Greetings, lovely LoreHounds! Happy New Year! My health has kept me away for quite a while, but luckily for me it improved enough that I’ve been able to give the Everquest Next: Landmark alpha a whirl. And even better, the NDA was dropped so I can tell everyone about it! Perhaps you can see it in the exclamation points I’m already starting to litter around, but I am having an absolute blast with this game. I’d meant to have this up Monday, but I simply haven’t been able to drag myself away long enough to get anything done. But enough is enough, right? So read on to see my thoughts on this lovely game.
I feel like this needs to be stated. Landmark is in its early alpha stage. So everything I am opining on is in an unfinished state, and likely to change as time goes on. The devs are hard at work implementing features and fixes – quite often they’re in the office until 3, 4, or even 5am. I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed thus far – not only has this game been more stable than many launches I’ve seen, but the dev team works very hard to make sure that the servers are up and running when they leave the office. They are active on Twitter, reddit and the forums; I’ve never spent even a moment wondering what was going on because they are posting about issues almost before they happen.
And beyond that, they are explaining the large issues as they are found and fixed. It’s incredibly amazing, and I don’t have even the slightest bit of regret at having purchased the Trailblazer pack.
Yes, there are issues. I say the game is more stable than many launches I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any crashes. There’s been quite a few. There are bugs and problems galore; I’ve lost my buildings and the materials to create them several times, I’ve lost tools, many things aren’t working for me like screenshots (I’m taking screenshots via printscreen and pasting into a graphics program), and many of the building tools go on the blink. Claims have been lost a few times, there’s been database issues causing entire islands to detach from the world … it is definitely an alpha.
But this is still an amazing game. Even the bare bones state that’s currently in place is incredibly fun, and I really can’t praise the development team highly enough for their level of communication and dedication.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned animation in a preview before, because I simply don’t care about it. It’s not something I ever notice when I play a game. I know that it’s important to a lot of people, or at least, I assume it is given how often it’s used as a reason to slam a game, but most of the time I just don’t even think about it. Sure there are cool moves here and there that I notice – a few of the monk moves in EQ2 come to mind – but generally speaking, I just have nothing to say on the matter.
But there is an exception for everthing, and in Everquest Next: Landmark, I have found the animation exception. Animations and movements are just amazing. Everything is fluid and I actually feel as though I’m a part of the world when I move around. And on top of that, well, it’s just fun to move around. I run, jump, slide, glide, double flip, tumble, roll, dive … at first I thought it was all just a gimmick, but as I played and moved around more I began to realize that I do actually have control over how I move and it wasn’t long before I was zipping around simply for the fun of it.
The grappling hook is especially amazing. I scale cliffs and mountain peaks with just a flick of the wrist, shooting out my line and pulling myself forward, all the while singing spider man, spider man, does whatever a spider can… hahahaha. At the moment my favorite thing to do is dig out a vein of cobalt, then once I’ve mined it out, I shoot up my hook, slingshot myself out, fly up into the air, double flip then dive and roll onto the ground. Just so much fun.
The game is beautiful. Absolutely stunning. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about how cartoony it looks, but I have to disagree. Everything is lush, detailed, gorgeous, and there’s definitely a consistent style even as you move through the different biomes. I can’t wait to see more.
I’ll let the screenshots speak for themselves, although as is usual when I play games I’ll note that I am not playing on ultra settings. There are things that I don’t like (such as bloom settings) so I turn them down or off. If you like all the bangs and whistles of everything on ultra, then the game will look even more amazing than my screenshots here. They’re mostly moonlit deserts, because, well, I love moonlit deserts. So that’s when I tend to think of taking screenshots!
Harvesting in Landmark is both simplistic and incredibly cool. I mean – you can harvest the entire world! There are no nodes, everything is destructible and turns into building and crafting materials. While there are veins of ores in the ground that you’ll be looking for, there is definitely not the sense of scarcity that is usually present in a game. You’re not running around the world looking for a single clickable object. The ores spawn in the ground, anywhere, everywhere, so you’re not really competing with other players over them, which is quite a novel experience.
That said, I do have one major complaint about harvesting – hand fatigue. I would definitely advise anyone playing at this point setting up a macro that keeps the mouse button depressed. Harvesting is simply a matter of pointing the curser where you want to harvest and holding down the mouse button – so anyone with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other problems affecting fingers and wrists will find harvesting a frustrating – if not outright painful – experience. I’m already feeling a bit of pain after just a few days of playing.
It’s also worth noting that looking for veins is entirely dependent upon color, so color blindness is an issue. I’ve spoken with a few partially colorblind players who’ve told me that it was challenging at first. They’ve been able to recognize textures as they play, but even so there are a few types of ore that they can’t see. Iron seems to be the biggest offender.
But I have left out one thing – harvesting is about more than mining. You’ll be chopping down a lot of trees as well. Tree chopping is already an infamous activity, as can be seen by this Ballad of Burled Wood.
I hate tree chopping. Thus far it’s the only thing in this game that feels “grindy” to me. I can happily mine for hours even if I don’t need any ores, but the moment I need any wood planks at all I feel like I’m suffering horribly. As an example, when making my cobalt pick, I spent 4 hours mining gold to get the elemental gold that I needed, and it only took about 20 minutes to get all the burled wood. But those 20 minutes were 20 long, boring minutes of wishing it were over.
I’ve actually put a lot of thought into the difference between tree chopping and mining. It’s the same process – point and hold down the mouse button – so the fun factor is clearly in other aspects of the hunt. My ultimate conclusion is that tree chopping is just monotonous. All I do is go to tree to tree to tree to tree. There’s no exploring, there’s no wandering around, it’s just stand in one place pressing a button. At least in mining I’m digging a hole – and I have happened upon hidden veins of different ores now and again while down in the mining pit. But when the trees, you’re just staring at a tree trunk until you hit the end of the life bar and it disappears.
I know that combat is coming, and they’ve shown pictures of the Chomper, a plant monster, so hopefully forestry will be gaining excitement. But until that point, chopping trees is the most boring aspect of Landmark hands down.
The crafting system itself is pretty simple – you go to a crafting station, select a recipe, and if you have enough materials to make what you want, just click and wait. Recipes seem to be entirely dependent upon the station (you read that right – there’s no crafting skill to grind!), although the devs have mentioned discovering recipes in the world so I suspect that what I’m seeing now is only the bare bones of functionality.
When you first log into the game, you land at the base of a magical tower. Unless you have the Founder’s Pickaxe, you start with a stone pick, a stone axe, and an open world. There’s a basic crafting forge at the base of the tower that you can use to make ingots, wood planks, a few upgrades to your axe and pick and upgraded crafting stations. Each new tool grants you access to new types of ores, stones and gems. Each new crafting station grants access to new upgraded tools, gear, and props to decorate claims. Tools and gear have a chance to proc into better items.
As I mentioned above, there isn’t a crafting skill to grind up to move forward, the only gates are materials and access to the right stations.
One thing that I’ve seen hotly debated is the creation of design tools. You don’t start with all of the tools for building, they have to be crafted, and they take up an inventory slot. I like that, it gives a definite sense of progression. I love the feeling of “YAY! I FINALLY GOT IT!!” when item hunting. However, I can see how this would be frustrating for those who just want to build. Until you get a few design tools made, building is so frustrating and limited that it’s tough to even make anything with limitless dirt and stone.
I’d really like to go into more detail here, but I haven’t spent much time crafting – my interest has been in building and mining. I know you can make props for claims, but I have to admit I haven’t actually taken a look yet to see what props there are. I know you can make pillows as I’ve seen them, but unfortunately that’s about all I can tell you. I will definitely touch back on this at a later stage.
This is what makes the game. Finding your claim, planting your flag, and then ….. building your dream home. Whether that’s a castle, temple, cottage, tower, sculpture …. you can make anything that doesn’t offend prudish explorers. I wish I had some screenshots of creations for you, but there’s been difficulties with saving builds, so I haven’t seen anything yet to take a picture of, and while I have made (and lost) 4 temples now, it never occurs to me mid-build to take a screenshot. I’m sorry! I’ll definitely make sure to update with building shots as soon as I see any, or start building again I’d go in now and look, it’s late enough in the day that there’s probably people building already, but if I log in now I’ll never finish this.
But building is straightforward and powerful. You select the material you want to build with, some of them have multiple textures, which is nice. Tiling, bricks, roof slates, smooth or burnished surfaces, there’s a decent amount of selection here. Then you select the tool and start clicking! There’s a grid mode to help with planning and placement, even a select tool that allows you to copy, paste, fill or delete spaces more quickly than just placing a block at a time. Though the select is done manually – I do wish that I could just draw a box and select everything inside it like I can with 3D rendering programs. Instead it creates a box that you have to size by dragging the sides.
The paint tool deserves its own section. Let me extoll upon the wonders of the paint tool. Let’s say you’re like me, and want to build yourself a building out of marble. Marble is a higher tier, so you don’t have access to it early on. But never fear! The paint tool allows you to change the materials in a structure. So I can build my glorious temple out of stone, then later when I have excess marble, I can just paint the stone into marble. This is actually a transformation – so I would then get the stone back and lose the marble. This also allows things like blocking out the basic structure, then going back in later for detail work.
I’ve never played MineCraft so am unable to make the obvious comparison, but I can tell you with certainty that based on the MineCraft screenshots I’ve seen, Landmark creations are much more beautiful.
I like the size of claims, it’s plenty of room to work in, and not so large that filling your space is intimidating. I have a glorious desert mountain peak (the moonlit shot above is the view from my claim), I’ll be sad when the claim wipes come and I’ll be forced to give it up!
Is it terrible that I just want to say “building is awesome,” leave it at that and log back in? Hahaha. It would be, so I’ll dive into more detail before I actually do that. :)
The worlds seem to consist of 2 types of space; claims and buffers. From what I’ve been able to tell, the world is gridded up into large buffer spaces. When looking for a place to settle, you plant your flag, which creates a smaller area of land that counts as your claim. You can place your claim anywhere inside the buffer zone. Once your claim is made, no one else can claim territory within that buffer zone.
Buffer zones exist so that there will always be places to harvest. You can’t mine or chop trees inside a claim, so it wouldn’t take long before a world became completely unharvestable if every inch of it could be claimed! I am wondering how this will play out once you’re able to link claims. It’s been stated that you’ll be able to build in the buffer if you have two adjacent plots. It seems to me that this will drastically reduce the amount of harvesting space, but without actually seeing it in action, I’ll admit I may be worrying over nothing.
I think I will write up a bit of a guide on building later on, so look forward to that!
My Landmark Motto would have to be this: There is no such thing as just a few minutes! Once I log in, if I don’t actually set an alarm, I am likely to stay playing until a server crash or patch. Even losing everything multiple times hasn’t deterred me in the slightest. I cannot wait to see how it progresses. I will definitely be writing updates and follow up posts as different stages are hit, so keep your eyes peeled!