Norrathian Notebook: I tasted Landmark's combat and I like it!

Better late than never, right? At long last, after months of only mining and voxel magic (and then an overnight delay), I have finally partaken of the Landmark combat fruit. And oh, how sweet it is! Of course the system was just barely implemented and is in only its first iteration, but that doesn't stop me from sharing the experience I had upon first logging in to check things out. So in I jumped just as soon as servers went live... and there I lost the rest of my day.

Even with the inevitable bugs, I was not disappointed by my first few hours of this update. There are flingers and teleporters, weapons and proximity mines -- plenty of things to keep a slightly wacky mind occupied. And who can leave out the new joys of fall damage? Here are my unadulterated first impressions of that much-anticipated system.

DvB

Before we actually got in and experienced any PvP for ourselves, there was a hefty round of DVB -- devs vs. bugs! It's not unheard of for large Landmark updates to need a little extra time, and you can't really get any larger than implementing combat! So it wasn't too much of a surprise when the server downtime stretched longer and longer into the night. That doesn't mean we weren't antsy to get in, though; we just know the devs had their hands full working last-minute kinks out. Honestly, I want the server to not come up until ready rather than come up and tease me for a few before crashing down again!

Fan excitement was palpable as we all stayed glued to Twitter for the inevitable "All Clear!" shout. I gave up before 1:00 a.m. EDT; the game wasn't back until after 7:00 a.m. That gave me a more rested opportunity to delve into the new system. Sadly, the EU server was still crippled throughout the afternoon, depriving those with claims there from enabling the combat on their own properties.


Movers and shakers

Before I tinkered with the PvP, my attention was riveted on the new movement props. Because the platforms were causing one of the serious crashes, those were left out of the update for now, but that left the flingers and the teleporters. Oh, the fun you can have with a friend and a few flingers! Yes, I will admit we spent way too much time just catapulting ourselves around the claim -- and we loved every moment of it! Forget for a moment about the ornate plans that have been brewing in my mind about how to incorporate these into my build in very insidious ways; the sheer fun of launching ourselves around kept us entertained for a while.

After a spell, the insidious thoughts returned, and I began evilly plotting how my maze would be upgraded with these new baubles. So naturally I was distracted by building for a spell when I remembered that I absolutely had to test the PvP in the combat update. Luckily for us, although this is still SOE, "CU" is not a dirty word for Landmark as it was for a certain other sci-fi game.

PvP on my terms

Think about it: How much more on-your-own-terms can the PvP be than in a game you make yourself on on your own claim? You can even opt in or out, whatever you desire. Those who take issue with being forced into PvP have to appreciate how this game puts the choice squarely on you, and not just on when you fight but how as well. Want to gang up on another group with friends by your side? Join a Team Deathmatch. Want to enjoy the thrill of a free-for-all? Hop into a Deathmatch. Prefer to have some reason to fight? There's a control point game just for you. Three variations for three different playstyles. To see which claims are supporting a game, all you have to do is enable "See PvP Claim Boundaries" in the game settings or search the showcase for tagged claims.

While the offerings are a bit sparse at the moment, I'll admit that I didn't really mind the lack of diversity. I had enough on my plate trying to get acclimated to the new weapons and this game's brand of action combat. As those who watched my intro to PvP stream learned, I have for years gamed with my mouse as movement. I know, I know -- it has gotten me into trouble before. It's a habit that has just been really hard to break, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Landmark. Because the only two attacks you get are your left and your right mouse buttons, clicking either of those as you try to move in combat does not net you the desired result! More often then not, it had some very negative consequences as I A) didn't reposition myself to avoid an incoming attack and B) blew an ability and had to wait out a cooldown timer. Add to that the ability to swap out weapons during combat for the different skills and then throw heroic movement into the mix and it is definitely a system I need plenty of practice to master! I really don't need a slew of types of games right now; I need just a couple so I can get the feel of things before moving on.

If you are itching to move beyond what is available, remember that this is just the first taste of a system that will ultimately be very robust, including PvE and grand stories.

This mine is your death, this mine is my death

The king killer of our set of matches turned out to be not a player but the landmines. Those buggers pack a wallop! And it isn't just a matter of detonating them once; proximity mines are not consumed once they explode. Instead, they just keep blowing anyone who ventures close enough to smithereens (or at least knocks health down low enough that an opponent manages a killing shot). My advice would be to go with the less is more way of thinking when planting those things because if you mistakenly think they will be consumed, your battleground will end up ringing with the sound of nonstop explosions.

(Note: Landminds do still explode --loudly -- even when there is no PvP game; they just don't do any damage.)

Room for improvement

As noted earlier, this is just the first phase of combat for Landmark. And admittedly I have only be deeply immersed in it for one day. But that said, there are already a few things that I have noted that need improvement.

The main thing that disappointed me was the heal rate of the land during the PvP match. I was under the impression that the land would remain in its destroyed state until the match was over and reset. However, it actually healed up within moments -- much, much too fast! Within a single 10-minute match, our well healed up more times than I could even keep count. The feel of impacting our environment and making a wasteland battleground was completely lost.

I will admit that I was also really disappointed to learn during the Landmark Live broadcast that the ability to distinguish certain claims as part of the PvP games and certain ones be safe not has not been implemented yet. Ditto for observer mode! Those two things are actually elements that I had incorporated into the new build I was working on, and I didn't have time to rethink my plans. On top of that, I can't have folks enjoying some games while I continue work and crafting. I am not a fan of this either/or scenario and hope this part get addressed quickly.

Another personally annoying thing is the new UI element that was added over the hotbars to showcase skill timers. I hate it! It's huge and gaudy. I much prefer a cleaner look. And the press F to interact window is just as annoying, even if small.

I was also going to note the need to fix the bug that prevented game masters from setting personalized rules for the matches, but apparently that one has already been fixed! Framerates, however, will definitely need more of a boost. I went down to low settings for the first time (and had a very psychedelic experience doing so). The lagbeast was certainly responsible for some of my deaths and inability to land blows. Thankfully the devs have stated that they are focusing for a bit on what's in the game now in order to optimize and get these system running smoother, so hopefully things get better sooner rather than later in this department.

In all, the system is obviously not perfect. It's also very far from complete. But I still have to say that I am quite enjoying it, even with my less-than-stellar PvP abilities. I definitely see the potential, and I look forward to experiencing all the forms of creativity that players will come up with.

The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running biweekly on Thursdays, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II. And keep an eye out for MJ's Massively TV adventures!

This article was originally published on Massively.