EverQuest Next Landmark has just launched it’s alpha testing phase to players — which is the first alpha of its kind! It’s also unique in that SOE dropped the NDA the very first day of alpha launch! Because of this, I’m going to be journaling my experiences with EQN Landmark, allowing you to see how the game grows and changes over time.
First, let’s start with the download and the installation. Both were quick and simple. Landmark uses the standard SOE launch pad, just like other games, such as EverQuest 2. Currently, the game is small, so I saw a download time of about 45 mins before I was in.
The game itself greeted us with a video that described the purpose of alpha and set expectations for the experience. It also gave us an idea of how they hope to integrate user feedback within the game in the future — ideas which seemed pretty cool to me! It pointed us to the forums and a tutorial folder as pretty much the only references we have, since there’s no new-user tutorial in game yet.
Character creation is pretty straightforward. At the moment, we’re only allowed one character on the account — not sure if character slots will be a thing in the future, or if they’re even needed.
Characters can only be human, male or female. Also unsure if this will change, but I’d dearly love running around this world as a Ratonga!
Creation options are limited, obviously, since we just need to test the system, make and avatar and get in the game. Sliders allow you to choose between pre-determined faces, hair styles, and colors. Pretty simple. Had me in game in a minute or two.
A Whole New World
So, once the character is made, you choose from a server and spawn randomly within one of the worlds. It doesn’t seem like the server you choose matters all that much, as servers and the worlds within them are all mostly there for organizing land to claim.
Very near the spawn point is a large structure (Portal Spire) that has a huge crystal and a common crafting workstation. Clicking on the crystal allows you to select another world or server to travel on the fly. Islands have a population cap, and we are placed in a travel queue if the island is full. I didn’t have issues with these queues, but I know that the first patch they implemented increased the size of the worlds.
During this phase of alpha, islands are broken up by tier. Tier 1 has the entry level materials, while Tier 2 and 3 has stuff you can’t to mine until you upgrade your tools. I read that this is only an alpha setup since the underground aspect of the game doesn’t exist yet. The idea is eventually, every map will include all tiers, with more rare materials found the deeper you dig.
The most confusing issue I ran into was the fact that you don’t know which island the game tossed you into, nor the tier of your world. I spent 30-45 minutes hunting for non-existent copper in a Tier 3 zone, with no idea what I was doing wrong. Thankfully, the newest patch will take care of that, too, indicating on screen what island you’re currently logged into.
Once I realized what was happening, I warped into a Tier 1 area and happily mined away.
Staking Your Claim
Staking your claim is an important part of the Landmark experience. This is where you put your flag down, claim your own land, and start to build your home. In fact, you almost have to stake a claim in order to progress with making your tools since, for example, you can’t (currently) craft wood on the public crafting station. This requires you to either craft your own wood station, that you put on your land, or run across one on someone else’s plot, who allows public interaction.
This was the most confusing and frustrating part of the alpha so far, though I know they’re going to lengths to get this fixed. I know several people who hunted out plots and didn’t find them. Land in Tier 1 was non-existent by the time I logged in. I managed to snag a piece of land in a Tier 3 area, which I’m holding on to for now.
Several issues cropped up on day one, which were addressed by the first patch:
- Since there was no indication of what world you were in, you didn’t always remember where you put your claim, and could lose track of it easily
- Since there was no indication of what world you were in, you didn’t know what tier of land you were claiming
- The warp station was supposed to list the number of claims you owned in each world, but it didn’t always do this correctly, causing you to lose track of your claim
- The world map was bugged and sometimes showed the shadow of claimed plots from all the worlds you just recently visited, making it so you had NO idea if there was open land on the world you were currently logged into (logging out fixed this)
Of course, there were other issues, such as not enough space for the number of players, but that’s being addressed as additional servers are added.
Mining and Gathering
During alpha, we only have two of four tools available to us. Without a sickle, it seems stuff that would normally be gathered from smaller plants are dropping from trees, which is fine. We need that stuff.
Mining felt good. It was satisfying to punch holes in the world, to find a vein of copper and follow it through the ground to a hidden trove of tin underneath. It was fun hunting the world and the map for splotches of color, with no other indicator of what the resource was. I do think the game needs some sort of directional mini-map, but I agree with folks who feel like such a map shouldn’t highlight resources and make things too easy to find. This is about exploration, of course!
When you run across a metal you can’t harvest, you’re told so. But it doesn’t tell you what kind of metal it is. Not sure if that’s going to change in the future.
Look and Feel
Overall, I like the art style and feel of this game. We all look quite a bit alike at this point, but the characters look good and animations are well-done, even for this stage. Sometimes you get a little bit floaty, as if your character doesn’t weigh much, especially when leaping around and trying to climb mountains. But nothing that won’t be addressed eventually, I’m sure.
There’s some texture issues with resources, where you might see a huge vein a mile away, and run up to it only to see it vanish or be much smaller than you saw before. I’m sure these will also be addressed.
The world is well-crafted and nice to look at. There’s great ambiance, even at this stage, which can only be improved once you get creatures and water into the game. There are several biomes represented, all with their own feel, with more to be introduced.
I think SOE is doing several things right with this alpha so far. First, the amount of communication within forums, Twitter and other social networks has been astounding. Players have been asked for specific input every step of the way.
If you bought into the alpha and don’t like it, SOE is offering a full refund, no questions asked. That’s not something you say about many games these days.
Dropping the NDA was a surprising move. I don’t know if they just saw fighting the streamers as something impossible that would garner bad blood, or if they planned on dropping NDA from the start. No matter, it was embraced with a positive reaction from every fan source I’ve seen so far.
As I write this, the servers are down for the new patch and for addressing issues with how the worlds connect. The team is making every effort to keep downtime minimum, and prevent wiping data, even though we’ve only been in game for less than a day.
I’m looking forward to testing Landmark, and will continue to write updates here as the game grows and changes throughout alpha. Once the servers come up, I’ll experiment with my claim and see what I can learn about crafting and building! Look for that post soon!