theres a day-night cycle that goes through the whole spectrum of colors and moods associated with a bright sunny day, a dark spooky night, and a warm comforting sunset.
A new cloth and armor simulation is in place to make your character feel like a living part of the world. Your tunic will wave in the breeze and your weapons and armor will move around your body realistically while running or walking. Even the gentle wagging of the Kerra's tail was a nice, subtle touch that keeps characters grounded in the world they are creating.
There will be eight classes at launch, as well as the ability to multiclass
Only two of the original eight classes were announced at SOE Live this year, the Wizard and the Warrior. They showcased the human wizards powers against a gang of unlucky Orcs, and as you would expect, she called down lightning and pushed them around with magic spells. A particularly interesting ability was call Vortex, in which the wizard created a black hole, teleported away, and watched from afar as the poor Orcs were sucked into the rift. The Kerra was all decked out in armor, showing off the Warrior class. He stomped his way through hordes of enemies and slammed his shield down to create an AOE ring of death.
You make your selection from one of the initial eight classes, but it doesnt end there, as there are 40 other subclasses you can acquire. Through unspecified means, you collect these other classes as you progress to level cap. You can swap specific class abilities to create a play style that is all your own.
It'll support SOEMote at launch for absurdly expressive faces
SOE wants players to emotionally connect with their characters, and one way of doing that is through the emotions expressed on their avatars' faces. For each race, there are several built-in facial animations the player can trigger to let everyone know how they are feeling right at that moment. These animations are diverse, and with slightly exaggerated eyes and mouths, you can even tell what a player is feeling from a distance.
But SOE's crown jewel is the SOEMote system, which was first seen in EQ2. By way of a webcam, SOEMote translates your facial movements onto your character in real-time. Looks like the machinima genre just got a great new tool!
Its just a hop, skip, and a jump
The way players get around the world has been completely overhauled. Gone are the days of wishing you could summit a just-out-of-reach ledge. Its 2013 and EQN knows it. Theres now a parkour system that allows you to freely run and vault over obstacles, climb ledges, and slide down hillsides. You can double jump over a gap once thought too far and laugh in the face of a narrow canyon. They also showcased a special pair of boots that allow you to glide effortlessly over long distances.
The movement animations all look very fluid and reminiscent of DCUO and Assassins Creed. The Kerra have a sprint movement where they go to all fours and cover some serious ground. The Human wizard can add an extra few meters to her jump by warping the last leg of her bound. With this new set of movement abilities, players will be able to traverse just about every point they can see.
The AI is one smart cookie
Every group of NPCs is now governed by their races' traits, dictated by sophisticated AI programming. Take, for instance, Ogres. In original EQ days, the developers would place an Ogre camp beside a long-underused road, and that's where they'd stay. But now, the Ogres will do what they will, based on player-driven circumstances. They will stay by that lonely road until something forces them to change. It could be your character went to the city guard and told them to patrol there more often. Or if too many players started using that road or having fights nearby, the Ogres will pack up their camp and move to a more secluded place to wait and ambush passerbys.
With this kind of emergent gameplay the developers hope to create new and exciting situations for the players to stumble across. They emphasized that your choices have a lasting effect. If you drive all the orcs out of a certain forest, they may be forced into a nearby town and now you have a war on your hands.
EverQuest Landmark is a separate tool designed to spur user-generated content
SOE is leaning heavily on its community to create user-generated content for EQN, and its primary tool for doing so is EverQuest Landmark. Available this winter, the stand-alone tool will give players access to a simple and powerful way to create in-game structures. Within Landmark, you are given a piece of land in a world that is shared with others. All of the worlds are procedurally generated and unique, made all the more so by the Minecraft-esque block-based building mechanic. Expect more than just a Minecraft knock-off, as Landmark allows you to change the sizes of blocks, bevel edges, and in other ways smooth hard corners. Players will have access to every texture and surface the EQN design team does.
You can then take your creations and sell them as blueprints to other players. Say you created an awesome tower and someone wants to buy it from you. You sell him the blueprint, he plops your tower down a few times around his castle, and then sells his castle. Youll get royalties from his use of your towers. SOE will be taking the cream of the crop from Landmark and implementing it into the creation of EverQuest Next.
...and you can play it right now, for a price
EverQuest Next Landmark is making a very concerted effort to include its fans in the creation of the game. Normally, studios wait until beta to open up the floodgates, but Landmark is taking it one step further by inviting fans in it's alpha state. They're making it very clear what to expect from the alpha build as well, stating that about 60% of the game is in place and that crashes and bugs are fully expected. Sony Online Entertainment is attempting to move to a new level of transparency for their more hardcore fans, and you would have to be hardcore to want to participate at this stage.
Currently, the only way to get into the alpha is to purchase a Founders Pack, making the price of entry $60. This may seem a little strange, seeing how when the game releases it's going to be free-to-play, but the Founders Pack does come with some serious in-game perks. The developers have already stated that they will be taking people's suggestions very seriously, and since the game is still in a malleable state and players will be able to make big impacts on it's development. It's always a gamble giving access to an unfinished product, especially at this stage in it's development--let's hope it pays off.
You can build anything, but everything must be mined and crafted
So you may be thinking to yourself, "what is the first thing am I going to build right when I get in?" Maybe an enormous castle with a moat of pure gold? Or maybe a treetop fortress with steps leading to the skies? You're going to want to curb your enthusiasm a bit, because once you realize just the amount of materials it's going to take to make your dreams a reality, it can seem a little daunting.
In its current state, there is no fully open "creative mode" that gives you access to all the building materials up front. If you want to build your castle wall out of stone, then you're going to need to go out into the world and find a lot of it. Obviously the rarer materials like gold and diamonds are going to be harder to find, so you may need to re-think your diamond drawbridge.
You can stake your claim basically anywhere
When traveling out into the wilderness of EverQuest Next Landmark you're going to want to find the perfect place to call your own; Maybe you want to set up shop in the middle of a dense forest or on the peak of a mountain. In order for you to start building anything, you're going to need to claim a piece of land, and to do that you need a Claim Flag. Once you have acquired and planted your flag, you will see the border of your new zone. You can build anything you want inside it and nobody can come in and mess with your things unless you give them permission.
Your newly acquired claim gives you rights to everything above and below your flag. You don't need to worry about a troll digging under your home or putting a floating pile of garbage above you either. Your claim also comes with a comfy buffer zone around it so that nobody can come and squat right next to you. Most of the premium places will go quick, though, giving you even more incentive to get in early.
There will eventually be PvP
EverQuest Next Landmark may just seem like a fun creation tool, and that's exactly what it is right now, but SOE has plans to shake all the up. Franchise Director Dave Georgeson, tipped his hat at some features that will change the way you play EQNL. Further down the line and closer to release they have plans to implement Player vs Player zones along with weapon and armor crafting. Up until now you have been plodding away, digging materials, chopping trees and making your home look superb. But now you and your friends are building a castle together, strengthening it with durable materials, adding layers to the walls because soon another group of people are going to try and knock it down.
In the PvP zones, it's going to be all out warfare as clans and guilds struggle to maintain control of the land. All of your building materials act like they should in real life. If you build your fortress out of dirt or wood, enemies will have a much easier time getting through. The ideas are almost endless, digging under a wall and storming a keep, burning down poorly built wooden walls or releasing a river to drown them out. You will come to truly appreciate your friends with architectural skills.
It'll be free-to-play... whenever it releases
Though the Landmark tool is already in alpha, SOE isn't quite ready to talk about when EQN will be available. The studio also hasn't indicated whether the game will be exclusive to the PC, or take Planetside 2's path to the PS4.
What we do know is that much like EQ2, EQN will be a free-to-play, microtransaction-supported affair. The company hasn't yet offered details on how the F2P element will play out, or whether there will be an full-access, subscription option. Time will tell.
Time to re-up?
SOE has made an excellent first impression with EQN--makes you wonder what the first two versions that they scrapped looked like. Will they be able to pull off these lofty promises? From the looks of it, they are well on their way. With no release date yet and a lot more development to be done, EverQuest Next will be one to keep your eye on.