The Chapter 4 closed beta is well underway, and I finally got in to hack-n-slash my way through it. Actually, I sauntered through it carelessly on a high-level character. The new zone is terrific and very well-made, but I do have some misgivings about it.
I started thinking about the implications of the new zone on the rest of Runes of Magic. How is this new area going to be treated by old and new players alike? How will it shape the game? There's a very different vibe I got that I think will affect players differently than previous zones have done. Whether intended or not, some designs have different psychological effects on different players. Some players love Vanguard: Saga of Heroes for its vast, seamless world, one that provides a realistic sense of adventure and life. World of Warcraft offers a large landmass with well-designed endgame raiding. Both of these styles, as well as others, are viewed and treated differently depending on what we as gamers enjoy. Are you wanting to live in the world? Are you wanting to climb the ladder quickly to enjoy raiding or are you wanting to score big as a leader in PvP?
You can see my impressions and slightly uneasy feelings about questing and mob placement after the break. I threw in a snazzy high-definition video of the new zone for you to take a look at and share your thoughts on. How might it or might it not impact RoM? If you're so inclined to watch it until the end, I basically babble, stumble over my words, and elaborate on my main points in this article.
When I logged in to Coast of Opportunity, my character started out on the deck of a large ship in port. Coastal shanties dotted the bright, sandy beach, but I quickly left that behind for a nearby fort fending off pirate attacks. The log walls and buildings gave me the impression of the wild American frontier. Following the main trail through the entire zone quickly jumps you through a wide range of geography. No sooner did I leave Daniel Boone-land than I made my way through an eerie swamp and started heading up through a barren mountainous region. That quickly morphed into icy lakes, green pastures, haunted forests, gigantic ruins and still more.
The zone's geography is so pleasantly varied. The textures and colors are great. There's a real sense that a lot of attention was paid to details and layouts for waterfalls, winding dirt roads, barren crevices and so much more. It really feels like there's a bounty of nooks and crannies to make your eyes smile.
The one thing that started weighing heavily on me was how fast the mobs were jumping in levels. In some places it seems you barely need to go a hundred feet and the mobs are 5, 10, or 15 levels higher. You could easily get carried away farming mobs, accidentally drifting into mobs that can spit white hot death in your face -- if you don't pay attention.
It's these tightly packed, large groups of mobs, the ones that level quickly within a short distance from each other, that have me feeling apprehensive or unsure about the effects this will have in RoM.
As I kept exploring the new zone, the nagging questions slowly started to surface. Is this a beautifully cheap excuse for a grind farm without any pretense? The start of the zone doesn't seem to have an entry point from any other existing zone, so you are very much isolated when you start. There's only one way to go: through a quick succession of mobs that reach all the way to level 50. It seems like a terrific area for when we get our third class. We'll have a new area that will not only give us more quests but keep us from getting bored with repeat content. But who's going to want to come back here? What zone does it lead to?
If there's only one exit point, that exit point will serve as the entry point if we want to go back. Unless there's a plethora of teleports sprinkled throughout the zone, everyone is going to have to go back the way he came: through level 50 mobs. No one lower than that will be able to venture back through. And if it's teleport-land, it really seems to cut the zone off artificially from the rest of the game. RoM started with a world, not a series of player-lobbies. It's the expansive world with seamless zones that played a large part in attracting me to Taborea in the first place. Teleporting is fine as an option and a means to eventually add quick travel, but it still doesn't sit right with me. How will players have incentive or desire to return to this zone, feel connected to the rest of the world, or mingle with all levels of players the way we do now in zones like Silverspring?
What about quests and how their implementation will impact story and immersion for the whole game? With mobs leveling so fast in small areas, will quests be even more artificial and an overly obvious grind? Will even less story be in place, or will it be absent completely? Quests and quest-layouts were something I always found to be subtly charming. There was interest and reason in regard to what we had to do and where we were sent. Are these new quests going to be tightly packed all into one area with little reasoning? Will we see just an increased amount of dailies? Go one foot to your left and kill 10 of these. Great, now go two feet to your left and kill 20 of those. Now go...
I love the new zone. It's really a treat. I'd say it might be the most amazing zone RoM will have to date, except for the fact that there's this dark cloud looming over me about the many, many mobs littered about every step you take. And did I mention they are all in tight little groups that quickly increase all the way up to level 50? I'm not sure how I feel. Hate definitely isn't the word. I don't really know what words to use. I haven't made up my mind, but I feel... off. There are a lot of things we haven't seen yet, and this is just an initial closed beta. I'm not going to start lambasting anyone or shouting it's the end of the world, but I am tentative as the official release of Chapter 4 gets closer.