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The PAX MMOs

April 13, 2012

Dear Reader,

As promised, today I’ll do a few brief reviews of the four MMOs I saw demoed and/or got to play at PAX: Tera, The Secret World, the Neverwinter MMO, and Guild Wars 2.

Tera:

It’s very Korean looking.  The graphics are quite cutesy but also extremely well detailed.  It will be a beautiful world to play in, like Rift was, regardless of your feeling about cartoonish graphics.

My buddy reported that the combat was “too button mashy.”  Since it’s an action MMO, I think that’s to be expected.  That said, the combat is at least different from standard targeted MMO combat, so that’s a plus, but with Age of Conan and DDO already having pretty well integrated this style of combat, it’s nothing revolutionary.  There were very limited abilities to be used (I seem to recall only a few buttons at the bottom of the UI), but since it was a demo, I have no idea where in the leveling scheme that character was, nor whether or not that was a goal of the game, since fewer abilities seems to be something I saw in each of the MMOs.  More on that later.

Overall, I was lukewarm to Tera.  My wife, though, was enthralled, and spent probably a half hour speaking to the gentleman demoing the game.  I’m sure I’ll be playing it some either way.

The Secret World:

I was excited about TSW before, and I still am.  The actual booth did little to change my feelings about the game, as what I saw was largely what I expected.  The game plays similarly to WoW, but the character I was playing had fewer buttons.  I played a pre-made character that used dual resources, like a rogue.  She had an energy bar that went down and refilled as abilities were used, and she had a combo-style meter that allowed more powerful abilities.  The rogue-ish mechanics didn’t do much to impress me, to be honest, but it was fun to play.

The younger brother of an old friend I was with actually got killed in the demo, though.  That holds special weight since he’s basically a gaming god, young and virile on the digital battlefield (take that as you will).  He spends his free time watching Starcraft 2 matches, for example, and was able to beat both his brother and me in virtually any game we played by the time he was 12 or 13.  The fact that he died (and I didn’t – BOOYAH!) pretty clearly indicates that the leveling in the game might actually be challenging and fun, which I hope turns out true.  I watched one fellow play for a while, and he nearly died but survived through skillful play while he was battling only two mobs.  I don’t believe this was low level, either, since the hit point pool was over 1,000, but who knows.

The graphics were as we’ve seen in the videos: beautiful, realistic, and hauntingly familiar.  One locale was on the shore of a lake with a ruined bait shop in the background.  Overturned boats formerly for rent littered the beach where ghastly monsters roamed.  It’s another beautiful game to play; hopefully it’ll be fun, too.

Overall, I wasn’t awed by what I saw, but it did cement the already-placed desire to play TSW.  I also got a beta key, which I’ll probably use.  I’ll report more on character creation then.

The Neverwinter MMO

I’m not sure what the title was, or if the title was simply “Neverwinter” (which it might have been).  I wasn’t even sure it was an MMO until I asked, as it played a lot like an action co-op shooter.  That in and of itself is a good thing; to make a D&D MMO that plays more like Borderlands would, I expect, be a massively successful decision.  It required mouse targeting rather than click targeting, which I look forward to, as I think I’ve grown tired of rotations that disregard actual skills other than button pushing and timing.  What I know about this is simply that left and right click have different attack effects; one might be a ray of frost and the other a magic missile, for example

It seemed a lot more open-world than DDO, which makes sense; there’d be no reason to make the same game again.  I asked about which rules set will be incorporated, and was told that it was “like 4th edition, with some changes.”  Since 4th edition is widely regarded as a pen and paper version of a computer RPG, that doesn’t surprise me, or, to be honest, please me, but it’s honestly what I expected.  I didn’t think they’d use Pathfinder or re-use the outdated 3.5 edition.

The graphics were pleasing, but since I didn’t get to play due to a huge line, I can only briefly talk about what I saw.  The player was in a dungeon, running up some stairs.  The lighting was very nice, with good shadow effects.  I never saw any mobs.

Overall, it looks okay.  I need more information to really see what I think, though.

Guild Wars 2:

I only saw a video about this.  One of the “shills” who beat me in the Q&A was the lead designer of Guild Wars 2, and he showed this video instead of me getting to ask a question.  Perhaps that tainted my appreciation of the video, but honestly it just looked like a cross between WoW and Rift.  The attack sequences were very WoWish; there was clearly a charge, a blink, a stealth, etc.  Like Rift, there were open-world encounters; what we saw was a giant attacking a nearby city.  Lots of players came to fight the giant and work together to down him.  I liked that social aspect of it; they didn’t have to group or anything, as in Rift.  I did like the more physics-based combat.  In WoW, if someone shoots an arrow at you and you step away, the arrow follows you.  It appears in this game that such things will not be true; if you step behind a tree after a wizard tries to lightning bolt you, the tree, and not you, will be hit.  Only time will tell.

The graphics were enjoyable; it was a Westfall-style zone with sparse trees and yellow grass.  The PC was a tauren-like beast that naturally got down on all fours if he’d been running a while; it’s a small thing, but it was a nice addition.  Healing looks like it’ll be more interesting as I believe it has to be targeted more carefully.  Also, when you die, you don’t die instantly; there’s a chance you can come back or be helped up by someone locally.  Certain abilities can enhance this, like a rogue’s screening ability that stealths a whole area, so he can sneak in and help you up.  It’ll be interesting to see how it develops, I suppose, but for now it just looks like WoW meets Rift.

At any rate, I got betas into three of those four games, so more information will be forthcoming.  If you have any specific questions, I’m sure I know more about the games than I wrote, so feel free to ask.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (but still running on two feet)

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