Thursday, November 12, 2020

Out Of The Shadows


Pre-orders for EverQuest II's seventeenth expansion, Reign of Shadows, finally opened yesterday. It's about time. Daybreak has been taking orders for the elder EverQuest's upcoming Claws of Veeshan (#27 in the series - collect them all!) for a couple of weeks now. 

The time lag between the two games always puzzles me. I get why the reveals would be staggered to give each a chance to grab some headlines but why there's such a discrepancy in the pre-orders is harder to figure. You'd think they'd want to get the money in the bank as soon as possible. I'm guessing the huge majority of sales are going to come from people who decided months ago they were going to pony up as soon as the time came. Hard to imagine many on the fence, waiting for more info before they decide.

 But then, I only ever buy the standard version. In twenty years I have never gone "Collector's" or "Premium" for any game. I want the playable content and you always get all of that in the basic pack. Unless they're going to bundle something like six months discounted membership in there, so it ends up saving me money, I'm not interested. And even then, no thanks. Tried it once with Rift's first expansion and look how that turned out. Paid for a year and played for three weeks.

I guess someone has to sit down and design all those pets and paintings and mountains and perks and then someone else has to code them and test them and it all takes time. Time that could, arguably, be better spent on actual content, although it's not an argument I'd make. Fluff is content, now more than ever.

Then there's beta access. Every company seems to wrap some kind of beta around the launch of an expansion these days and apparently players have to be enticed into testing with bribes (titles, mounts, pets). I imagine there's some set-up time involved. Also, the game has to be right in the final stages of readiness for players to be nodded in on nothing more than the wave of a credit card. You'd think so, at least, if it wasn't that, so often, it patently is not.

I suppose you have to be sure and get all your goblins in a line before you start taking money, although it's noticeable that neither game has announced an official release date yet. Makes me wonder just how close to a final build either of them are. And as we've just seen from the Shadowlands delay, declaring a date too soon can be risky. If Blizzard, with all their resources, can't hit a deadline, why should anyone else feel confident? 

The four options for Reign of Shadows are the same as last year:

Presumably the return of the astonishingly expensive "Family and Friends" edition means someone bought it. It does come with a giveaway copy of the Standard but for that price you could buy seven. 

I'll just be buying the one. Standard edition, that is. In fact, I've  already bought it. I did look wistfully at the Shar Vhal prestige home in the Collector's pack but realistically I already have far more prestige homes than I could ever hope to decorate, let alone actually live in, so I think I'm good there.

Detail on specific content is still light, although EQII expansions tend to follow a very reliable format so I'm not expecting any major surprises. The one thing that does sometimes throw a gnomish spanner in the works are the "features" and there I do have some concerns. 

The long asked-for revamp of the AA system could be an overdue clean-up that returns a popular mechanic to its former glory or a botched opportunity that leaves everyone wishing they'd left it alone. Whatever way it goes, I'm sure it won't please everyone, but I'm equally sure they did need to do something about it so here's hoping for a good result.

I'm a lot less sanguine about the mysterious "all new content-driven guild leveling mechanism". Unlike the AA revamp, I can't say I've heard people asking for this one. Yes, there was a bit of a rumble for more perks to be added to the higher tiers of guild ownership but I was under the impression the playerbase was broadly happy with the way guilds level up via Status.

Of course I may be wrong about that. I've been a guild of one for about as long as I can remember. The last person who wasn't me logged in something like six or seven years ago. Perhaps in active guilds people are clamoring for a "content-driven" means of advancing their collective fortunes.

I just hope that doesn't mean what it turned out to mean in Guild Wars 2. That game launched and ran for several years with a pretty good progression system for guilds. It worked whether you had three people or three hundred on the roster. Then they scrapped the whole thing and replaced it with a horrible version that left small guilds extinct in all but name.

I notice that, yet again, even the Standard edition comes with a max-level character boost. I've lost count of how many of these I have lying around. With the new Vah Shir race it's possible that, for once, I might even have a use for one. I'm betting we won't get a new 1-20 starting area and if we don't I can't see a lot of point going through the levels the hard way.


Speaking of the Vah Shir, I'm very impressed with both the concept art and what I take to be the in-game representation. Those are some cool cats. I'm very much looking forward to making one or two, although I think I'm going to have to buy some extra character slots. Also some extra hours in the day if I'm ever going to play them. 

Even though no date's been announced I find it highly unlikely the doors will open before mid-December. That puts it two or three weeks behind the revised launch for Shadowlands, which poses an interesting dilemma. 

A few weeks ago the idea of buying Shadowlands wasn't even on my horizon. I wasn't subbed to WoW or even playing the free version. The last expansion I bought (actually, was given) was Legion and I never did get around to playing that one. 

Then the pre-patch arrived with the extra free levels and the squish and Exile's Reach and I popped in to take a look and here I am, spending much of my time, subbed, playing and regularly blogging about World of Warcraft. And enjoying it. 

Here's a curious thing about Shadowlands. When compared to Reign of Shadows, the upper-tier editions, dramatically entitled Heroic and Epic, are very significantly less-expensive than their EQII counterparts, Collector's and Premium. When it comes to the versions I would actually buy, however, EQII's Standard edition comes in at two thirds the price of WoW's Base, at least with my All Access member's ten per cent discount.

The irony here is that I'll almost certainly get a good deal more value out of Reign of Shadows. Given the timing, I wouldn't have considered getting Shadowlands as well, had it not been for... the timing. With England under another lockdown I'm back on furlough until the second of December (at least), which means I could get a week and a half of WoW's new expansion in before I go back to work. And it's not like I have a lot else to do with my time right now.

I'm still thinking about it. A firm release date for Reign of Shadows would help me make up my mind. Anyone listening over at Darkpaw? I mean, you already have my money. It's safe to let the Vah Shir out of the bag now!


  1. The first thing I noticed was that even the base package comes with a character boost. It is even a 120 boost, so you're straight to the level cap thanks to there being no raise in the cap with this release.

    The collector's edition gets you a trade skill boost as well, along with a painting house item, which I always like, but $90 seems like a lot for just that and a few other cosmetic things.

    1. I would love them to put one of those 120 trade skill boosts in the Standard pack. Then I could bump some craft I currently don't have up to the max. I already keep four craft professions levelled up and that's more than enough to do the hard way. Actually, a single-use either/or Adventure/Craft 120 boost would be a good compromise for the Standard pack, so we could at least choose.

  2. I am pretty disappointed in the lack of information this time around. The last few years they gave us an hour long livestream and before that it was even more. Now we get a few screenshots and 5-6 bullet points?

    I am sure I will get the Standard version eventually but for the first time in a long time, I am going to wait and see. The comments on the Beta forums is the only source of information right now and I do not think they have a working product right now.

    Surprisingly, I am back in EQ1 enjoying my level 90 character. I always forget how steep a learning curve that game is when I have not logged in a while.

    1. I don't believe they have enough people working on EQII any more to bring in a full, finished expansion on time. The last two or three were unfinished on release - one didn't have the crafting sig line at all (it was added a few months later) and last year's, much though I personally liked it, also had quite a lot of compromises with the craft content (personally, I thought they were improvements but they said later not all of that was from choice). Raiding has supposedly been a shambles for a while although I have to go on hearsay about that.

      EQ has a larger team on it, I believe, and despite what EQ2 players often say, I'm pretty sure the older game is the moneymaker for Darkpaw. I'm just glad EQII is still running at all so I'm happy to take whatever we get. I think they should take a leaf out of Blizzard's book this time, though, and put the launch back if they're not finished - into the spring if necessary.

    2. You are right. I am sure EQ1 brings in more money and has a larger team. I have always disliked the excuse of having a smaller team. That is a business decision that is 100% on them. If you want to decrease the size of your team, then be up front about that and communicate. But what they do is say the content and quality is as good as ever but then fall back on well we have less people excuse when it is not true. You can't have it both ways.

      They could have easily said with the working from home slowing down production we are unable to do our usual livestream for the upcoming expansion. Instead they just push ahead with less and less like everything is ok.

      And yes, while I am complaining about the direction the game has gone, I do still enjoy the soloing content. I am happy we are getting any new content.

  3. The thing that has started to bother me about a lot of small team MMOs (DDO, EQ II, and LoTRO specifically) is that they want to both have their cake and posses it. They only have the resources to put out pretty modest expansions. That is perfectly ok. However, they are still charging full expansion prices for them, with the option to pay as much as several full price premium games for them. The communication coming out of these teams is also not that great.

    1. The odd thing is, if I was going to rank the EQ2 expansions in order of how much value I've gooten out of them, last year's would be very close to the top of the list. It absolutely didn't feel modest to me - it felt packed with content and I played it solidly for over six months and lightly for the whole year. I certainly wouldn't be unhappy if this year's is extremely similar.

      Also, on pricing, the base EQ2 expansion is only 2/3rds the price of the WoW one and I'll bet it'll a good bit cheaper than next year's GW2 one as well. At £25 I'd call it very cheap. It's a very different story on the higher tiers, but then I always think those are hugely overpriced in all the games that offer them. Someone must be buying them, though, or they wouldn't keep making them.

    2. Well I have to admit I haven't actually played any of the latest ones, so this is my perspective from the outside. I have been puttering around in EQ II lately, and the character I consider my main is still in his 60s. I have a lot of content in from of me before I would need to buy more.


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